Thursday, June 19, 2014


Deprez was quite happy to see the new beef, and immediately began separating ribs from roasts and steaks from flanks. We had no great nobles to harass us on this day in the house, or to lay demands upon us, so Wilmot and I were able to wrestle everything into the kitchen and into the holding spaces for it in good time. The guests who were here were all locals, for the moment.
It was only later in the day as evening turned to night that we had more reason for concern. The oysterman Lunghi Bestcot came at around six, and all he had with him were what pickings had been left by his friends in the town. This was unusual, for I found him to come, generally, at a morning hour, and before there had been any guests for the day. He apologized for this, however, and told me some disturbing news.
While he was at the docks in Penzance, he heard a story that made me shiver. It was that there had been a French raid on the port of Dartmouth just the other evening— it fortunately had happened after our rider Wilmot had finished with his trip to Devon but it was disturbing. French ships commanded by William du Chastel had offloaded some 2000 soldiers and they had attempted to attack the port,  many village houses, and the docks. Although they had been driven off (in large part by archers and Englishwomen armed with stones) and a couple of dozen of them taken prisoner, it was apparent that the French would make common cause with the Welsh very soon. Now there would be reprisals, for certain, by King Henry and the Prince, upon the Harfleurians, also! For in Harfleur were probably the most duplicitous subjects in all their realm. Torn between their homeland and their forced allegiance to Henry, they would be prime suspects as for the cause and unrest. And it was very, very possible, no, that the French would have more to play in the great game going on between Glyndwyr and Henry!
This would be confirmed for me later in the week, when there were a number of Henry’s men present at The Lady, who had also business with the Courtenay crowd at Trewidden. It was somewhat unnerving for me that the main body of nobles coming to my tavern now were not those associated with my friend and patron Anselm, but those who felt suspicions about Anselm, and with whom I had not but a great deal of hidden contempt.
The word on the lips of all the soldiers at arms however, was that they were intent on striking at Glyndwyr before Glyndwyr could muster a body of French to his cause. But indeed, there must already be something going on, for they were very suspicious of everyone and spoke quite loudly of French spies being in Cornwall.
Immediately I thought of my friend Ranulf. Because he was Breton, himself, his presence at the court of Anselm, and his presence in Penzance, carried with it the suspicion these soldiers would lay easily upon him, even if he were innocent. For it was well known how minstrels were often the messengers and watchers of courtly business— even my friend, Abu, fell into this description!
Worried, I set out for Penzance the next day after to warn him.
I found Ranulf at the Pelican, happily playing the pipes, and not a worry nor a care in the world.  
“I’m just a minstrel, a jongleur, a player upon the wind. Someone such as I fears nothing from the men with swords and arrows.”
His smirk was ineradicable. But I sought to give him pause.
“Ranulf, “ I said, “ I’m not at all convinced that anyone here in Cornwall will think anything but otherwise. You have come here, what, for five or six years? Don’t you think people will only consider that time enough to build up and become a part of a spy network? These raids by Duc Chastel, they’re not going to win friends for France— or Brittany— by their taking place. If anything, I hear the talk, and all the talk points to a willingness to crush the Frenchies on the shore. They do take some pride in their expelling invaders. With  your obvious Frenchness, I fear for you.”
“You may fear for me if you wish, Julian, although I’m not afraid myself. More do I fear for your soul!”
I gave him a curious, questioning look.
“And why do you fear for mine?”
“Because, Julian. The things you told me in Harfleur, is why. How every place has some mysterious, magic “music” attached to it. It sounds like pagan sorcery to me. And even if it isn’t, the Holy Father teaches us that God is outside the world, not of it.”
“Ranulf, let me make it easier for you. I still believe in the Lord and the Resurrection. Nothing in what I believe or was shown has shown me that the truth is otherwise. Let that be, but I have heard the music of the world of places, of stars and trees and rivers. Perhaps you must spend a night or two yourself beneath the stars to feel this more yourself. Develop a sense of place and of space. Were the ancients of Britain all wrong, to declare many places holy?”
“There are more things, Ranulf, about our world, that defy such simple explanations like “what you see is all there is.” If this were so then why would our Lord’s mysteries be so mysterious?”
“Because that is not for us to know, Julian. The priests know. We are only sinners.”
“Bosh, Ranulf. We are more than sinners, for one died for all, and to give compensation for the sins of all.”
“He did not die for mine.”
“Nor mine. But even so, without the sacrifice of His mercy then even we—you and me—
would have been lost, with no hope in the next world.”
“I just think it is too much to expect from this one, Julian.”
“But, what do we truly know but this world, Ranulf? Which is why it is not impossible there are even more things than priests may explain.”
“You border on heresies, Julian.”
“I speak only of the questions of my mind. Would it be better for me to only accept the opinions of priests and not think for myself?”
“Perhaps,” I scoffed, repeating the word with contempt.
“I don’t know how we got off on this topic, Ranulf. I came here to warn you, for your own good. Do not try to become too friendly with the newcomers at the castle! They hold little good in mind for any of us.”
“I will judge things of myself.”
“Yes, Ranulf, and so will I! I only hope you are allowed the chance to make your own mind. Because Anselm is not here.”
“Where has he gone?”
“To Wales and the war.”
“Yes, then, he probably will not be back for his Christmas fete. Which itself means that you, and I, must make other plans if we want to earn money at the end of year.”
He took on a serious and sad expression now.
“Julian, I should confess something. I am not doing so well with Alstair of the Pelican. He does begin to give me sorry expressions at the end of each night, and his patrons no longer wish me well.”
“Then perhaps what I am saying to you again is true. They’ve begun to distrust you, because you are French.”
“But do they trust you any better because you are a Cheshire?”
“They know, at least, their native tongue is same as mine. And around here now, that does count for much.”
“And yet, you speak neither Cornish nor Welsh.”
“True, I do not. But then that works in my favor at this time too. For if I did, then they would cast their aspersions upon me.”
“Julian, I’ve heard enough of politics for tonight. Let us play for these people. Perhaps having you here might help me with Alstair, this evening.”
