Word had it that Anselm was headed back to Trewidden. If not to stay, then at least he had the intentions of trying to prevent the men of De Courtenay from having any more treachery against his subjects and tenants. I looked upon this as a good thing, and I planned to tell him (myself) of their intentions of using me as a spy against Aleuderis. It was with much concern that I took these reports from those who offered them— whether it were the miners who had taken, of late, to coming to The Lady and playing at flechettes, or whether it be what I might hear from my costermen, butchers, and fishmongers in Penzance— that the baron was returning at all threw some hope into the ideas of all those in the nearby parishes.
For my part, I knew that Anselm coming back, even if he meant it for a short respite from the sieges and harrying of Glyndwyr and Wales, that I could, at least, have a hope of gleaning more wine supplies from him. already the three big casks which had been sold me at discount by Albertus were running to their dregs, and at the rate my customers were drinking them, I should be done with all three by October! And then where would I be? So I wanted to deal more with Anselm on that issue. The fact that Albertus was still in Penzance, also, meant that he would be shopping them to Anselm also, even if it meant that the real ones to benefit were the Devon men, who would, again, once he had gone, sit at the table in the castle making themselves fat and happy on the countryside’s fruits.
So when I learned, indeed, Anselm had returned, and not only had he returned, but had sent me a personal summons, I was off in a trice with Mary on Magdalene, taking the now familiar road, and both of us taking heart to see our dear friend once more.
Anselm sat on his throne, when we found him, but his expression was gave, and he barely lifted his head from his thoughts to address us.
“Ah, the Plectrums,” he said, when he finally roused himself from what was surely worry, “I am glad you are here. You no doubt have heard”—
I lifted my hand in assent.
“Yes, I have, Anselm. The noble men that have had the run of your halls have been creating problems. For all of us.”
“For the moment, they are out of our hair, and have repaired to Penzance for the time I shall be sitting here. I must return soon to the war- too soon for my liking, but it was by the Prince’s leave that I now am here again today. When I look around me to those who once looked at me with respect...”
“They still do sire, they—‘
“Enough. Yes, still they do, but what has been wrought in my absence is no good, and as much as I would not wish this, Lord Devon has made his own way in councils with the King, and has made it clear that his men shall indeed return with all their noxiousness once my part is again filled. All I can do here is attempt to redress some of the people’s concerns, but no means can I use to overcome the politics of the king. And I should return to the sword, and the terror of the Welsh, again, whence I depart. There is little joy in my heart.”
“Sire, it bears no strain upon your crown. We have been prospering...’
“That is good, Julian, such was my hope, and so it will continue to be.”
“But the Devon men have taken me in to be their informer against your friend, Sire Burian.”
“Oh, have they now? This is a good thing you tell me.”
“They have given me word that I should report to them each and every time he sups with us at The Lady, and upon who he speaks with, and the natures of their talk.”
“No doubt they want to know how Aleuderis fares with his Ding Dong mine, and how Devon will fare against his tin in the cargoes.”
“So, it occurs to me as well that I must tell you...”
“Such that it is, lad, such that it is. Well I can tell you something. Aleuderis has been trading with friends of Glyndwyr, and this is what gives them interest. He is unlikely to say much in your earshot because all those dealings are on the other shore from us, up near Saint Ives Bay. But they are buying and he is giving. This you can know at no loss to your sureties with Devon’s retainers.”
“Perhaps they hope he will slip his tongue... or speak with someone more sinister?”
“Perhaps. But I know him. And the chances are, Julian, he has far too many dealings at present on the Saint Ives side of us to spend much time in Penzance at all, for the time being.”
‘Another thing is, I believe we need more stock of wine...”
“Oh blast it. They let you have none? I thought I sent a message to them...”
“If there was, no sire. Albertus came back from France and left me three big casks, but those are quite near drained already! If I could only...”
He waved his hand and stopped me, reading my mind.
“I will assure you you may have two of mine. I yet have more, and if no other reason, it will keep them from the guts of Devon’s henchmen, for you to have these.”
“Thank you, sire, thank you.”
