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Authors: Kate Sedley

The Green Man

BOOK: The Green Man
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Table of Contents

Cover

The Roger the Chapman Mysteries

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

The Roger the Chapman Mysteries

THE GOLDSMITH'S DAUGHTER

THE LAMMAS FEAST

NINE MEN DANCING

THE MIDSUMMER ROSE

THE BURGUNDIAN'S TALE

THE PRODIGAL SON

THE THREE KINGS OF COLOGNE

THE GREEN MAN

THE DANCE OF DEATH

WHEEL OF FATE

THE MIDSUMMER CROWN

THE TINTERN TREASURE

THE CHRISTMAS WASSAIL

THE GREEN MAN
Kate Sedley

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 
 
 

First published in Great Britain and the USA 2008 by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited

Copyright © 2008 by Kate Sedley.

The right of Kate Sedley to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Sedley, Kate

The Green Man. – (Roger the Chapman mysteries)

1. Roger the Chapman (Fictitious character) – Fiction

2. Peddlers and peddling – England – Fiction 3. Great

Britain – History – Edward IV, 1461-1483 – Fiction

4. Detective and mystery stories

I. Title

823.9'14[F]

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6617-2 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-052-3 (trade paper)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-490-4 (ePub)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

One

I
t seemed a day like any other. Or as much like any other as days had been for the past nine months. For the autumn and winter just gone had been two of the worst seasons in living memory.

It had started the previous August with tearing gales and lashing rain, ruining the crops as they stood, unharvested, in the fields, and not letting up until late October. But when the wind and wet finally died away, it was only to give place to early frosts so severe that they turned the ground to iron; and by Christmas heavy falls of snow blanketed the countryside. Vegetables rotted in the earth, and those that were, with Herculean effort and broken spade-handles, eventually lifted into the light of day, were so blighted by disease, and so stunted, as to be barely worth the effort. On the other hand, people had to live – or try to – and any effort was better than starvation. For, of course, it goes without saying that famine, blood brother to storms and subsequent bad harvests, stalked the land from north to south, east to west. Meat, too, was scarce, cattle and sheep having succumbed to the biting cold, dying where they stood in the open fields as they struggled to survive. What hay and grain herdsmen had managed to lay their hands on, soon ran out or was commandeered for the troops mustering somewhere – or so we were told – in Yorkshire and Northumberland, ready to repel invasion by the Scots.

Our northern neighbours had been causing trouble along the marches for some two or three years now, and rumours of proposed retaliation had even become a common talking point in our south-western fastness, where what went on in the border country between England and Scotland was usually a matter of supreme indifference to us. Indeed, what transpired in France had more immediacy for Bristolians – although, admittedly, only a very little. Our preoccupation was always with Ireland, and the love-hate, friend-foe relationship that existed between us (you will note that after all those years living in the place I had at last begun to count myself a citizen) and the men of Waterford and the southern Irish coast.

However, as I have said, it was Scotland – a country generally as remote to your average southerner as the moon – that was one of the two main topics of conversation in the Green Lattis alehouse on that early May evening in the year of Our Lord, 1482. The other topic, it goes without saying, was what, if anything, our wives and goodies would have managed to scrounge, beg or borrow for our suppers; for as we had moved into the new year at the end of March, nothing much had changed. Food was as difficult to come by as ever.

My old friend, Jack Nym, was looking particularly gloomy. Goody Nym's meals were something to be avoided at the best of times and the scarcity of victuals had proved a godsend to her; an excuse to serve up nothing but mouldy bread and a few even mouldier vegetables. Kind-hearted neighbours shared their own meagre meals with the carter and his wife, taking pity on Jack's rumbling belly.

‘What's your woman giving you for supper tonight, then?' he asked me, staring gloomily into his beaker of ale.

‘Oh, Adela will have contrived something or another,' I answered with slightly more confidence than I actually felt.

But my wife was a good manager and a shrewd housewife who had her regular contacts among the stallholders of the city market. Always polite, always a prompt payer, they were willing to provide her with any extra titbits or savoury morsels that their own womenfolk had rejected. Nevertheless, the constant recurrence of a brown stew made from bones and bits of offal, flavoured with the herbs Adela had picked and dried the previous summer, was beginning to pall. For a good trencherman like myself, it was an affront to a hearty appetite.

‘I'm losing weight,' I grumbled. ‘I had to take my belt in another notch this morning.'

