Book 2 of The Last Roundhead is very much a work in progress at the moment, and has gone through a lot of changes recently ( I promise I am not going to be as slow as GRR Martin), but as a New Year's gift, here is the opening of By Treason's Tooth. (title is still provisional)
Cross Deep, Twickenham, 1719.
There are some certain people (who roar well)
That in their drunken cups are apt to tell
Strange stories what they did, and mean to do,
And they intend you should believe them too.
(John Clavell, A Recantation of an Ill Led Life.)
My great nephew’s wedding was a joyous disaster. Drunkenness and fighting; men and women all. Cracked plates, smashed furniture, and broken heads. ’Twas an immensely enjoyable spectacle in spite of my itching periwig. There was a saucy young matron of seventy-five - the bride’s aunt as I recall - with pretty blue eyes that twinkled when she laughed, and dark hair with only a touch of grey. I charmed her with my tales whilst the hurly burly raged. She told me that she had been born in the month before Marston Moor, and left her hand resting softly upon my knee.
‘I spent the month before Marston Moor cooped up inside York,’ I told her.
‘You were with the Duke of Newcastle and his Lambs?’
‘Oh, no.’ I remembered their screams as they died for him, though.
‘There is a story here, I think?’
‘I rode with Cromwell.’
There were few who would admit that in the years following, and all excepting myself long dead.
Auntie clapped her hands together in delight. ‘Goodness! What was he like?’
Would a petty legionary know Caesar? I have had no answer on Oliver these decades past. He was no fixed thing. He changed, as fickle as any man over time. Marston Moor was early; I believed in him then. Auntie was waiting for my reply. A most charming smile - she still had all her teeth.
‘A monster,’ I told her. For that be what he has become; the truth matters not. ‘A wicked monster of legend, eating babies, and murdering kings on a whim.’
She laughed at that; a great belly laugh.
Her smile was a shame. ’Tis a rum pleasure to have your pizzle chewed by toothless gums. Remember that when you are in your dotage. You will thank me for it.
Did I? What think you? A gentleman is always discrete.
Post nuptials, the idiot and his bride joined me here in Twickenham. They plan to go on the tour and have invested their coin in the South Sea Company. A sure thing he tells me; all the profits from cloth, coffee, and slaves, and dividends aplenty. He thinks I read not the newsbooks; he be a witless dunderhead.
I know all merchants are thieves, we are at war with Spain, and there be no sure things.
His bride be a carping, bloodless, little flower - always complaining. It is too hot; ’tis too cold; oh how damp it is; oh how dry. I am bemused at what he sees in her. I hear no moans, or gasps, or giggles of passion from their bedchamber. I have told the fool he be the last of our line.
I mind not overmuch. ’Tis good to have company of an evening, even such dullards.
At first, you go through life accumulating people and possessions. Then, you reach a point where time starts to rob them from you and only mortality remains. In the end, loneliness be the killer.
The servants carry me down to the study to write. My ancient legs are too weak to walk the stairs. They think it an old man’s vanity to record for posterity the folly of youth. A pox on them! I have always been vain.
’Tis not just my testimony, ’tis the testimony of all. Every one that stood by the monster’s side. Swung our swords for him, spilled our blood in the dirt, and for what? For this? To be a muse for a third rate poet; a pensioner to a third rate monarch. A beggar in a third rate land.