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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Old Fashioned Values - First Chapter



The ship was just like the replica Cara had seen in London of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon, the Golden Hind. It was two storeys of ornate wooden cladding with windows high up and sails, lots of sails. It was intricately decorated with painted flowers and she wondered how far they were going to sail in it. She looked at it with wide, sparkling eyes.
Her heart raced with excitement. She had trusted her fiancé, her betrothed he liked to be called, with this whole wedding.
They had met at the small, private museum in the city where she had worked for about a year. He had donated some fourteenth century letters from his family archives which he had found while he was exploring the castle he had inherited.
The letters were fascinating, having been written secretly between two would-be lovers and they formed a chronicle of the black death; there were whole paragraphs about how their neighbours were dying.
The fact that Chase owned a castle would have made him instantly attractive, even were it not for his handsome face and appealing physique. He had very dark, thick hair and was over six feet tall; his eyes were a velvet brown and they held a warmth which melted her heart. She could imagine him in charge of a castle; he seemed the sort of man who would naturally be in charge of anything he set his mind to.
That had been only six months ago, but Cara was certain he was the one. She had little in the way of relatives, or friends, and she was delighted to find someone to share her fascination with the long distant past. Most of the men she had met wouldn’t know the Wars of the Roses from the Battle of Waterloo.
The letters were authentic and they had gone on display in a much publicised exhibition which they both attended. The museum wasn’t often opened to the public, so when it was it usually brought a bit of a crowd. Nothing like the letters had been seen since the Paston Letters, although these were not so many of them as those famous documents.
After the exhibition, Chase had taken her to dinner in a very exclusive West End restaurant. They had spent almost every evening together since then, but never going any farther than a kiss. She had always wanted to be a virgin on her wedding night, like the maidens of old, but she had never before met a man who would make her rethink that decision. Chase was different; she found him very attractive and difficult to resist, but he respected her wish; in fact, he seemed  delighted when she told him.
They visited all the historical buildings they could in England, from Windsor Castle to the ruins of Framlingham and Westminster Abbey with its royal crypt. They even spent a week on the Isle of Wight to visit Carisbrooke Castle, where King Charles I was imprisoned after the English civil war between the Cavaliers and Roundheads.
Chase had been able to find some wonderful medieval weekends for them to attend, very authentic were it not for the expensive cars outside in the car park and the odd aeroplane flying over. She had her doubts about the fabrics used for the clothing though, and they were probably machine sewn inside, but it all looked good and as close to the real thing as Cara was ever likely to get.
With each day that passed, she was more and more convinced that Chase was the man for her. God knows, she had waited long enough. Nearly every man she had ever been out with had tried to get her into bed on their second date, if not the first. Cara had no interest in that; not that she had no interest in sex, because she could still be attracted to a handsome, well built man, but she was very old fashioned about things like that. So was Chase, her fiancé, sorry, her betrothed.
What could be more appropriate than a medieval wedding? As they climbed aboard the ship, moored about fifty yards out, she glanced back at the spectators on the harbour wall, all staring at them and, she was sure, hoping they could get a ride on the galleon.
“Oh, Chase,” she murmured as she looked about. “This must be worth a fortune.”
“If I wanted to sell it,” he replied.
She stared, startled.
“It’s yours?” She asked. “I thought perhaps you’d hired it for the occasion.”
“No, my love, the ship is mine. It is as authentic as it can be. I have had many repairs and restorations carried out, but I have always kept it as it should be, in keeping with the time.”
She’d always known he was wealthy; that was obvious by his expensive clothing as well as his Aston Martin and he bought her lovely gifts, mostly antique jewellery. She’d never realised he was wealthy enough to own a ship like this and she didn’t like to ask. She didn’t want him running away with the idea that she was interested in his bank balance more than him.
The sea was calm, thank God, as she had never been on a ship before and wasn’t sure if she had any sea legs. She would hate to begin the journey by throwing up over the side; that wouldn’t be very romantic, now, would it?
“How are the guests getting there?” She asked him.