“Do you have other news? It has been tough on me to hear all the talk, of the pillory, of the whippings, and of the doings of the monks- mischievous rabble they all are! But what can you say to me, Julian, to give hope to my heart...”
It was Mary who spoke up.
“Well, sire, we do expect a child...”
He brightened, and I freshened my own spirit with that.
“A child! Marvelous! and I should hope for its very best health and good fortune! Marvelous!”
“Yes, sire, we should expect the new one early in next year...”
“Well that is surely something to make me glad, as I am sure it will add to your own great treasure, my friends.”
Mary rubbed her swelling belly and Anselm laughed.
“Tis a shame I have no heirs, myself. It will only bring trouble, more of the same, I fear.”
And he again sunk his mood into some despair, and then begged our leave. I knew we would get our wine, and I was unsure if I would see him again, so in parting, I left him with these words.
“Anselm, we will endeavor to do our best by you. All which has taken place here, of course, would not have been to your liking, nor would it have been your wont.”
“I know it, and I wish there were more I could do. These people of De Courtenay have made an utter ruin of what took me years to build up— a good, prosperous, happy shire, and parishes full of men and women who were happy to give, happy to work, and proud to be of Penwith. Now, just look at this all. What a shambles.”
“Yet I shall endeavor to keep this sense of what you wish alive, at least I shall, within my own domain.”
“Yes, Julian, that I am assured you shall. And one more thing?”
“I wish you the very best for the child. May they grow up to be blessed— and free.”
When we departed Trewidden that afternoon, it was with a cart full of wine barrels, and my pockets jingling with another sinecure of cash. This was no loan, this was, itself, a gift. The legendary generosity of Anselm had been bestowed upon me once more, and I grinned toward the sun, as we steered our way down the windy path homeward bound again.
Anselm left the castle of Trewidden again on the sixteenth of August, and this time, I did not see it, although I knew he had been only back to look in on things, and that ‘the King’s duty’ called him. And it was not long after he departed that we were once more visited by Aleuderis and his Ding Dong men. This time, however, even if the Devonshires had a mind to get my ear, and my tongue, on what was the nature of his schemes, I kept it all to myself, and I did not report any of it to them.
This, though is what happened, when he showed up at the Lady on that night.
Pamela took the men to a table, and Aleuderis, being the only one with a mount, left it in the good care of my boy Will. He ordered himself a big pot roast, and vegetals all heaped up around it. The men settled for great plates of fruit, and cheese, and draughts of ale, and we were lucky there had been a new batch made, for they drank us to the dregs of what we had, to start, and then it was out with the new stuff.
I played my lute for them, and they liked Robin Hood, of course, and I avoided Arthur, for I knew Aleuderis was none so fond of my presentation. I was surprised to see him, especially since I had been told by Anselm himself, not to expect to! When I completed the singing, he called me over to his table, I drew up a stool beside him, and as he tucked into the roast, knife in hand, I listened as he told me a tale I had not the slightest how it concerned me. But this is what he said.
“Well, Master Tavernkeeper, I well fancy your good food, and this good spot. When I am here this side of Cornwall, here at the edge of Penwith, I find it pleasant that there be a house far from the connivers and the schemers that haunt the harbor town. When I was but twenty I came to work at the Ding Dong mines. I had the word of my father to the owner, that I was a strong strapping young man, that I could haul a hundred-weight of ore on a cart or a track, and fair pull it up to the top of the heap by day’s end. And the owner, he watched me, he did, to see if what my dad had told him were true, and when it was, he said, alright, I shall use you.”
“How I came to own the mine myself, though? Well it took me some seven or eight years as I recall I were not yet thirty. I had moved from being miner, to helping keep track of the pounds of ore, and what was taken from the mine, eventually to being made charge of the smelting. Yes, I have antimonious lungs! Haha! But even with a copper cast to my breath, I took fondly to the task. Moving the white-hot milky metal was something I found pleasing, and simple. When I set it into molds, and the slag had been burnt away, and the heaping shining ingots were cooled, and placed in great stacks, I felt like I was really something.”