So Ranulf and I, feeling our way like old times, began to play more of his Breton dances, and I finished with a few Cornish tunes that Clarence had taught me. It would, a little, I suppose.
When I came back to The Lady to close for the evening, though, I saw a peculiar thing. Well, it was peculiar for The Lady, anyway. Among the guests enjoying themselves quite fully were a pair of monks! Not at all seeming unworldly nor otherworldly, these were laughing and joking with each other. One was obviously a Franciscan, for he wore a russet cassock, and it was hooded. The other was a Dominican, recognized by his black robe and his white beads. They had already had themselves “several pitchers of ale” as Pamela put it, and so while they were so influenced I came and sat next to them, introducing myself as the keeper of the tavern.
“Ah, so you are the fine fellow to be blamed!” laughed the Franciscan.
“Yes, sire, for we have been ridden off our vows by the wonders of your marvelous food, and this splendid ale,” said the other.
“That is correct, this ale is most splendid indeed! We are monk...”
It was obvious to me that I could see that they were monks. What must have not been obvious to them was that I might obviously recognize them as such. Perhaps their ale had given them some extra visibility, they could not just hide behind their cassocks any longer. In any case, I wanted to figure them out so I smiled, and asked: “You are from two separate orders. What is it brings you our way, and together?”
“Should we tell him, Brother Micah?”
“Oh why not, Brother Earnest.”
The one named Micah, the Franciscan, then spoke.
“Good tavern keeper, we are here in the parish of Newlyn because we have been told there are many in these parts who are preaching the Word in the common tongue, and passing to and from with manuscripts in the common tongue. This we reject as our superiors do, and we have been sent hereabouts to discover these Wycliffian scoundrels, whom they are, and who are passing out the secrets- the well kept holy mysteries! Which keep the good Mother Church in her proper place as the rightful messengers of the truth.”
“But nobody speaks Latin here! Only Cornish, or Welsh, or English.”
“My good sire, everyone who is anyone speaks Latin. I do not know where you got that idea in your head, but it is incorrect. We of the faith teach all who come to us to learn to read and write Latin as well as the vulgate. Now how do you think it sits, that the Holy Word should be passed down from just anyone to anyone?”
“I think that suits it just fine.”
“Harrumph!” coughed the one called Earnest.
“Good taverner,” he continued, “It might be good of you not to hold such truck with those who are so unlearned as not to realize the goodness behind the Holy Scripture as it is passed by the tongue of the Holy Mother Church! We are here, in fact, to preach to lost sheep such as you— that you might know the error of your ways!”
“But I am not sure I am in error to feel this way. The more people understand the Holy Word, the more that is a good thing, is it not?”
“Yes, but...” They looked at each other.
“But what?”
“But then that goes against the elemental tenets of evangelism, in which the truly revealed nature of God’s word can only be revealed by God’s good messengers— we the priests, who guide our flocks.”
“Have the flocks here in Penzance and Newlyn gone so astray they require such matters as to be policed by the hierarchy of the church?”
“So, good tavern keeper, we have been instructed by our superiors. An edict for reclamation of the Cornish people was sent to us by the Archbishop of Exeter himself. And so here we are. Wonderful chicken, by the way, good sir.”
“Washed down with pitchers of my good wife’s ale, I’ll have you know!” I was a little annoyed by their attitude by now, and decided to offer up my own. Good Porcull had helped to make me even more quizzical and cynical about characters like this, in my lonely night conversations with him. Always, always, Porcull said, be wary of those who travel among the sheep in the robes of priests, for their robes are but the hides of wolves, only of a better weave.
“I will have you know that we are indeed about to close for the night, good friars. There remains only a quarter of an hour before that time arrives.”
“Well, jolly then! Let us down our drink and be off! And God rest an’ save your soul good taverner! You should do better than listen to the pluralities and lies of the unchurched!”
“And unschooled.” added Brother Micah.
They gathered up all their things, which were really only a pair of croziers, and gulped the last of their ale, plonking the pitchers loudly on the table.
“We go! again, God save your soul, good sire!”
I cleared out the other guests in a bit of a hurry, and went back into the kitchen, where Wilmot was helping Pamela to stir a new batch of ale, before we would set it aside for the fermenting. And when we were done with it, Pamela and Wilmot took their lonely walks back through the darkness to Penzance and Mousehole, and I repaired to my bed and the arms of Mary.
On the following day, I spent a little time going through our green spring garden. There was some weeding to do, and I was down on my hands and knees pulling purslane and dandelion. The dandelion, when it was young and not too full of thistle, made a refreshing brew, and we set a little aside to ferment and make a dandelion wine. Even the greens, we used in our own salad that night, for without thistles dandelion is a refreshing plant. I put stakes in and poles for holding the beans and peas- the peas by now were near finished, and yet pods still hung on the last yellowing stalks, and some flowers for new pods were yet half-budded. The beans had not yet begun to show, but I trained the ones I could on the trellis we had already put up, and the new, taller stakes were going to take them a foot or two taller than I had first thought a need for. Our ground crops were half finished, and when the beets, carrots turnips, and radishes all showed another length as much as they were now, they would be done and read to pull. The onions and leeks were coming along, but it would yet be another month before we might start to use them, except for the green onions— they were ready now.
I looked at the little pepper sprouts Mary had set in after the visit from Stephen. They need a trellis also, and so I set about creating it, from several large, tall slats of wood Moselles had leftover from the beans. Moselles! Without his help, I could not see how half of my desire to create a tavern could have come to being. The old baker and his wife were so helpful in so many ways when I least expected him to be— he was very resourceful, and if there were something I needed, often I found that rather than running into town for it, it might be someplace among Moselles’ bricabrac, which actually, I thought we ought to house more properly. I decided the thing to do would perhaps be to add another shed, a small place where not only our shared plow but where all the implements of agriculture would be stored, along with a place for things like hammers, nails, bean poles, and trellis slats, to say the least!