She had given him a list of people she wanted invited to the wedding, her only relative being a first cousin she saw once or twice a year. He wanted to do the invitations himself, wanted to make them in real parchment and sealed with sealing wax. She smiled when she imagined her cousin’s face when she got that through the door.
“I’ve arranged a yacht for them,” he told her. “I didn’t think they’d appreciate this vessel like you and I do.”
He was right there. Her cousin and her few friends would be far more impressed with a full sized luxury yacht. He’s made all the arrangements for them and she assumed he had booked them all into a hotel for the weekend.
Chase led her through a door, carved out of the same dark wood as the ship, and into a cabin which was decked out like the rest of the vessel. It was designed in the same, sixteenth century style, even down to the feather bed which modern medical thinking declared was detrimental to a person’s spine.
In a chest at the bottom of the bed, Cara found a blue brocade gown just like the ones she had seen in paintings. Anne Boleyn wore something like this in her famous portrait, the one with the velvet necklace she always wore to hide her mole. It was that mole that had made superstitious people say she was a witch, thinking it was a third nipple with which to feed her familiar. That and the sixth finger on her hand.
It was well known now, of course, that many people had a sixth finger and their parents usually had those extra digits surgically removed at birth, but poor Queen Anne had no such advantage and had designed long sleeves to cover it.
Cara looked about at the cabin then turned and gave Chase a delighted smile.
“Are you going to change?” He asked, taking her in his arms and kissing her.
“Into that?”
“The gown is for you. I did explain this theme is truly medieval. You will find no expensive motor cars, no television aerials, nothing modern at all; the adventure begins here.”
She was so excited she could barely keep still. She had always felt a little out of place in the twenty first century and had studied history since her early school days. All she had ever wanted to be was an historian, to work in a museum and actually handle all those old items.
The documents she worked with in the museum were the most fascinating to her, especially if they were signed by one of the monarchs. A death warrant actually signed by Elizabeth I could hold her attention for hours.
As she got to know him better, Chase showed her his private collection of medieval artefacts, even clothing. Some of the things he had were quite amazing and she believed they should be on public display, not kept in a private collection. He even had a genuine Elizabethan gown, like the ones worn by Elizabeth herself, with all the quilting, the neck ruffs, the encrusted jewels. Even the Victoria and Albert Museum had nothing like it; their oldest piece of clothing was an undergarment from Elizabethan times.
But Chase wanted to keep his collection exclusive to members of the history society which he ran. People who joined had to know an awful lot about their chosen period and membership was very exclusive. It wasn’t expensive though; she remembered being a little put out by his reasoning that ‘the peasants had as much right to history as the nobility’.
Cara knew that most of her friends were not impressed with her choice. In fact she was surprised they had accepted the wedding invitation, but perhaps they just wanted to see what it would be like. They thought Chase to be a little odd and she had to admit that some of his ideas and mannerisms were very unconventional. But to her, a historian, they were in keeping with her idea of a romantic lover from the sixteenth century. He behaved like a medieval gentleman, or what she imagined someone like that would behave like. He was very protective of her, which she liked, although her feminist friends hated it.
“He is a chauvinist, Cara,” one of her friends had told her. “He will end up controlling your every move, you mark my words.”
“You are wrong,” she argued. “It is just his way.”
Cara thought some of her friends were too feminist in their ideals. None of them were really friends, though, only people she went for an occasional drink with. She had little time for women who would regard a man calling her ‘love’ as sexual harassment. Cara was all for women’s rights, but a lot of modern women had taken the whole thing too far and spoilt things for others, like herself, who wanted a man to treat her as a lady. All this ‘anything you can do..’ attitude had spoilt a lot of things, in Cara’s opinion.
When Chase proposed marriage she was over the moon and she wasn’t about to let naysayers spoil things for her. Now here they were on a galleon ship on their way to their wedding and honeymoon on a medieval themed island. She wondered just how authentic it would be, whether it would be a mixture of long dresses and mobile phones.