“Let me tell you though I was not yet anyone. The owner, his name was Deridius, he came to think of me as his first man, and at some point, he told me he would like to see me being the one makin’ the deliveries- usually they would take a cart from here, to Saint Michael’s, or over to Weymouth, and there had been a great tradition and trade in this, going back to before the Romans, you know. And when I had completed my first journey by oxcart, there to the other side o’ Lizard, he aid me a gold crown, he did. And I did this for a full year.”
“Then came the plague year. And of everyone at the mine, we lost some twenty men, but worse, we lost the owner. Yes, and he had no heir, and he left everything as it was and his soul up and fled his body like it were but a sack of rotting fruit by the highway, and crossed to the other shores of Charon. And that left really, only me, to keep all the records, to carry on the trade, to make the money off the sales in port, and all. It was not like I came upon this all dishonestly, lad, but I must say it was in a manner most strange. And once the mine was mine, well, I began to hire my own men. Of course, I kept the good strong ones, and one or two that held the plague, but walked away, and what others I could replace I gathered from amongst the people of Saint Ivey.”
“Now, I have been at this a’twenty-year myself. Now I grow old, and my arms could not drag cart nor sled up anything, let alone, up that little shaft! My eyes grow weak, but my mind is yet keen.”
“I like to come here because —well it is mostly the food, but you are a friendly sort, and you do not seem to wish to pick my pocket, so you must be an honest sort. Let me say, there are many not so honest here about now!”
And he finished his speech and huffed his ale and stuffed his face with the beef, and the men at the table all carried on, actually, through all of his talk, concerned but with themselves and the other at tables nearby.
I took up the nerve to ask him a question.
“Sire Burian, is it true what they have said to me, that you are selling tin not only to the French, or to the King, but to the Welsh?”
He stared at me with something of a blank expression. Indeed, it was quite hard to figure what he was thinking, if anything at all.
“Master Tavernkeeper. I know you are yet young, but there is much you need to learn about this world, and this life. Even though you be a bard fair and something of a poet! Listen, a shilling’s a shilling and a pound’s a pound. What matters it to me, where my next one comes from, were it from a great well known merchant, or from a villein could but spare a shoe? No, I deals with whomever I can sell to, and I go back to me hole, and I makes some more! You understand? I deal with them all, yes! English, Welsh, French, whoever it ‘tis spares the thought of my tin and my mine, and was pleased before, why him I shall please again!”
I poured him out the last of the ale in the large flagon, into his cup, he nodded, and drained it.
“Do you know there are people who take a dim and different view of this?”
His eyes reddened and he squinted at me.
“And who be that?”
“Why, the Devon men that sit in Anselm’s castle!”
“Ah, them! Well I told him at his Christmas feast about that, you know. That there was going to be some rough fellows coming our way, and that as soon as he were off and to the business of the king, they’d set themselves up. Have they, now?”
“Oh yes, I am fair surprised nobody has appraised you...”
“Bah! I hear what the word is, and I goes back to me hole, and I mines more shillings! Listen lad, I know ‘tis someone’s concern what I may do, who I deal with, but I pays the Duke, I does, and that runty Prince, such as he is, to fair leave me be, all the rest o’ the time! And does he? Why, yes, he does! Where will he get his armor and swords, or the tips for his pikes and halberds, eh? If not from the likes o’ me. Therefore, if they wish to keep the river running, they had best not block up the channel, aye.”
He winked, which I felt disconcerted by, but sipped long at the ale, and rested the cup again on the table. A pretty girl about Claire’s age was now sitting at the end of the miner’s table, and they were tossing dice to see who might go with her “to seek of her favors.”
“Do you fear that, perhaps these men of the king, they may have the thought one day just to take your mine, and take all you earn, one way or another?”
“Whatever for, son? Without me, who would know how to run it?”
“But your men here...”
“Ah, my men here. They know what they need to know. And the old ones, they teach the young ones. I am not afraid, of what? That the king should come to my little door and say “ho, ho, ho, little Cornish mine-man! Ho ho ho, I came to sack your hut! Ho ho ho, I have twelve thousand horses! And knights to put a pretty price upon your head!”