In any case it would take helpers to create one, and for the moment, I thought not to bother Will and Wilmot, for they were the first (and usual!) suspects I could consider on that level. I could hire more strangers from town, but thought better of it. The less I needed to rely on outsiders the more secure I felt in my dealings. Some even suggested to me in the course of opening The Lady, and our first month in business, that I ought to consider hiring “good strong swarthymen” to “enforce order” among my patrons. But that, too, I set aside, for from all I had yet seen, my tavern was not yet the destination for the rowdies and sailors you could find at any inn in Penzance. It might well become so, but even if it did, we were not yet at a stage where fights and thefts and mischief needed policing. I could see the point, however, and would keep all that in mind.
When I had cleaned up the garden to my satisfaction I went indoors and set about looking about the kitchen for what supplies we now had, and what might be needed next. We had just taken care of the meat, and we now had honey. We had enough wine, I hoped, to hold out until the return of Albertus from France. The new ale was started, and so I would need to give word to the tasters to come out and try it— but that was a week or so away, yet, either.
Deprez arrived, and his first task was to start the pots of soup which would then simmer the day long. We kept a meat stew, and a fish stew, in large kettles which we added to as a week went on. They were never quite full yet never quite empty, and ingredients would come and go. Moselles was good enough to bring us his first bread of the morning, also, and this he did before he even thought to take his other loaves to the men he sold to in Penzance. And when we had bread and soup, we could begin serving it to guests, in another couple of hours. For the lady opened at One in the afternoon and it closed at One in the night. In between, she was a piece of work, but a piece of work that was coming along. The more I relied upon routine, the more I felt it was needed that everyone involved in the enterprise should get into routine as well. So Deprez was usually the first to arrive, but Will would soon come after, and followed by Wilmot and then Pamela, who would spend time in the mornings writing. I guess my suggestions to her were taken well, because sometimes she would read to me little bits of her history. I thought this was extremely thoughtful of her, but I withheld any opinions about what she was writing. I wanted her to keep a chronicle of all these changes that were happening, with all of us from the north, and if she could, also maybe tell of the travails of the people in the towns around us. Things were changing. You could sense it in the air, but it was also noticed in the doings of the people who came to eat at The Fallen Lady. For they did not just include the few nobles, making their way from Saint Ives to Penzance, or from Exeter to Newlyn. but the commoners of our area sometimes felt a need just to get out and meet and gather and talk and drink. These in fact were a lot more the usual than nobles at horse or priests on the road. And I wanted to get to know them as much as I wanted them to stop in often.
When all was looking good, and Will was now here, he began the chore of cleaning the stable for any guests, and I took Magdalene for a ride on the beach with Panoptes. It was only a short part of an hour, so whenever I did it, I never ranged too far. Looking over the field of wheat and barley, the heads were beginning to show, and it was almost the correct height. Now the heads would begin to dry in the summer heat, so that in only a few more months, all would be ready to cut down and bring in.
Among those who would come to The Lady for rest and relaxation I began to hear things about the new tenants of Trewidden. Eldfarm, whom had introduced himself as the head of that party who had stopped by earlier in the week, was already making something of a bad name for himself. I could tell that among those newcomers he might be the greatest evil. He had already taken one of the castle’s stabler’s  aside, and chastised them in a most embarrassing way, and had instituted the use of the pillory within the castle walls, even! This I found disturbing, as it was not the way Anselm himself ever handled anything. Indeed, Anselm ruled by a good sense of justice, which was not punitive, but merciful, and these new men of de Courtenay were quite the different sort. I did not see what good could come of it, and as the spring would turn to summer, would come to feel confirmed.
For the moment however what I could do would be to offer The Lady as a place of refuge for those residents of Trewidden who felt the need to get away. And so I gave instructions to my staff that if anyone from Trewidden came with such stories, and it became known to them, then they should be given free ale, in which to drown their discomforts, and to set aside the fee for drink. I did not think that it would hurt having a generous nature myself, if it was not going to be found any longer at the castle.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Flight of the Belmont

The nightmare began when I woke up. It was probably the droning noise of the engines that did it, but high up in the sky above me, burning like a long smoldering log, was the SS Belmont, like an aircraft carrier of celestial Doomsday, and it had already passed over and beyond me. It was spraying huge jets of water down on the scorched earth below it.
The Belmont had been equipped with jet cannon to shoot either water (as it was doing now) or liquid jellied naptha (napalm) in flaming streams, down upon any area of land it targeted which its captain had thought might need it. Her reputation preceded her wherever she went, and wherever she went, it was usually to leave in its wake some 300 yards on either side a zone of uninhabitable, devegetated, depopulated land covered in a residue of toxic ash. How I managed to survive I do not know.
Immediately as I had recovered my sense of being alive, I ran to the house of my friend Mrs. Baker, a black woman I had known for many years. Yes, somehow her house was still standing, and somehow we had been spared the fate of so many millions this year. We were both alive.
She invited me in and made me a cup of dandelion and chamomile tea. I thanked her.
“This just be the shit, son. They up there jes’ tryin’ a’ scare us this time. Ain’t no fire, they jes’ raining on ever’ one.”
I looked at my clothes and realized only then I was soaked to the bone. Perhaps I had made a bad choice in choosing to sleep out on The Rock that night, but then, how would I know we had been in the path of the Belmont, chosen some weeks ago by the folks up in Virginia? The government folks who were supposed to be keeping everyone safe, but instead, had been secretly given a mission to rid the nation, in as many places as possible, of “extraneous population” living in areas deemed “economically insufficient to produce capabilities attendant to domestic export product”.
It was true, that here in Farragut County, we didn’t produce much of anything that might justify, under the new laws, our continued existence as members of society, except for some cotton, which was runty and small this year, and some okra, which was all small, tough, and woody, within weeks of blossoming, and the few cornfields there were had been stripped off early on by clouds of locusts, leaving tattered silks and ears with not a kernel left to dry for our silos.
I looked at Heddie, and she looked old and frail now, although she were only in her thirties, like me.
“Things have really changed for our country, haven’t they?” I asked, speaking a little rhetorically. There would be only one obvious answer to that question.