As Chase helped her into the many parts of the gown, she wondered how women in the sixteenth century ever managed to wear these garments. The petticoats were all separate, the kirtle was a one piece dress, worn underneath an overskirt with tied at the front and was left open to show the underskirt. The bodice was separate and laced at the back, so Chase had to help her with it and the sleeves were two separate pieces, very elaborately quilted and embroidered.
“No wonder ladies needed personal maids to dress them,” she remarked. “I’m surprised nobody thought to stitch the sleeves to the bodice before they did. It seems so obvious somehow.”
These clothes were far more authentic than the ones they had worn at the many medieval weekends they had attended. The material was all natural, the embroidery and stitching done by hand and there were no intimate undergarments. That must have been very draughty in the winter, Cara thought, smothering a giggle.
Chase laughed.
“But the idea was to vary the gown. A lady could wear a different bodice with a different kirtle and a different pair of sleeves. It was quite clever when you think about it.” He finished lacing her bodice and stepped back to admire the result. “Besides, there were bodices made with the sleeves attached, but they were mostly worn by the lower classes.”
There he goes again, she thought, with his class distinctions. Cara hoped he would realise that was one attitude which should be firmly fixed in the past.
He lifted her soft hair with the palm of his hand.
“It is a pity you had it cut,” he said. “I wish you’d told me you were going to do that; I would have talked you out of it.”
Cara perpetually wore her dark, wavy hair collar length as that seemed to suit the thickness and Chase had been nagging her to grow it long. It had got to her shoulders before it began to really irritate her and she’d given up and had it cut. It didn’t seem to approve at the time, but it was her hair not his.
“You should think yourself lucky. When I was in the hairdresser, I considered having it layered really short. It is thick and wavy enough to take that sort of style.”
He shook his head.
“No, never do that,” he said thoughtfully. “I like it long. Short hair would not suit this outfit.”
“What about you?” She said. “Do you have a suit of quilted satin to wear?”
“I do indeed,” he replied. “But we are not yet married so I am going behind that curtain to change.”
She wasn’t sure if he was joking, but she grinned anyway. He may have been teasing her, but one of the things she loved about Chase was his acceptance of her ideals, that unmarried people should not see each other undressed. She liked that, it would make it all the more special when the time came.
He retreated to the little alcove behind the curtain and she heard him fumbling about in the limited space.
While she waited she gazed out of the tiny window at the sea beyond. She couldn’t see very much, since the windows did not open, but she could tell by the expanse of water that they were moving fairly quickly. She soon retreated back inside the cabin to sit on the bed and wait; the ship was rocking about and watching the waves outside was making her a little nauseous.
“How long before we get there?” She called.
“Not long. We should be there soon.”
“Where,” she asked. “That’s what I want to know. You haven’t told me where we’re going.”
His reply came from close behind her, making her jump before she turned to face him. He wore a red quilted jacket with gold braid along the stitching, a high collar and a white silk shirt with lace at the cuffs which fell over his hands. His trousers were knee length and made of the same satin; thank God he hadn’t gone for those awful bloomer like breeches. She never understood how a woman could fancy a man in bloomers, even if they were the fashion. He didn’t wear the codpiece either, which was a huge relief. Important men had worn the codpiece as a sort of shield for their genitals, especially in battle, but it became a symbol of virility as time went on, especially after King Henry VIII’s codpieces were made bigger and bigger and left room for a huge erection.
Cara blushed at the thought. She wondered if anyone really believed his parts were that big, anyone except him that is.
There came a knock on the cabin door and Chase went to open it.
“Your Grace,” the sailor said. “We have arrived. There is a raft waiting to take you and Her Ladyship ashore.”
She giggled. Your Grace! Her Ladyship!
“Come, my dear,” Chase said, offering his arm. “We will arrive in time for supper.”
They stepped ashore to be greeted by many people in medieval costume, some dressed as peasants, many in the aristocratic style of the time, similar in fact to what they were wearing themselves.
