Friday, January 7, 2011

Today I accompanied Sir Robert on his inspections of his Bridlington properties. They are commercial properties and the rents come due on the quarter days. All of these shops relate to Bridlington's greatest trade and export, the sea. At one of the shops, a fishmonger's, I saw clams, oysters, and crabs as well as eels and, of course, mounds and mounds of fish. I made little sketches below of the shellfish to demonstrate their odd shapes.


            We've left Bridlington and are riding further inland for the moment. It will take two days' ride to reach uncle Robert's four parcels of land, which total a hundred acres. He leases them to three farmers. This land grows mostly barley, which are then sent to the local brewery—also owned by Sir Robert.

            The beer from the brewery that Uncle Robert owns is very good. I was taken on a tour of it today. 'Tis a small building, but the great vat full of hops and the presses that are involved are a mechanical wonder.

            We are headed north once again, along a route that Uncle Robert says was once built by Romans, when they ruled—or thought they ruled—parts of Britain. The land around us is not that different from the farmland surrounding us in Scour. It is arable, a place of mostly villages. But as we ride closer to the coast this time, headed toward Scarborough, where we shall take ship to Whitby, the air is more salty. I saw a flock of seagulls flying in the air yesterday.

            Whitby Abbey is a Benedictine abbey. It looms over the North Sea. One can see it from the port at Whitby. The Abbey houses both monks and nuns, like St. Osana's, and 'twas founded in pre-Conquest times by a Northumbrian king. The Percys, who are Earls of Northumberland, endowned Whitby Abbey as well.
            Once again, uncle Robert owns commercial properties here. There is a cloth store and ships. He owns ships which sail to the Low Countries and to London. Most of them were out of port, but I was able to get on one ship! 'Tis a sloop, a merchant ship, and it was very large. It ships wool and cloth, crates of beer, and other sundry items to the Low Countries, to cities like Antwerp and Amsterdam and Bruges. The beer and cloth are traded for items—I'll have to find out what items exactly—and the wool is, of course, traded in the substantial cloth-and-wool trade.

            You see that I am making an effort to do the exercises you have left in the book, Brother Clement.
            We are still on the road, out of Whitby now, curling northward. Lining the suburbs of Whitby are the moors, which uncle Robert's manservant says is a vast, wide landscape of cliffs and fog.

            We are in County Durham now. We shall meander in the general direction of north-northwest toward Durham, but stop at another one of uncle Robert's substantial estates for a goodly week to celebrate Easter. It is convienient to Durham, uncle Robert says, and thus, we shall celebrate the ascension of the Lord Jesus at Durham Cathedral. One of uncle Robert's daughters is married to a landowner's son in County Durham and after Easter is over, we shall visit with her and her family.

