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 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.