The peasants skirts fell just in line with their ankles but the skirts of the noble ladies spread more than a few inches below their feet and Cara wondered how on earth they managed to walk in them. She glanced back as one lady moved and she got her answer; she sort of glided along, slid her feet along the ground, pushing the fabric along in front of her.
Cara’s own gown also reached to below her feet and she thought it was simply made for a much taller woman, but apparently not. She had managed by lifting her skirts when she walked; she wondered why these women couldn’t do the same.
The men bowed, the women curtsied, not just the peasants but the nobility as well. The women curtsied low, their heads almost touching their feet and Cara had difficulty keeping a straight face. This was going to be so much fun.
It was a short ride in the carriage, which was fitted with wooden seats and separate cushions. There was no glass in the windows, just a thin wooden blind which pulled across for privacy. It must have been freezing to travel far in winter. It was extremely uncomfortable, every bump in the road jolted her spine and Cara wondered how on earth people managed long journeys in such a vehicle.
As they rode along, she peered out of the window and saw a few little thatched cottages like the ones still to be found in some English villages. Not one of the houses had a satellite dish or an aerial, just as Chase had promised and there wasn’t a car or even a bicycle in sight.
There were horses though, lots of them grazing in a paddock beyond the small village. Before she met Chase, she had never sat upon a horse. She was afraid of heights and every time the animal moved she was convinced she would be tumbled to the ground far below.
It took a long time to teach her to ride, to control such a powerful creature, but it seemed he loved to ride and wanted her to join him in the pursuit. That would be great for when they got home after the honeymoon, but for this holiday he wanted her to learn to ride side saddle, and she didn’t enjoy that. At least sitting astride the horse she felt as though she had some control, some grip if it decided to take off, but side saddle she was sure she would be pitched forward every time the horse moved.
She felt a change in the road surface and looked out to see they were driving across the wooden slats of a drawbridge. Looking down into the murky, brown waters of the moat, she noticed stains running down the castle walls from small openings up high. She wondered if this was part of the recreation of if this castle really was old enough to have had stool closets which opened onto the outside wall. Human waste would drift down the walls into the moat beneath and many British castles had these stains. She had no idea where she was, so perhaps it was a real ancient castle.
There was a faint stench coming from the moat as well which completed the illusion of it being ancient and full of sewage. Oh, this had been so cleverly done! It reminded her of the mock up of the Blitz she had seen in Cornwall, where there were the smells of burning from the bombed out buildings and the sound of air raid warnings.
Her heart fluttered with excitement; if it really was an ancient castle, it would make it all the more authentic, all the more exciting.
She turned to ask Chase about it, then smiled at his indulgent expression.
“What do you think? Do you think you will enjoy being here?”
“It is wonderful!” She cried. “It is so real.”
The carriage rumbled into the castle courtyard and came to a stop on the cobblestones; a servant ran forward to open the carriage door and Chase got down then turned to offer his hand to help her alight after him.
She looked about in awe and noticed once more the bows and curtseys of all the people. These were obviously servants, dressed in rough linen shirts, not very clean either, and trousers made of some sort of soft hide. The men wore sandals on their feet, which were also not very clean.
She assumed they worked here, playing the parts of peasants and servants. Cara had visited Disneyworld once and been amazed at the way the attendants got so involved in the parts they were playing, from cowboys to witches and safari guides. But this castle was a real one, ancient and made of solid stone, just like Windsor but smaller.
This was even more authentic seeming than Disneyworld. Cara thought about the people dressed as the nobility who had greeted them at the harbour and assumed they, too, were holiday makers, perhaps on a slightly lower budget than Chase and Cara. Or perhaps it was because of the wedding and honeymoon they were getting special treatment.
He held out his hand and she settled her own on it, his arm held up high as they walked. She suppressed another giggle as they followed a servant looking man up a narrow, stone staircase and through an arched door made of oak with iron slats across. Cara had seen doors like that in lots of ruined castles around England and Wales. The servant opened the door and stepped inside, then bowed before he turned and left them alone, closing the door behind him.