            With Easter upon them, Robert decided to pause at his estate outside of Durham. How he acquired this place, he would not tell Iggy, telling him no matter, 'twas his now and would be Iggy's as well. It was a handsome estate with good hunting parks.
            Iggy saddled up an eager horse, for Robert had decided that today, the day after Easter, would be the perfect day to go hunting. The steward who ran the estate reported that there was a proliferation of deer in the hunting park.
            "Feel like venison tonight? Now that Lent's over and we can eat properly again," Robert said, strapping on his leather jerkin.
            "Sure, sir."
            "Then get your riding clothes on, lad. We're going hunting."
            Iggy, who had been writing in his journal, glanced up quickly. "Hunting, sir?"
            "Yes, lad. Hunting. Go to."
            Iggy pulled on his buckskin hose and put on a light cloak and Isabel's hat. He exited the house, a little smaller than Collins Hall and barely more than an old castle keep, to see uncle Robert adjusting the length of the stirrup before mounting the horse. Iggy did the same with his animal, a docile gelding, and set the horse in motion to follow Uncle Robert. A pack of wolfhounds followed, licking their chops and barking, the dogs chasing each other and Robert's horse as they went further afield.
Robert set his horse into a gallop once they passed pastures and moved into the hunting park. Iggy noticed that Robert held a hunting spear. He imagined it as a lance from the knights of old as they rode into battle in full armor, battle cries coming forth from their throats. He urged his horse to go faster. Iggy barely controlled and swallowed the urge to yell his own battle cry—"A moi! A FitzClement! Ici!"
            Somehow, battle cries sounded better in foreign languages.
            Robert put his hand up and slowed his horse to a trot, then a canter, then a slow walk. Iggy did the same. Through some trees, Iggy saw the brown hide of a deer. They drew closer. The dogs rushed through the cosp of trees and bite at the deer's legs. Iggy winced.
            Then he saw uncle Robert raise an arm and then, hefting the spear above his shoulders, he gave it a sound, accurate throw.
            The deer fell on its side with a thud. A life extinguished, just like that. Robert nudged his horse forward, pulled the spear out of the deer's flesh and whistled sharply to quiet the dogs. The spear came out of the flesh with a disguting squelch.
            "Now, we must truss the deer up…ah," Robert said, as they heard more horses hooves behind them. A moment later, a groom arrived, leading a pack horse behind.
"Perfect timing. One down. Truss him up." The groom nodded and leaped down from his horse, ropes already in hand to do the deed.
            Another sharp whistle and a swift movement on the part of Robert's horse had the rapid dogs running across the park again.
            "Of course," Robert said, turning to Iggy, as the traveled at a slower pace. "Of course, in a proper hunt, we'd carry a horn to call to each other at the sight of the kill." He shrugged his shoulders. "If we get a large stag, two deer will be enough for the household." Robert peered at Iggy's face. "You're looking a bit green around the gills, boy. You're a country boy. You've seen animals die for food before."
            "Yes, of course," Iggy said as he tried to make his voice sound regular. He had, of course. Pigs were fattened up to be slaughtered for their fat for lard, their meat for ham, sausages, and pork. Even the pigs' bladder had a use, even the feet were cut up and put into stews. Even the blood was stirred and warmed for blood pudding.
 Chickens had their necks slashed to kill them, their feathers sold to the villagers for their mattresses, their meat used to feed the inhabitants of the priory and its dependants.
One of the priory's farms had a dovecote. Phesants were killed for food. And sometimes, when a horse went lame or was injured beyond belief, the stablehands would have to put the animal out of its misery.
And all of that seemed normal, but felling a deer as it peacefully stopped in the woods seemed a bit cruel.
But Iggy kept on. He knew uncle Robert was a man's man: a solider, a warrior, a landowner, a man who enjoyed placing the various chess pieces of his life in their places. He liked sailing and riding hard. He enjoyed swordplay—had showed Iggy some maneuvers that the skinny boy had quickly learned—and hunting seemed part and parcel of that.
Iggy could not imagine his real father hunting like this. Clement might find it distasteful. In fact, Iggy had only ever seen Clement ride a horse once. On the occasions that he went into the village at all, Clement walked, shuffling in his shoes, his habit's hem blowing and swaying in the breeze.
It took some riding and some chasing by the dogs, who were outrun by two deer, but eventually, an old stag, judging by its antlers, could not keep up with its cohorts. Robert slung the spear again, his bicep visibly powerful through his jerkin. The spear flew.
Iggy uttered a prayer in his mind. He was an athletic boy—he loved horses and liked riding, he enjoyed taking long treks, he found the annual sheep shearing envigorating. He and the lads often played ball with a fleece-stuffed, leather-stitched ball in the priory yard, well away from any stained glass windows.
He even enjoyed sailing. The second time had far surpassed the first time.
As they rode back, the groom's pack horse laden with two dead, bleeding deer, the dogs running around the horse's heels because they smelled the blood, Robert and Iggy rode at a more sedate pace.
"I will never forget my first hunt," Robert remarked. "I was little older than you. A lord—an earl, I believe—was visiting the priory. Old Man Routh organized a hunt for the lord and his men and padded the crowd with some neighborhood bucks and lads. 'Twas after Bosworth Field, mere weeks after. Though we were under the Tudor king, we were still bristling with resentment and grief that our Richard—Yorkshiremen called him that—had been killed. An anointed king!" Robert shook his head. "But anyway, I digress. The hunt was magnificant. We rode over some of Routh's fields and forests, felled some deer, even killed a few foxes." Robert chuckled. "I do not think the lower orders were terribly pleased about so many trampling over their land, but no one would give them a listen. So thus it was that my first hunt was...exhilarating. I loved it. The violent exercise...'tis the closest you shall come to battle, I hope." Robert paused. "Now my lad, will we go about brandishing swords? You need some work on your fencing."
Iggy perked up at the suggestion. "Oh, aye. Yes, sir. I would love that."
Robert grinned. "Good lad."