‘Consider yourself lucky to have a belt,' remarked a stranger – a travelling mummer judging by the cap and bells he had just thrown down on the bench beside him – who had joined our table, squeezing on to the recently vacated stool next to Jack. (The inn was packed to suffocation with people, like myself, drowning their worries and sorrows.) He went on, ‘In some parts o' the country, they're boiling 'em and eating the leather.'

‘Pooh!' said Jack. ‘D'you expect us to believe that? Go rattle yer bells in someone else's ears.'

The mummer took a long draught of ale and then slammed his beaker back on the table.

‘Think I'm joking, do you? Mother o' God! You lot down here don't know you're born! Think you're hard done by? You know nothing! Nothing! It's twice, three times as bad in London and down into Kent. But further north! Dear God in Heaven! People are dying like flies in summer. In places, the ground's still so hard, they can't bury the dead. The charnel-houses are full and likely to remain so until the weather changes. This bit o' May sunshine and warmth you been gettin' these few days past ain't even reached as far as Gloucester yet. I was there yesterday with my friends.' And he jerked his head in the direction of a settle set against the wall where a couple of other mummers sat, gaily bedecked, but with faces as long as sin, glumly supping their ale. ‘We did a bit of mumming on the abbey green, but folk didn't want to know.' He jiggled the purse at his belt, but there was no comforting, responsive chink. ‘Empty!' he informed us. Our new acquaintance threw a few coins on the table. ‘That's all our worldly wealth, my friends. It's the abbey dormitory for us tonight, and some black bread and broth from the monks' kitchen.' He glanced about him. ‘Same story here by the looks o' things. Doom and gloom. Doom and more gloom. Have you had any riots yet?'

‘Riots?' Jack and I asked, almost in one breath. ‘Where has there been rioting? And who's been rioting?' I added.

‘Everyone, everywhere,' was the comprehensive answer, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. ‘There's a mort of unrest all over the country.'

It was my turn to shrug. ‘Well, I suppose that isn't so surprising if conditions are as bad as you say.'

‘It ain't only conditions brought about by the weather,' he retorted. ‘Wages are falling, especially in sheep farming country.' He took another swig of ale and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. ‘It's this war between France and Burgundy that's half the trouble. More than half.'

I took a closer look at him. The mummer had a broken nose and bright, inquisitive eyes set in a small, shrewd face with, I suspected, an even shrewder brain behind it. Most of his calling had no interest in anything beyond shaking their bells, waggling their staves and earning enough by their antics to keep body and soul together. But this man was different: he evidently took a lively interest in what was going on around him, listened to what people said and had sense enough to add two and two and come up with the answer four.

Not so Jack Nym.

‘Wha's it got to do with France and Burgundy?' he demanded truculently. He had all your average Englishman's contempt for anything that went on outside of his own borders.

Our companion looked down his nose, squinting into his empty beaker. ‘War's going badly for Burgundy,' he said. ‘People reckon we ought to be going to the aid of Duchess Mary and her husband. There's a lot o' bad feeling against King Edward that he won't send troops to assist the Hapsburg.'

‘Why?' Jack's tone was more belligerent than ever. He was slightly drunk, and that always made him aggressive.

‘Oh, for pity's sake, think man!' I exclaimed, irritated, before the mummer had a chance to reply. ‘This country relies on Burgundy to buy vast quantities of our wool and woven goods. It's one of our best markets in the whole of Europe. Furthermore, our own Princess Margaret is its Dowager Duchess.'

Jack gave due consideration to this argument, then nodded in agreement. He was well aware from his experience as a carter that this was true. He switched sides.

‘Then why don't the King do summat about it? Why don't he send men to aid Maximilian?'

‘Because,' I reminded him, at the same time signalling to a passing pot-boy to refill our beakers and also that of the mummer, ‘Edward receives a big, fat, annual pension from King Louis – as do a number of his friends and cronies – and my guess is that he can't afford to lose it. Which he surely would if he intervened in the war on Burgundy's behalf.'

‘Still,' Jack objected, ‘if not doing so is making him unpopular … if people are rioting, as our friend here says they are, you'd think …'

‘Money's money,' I pointed out. ‘Especially when you have all your wife's family to support. The Woodvilles are a rapacious lot by all I've ever heard of them.'

The mummer nodded. ‘By all anybody's ever heard o' them,' he concurred. ‘And then there's all the king's doxies and by-blows making claims on him, as well.' He looked across the table at me. ‘I'm with you, friend. I don't reckon King Edward'll be raising any troops. Leastways, not to send to Burgundy.'

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