“Son, they sure have. I tell you when I was a girl, we nevah saw so much as a single fed’ral agent, we nevah had no trouble with the tax man, ever’one in this county we did all we could fo’ ourselves, an’ the guv’mint lef’ us all alone. Now...”
Her voice trailed off into ambiguity. I didn’t need to press her to say anymore, because really there was nothing to add to the despair with which she seemed to resignedly sigh.
“What happened to us?”
“What you mean, what happened? To us in Far’gut County, or to the country? Lawd, child, this country somethin’ else now. I don’ even rec’anize it. Use to be a girl could stand up fo’ hese’f, get an education, and be somebody. Now ain’t nobody be a somebody but them folks up in Virginia, and other places roun’ the Cap’tal. I don’ know who decided it evah, at firs’ — but someone did. Tha’s all I know ‘bout it. An’ I can’t even write my frien’s up north in De-troit, ‘cause ain’t no way I gonna send them a email even, cause wit’ the guv’mint watchin’, I don’ think I can even say anything they gonna wanna hear, you un’nerstan’?”
I understood that, too. We had been sentenced into a limbo world, all of us in the “Extraneous Population Zones” that had been declared in the Acts of 2085 which put us, actually, in the status of exiles inside our own nation. The government had stripped us of our rights to participate in any programs (other than the Full Employment Program) and some of us, without the old USDA Food Stamps, could rely only on our humble vegetable crops- that is, if home gardens hadn’t already been outlawed in the counties we lived in. Luckily, Farragut County had not come to that, yet, like Franklin, next door. Over there in Franklin, the only legal stores one could shop at were huge warehouse-like places where the food that came in had been trucked up from places like Mexico and Chile and there was really only two companies any longer that was the “food industry”— Monsan- gee I can’t even say the name, they make me so mad— and Gen’rul Mills, and I guess the General must be off somewhere millin’, because in all the Extraneous Zones, wasn’t noplace anyhow for a farmer to take his grain, if even the weather had let him grow none, this year.
Like I say, it was bad juju for everyone in Farragut county, but Heddie Baker and me, at least we were happy to be left alive!
Now my thought turned to the Belmont, and its evil sceptre, and asked Heddie what she thought about it.
“Oh, that thing! That devil-ship! Lissen, child, that thing ain’t nothin’ but a manifestion of a demon! I heard ‘bout it firs’ las’ year. Have me a cousin up in De-troit says it came by her town and lef’ nothin' but blocks and blocks of burnt up houses, bodies piled high, ain’t even had the decency to pour the water on them when it lef’ to cool it all down. Says Beulah, “That thing killed at leas’ 20,000 people in one af’noon, an’ flew away like it was”—well, you know son, you saw it.”
Yes, indeed I had. The sight of the Belmont, once seen, could never be forgotten. It dominated the sky with its sheer size— as long as three naval aircraft carriers— and the inner chambers, glowing with heat, reminiscent of a yule log, and yet pouring out no smoke, only glowing within a white-hot frame, and large metal plates that contained the inner chambers while not quite white, more a brilliant orange, and when it threw down its looping jets of napalm flame, it seemed nothing less than a gargantuan dragon, built on a massive scale though, and truly intended to do no less than spread terror on behalf of the government it served. What I didn’t see this morning, I seen on government films on cable-tv, and they were bad enough.
“Wasn’t long ago we was fightin’ terr’ists, not bein’ them,” she said, adding a sort of, “uhhuh” to that as she took a sip of her tea.
“I saw movies of it last year. I am glad it didn’t decide to burn us.”
“No, but you know that that rain they pump out ain’t jes’ water, do you?”
I hadn’t thought of that.
“Tha’s right! It got that chem’cul stuff in it! Ain’t nothin’ gonna grow roun’ here in Far’gut County now, I’m a feared.”
I looked down at my wet clothing. “And me?” I couldn’t say more.
“Lord, child, I feels bad for you. We ain’t even got no clinic here no mo’ since they des’nated us. You best get outta them clothes, fast. Look, in my room I got some stuff from my old husband, Ted, in th’ closet. You try em on and see ef any of them fits you. He ain’t gon’ be back for any of ‘um.”
I mumbled “Thanks, Heddie” as she dragged me by the arm into her bedroom, opened the closet door, and showed me a rack full of men’s clothing— overalls, shirts, jeans, all hung from hangars with clips, and all looking like they could be a full two inches too long. I aimed for a pair that looked short enough, and pulled the chemically soaked ones off. The pair of pants I had chosen was still a little long, but it weren’t no two inches. I was happy with them. Then I took a shirt, an old, fading, fraying blue denim thing, and I chose that. The sleeves hung halfway over the back of my hands, but I just rolled them up, and I was happy.
“Well son, it’s been nice knowing ya. Reckon you gots maybe a week before the chem’culs kick in. Then...”
She didn’t need to say more. Right away, I began thinking about some things. Did I have a will ready? Yes, I did, although as a resident of one of the Extraneous Zones, it was not legally binding, and anything I had could be grabbed by the State and IRS anyway. What it said was, most of my stuff (my truck, my shotgun, my fishing tackle, and my bank accounts) was to go to my cousin Quail. Quail lived in the next county over, not Franklin,but south, in Calymra, and I guess I could call him up and we could say goodbye and all, and I could leave it all in his hands, then he could just drive back home when I finally kicked bucket, and he’d have all my good stuff, and I’d just be a dead dog in a ditch.
So what I did was this. I called Quail. He said he was real sorry to hear what happened, but he had heard the Belmont was comin’ over a week ago, didn’t I?
“I woulda cleared right out of there, Paul, yesirree, if that thing hadda been headed my way.”
“Well, my neighbor Mrs. Baker never heard nothin’ either. Maybe they din’t announce it here...”
“Well, we down hear all heard about it... We figerred anyone in the way was gonna hear about it. Too. Real sorry to hear that. Well you wanna what?”
I explained to him what was in my will and all, and he agreed, OK, he would come up to see me, he’d leave with the truck, too, he just had a tow hitch put on his, so it were nothin’ to drag it back there. The furniture and all he could probably fit in the back of his, of course, the shotgun and fishing gear he could take in the cab.