            Robert pursed his lips together, hands on hips, nose twitching. "You cannot meet your cousin like that, lad. When was the last time you had a bath?"
Iggy had to think, his fingers ink-stained from working with his workbook. His mind was clouded by Latin verb tenses and it took him a moment to realize that "bath" was perfectly understandable English. "Umm..."
Robert sighed. "My daughter is a gentle lady, Ignatius. I'll fetch a maid and have you bathed." He left Iggy's temporary chamber to do just that. A tub was carried in by a manservant and then, in turns, two maids climbed up with steaming hot pails of water. They poured the water into the tub, then tempered the temperature by using colder water. Soon, the bath was ready. One maid stayed behind to assist.
Iggy truly had not immersed himself in water to bathe much in his life. He washed himself in pieces, in streams, a cloth rubbed against face, underarms, and his genitals most mornings, his hair rinsed and treated for lice twice a year. But he stripped and stepped into the tub anyhow, hopping from foot to foot as they tingled from the scalding water. Slowly, the feet grew used to the temperature.
            Iggy submerged his body into the hot water and shuddered at the feeling. Then the real ordeal began. The maid who was still in the room leaned him over and scrubbed his back with a stiff sponge. Iggy felt as if his skin was being peeled off. Soon, finished with his back, she gave him the sponge and strong, foul-smelling soap--lord, did that smell like lye!--and to begin washing himself with. He did so, afraid that if she had the sponge, she would flay him just from the strong strokes.
Then she bid him to rise and poured a bucket of water over him, to rinse. He blushed, flushed from the heat of the water, when the maid's eye wandered down his uncovered body.
Then she had him sit again, knees to chest, and began to rub his hair and scalp with liquified soap, a bit better smelling. He sniffed. Sandalwood. No, rosewater. Perhaps a combination of the two. Her hands were once again rough. Iggy thought of dying saints, of martyrs being burnt and torn apart for their beliefs, or the of saints being forced to act the gladiator in the Coliseum to amuse the Romans—anything to ignore the sensation of a woman's hands, however work-roughened, in his hair, scratching against his scalp. The last he had been washed by a woman, he was a child under the age of eight. After that, their swimming was supervised by the monks and their baths—before Easter, usually, and twice or thrice during summers, and once again before Christmastide in honor of the their Lord Jesu. The nuns, it was feared, would be too fascinated at the sight of partially-naked males, even though the nakedness came from boys and not men. Virgin eyes were to be protected from that sort of sight. It would incite lewd thoughts.
Iggy found that thinking of virgin martyrs did not help quell the swirling sensation in his lower belly. His bits quivered.
Then the maid, done with her ministrations, sluiced him with another bucket of water. As well as his hair, his bits drooped downwards as well. She was running a fine-tooth comb through his hair.
Once dressed in his new doublet, scrubbed so clean his skin would hve squeaked if touched, his hair dried and treated against lice, Iggy donned his hat, adjusted it to sit at a jaunty angle, and climbed the steep flight of stone steps to the main hall downstairs, where uncle Robert waited.
"Good," Robert said in approval. "Onwards."
The main estate of Robert's middle daughter Elizabeth lay off the main road northeasterly out of Durham. Houghton was the name of Elizabeth's husband. Robert assured Iggy that it was "de Houghton" not two generations ago.
The manor had the gabled windows of Collins Hall, as well as a slate roof. It sat at the end of a packed dirt lane. A groom came forward to take their horses and water them and Iggy and Robert dismounted. Out of the house emerged a man, a woman, and three young children. They looked young, perhaps in their twenties.
