The Berkshires Journal Series follows a group of friends and acquaintances in and around the Berkshire forest and the royal court district in the renaissance era commonwealth land of Emerland. The series is written in prose and verse reflecting the romantic imagery and mood of the times.
Melissa and Guendoline have been going about their daily lives at court following the recent wedding of Daniel and Emily, when circumstance brings them together again and they decide to set out in search of Melissa’s friend and pen pal, Abigail, at her home in the Berkshire Forest. Abigail unbeknownst, has other plans herself though. Daniel and Merchant meanwhile are putting on a series of plays at the Round Playhouse that may have some influence on their friends and relation to some troubling developments happening at the royal palace
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’ve written since I was very young and always gotten a lot of enjoyment out of the process. This series I’ve been writing owes a lot to my love of Shakespeare and other early English writers who wrote in a poetic and expressive way that made use of the wealth of vocabulary that is available in the English language.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters evolve naturally. To me the process of writing is for myself, kind of like getting to know them and who they are as people. I do have certain personalities in mind for certain parts, and so that getting to know them is more a getting to know what my own conception of them is while in the process of writing that down into the story.
On a spring day in 1543, Guendoline was in the West Anover market and browsing the stalls and booths amongst the crowd. There were many sellers out that day with a variety of arts, crafts, and other desirables, and after having wandered about for some time Guendoline had a near full basket to bring home of assorted goods. She made one last pass by the stalls, where she saw her friend, Susan, whom she’d happened by earlier. Susan waved to her.
“You have done your duty Guen?”
“Yea, verily. The basket is an arm full and has much to claim for itself, so I will to home now -thence a short rest and I must be off again, for I have a music lesson at 11 to the clock.”
“Music lesson? I knew not your ambition.”
“Indeed. I am devout. I have a bonafide flute as well that is noteworthy to the occasion.”
“Ah. Nice. You must play something for me, as soon as you may.”
“Certainly. I can do –though that may require some learned-time. Should I find you again, when we are not such busybodies, we must sit and make leisure of a day.”
“Yes, yes. By all means.”
“Well to see you, and good shopping to you Susan.”
“Ay Guen. Teach your fingers and lips to find sweet melody.”
“That is my intent.”
Guendoline continued on and exited from the market lane into the main street of West Anover. Just as she did, she noticed someone familiar walking beneath the colonnades of the notaries building. It was Merchant Rutherford who had just come from the print shop where he had some leaflets drawn up for an upcoming play at the Round Playhouse where he was owner and artistic director. Immediately she called out to him “Ho! Merchant my man!”
He motioned her over, and Guendoline went to see him.
“Guendoline. Very well to find you here.”
“And you. My, I am meeting many friends of this day. My thoughts have returned to you, Daniel, Emily and Abigail much in these weeks past. Melissa and I enjoyed ourselves ever so on our recent trip to the Berkshires, to your theatre and out and about with you all.”
“’Twas a most pleasant time.”
“What finds you here?”
“I have drawn up leaflets for our current productions. But alas. So to was I late in placing the order. We are playing later today, and only now have I the leaflets. Here. I’ll show you.” Merchant pulled a leaflet out of his packet to show her, and Guendoline looked the paper over then read it out loud.
Mid-day mews presents
Dipietro and Pernici: A renaissance tale in 3 acts
Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
The Royal Insurrection: A medieval tragedy of a would-be king
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
One week only – Free to all – 12 noon sharp.
Put on by the players of the Round and under the direction of Merchant Rutherford. Please be advised no reserved seating is in effect.
“Mid-day mews?” repeated Guendoline curiously.
“Plays at noon. ‘Tis very popular. It is an annual one week afternoon series. 2 plays on alternating days for one week. I may do it more oft than once a year. Mews, in honor of the falcons that are known to nest on the roof of the theatre at times.”
“Falcons. My, oh my. I shall make an effort to come see a play.”
“I hope you may. I see you have shopped,” said Merchant looking at Guendoline’s basket of goods.
“Very well, I say. If you are want, you may peruse these finds and fare, and might in doing, see matter to make reason of thine own to go there and pick up some likeness –of the which I may direct you to the very point and booth, if you so choose. Here is something.” Guendoline held up a porcelain doll that played a lute.
Merchant looked at it. “Such an expression. As though surprised and startled out of her very art,” he noted.
Guendoline at once mimicked the dolls expression to a T, and Merchant laughed hardily. She then swung her basket with a jovial carefree tilt of her head. “So. What mischief are you up to?”
“I am too old for mischief.”
“Puhh! I’ll see the day.”
“Besides, time is of an essence. The play is at noon.”
“Ah, yes.” She paused and looked at him. “Well, here.” Guendoline rummaged through her basket for a moment then pulled out a reading candle which she handed to Merchant. “Burn you the midnight oil? Remember that a candle may light your way to a friend when reading is out of favor.” She smiled to him then left with a wave of her hand.