“Why, son, what do I say to the king? I say, folly be and folly he, do fly, for one day you too neath dust shall lie! It is a great equalizer in all things, my friend, our friend, the Reaper. Know us none when he may come, or if he pass us by, we breathe a sigh and sign the cross upon our chest to say, ‘Ah, thankee, Lord, you graciously left us alive today!’ and we bless ourselves, and bless the beasts and children.”
It did seem to me that Aleuderis had either a fool’s folly in the face of danger, or the most fatalistic approach of anyone I had ever met. What was there to worry, then, while he could eat and drink and his men made merry?
In order to turn the minds of all of them, I suppose, I chose to bring out my lute and sing a new song to them. This song I based on some stories I had heard, as well as what had been sung to us all by Jack of Rowe. I thought it made a pleasing little tale, and I was not ashamed to have stolen part of the idea from Jack, even if I did not really steal any song. But this was what I sang:
“Old Guigemot, he ruled the Mount
He built the walls with his bare hands
With granite, chert, and lignosite
He put the island by the sands
Old Guigemot had a darling wife
And ten span high she was, like he
She came to him, a helping-mate
As same to her was he
Old Guigemot told Guigielle:
“Help us to build our castle high-
Take thee stones and place them here
Our home shall touch the sky!”
But Guigemot took a slumber nap
For rest as much for pleasure
And Guigielle brought up jasper-stones
For lighter were their measure
While resting so, he fell to sleep
And seeing him at slumber
Thought Guigielle, “I’ll grab those stones
And light shall be my lumber!”
But as she worked she slipped and fell
And forward fell the hidden jasper
All this she did, and he was none so pleased,
He rose again, to thrash her.
Blunderbore, on the other shore
The ruler of the other side of Penwith
Threw stones his way, at Guigemot
Who soon betrayed his temper
But they made a peace, that Guigemot
Would keep to his own island
Blunderbore threw a hammer far
That spilled Guiglielle’s head upon the highland
Great was his grief, old Guigemot, he
Called Blunderbore to the mount beside her
They laid her in, and walled her up
Now the Mount is fast inside her!
When I was done, I looked to Aleuderis, but he kept a wry smile on his face, and all he said was:
“It needs work.”
I was a bit taken aback, but then when I thought about it, I did suppose he was right. After all, how could the Mount be inside her, if she were buried at the Mount. I was thinking about this, and having a fair conundrum of it, when another new fight began, this time, it was between one of the miners, and one of the country folk.
A fletch had whizzed past his cheek, while the locals played at the flechette board, and he was sore offended.
“Hey there, you careless louts!”
The men at the flechette board turned round. The man who had thrown it looked sheepish.
He began to apologize, but it was too late— the miner was already out of his chair, and had pulled his tommy-knocker, and was headed for the unwitting offender.
As he began to give him clouts upon the head, I raised my voice for the first time in weeks.
“Hey there, you there! There are no fights inside our good establishment!”
The miner was obviously thrilled to now have a new adversary. Taking on the taverner himself might have seemed a good idea for the moment, for I was a bigger fish to fry. I grabbed him by the arm, and drug him with me outside, first making certain I showed him my rules upon the wall, and, basically, attempting to rub his nose in them.
“Outside here, ye shall stay, and let me have a word with your boss-man! I will not have a fight in my place, no! We are better than that here, and petty arguments if the must be settled, will come to their conclusion out here, outside!”
I went back in and took the local who had thrown the dart my the scruff, and demanded to know why he had done so.
“T’weren’t nothing personal, sire, ‘twas but an accident, I slipped, and...”
“An accident? Perhaps. But you must make your amends to the good man. Get outside with you!”
I stole a look at Aleuderis, who was paring a fingernail with his knife, nonchalantly. I knew I must have a word with him as well, but he was playing it as if he had not noticed a thing.
I shoved the offender out the door, and now that I had them both together, I sat them on the bench.