The man bowed. "Father, welcome."
Robert inclined his head. "Thank you." He turned to the woman. "Elizabeth! You look well!"
The woman's face lit up with a gentle smile. As she came closer, Iggy could see that she had vivid blue eyes the color of the sea. She had rather round cheeks and thin lips, but her chin was small and weak. "Papa," she said softly, taking Robert's hands in hers. "Be made welcome. I am so glad to see you! I've missed you. It's been an age since you last visited."
Robert chuckled. "Aye, it has. You've gone and had another grandchild in the time."
Elizabeth nodded, still smiling. She turned to Iggy then and still smiling graciously said, "You must be my cousin Ignatius. Welcome to my home." She furrowed her brow. "You know, I remember you being born."
He blinked. "Thank you, Cousin Elizabeth."
She gestured to the silent children."Come children, come. Make your bows to your grandfather and mother's cousin. They will be staying with us past May Day." The children came forward. The eldest was at least ten years old, a boy, and he bowed gravely, his mouth in a straight line. The next lad, a year or so younger, alos bowed gravely. But the youngest one smiled, revealing a gap-toothed grin, and then lowered his head. All three kneeled down to receive their grandfather's blessing. They looked as if they were trembling slightly. Yes, uncle Robert could intimidate man or boy.
Ignatius rather liked that. He glanced down at his skinny arms, the inch of pale skin revealed between the end of his sleeve and his riding gloves. No one would ever find him intimidating. He was of average size for his age, even a little tall, but his skinniness prevailed. How would be gain muscle?
"Hello, children," Robert said, holding his hand over their heads in turn as if he were Jesus, healing them. "Thank you for your bows."
Elizabeth's husband led them inside. The home looked as if it had had, at one point, been a defensive castle, for it lay near an important northern road and near a fordable river. But now it was entirely made for comfort. They sat at a table in the main room, where Elizabeth had food laid out for her hungry guests, along with ale, small beer, and wine.
Robert accepted the small beer, Iggy the ale. The lads were taken away by a maid. Iggy wondered if he should disappear along with them, for he probably more in common with them than with the adults.
"So what brings you to Durham, Father?" Elizabeth asked.
"I've made Ignatius my heir," Robert said. "Showing him my properties. Some of them need some guidance, especially the ones closest to the border with Scotland. You've not heard anything on that count, have you?" He eyed his son-in-law.
"Nay, Father," the husband said. "They're plum defeated. The flower of Scottish nobility was killed last year at Flodden and they've not recovered. I don't think we'll have much to fear from those quarters."
"Good. A safe kingdom for King Harry." Robert sipped his drink. "I have not done a proper surveying of my land in many a year. I am usually away on the business of the Earl during the summer and winter is too harsh to travel. So, thus, with Ignatius here as my company and my heir, it felt right to tour the properties."
"How much longer will this progress last?" Elizabeth asked curiously.
"Well into May, I expect," Robert said. "We're to journey into Northumberland, see your sisters, beg hospitality at Alnwick and then we shall make our way home." He chewed. "We may not get back to Scour until June, actually. The pace will be faster though."
"How is Scour? And Mary?"
"Mary lost a child," Robert said flatly. "She's been unwell. Margaret is well. And Scour is Scour, neither growing prosperous nor emptying at a dangerous rate. 'Tis the same."
"I'm sorry to hear about Mary," Elizabeth said, eyes gone downcast.
            

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