Jenkin’s Home

Stamford Manor lay basking in the evening sunshine when Learmouth arrived, and looked upon as fine an example of a manor house as could be found anywhere in England:  two storied, stone built with a fine grey slate roof, tall beech hedges separated the gardens and orchards full of apple, pear and plum trees. Smoke from one of the chimneys rose thinly in the gentle breeze that brought the smell of baking. Learmouth had done well as a wool trader, and he now had a large wagon almost full of wool-bales pulled by a team of four, as well as the two pack horses. Jeb and his lad riding on the wagon and Learmouth mounted as they crossed the ford, just a foot deep at this time of year. They passed a fenced paddock where two young men were practicing archery. Learmouth stopped for a while to watch them casually at first and then with increasing interest as he saw their obvious skill, these two had the makings of very fine bowmen indeed.

Jack and Rob noticed the wool trader and his wagon, gathered their arrows and walked off to meet him. Learmouth had taken to wearing a broad brimmed dark green felt hat so that his face remained in shadow, and despite his skeletal frame and features, he could, when he wished, assume quite a pleasant demeanour.

          “Good evening to you young Bowmen,” he said, “I compliment you on your marksmanship.” Rob and Jack wished him good evening in return and thanked him for the compliment.

“Might I enquire if the Master of the Manor is available and if he may have wool for sale, I see the shearing is done, but I still have room for a few bales and would like permission to camp for the night nearby.”

Jack replied, “Unfortunately our Master is visiting his daughter with his wife, his first grandchild due any day, and the last of the wool was sold last week, however, please put your team of horses in the paddock, there’s plenty of grass as you can see and water from the stream for them to drink.”

“I’m most obliged, young Sir, I’m John Morpeth,” he lied, “wool merchant, and this is Jeb and his lad, the lad is mute since birth, but is an excellent shearer for all that.”

Jack and Rob introduced themselves, going on to explain that this was Master Bowman Jenkins home and lands and they were apprenticed to him. Learmouth could be generous and charming when needed and he practiced these skills to their full extent. He needed a reason to stay overnight and so, while moving the wool wagon, contrived to loosen a wheel damaging the axel hub.

Jake and Rob repaired the wheel, since Jack had learned how to repair cart wheels with his father. In return Learmouth offered to pay them, when they refused he insisted that they join him in a meal at his camp.

“ We are very well provisioned, having beef and cold hams and all kinds of fruit, and he would be delighted with your company especially since Jeb was not very talkative and his lad didn’t talk at all,” said Learmouth. He borrowed a trestle table and chairs from the manor house and laid out a very pleasant open-air meal for them all. They talked freely of the wool trade, the terrible winter just passed, hopes of a good grain harvest, of archery and hunting, of Jenkins skills, and his wonderful teaching methods. At the end of the meal Learmouth brought out a bottle of mead saying,

“I know you’re a bit young for this stuff but you’re welcome to a small glass if you wish.”

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