“I wish to tell you both something. When thing come to rise of temper, we here are not to take matters to hand, but we are to speak of these things out of doors. If there must be any type of fight, or duel, well, why be it that it be out of doors here. Inside, people are eating, and making merry, and there will be no such disturbance to the good people enjoying themselves. This is a rule. If you either wish to continue to enjoy our hospitality, then you must agree, there will never be a word of spite nor a hand raised against another, not under my roof!”
To the miner, I looked sternly to him, and he was a good ten years older, but I was not cowed.
“Miner, sire, this man says he made a slip while he cast his dart. Why should you take offense at a misstep, that was not meant to hazard you? He wishes to apologize.”
Whether he did or not, now I had placed him in a position to do so. and he did, quite meekly.
“Sire, good sir, I am so sorry. I slipped on the floor and did not mean to make you feel a threat, sir, good sir...”
The miner sat back, a huffing look on his grim and bearded face, then he stored his tommy-knocker back in his belt, and nodded.
“So you say. Well, then, I am sorry too. I like to come here. My brethren like it here too, and I will keep coming here. If you but keep your distance from me...”
“Oh, I shall, I shall!” cried the bumpkin.
Feeling that the situation had been solved, at least for the moment, I returned to Aleuderis’ table, where he was now conversing with the other three miners, on some point.
“Yes, Julian?” I obviously had interrupted him, and I felt as though he now meant to hold his rank over me. Nonetheless I spoke.
“Aleuderis, I talked with them both. They are at odds no more, at least, for the moment,”
As the fourth miner returned to the table, the other three immediately began speaking to him, in Cornish, and I knew not what they jabbered, but it was quick speech, and full of laughter, and I thought that this must mean the end of the issue.
I dreamed again about Anselm. He was among a number of men in the retinue of Prince Henry, and they were besieging one of Glyndwyr’s strongholds. I could not tell if Glyndwyr himself were there, in the midst of the trouble and action, but it was terrible, with defenders pouring pitch out of murder-holes, arrows being shot from, and bouncing off from, machicolations in the ramparts, and huts and homes being scourged and burned outside the walls of safety, by Henry’s foot soldiers.
And somewhere in all that, there was my Baron, speaking sincerely and swiftly to those he commanded, looking often so put upon, as though this entire business were something he yet would protest being involved with. But of course, I knew better. For Anselm to protest it at all would be to gain him the spite and distrust of the king and the prince. Yet the Welshmen did not relinquish their castle, and yet, they did not come forth to surrender it. It looked seriously to me as if everyone within its walls was willing to die where they stood, rather than face vassalage to an English king, and outlander.
And in my dream I saw Anselm fall, shot with an arrow through his cheek, and as he fell, he caught my eye, and something — I know not what— passed between us. It was a cry of despair, it was a sigh of acceptance, it was a realization that Anselm would not be returning. Needless to say I awoke at that point, near a dark sweat of fear and apprehension, and when the rooster gave his call, I was still staring at the walls, wondering if I had seen the future.
And there was someone new at the tavern, a tall man, of red beard, and green eye, and somewhat aloof from all the local ones, although I could tell he was a traveler, anyway, for the cut of his shoes were Welsh, and so was the air he had about him. He spoke only briefly in English, and was silent more often, so it was a little strange when I discovered that the regular Ding Dong Mine boys had managed to cluster about him later in the night.
By waiting on them directly, I spent a little time at the table. His name was Gryffdd, and he was indeed Welsh, and he knew he had come here at great risk but as he had no plans to go near the castle, or the town of Penzance, for that matter, he hoped to remain as it were, a citizen above suspicion. But the little crowd of miners seemed to fawn on his attention, and he was indeed seeing interested in whatever it was they were telling him.
He bought a lamb chop, covered it with mint leaf and cream sauce, and ate daintily from a pear, while drinking the same hippocras that our monks were so fond of. He told me that his reason for being here was to speak with miners— if he could find Aleudris in particular, he did not know. But his father was “an important man” back in Wales, who promised the Cornish miners “freedom, justice, good wages, and good prices for your tin and antimony”.
