MEETING AT THE MARKET III
At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market, in this continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. We tried to keep the installments as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!
WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE—Sixteen-year-old Beornræd’s family has set up a stall of the local market to sell grain and textiles, ad sales have been good. Then they are visited by a young girl who attracts Beornræd’s eye!
Beornræd smiled at the girl in what he hoped was an irresistible manner. “May I help you?” he asked.
The girl smiled back. “I am only looking. My mother is over yonder, and I am merely marking time until she has made her decision.” She was examining the fabric. It was unbleached and undyed, but the weave was very well done. Wænhold was a accomplished weaver and often complained that she had no daughters to learn the art.
Beornræd said, “My mother wove this from wool she got from the sheep we grow.”
“That I can see.” She smiled at him warmly and then turned her head. “My mother is calling. Good day, sir. I had better be moving on.” She moved through the crowd gracefully, and Beornræd looked on her until she faded out of sight.
Beornhelm reached and ruffled his son’s hair. “Bring back your wits, boy. You are needed here!”
Beornræd turned to his father. “I suppose that you are so old that you tell me how to be realistic about things,” he drawled.
“But still young enough to…”
“Beornhelm!” cried a new voice. Both turned to see the reeve walking up in an even gait.
Beornhelm said, “Good day, Eadmund. How fare you this fine day?”
“A good enough day.” said the reeve. He was a slender man who had seen forty summers. His black hair was beginning to grey, but he was still a vigorous and strong man. He walked up and shook Beornhelm’s hand. He nodded to Beornræd and his brother. “Good day, boys.”
“Good day, sir,” they chorused back, and the reeve turned his head to their father. “Are your prices the same as they have been in the past?”
“They are. And we have taken care not to adulterate our wares.”
The reeve nodded. “No less than what I expected from you.” He drew closer. “There is a merchant up there, named Ceolwulf, is a traveling vendor. He comes from Mercia, or so he says. I don’t know whether to trust him or not, since I have found that his wares are not what he advertises. If he continues to misrepresent himself, I shall have him scourged and driven from the market.”
Beornhelm clucked and said, “It is people like him who tar us all. If it were in my power, he would already be running away.”
“To be expected,” said Eadmund. “But you are not the reeve, and I have made my decision.” He smiled and bowed toward Beornhelm and moved on.
Beornhelm watched him move away as avidly as his son had watched the girl. When the reeve was out of earshot, Beornhelm said, he thinks he is a worthy man and that all fear, respect and love him.”
“But he is respected no more than the Lord’s goat?” said Beornræd, just as he had often heard his father say.
“Indeed!” his father laughed. “But…”
He went silent, staring at the man who was approaching. “We seldom see such as he in this area,” he said.
Beornræd followed his father’s gaze, and so he saw the Norseman as he sauntered through the crowd, coming toward them.
—to be continued
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