He told me he could be there by that night, so I started cleaning up.
Out went all the papers having to do with my ex-wife, and our divorce— all that was just there so I might have it if I needed it, and I wouldn’t need none of that no more. I had a case of beer, still, me and Quail we could work on it all week long. I figgered since I was gonna die anyway, wasn’t no use keeping my liver healthy on account of my kidneys, or nothin’, no more, so I set fit to be tied. I had the beer.
When Quail showed up, he had a fifth of Jack with him, too, so it was a good tradeoff, and my liver wasn’t gonna be winner no how anyway. I did my best to lay sheets over everything so Quail wouldn’t touch nothin' if there was toxic dust on it, and when I made food, I was sure to serve it on paper plates that came outta the sealed packet, too. We had ourselves half a ham on that first night alone, and I guess by the time I was done with the stuff in the pantry, there wouldn’t be no goin’ back to the COSTCO for more, either.
On the second day, we still had at least a quarter of the beer left, and we went down to Lake Aggachokie to fish, caught ourselves a couple of gar, and a sucker fish, an’ we took em home and ate good. Quail told me stories about how used to be that when him and his friends used to go to Aggachoke, it was all full of small crappy and stuff, wasn’t no gar or nothin’ like that.
“Maybe it’s cause of the Runaround, reckon,”  I said, and he nodded.
We ate them gars and saved the sucker fish for the next day. By that dinnertime I guess I was beginning to show a little. Seemed I had some purple spots on my arms that got bigger the next day. For sure they was not going away! And I felt a little woozy and ended up napping a lot, while Quail he jest put the stuff into the truck, slowly, but surely, he left the place with nothin' but my bed, and a stool so he could sit by, and the cross that hung up on my bedroom wall, so I could see that when I finally saw the last of ever’thing.
Now the fourth day was my worst, maybe, cause when I tried t’pee, everything came out a sick blue color, almost. I mean it wasn’t quite yeller and it wasn’t green, neither. It was sore, too, like maybe I had the clap, but I ain’t been with nobody since I broke up with Sue Jane, and besides, with the blue spots on my arms I knew I was a goner now for sure.
When the fifth day ended, it started to get me, the cough. They say the cough is the worst of all of it. When it hits you, it’s like the worst thing, cause it’s like a sneeze you can’t stop, a tickle in your throat that you can’t get ridda nohow. And I did have it. I tried to rinse it out with Jack and beer, but it was like to choke me.  And on day six I swear, if it didn't look like Quail had tears in his eyes from all this, too, because whenever I coughed, and it was like, every other minute or so, he could hear the phlegm stating up in my lungs. Soon it was bloody, too. I tried to spit up only into the basin that he put by the bed, but sometimes, I couldn’t help it, and I would run to the bathroom and spit it in the sink or the toirlit.
On the seventh day I knew I was done. Quail he held my hand, he looked at the cross with me, an’ he sang a few songs, too, songs we ain’t sung since we were kids in Sunday School. I guess the last thing I remember was

Saturday, June 7, 2014


In the morning after Anselm and his party rode away for Wales, I walked along the beach again with my dog Panoptes. Between my wife and I, all we had together, were the business of keeping the inn, her proceeds from alemaking (which were modest, and just enough over breaking even on the cost of the ales), what our tavern guests wanted to pay me for singing to their tables ,usually well into the night (which was hardly much, unless our guests were traveling nobles- and even then, of course, I had to watch the songs I sang). And of course we earned some money off the food we sold and the wine, but these too were, like the ale, something of as much a service to the neighborhood as much as they were a luxury for those other travelers. We made about four shillings in as many days, usually.
Panoptes was greatly pleased, of course, that he had me walking unhorsed and not riding Magdalene as I usually did, and when I would, he would spend a lot of time running to keep up with her. But on foot he could trot along at his normal pace, and stop and tarry with crabs in the sand or other amusements. And I would pause and wait for him before we continued on. I would usually walk a half mile or so then turn around, come back and today was no different that way. I watched a while as he danced around Scupper the pelican, and Scupper spread his wings wide, in return which scared  Panoptes into running to the door.
Things again yet felt different when I went in to the tavern and stopped in the back where Pamela and Deprez were buy making the day’s preparations. They were talking among themselves so I went out into the tavern’s hall. There was a table and long bench we had set up along the far wall, and there was a party of some seven men now sitting at it, and they were drinking pitchers of ale, an awaiting their nones meal. Two of them wore hats with long plumes in them- I recognized the coats of arms on their tunics as that of the house of Hugh de Courtenay. De Courtenay being the Duke of Devon, his castles Tiverton and Powderham  were his strongholds.  He had also been at the Christmas feast Anselm had held over the last winter. But this was not him, only two of his men. Three of the others were soldiers, men at arms, of some rank if not knights- and they were here with their pages.
Now I had been warned of the De Courtenay house, and of their allegiances to Henry IV and their interests in keeping Cornish tin a growing concern of profit to them. I went to their table to greet them.
“Good sirs, I am the proprietor of this tavern, Julian Plectrum. Are you being well served?”
“Why, yes, kind innkeeper. We have made up our minds as for the food on which we shall sup, and that need not concern you.” The man who had replied was obviously the senior among them.
“Ah, but the happiness of each guest is my concern, good sirs. Tell me, what has brought you here?”
“We have heard how good the cooking is, Master Julian, and came to see for ourselves. We are here on our way to Trewidden. While Baron Anselm is off in Wales, the good Duke has assigned us with care of the tin carts and the import and exports.”
“It is a shame that Anselm cannot see to these things himself.”
“True that may be, but he owes his fief to our master, who in turn serves the king. And with this business in Wales being what it is, the King must of needs have his armories supplied. The Prince, you know cannot be everywhere. and our Duke Hugh has his assent in all these matters as need be refined.”
“Indeed.” I kept what I was thinking beneath my brow.
“Tell us, Master Julian, as you are a taverner, and this is your area of the land, what do people think here of this business with Wales?”
This was a question I had rather he not have asked! For whatever I said next I must take care not to bring my own feelings out.