Merchant waved back then wondered at her words. “God’s bodikin, she’s a good wench,” he mused to himself, then he turned and began to make his way back to the theatre.
At that time, Guendoline’s friend, Melissa, was in her room and working on a needlework tapestry for her wall, when her father (Lord Whitstaff) came upstairs to her. He gave a light knock on her door, then entered her room and Melissa stopped stitching and looked to him.
“You have a guest.”
“’Tis that girl Signette, whom you’ve been keeping company with of late.”
“She is good company.”
“But is she good influence?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I was scant persuaded –she wears a tight corset with no chemise or blouse beneath.”
“Oh father. It is something of a fashion now about court –though it may not be to all tastes.”
“Ay. But for those with a taste for an eager young maid who may fall out of fashion to a bed, with some wooing words. I hope it is thus not of a fashion for you.”
“I have my own style sense, thank you -though it may change, as may I. Of this, I cannot here account. She is not the strumpet of a kind some might take her for. I sense more art in her purpose, in spite of opinion.”
Lord Whitstaff considered a moment “Am I harsh in my assessment?”
“I meant not thee father. I hear your concern.”
“Is there not enough in eyes, hair, cheek, and shoulder? It is fair attraction. These more intimate desserts so immodestly shown, become a lusty emphasis that hints of scandal. It is more suited to the chamber room.”
“I blush for the topic father. Likewise, this is not time for entreaty. I am waited on.”
“Very well. Come attend to her than.”
Melissa and her father went downstairs and Melissa found Signette sitting on a wing back chair. She was rubbing her boot with a small kerchief that Melissa saw her spit on. She looked up. “Melissa! Here you are.”
“I am – and you. What is about your boot?”
“Oh, drat and fie. I spilt lizard’s blood on it, of all things.”
“Why would it happen?”
“Hath you ever taken to dye your hair black?”
“Nay. I have raspberry blonde and almond, but not black.”
“A popular recipe requires a small cooked lizard to be immersed in oil as part of the solution. It was easy enough to obtain the creature in the marsh in back our estate, but it wriggled like mad in my pocket then bit me of the way home as I tried to push it back down. So I stopped and did what was required of the process with a sharp piece of shale rock I found.”
“Removal of the head and tail. I hadn’t counted on it flailing so, as it did.”
“Mercy was not in the recipe.”
“And when will I see your hair black?”
“Sometime when it is convenient and I am inclined to be of a fashion.”
Signette looked to Sir Whitstaff. “I did peruse your globe,” she said pointing to Sir Whitstaff’s world globe on the table to her side. “Quite astonishing. I would to know if it is truly accurate?”
“Oh, indeed. It is based on the explorations of Vespucci, Magellan, and many other seagoing voyagers over time, and the globe itself was fashioned by Johannes Schoner to the highest of standards and in preferred methods of minute detail.”
Signette looked at it again. “Amazing. I would like to travel thus, to Florence or Venice, and see where all the old gods have gone.” She traced the route with her finger.
“You may tempt them,” warned sir Whitstaff.
“Then will I. Let them come.”
He waved a chiding finger to her.
“Well, I will not travel to Venice or otherwise until I’ve walked to court today,” said Melissa playfully.
“Shall we then?” Signette offered.
“Very well. Arrivederci, and good day papa,” said Melissa, and she went to the door, taking Signette’s hand in passing.
“Take care in the lanes for passing coaches.”
“Will do father,” replied Melissa
“Goodbye sir Whitstaff. It was very well to see and speak with you.”
“And you Signette.”
Signette and Melissa exited the door.
In the lane outside, Melissa and Signette strolled with a mirthful demeanor into court.
“My father had me by the ear before I came down to see you,” said Melissa.
“Oh. In what manner?”
“Ahem. He thought you underdressed.”
Signette looked down in thought. “Do you think me underdressed?”
“Nay,” said Melissa. “I think you wear the fashion quite prettily. You present it well.”
Signette looked to Melissa with a beaming smile. “You dispel the shadow as swiftly as it was evoked –with a honeyed tongue,” she said, coyly touching Melissa’s nose.
“That is my nose.”
“So, what has been to do with you of late Signette?”
“This and that. Not too much or too little of something or nothing for my taste. There has been a wedding, a christening, lawn darts, other hijinx, general wandering about and what have you.”
“Well, busy bee. I am glad you remembered me.”
“You are not easy forgotten.”
“What will we do?”
After a pause, Signette said in a curious tone, “I know of a place.”
“Oh. That I may know?”
She smiled and nodded. “Come.”
Signette led Melissa by hand through several alleys till they found themselves on the outskirts of the court in an area known as Lindemere lanes that was rumored of its secretive places of meeting and assembly. She brought Melissa to a nondescript door, and proceeded to knock in a very particular way, which was 3 swift raps, followed by two slower raps, then one. After this, the door was opened by a man dressed in fine vestiture of a host. He held a script of paper in his hands. The man looked at Melissa discerningly. “She is new?” he asked turning to Signette.
“She is,” Signette replied.
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