The gown was much too long and she thought it very inconvenient to have to lift her skirts whenever she moved, but that was the fashion. She wondered how long that lasted before women got fed up with it.
The servant didn’t look for a tip and Chase didn’t give him one. Perhaps he couldn’t. He had left his modern clothes somewhere; had he left his money as well? For the first time she wondered where her own things were, where was their luggage?
Inside the chamber the stone walls were covered in tapestries, all intricately stitched and looking very old. They even had that ‘old’ smell about them, like you sometimes get in stately homes where those enormous tapestries hung on the walls. Mostly they depicted hunting scenes, which made her shudder. Chase knew she was an animal lover who didn’t approve of hunting, but he probably had no control over the decorations.
There was a four poster bed made of solid oak with intricately carved patterns of flowers and little deer and hung with tapestry curtains. The mattresses were so high there were wooden steps beside the bed to enable them to climb up.
She even spotted a trundle bed underneath which could be pulled out. That was where the servants would have slept, in the same room as the married couple. She had never really considered before how embarrassing that would be, even with the bed curtains closed. It would have been embarrassing for the couple as well as the servants.
There was a carved chest at the end of the bed with more medieval ladies’ clothing inside and protruding out from the sides of the head board were poles upon which hung kirtles in fabulous fabrics.
“This place is amazing,” Cara said excitedly. “There is not even a wardrobe.”
“No, they would not be in keeping with the time. I told you; you will find nothing modern here. We have stepped back in time, my darling, into the sixteenth century.”
Cara stepped forward and put her arms around his neck and he bent and kissed her, a gentle, fleeting kiss. She wanted more but they had promised themselves a chaste engagement, sorry ‘betrothal’. Tomorrow though, they would be married and tomorrow night they would be free to allow their passions to emerge, even to take over. Cara felt a little tingle; she was so looking forward to that part.
“Oh, Chase, I love you,” she said softly. “I cannot wait for tomorrow.”
“Charles,” he corrected her.
“Chase is short for Charles, I told you that before. Here, in this time, on this island, I am Charles. Chase is something the hounds do to the fox.”
She shuddered at the comparison and wondered at the insensitivity of using that particular simile with her. She’d have that image in her mind all day now.
He really was taking the whole thing seriously, wasn’t he? Very well, she could play too.
“Charles,” she said and attempted a curtsey which made him smile.
“And you must be Caroline.”
She stared at him for a moment, not sure if he was joking, but it seemed he was still very serious.
“Nobody calls me Caroline,” she retorted. “My name is Cara.”
“I know it is what you are called, but it doesn’t sound English, does it? Your name is Caroline, so let us use your given name.”
She stepped back and studied his face. She was all for taking it seriously, but she wasn’t sure she liked being told what she should be called.
At last she shrugged. What difference did it make, really?”
“Ok,” she answered at last. “Although Caroline is a bit of a mouthful. I am hungry; what time is this supper you mentioned?”
She hadn’t seen a clock of any description. There were probably sundials about the place and Cara had never really learned how to read one of those, but she’d get some idea by the position of the sun in the sky.
Downstairs there was a great hall, like the ones she had seen in paintings in many galleries and museums. It was an enormous room, big enough to hold a ball, and there was a high table where the heads of the family would sit. That table formed the bar of a T with a longer table forming the stem. This arrangement must be where the layout came from for wedding breakfasts, even today. It was fascinating to realise that they still used the same arrangement, the high table being for the wedding party, the bride and groom and important people. Here this table was where the servants sat, in order of importance.
The steward and his family sat nearest the family and gradually down the table sat all the other servants. The salt was carefully placed at the top of this long table, between the family and the steward, and Cara smiled to herself, recalling the phrase ‘beneath the salt’ to describe people of a lower class.
It was a saying which was not used so often in England any more and the last time Cara had heard it was from the mother of a boy she used to date at school. The woman was a terrible snob and thought she was somehow better bred than others around her; she used the term to describe Cara, although she had no idea she was listening.
“Don’t get serious about that girl,” she had told her son. “She is not quite, above the salt.”