He stayed a good part of the evening, while I managed to try a song or two on them all, this time I once more sang about the Cornish giant, Guigemot. Guigemot was a different sort and soul from Blunderbore, but no less cut a figure in the stories of yore since the age before. I plucked at the strings (A Major to B flat to C) and I had the miners laughing with couplets like this:
“You think that you know Lancelot
But you never knew our Guigemot
A sarcen stone was like a pebble to he
His very leg, like a good tall tree
Guigemot the giant ruled
And walked these moors ere you were schooled
Brave knights quivered in their shoes
Wanton maidens lost their blues”
It was nothing like the one I had put together the other day for Aleuderis, and it was even less complete than the other, if the other didn’t end satisfactory, well, their attention to it did not last very long, either, for the red-headed Welshman’s charisma seemed to hold them in thrall, and at a nervous distance.
It happened pretty quickly when it did, although I actually had had no expectation of it. Gryffydd began to appear on several afternoons after another at the Lady. Wilmot, I suppose was the first to notice him. His long red hair and mustaches fairly bristled, and he wore mail, and those odd Welsh boots, although he held no livery with coat of arms. And Wilmot noticed something else- he spoke with a distinct North Welsh accent. To be Welsh and in these parts, in these times— perhaps there was some daring in that. Or foolishness. They are often a piece of the same, you know.
Wilmot learned that, actually, he had traveled south from Llangwyllen to find Aleuderis, because he much wanted to discuss the tin trade with him, and possible outlets for Aleuderis’ products... But each time he made it to the Lady and settled, hoping to find him, Aleuderis never showed up. But if he managed to come often enough...
Wilmot and Claire were always fast to serve him, to keep him out of the way, of course, for if those nosy monks or Devonshire retainers should show up, it could come to blows of speech, or even swords. He enjoyed a cider, not wine, he liked perry, but was spare on ale. I began sitting with him and trying to learn more of who he was, for a Welshman in Cornwall should know, I told him in as many words, that he would rouse suspicions from the many “large ears” we knew were lurking— if not in the shadows, then stalking us under the plain sunlight.
“I am called Gryffydd. Yes, I do hail from North Wales. And yes, my father is an important man. But we have no need to speak of him. For me, it is fine to be meeting the men who work the mines, if I cannot make time with the mine owner. But that I intend to do, and this is why you see me here each day.”
When I told him that I and several of my people hailed from Chester, he smiled broadly at me, shook my hand, and said, “It is of a common purpose then that we should have met! For there are things going on... sieges, battles, people being pushed aside from village to village... The son of Henry fires the huts and strips the fields... the poor of the land, always poor as you might know, are in quite a state... The marches of Wales, of which your Cheshire is but one, are thick with the horse and men of the rulers. The woods, thick with their arrows. But they also hold our revenge, those woods...”
I mentioned that I knew very well the kind of rule the Prince laid down, and that I had lost a friend, a man who was robbed of all his goods while standing his own ground against Henry’s soldiers... how I had lost other people at Shrewsbury...
“Ah yes. Shrewsbury. Well, Henry did mean to try and teach us a lesson there, then, didn’t he? But we are unbowed. There is a strength in our northern people that he ought not to trifle about. He will be bitten ferociously.
At that he laughed, and his laughter was merry and spread in little ripples across the room, where the usual dartsmen engaged in frustrated contest, milkmaids laughed uproariously drunken, and Panoptes—always little impressed by human goings on— worried a bone he had cadged off of Pamela, near the hearth.
It was interesting to hear the words of this stranger. I told him Aleuderis had not been seen in some time... At least, not for several days before Gryffydd himself had come. But I wish I had not said it.
For just as I had, who should stride in from the summer fields and roads, but Aleuderis Burian, himself, sweeping his cape and walking with a most upright bearing. He had seen the stranger immediately as he entered and scanned the room, and where the stranger sat, actually, was the very table Aleuderis enjoyed most.
“Good Gryffydd, how goes it! What has brought you all this way here? Surely not humble old me?” Aleuderis sense of humor was subtle and understated. The tall Welshman stood full height and shook the miner’s hand, and clasped it in both of his.