“The people here? Well, of course, they are a bit surprised that Anselm rode off yesterday. There must be people at the castle who have a mind about this.”
“Yes, but we are not there yet, we were looking forward to finding out what the country people think.”
“I have not heard much, except for the talk there was last night.”
“Which was?”
“Like I said. People were surprised Anselm had gone riding off with his hundred men. And nobody, of course wants a war.”
“It is the Welsh who want war, my lad. Or they would not be at such odds.”
Again I hardly knew what to say. Lest I betray my own sympathy, I said, “I’m sure that Henry will put a stop to it all.”
“Oh, that he will, lad, that he will! And we will make sure of that.”
The other men at the table with him made it clear that they were going to be taking up residence at Trewidden, and asked me if I were averse to sometimes sending some of my own cooking up on occasion.
“Baron Anselm has a stable of cooks, who I am sure are now at your service...”
‘Yes, sire Julian,” added the first, “But we desire your work.”
“Well actually, my cook was one of Anselm’s...”
“We will take what we like from whom we like to.”
I had no reply to this. I only asked next what they were having, so that I might return to the kitchen and be certain my cooks would deal well with these important guests.
“We would like to have two hens. We had heard you cook a good bird— that was the tale, anyway, and so that is what we have asked for.”
“Very well. I will see about getting it to you as soon as we can.”
Hurrying back to the kitchen, and Pamela was quite upset.
“Do you know who those men are, Julian?”
“I do now, yes.”
“What are we doing feeding those who are our enemies?”
“For now, as they will pay us, they are neither friend or foe. Just guests, and we must feed them.”
“Baron De Courtenay is one of the worst advocates against Wales and Glyndwyr! It galls me...”
“While it galls me too, let me remind you, please, we need to keep our opinions under our hats. Anselm has gone off to fight for Henry— I watched the retinue leave yesterday. Anselm also is beholden to protect Henry, but he is all for us. But he cannot say this aloud either way. I know, I spoke to him the night we opened, and later, of this very matter. He cannot afford to be seen arguing against the king, you know? Were we in Chester, we might grumble louder, but as we are in Cornwall, and the domain of Courtenay, we had best mind how we speak or act.”
“It is repelling to me. I do not like it. Yes, we are baking their hens! Let them beware I do not spit upon one...”
“Don’t you dare, Pamela! Hold  all such thought aside. Reserve these things for what you should do— you should write a history, of we the Cheshires during these times! You can hold your tongue, but hold not your pen.”
“Who will read what I might say?”
“People of the future, whose who are not yet born. But the tale ought to be told, ought it not?”
Pamela nodded. I hoped I had planted a seed inside her mind, for I knew she was a well-schooled and clerked woman. And if the tale were told by a woman, no doubt, people of the future might have less reason to say that what she tell were tainted by some sense of loyalty- to someone other than Glyndwyr (or even Anselm.)
“So how are those birds doing?” I was determined they be free of Pamela’s spiteful spittle.
“They are near half-done, Julian.”
“Good. I will go and tell them.”
When I went back to their table, they were finishing one pitcher, and asking me to refill it. I nodded and bowed. Then the head of them asked me a question.
“Master Julian, are you familiar with a mine-master by the name of Aleuderis Burian?”
“I am. He has dined here once or twice.”
“Good. When you see him again, we would like more information about his current plans. Whom he is shipping to, when, and much else. We would like you to report to us at Trewidden with what you learn. Next time.”
I nodded. But being asked to carry tales back and forth, and to report on someone friendly with me (if not exactly friendly toward my friend Clarence!) was imposing. I was going to learn, however, more imposing things about these men of De Courtenay in the months to come.
“Your hens are baking, sires, and they shall be ready in about another quarter hour. We are taking care to make them sumptuous for you.”
“Tha’s great!” yelled one of the page. and he slogged own the last of his ale and slammed the goblet down on the table. “More ale!”
I nodded, bowed, and left again, as I had already promised them more.
In the back, now it was Deprez who had reasons to grumble. I told him what they had told me about cooking for them.
“If they want my cooking,” he said “then they can come here. Why should we send up to the castle? What is wrong with the castle’s cooks?”
“They said your reputation preceded you, Deprez. They had heard good things about us.”
“Fine. Second hand news, but they want to learn for themselves! Alright, I shall see fit to be sure these means gets the things they want. No questions, boss.”
That he was as eager to please me as he had been to please Anselm was in my mind a good commendation for Deprez. Whatever had led him to fall out with the castle’s other cooks, at least he knew with me he had a good chance, as seen by what we had just discussed, to make a name for himself and make the Lady a name spoken up and down Cornwall, from Penwith to the Lizard.
The time passed, and then Pamela pulled the steaming birds from the spit, and unspitted them onto two large platters. We heaped around about them with boiled carrots and peppered it all. Pamela took one of the platters and I took the other, and we placed them on the table. Immediately I ran back and refilled their pitchers with ale.
The nobles and their party were soon indulging in the pleasures of their repast. Knives were out, and hands hungrily gobbled hunks of the hot chicken meat. The pages went at it with gusto, the nobles themselves took their time.
Now that I had that situation in control, I went out to the stable to check on the boy Will and the horses.
“These are some fine horses,” he told me. “That party of nobles and knights have some fine horses.”
‘You are dealing with them properly? Hay and water? And all to their own stalls.”
“Yes, Sire Julian. I have walked  Magdalene too, but I will ride her for an hour next just as soon as I complete this chore.”
Will was working with shovel and pitchfork to move the morning’s stall manure into a handcart, and that he would take to the fields and spread among our growing rye and wheat.
“Be sure to leave a little for the garden,” I reminded him.
He seemed to be doing well with it, so I now turned my attention to the inner house, and Mary, and our own concerns.
Mary was sitting in my music room, and cutting new cloth for more poppets.
“Ah, my love how goes your day?”
“Disturbing. We have some riders eating at the tavern who are of the court of Duke De Courtenay. They want to enlist me as insurance against Anselm’s miner friends.”
“How so?”