Cara had laughed quietly but when she heard her boyfriend agreeing with his mother, she left the house, never to return and thought herself lucky to have been eavesdropping.
Now the layout of this hall told her precisely where the expression had come from. Chase led her to the high table and they sat together looking out at the tables set out with medieval crockery. There were trenchers of stale bread right at the bottom of the table for the lowest servants, but she and Chase had wooden ones, as well as a wooden spoon and a mazer for their ale. There were also bowls and cups made of some shiny, hard material. Cara wondered if it was stone; she had seen a programme on television about a chalice in Valencia made of stone, thought by some to be the Holy Grail.
She picked up one of the bowls and turned to Chase.
“Is this stone, do you think?” She asked.
“No,” he answered with a smile. “It is horn.”
“Horn? Animal horn?”
Hastily she replaced the bowl and saw that the cup beside it was of the same material. She couldn’t drink out of a vessel made of animal horn.
Chase produced a knife for himself and one for her.
“Keep that with you. You will likely need it again.”
Of course, medieval people all carried their own knives and used them for everything from whittling wood to cutting their meat. And there would be no forks either, as they hadn’t been invented yet.
As she looked down the length of the hall, she saw that people were using spoon like objects with a sharpened end in place of a fork. They appeared to be made of bone and Cara didn’t fancy that any more than she did the horn bowls.
On the table before them was a whole pig and Chase was carving into it. Cara turned her gaze away; meat was one thing but she didn’t want something on the table which looked like it might get up and run away.
She looked about for the vegetables, but could see none. She was relieved when two servants carried in a heavy tureen containing some sort of vegetable stew and began to ladle some into one of the horn bowls. She didn’t want to use it, but there was nothing else and she was very hungry.
Obviously, this place didn’t cater much for vegetarians, but then if they wanted to keep it as authentic as possible, they wouldn’t, would they? Cara would just have to make do with the stew and perhaps there would be some fruit or cheese. Yes, cheese would be good; there was definitely cheese.
There was goose as well as the pig and Chase was gnawing away at it. He tossed the half eaten bone onto the floor where two dogs waited to devour the leftovers, just like that painting she had seen in the Louvre in Paris. There were dogs in that, all waiting beneath the table for the bits which were thrown down when the family had finished with them. She hoped they didn’t start fighting over the bones; she wanted to be sure there were some leftovers from her plate for the dogs, but she wasn’t sure how much interest they would have in vegetable stew.
Surely they would have something more to eat than this? She fully expected to find somewhere in this castle where there would be proper dog food stored.
Along with the thought of dogs came the sudden fear that whoever ran this place had possibly gone too far. She glanced at the huge fireplace, where often there would have been a spit with a whole animal turning to roast over the flames. Turning the spit would be a dog, strapped in place on hot coals and the dog would keep running in an effort to get away and relieve the pain in his paws.
Cara shuddered; she loved history, but always tried to forget some of the awful things people did back then, especially when it came to animals. They had some strange idea that they had no souls and therefore could not feel pain. She breathed a sigh of relief to see the hearth cold and empty.
Cara scrutinised her surroundings carefully, looking for something which would remind her that she was, in fact, in the twenty first century still. Apart from the smells of food, there was a very faint aroma of perspiration. It was nothing that would put her off her meal, but it was there nonetheless. Could it be that these people had no access to deodorant? Again she smiled at the notion and tucked into the delicious vegetable stew, wondering if that wonderful ship was really a time machine in disguise.
She was a little annoyed with Chase to be enjoying the meat so much when he knew she hated to see anyone eat animal flesh, but if she wanted authentic, she supposed she would have to put up with it. Her objections would not save the thousands of animals who were slaughtered for food every day. Cara watched in fascination as the servants with the bread trenchers finished their meals by soaking those trenchers into the stew and eating them. It certainly saved on the washing up.
The light was beginning to fade and some of the servants came along and lit candles and one man had a long taper which he lit from a candle and used to light the candles in the chandeliers hanging high up from the ceiling.
This was so exciting!

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