“Good tin merchant! I am happy to finally have found you, again. Do you know...”
Aleuderis, took Gryffydd by the arm, and began to pull him aside, and back out the doorway.
“Let us go outside to speak of this,” he winked at me. “Our good taverner has rules, we must be observant! One of his rules is “no pedlar talk indoors.” But come with me!”
He led the stranger out of doors, to the bowls, and they sat together on the bench, and there, I know not what they discussed, but since it was “pedlar business” I gave a sigh of relief, and turned back to the kitchen. There I drew out more drink for them, and brought them a pitcher, and cups, and left them on the end of the bench, where they could draw from them at their pleasure.
I returned to the kitchen. There, Wilmot was desperately arguing something with Claire.
And between the two of them, when they argued like this, they were not the perfect picture of young love that they often presented. But Wilmot, it seems, was on the losing side.
I took Pamela aside and asked her, “What’s the problem there?”
“Oh, Julian, it’s hardly yours to trouble with. Claire wants Wilmot to make up his mind, between working for Clarence or working for you.”
“How is that not my concern? Clarence is my friend, and Wilmot means as much to me as he does Clarence.”
“Because, this is Claire’s way of keeping him closer to her. If he worked for Clarence he would be closer to her every night, and the trip would not be so far, and they could have more time together. Wilmot says that without your pennies, he would not have so much to save for their future life. But...”
“You know, that the monks came very close to threatening them with leirwite?”
“But they have no proof they have ever even slept together. So far as we know, they have not, isn’t that so?” She winked at me, and I winced back.
“All the same, Pamela, I want Wilmot here also. His help is very necessary— he helps load up the carts with our supplies, it allows me to make a finish to the dealings with the merchants, and besides, I do like the company, and someone to talk with, on those trips. Tell Claire...”
“I don’t think I nor even you, Julian can have much say in this.”
“Well try. Tell her that I will absolutely not consider letting Wilmot go. We can make arrangements so he does not need work so long each night. That way he can still make the trips, and still have more time to be with her.”
“I will see.”
When I returned to the stranger Welshman and Aleuderis, they had near to finished half of their pitcher, and were in a very good mood.
“Good tavernkeeper, please, bring us meat!” Aleuderis cheerfully beamed at me.
“I should like a cheese, and fruit, as well.”
“You have a preference for the meat?” I asked. I hope that I could bring whatever I had ready. So it was the case.
“No, my friend, just bring us a plate of it! And the cheese— and I would like an apple.”
“I, at least a pear,” said the Welshman.
I hurried back to the kitchen. as it happened, some people who had been in earlier ordered roast beef, but had left a good half of the platter, and I grabbed that. I stacked a quarter pound of good Stilton cheese along with an apple and pear, and rushed right back out.
On the bowls green a small group of people had gathered, who knew Aleuderis, but kept a distance from them. They competed for knocking down pins, and one of them, at least, was quite good. The miner and his guest both drew knives and began carving up the beef, and with hungry, pudgy fingers, they sated themselves, taking care to slice but enough for a mouthful at one time, each taking their turn. It was obvious to me they could not finish the entire plate, and I watched the bowlers, taking my time, until they announced it was good and they had had enough. I took away the platter and returned to the kitchen.
Wilmot was there and asking me questions as I returned the hunk of roast to a pot resting on the long cooking table.
“Who is the Welshman?”
“I am not quite sure. Yes, he does seem to know the miner. Perhaps it is just as well. Be sure, though, Wilmot, you keep his visits a secret. You know what the Devon men will say, when they discover a Welshman has been here, and that we have not only served him, but served him with some deference, and that he has indeed made some kind of plan with the mine owner.”
That led me to consider this, as well. That what had just taken place was exactly the kind of thing that the Devon men wished me to report. And I would not. I would not betray the trust of any of my guests. If that meant I must betray them, so be it, but they themselves had betrayed the people of Penwith with their cruel injustices. And I need not cooperate with any of that. For I knew that all my patrons held them in low contempt, and they at least, would not do to see me myself in such trouble.