“They would like me to report to them whatever passes for the topics of Aleuderis Burian and his conversation, should he come by our tavern for pleasure.”
“I wonder the reasons?”
“I do not. They are trying to assure the Duke, and by him, the King, that the Cornish tin interests do not slide over to side with Wales. The king, you see, needs armor for his knights, and Aleuderis has the biggest going concerns. I do not desire to be their spy.”
“Then what will you do?”
“Play along, of course! Do you know, that while Anselm is gone to the war, that they have taken his castle, and will run it in the place of him?”
“That can only mean discomfort.”
“Yes, it will, not only for us, for we are now ever yet closer to the ones who would have us lose. No, but it will also mean worse for our neighbors. The tithes and taxes will probably only increase now. Anselm was known for his generosity. De Courtenay is just as renowned ,for just the opposite. I would hope Anselm makes it back for this Christmas, of course. If he does not, it is likely there will be no work for us there, this year, anyway.”
“I think we should just stick to our own business. If this miner comes to dine with us, we should take care to be kindly with him. Perhaps you might even—“
“Yes, I thought of that. Perhaps I should tell him how they plan to use me. That will allow he and I to work around the problem they present.”
“In any case, I was suggesting, we should keep to our own business and not be meddling much with the affairs of the high minded.”
“Precisely. I hope to work on those upon whom we depend, and make The Lady my only real interest, over summer. And we have yet to return ourselves to Cheshire.”
“I hope that we will find things there to our liking”
“And likely we will not. But let us leave that aside. There are yet June and July to spend here before Stephen calls me to the harvest.”
“I do miss Father and Mother.”
“I too miss my brother— some. It is to his advantage I return to see how well he has healed. and my father— I do hope keeping his tongue has helped him keep his head! He would not do so well in these parts, as he does around Upton. He does have his opinions.”
“Well, it will be good for us to get a little break from here. We can trust our friends to run the Lady?”
“We can trust them for a fortnight or so, the time we will be gone, I am pretty sure. Although when I return there will be more work for me to fix whatever they let run riot.”
“I trust Pamela. She has a good head upon her shoulders. And the cook, he does well with us, and I have heard him compliment you on our fairness. The stable lad— he seems preoccupied, at times.”
“Do not forget we have Wilmot, Clarence, and Wilmot’s girl to help as well.”
“But they are not as accustomed to our practices nor our needs. If it were me, I would take Pamela first, then the cook, and then Clarence.”
“It does sound quite fair, to me then. Anyway. I must go back and be sure that Master Courtenay’s livery are getting their fill.”
“I shall come myself ere our own supper. I want to finish this.”
And so I left Mary working at her craft, and I went outside to the bowling lawn. The dog had now taken up a quarrel with Kerfel the cat, and had backed him up against the long benches.
The cat took off at a run when I distracted Panoptes. Panoptes and I went into the tavern, and he lay down near the hearth. The nobles were well into their birds now, and making raucous sounds that gave me hope they had indeed found what they were looking for. I did nothing to draw their attention, but had it anyway, for they hailed me from across the room, and I was quick to respond.
“This is magnificent, Sire Julian. Our compliments to your cook.”
“I am sure he will be glad to hear this.”
“We go now to Trewidden, to check up on all that Anselm has left in his place. You will call on us fortnightly with the results of your efforts.” This he spoke more as a command than a question, although the way it was spoken it could have been head as either. I got the drift of it, though.
“If Aleuderis comes, then yes, I would try to get his conversation, and try his mind, yes.”
“Splendid! And so, we are off!”
They gathered up all their gear and made for the door, and left me two shillings for their party. I could hardly speak. Whether it were generosity or just their usual way of throwing money about, I was not going to argue, was I?
They were soon heard outside, berating my stable boy for something, he told me later they had made up some line about their horses not being watered “when I actually saw to it that each one of them had been seen to.” I told him not to mind this. They were just finding something with which to make him feel small, and if it were as untrue as he claimed, then it was only to think themselves big.
The other surprise that day was that after only nine days, Wilmot was back from his trip to Exeter, Bristol, and Plymouth.
He must have stayed only hours in each place, for the speed of it! But I was curious about all of it, and so I took him aside and asked him as many questions as he could answer about what he had told people about The Lady, whom he had talked to, and how he had been received.
“I am surprised that your trip took only as long as it did! Wilmot, did you ride from town to town with nary a stop?”
“Almost,” he said with some pride. “I would play for a couple of hours in one of the inns, but I would not tarry. I traveled a lot at night, and in the day, would spend my time talking to people. You would not believe this but in Bristol there were many soldiers of the Prince and the King, and I did not feel welcome. I was afraid, actually, that I might be pressed to serve. So that was the reason I did not stay long.”
“In Exeter, I made friends with a couple of musicians, but again, I was not feeling a need to stay overnight. I would sleep out in the field but be on my way before sunrise. In that way I made it to Plymouth with a couple of days to spare.”
“You did, I hope, tell all you met about The Fallen Lady?”
“Of course, Sire Julian! But many were of the mind that they would not be traveling this way. They made excuses, of one or another. When I brought her up in the company of other taverners, of course, they did not wish to hear it, for their own interests were to deal with the people at hand.”
I also detected another reason Wilmot might have had for making his trip so quick. He was in love. His girl Claire whom he had met at our opening fete must have some strong hold on him. I would withhold judgment on this though, until I could get a chance to see them together again. But it was a lingering suspicion.
And it was Wilmot himself who blurted it out, anyway, with his next breath.
“I was also missing... Claire, the sweetest maiden of Penzance! Oh how her lamplit eyes make my heart strings sing! Oh how the thought of her sends me to the vielle and torments my fingers with melodies I but never heard before she came!”
“Stop, stop! I get it, Wilmot. I think you did well considering what we had tasked you with and that you had love on your mind all along. What I had hoped might not come to pass, anyway. Perhaps it is too much to expect that people would come from so far away to eat and drink in this far off corner of the kingdom. Maybe it is best, if we sent you about closer to home, though, to do the same?”
“What are you suggesting, Julian?”
“Well, what if we only sent you on a number of day trips, here in Cornwall. Say we just sent you off to speak to the people you meet on the way to Penwith or Saint Ives, for instance? Or if you would go to Mousehole and parade about braying of how fine the food is here? That way you might even be closer to Claire, and you could still have her company at evenings.”
“Why Julian that would be most welcome, sire.”
“So I thought. But do not be too hasty. We have wanted to speak with you about other needs we will have in a month or so.”
“What needs are these?”
“Mary and I have been planning to return to Chester in the summer to see our parents, our kin, and our friend Stephen. We will need helpers to mind the tavern. Are you up to this? I will need someone to go about to my vendors collecting the meat, the grain, the fish and the fruit. But I shall not be here to do it. So I might trust you?” My question was set with the idea also that Wilmot could actually manage some of these affairs, and perhaps if he were good at it, it could relieve me of some of the errands I had taken myself, yet even after I came back from Cheshire.
“I would feel proud to manage that for you, sire. So please you, you must introduce me to thee people.”
“And so I shall. Come with me when I go to Penzance in two days.”
In two days it would be time for my weekly trip and I would take Magdalene and the little two wheeled cart and see to the provisions. And Wilmot could help to load the cart and to dicker with my providers.
The real surprise of my afternoon was having Stephen show up again, and just when we were wondering about how we could live without honey! And he had two full barrels of it for us, which we rolled into the kitchen, and which we used that night to sweeten the salads. He also brought me several sprouts of pepper plants from Porcull— “a modest gift, he said, but perhaps they will make themselves useful!” was how Stephen related the giving.
Stephen was full of good cheer, but when I told him that Anselm had left, and to go to the war, his entire demeanor changed and he was down in the mouth for the rest of the day...
Roger was hoping to see Anselm too, but I regaled them both with food of their choice, and we drank several bowls of wine together, and Stephen let me know that the harvest was still planned for Lammas, as it had been the year before.
“We did pretty well with the sheep this winter, too! When I went back we had brought some ten full woolsacks with us to the fullers at Bristol. And we did earn a good few shillings on the trade. Luckily for us, this time, I had no problem with the king’s soldiers coming to take what we had. But- but, I say, Julian, the prince is consolidating his power in Shrewsbury and Chester both. He is mustering up all those who will fight for him with bribes, just like his father did with your wife’s father. But many of those who fought at Shrewsbury are still gone, and away with Glyndwyr making the sieges I am sure you heard about. And there are divisions, of course, even in Cheshire, between the loyalists who still insist King Richard is alive, and that Glyndwyr should leave Cheshire be, and the ones who are siding with prince Henry and his father. As for me, I try to stay on the sidelines, but, if I had my way, we would go over to Wales at the first opportunity. The prince is only a little better than his father, but he too is insisting he needs to raise taxes to fight the war on the Marcher lords. All of it is more than I want to take part in.”
“Here too we have problems. I learned that while Anselm, who has gone to fight for the king now, is gone away, our Devonshire overlord Duke Courtenay is taking over the castle. He has sent men down here from Powderham, and they are not going to be as good to the subjects. In fact they are trying to get me on their team, by spying on Anselm’s tin merchant Burian. I have yet to decide if I shall tell him of the plan or not, although it would be my desire to inform him since the whole peninsula is full of tin men like Burian, and the king has eyes on them all.”
“So, Anselm is gone, and I cannot merch with him?”
“Then, half the reasons for my coming south to be with you are also gone. This is not a good thing, for either of us.”
“But Mary and I still plan to come north for the harvest. If not a little sooner.”
“Let us hope then, that the prince will spare my other men from the fields. My gut says he will not. Shaftley and Blightson could very well be marching for him come the summer, lest they desert me also, and go to Glyndwyr. It’s troubling because we never had, really, these kinds of problems before.”
“That, Stephen, is the full size of it.”

They left the next dawn for Chester. I would see them again in summer, I was sure. But for now it was back to running my tavern. I had to call on the candle maker, the butcher, and the others. I brought Wilmot with me, who was so eager to go along, he was sitting on the bowling bench when I returned from running Panoptes. We took the horse, girded the way-cart, and our first stop was Cocklenburg and his stinky candle shop. I had the need to buy several pounds of them and I was the first to tell him that Anselm had left for Wales.
“That’s uncomfortable...” Was all he could say. His brow was furrowed and he seemed more worried than I had expected him to be, but he kept anything of his own mind on it to himself. We parted, and Wilmot helped me load the new candles into the cart.
Then it was to the costerman in Penzance who kept many roots and some fruit always. Until we could pull up our garden in June we were still dependent on that, and we probably would need to see him for our pears and apples anyway.
Odo the butcher was even more upset than the candle maker, but he at least put his anxieties into speech.
“So we are to be looked over now by the ever petulant de Courtenay?”
“Nay not he, but those of his court.’
“Then that is even worse. We will get no goods from them. No, all I know of Courtenay and his clan are that they want tax, tax, tax. Tax for this, tax for that. Fines for those who will not comply or heed his never ending desire for new additions to his castles. It is not surprising to me he has his eyes on Trewidden. Anselm is a thorn in his side. But with Anselm preoccupied, he can make the moves as he needs. Hopefully more of Anselm’s own court who have remained behind have instructions from Anselm...”
“But even they will be overridden by the new overseers. I met a few of them myself, they were at the Lady just yesterday.”
“Well, perhaps it be best for we who are in trades to remain within our own bailiwick. The powers that be will be prone to mess with us, anyway, and the less we deal with them, perhaps the less they will think on us.”
It was not a really convincing point of view but it seemed to be the only one I had left.
Wilmot helped me load the new side of beef, two whole hogs, and a lamb into the cart. I took care of the pullets- some nine of them- that we could expect to serve up for the week.

We rode back to The Lady with the haul, and laid in the supplies with Deprez. I looked forward to another week of cooking and drinking.

The above is Chapter One of  Oh What Will You Give Me (Julian Plectrum Book 3) which will run fortnightly here in serial format, and published in eformat later this summer at Smashwords.Com.