“O, how full of briers is this working-day world!”
– As You Like It
Confident now that he could succeed by forging a powerful connection with his illustrious (and somewhat infamous) cousin, William Shaxper set out for Lord Oxford’s ancestral home.
He marveled at Hedingham Castle’s ancient keep and its expansive view of the countryside, its narrow windows peering like watchman’s eyes at the village below. That same tower had protected the castle against King John’s siege of 1216 after he had been forced by the 3rd Earl of Oxford and twenty-four other powerful barons to sign a document granting them new rights and protections from royal abuses. The Magna Carta inspired a radical sense of freedom in the land, causing men of all social rank to consider rising above their stations. Success could be achieved if a man worked hard, planned well and, as William Shaxper knew, attached himself to the right patron.
He asked around the village for a man named Pinch, the former jester in the household of Lord Oxford’s father. Several townspeople pointed to The Vine & Fig, a venerable old inn staunchly planted below the castle; and ready to mark the end of their workday with a few drinks, they escorted him there. They told William all about the inn, and how it had come down to Meg Bucklesbury as an inheritance from her father. Pinch, they said, had also claimed the inheritance by marrying Meg and settling into his new career as a tavern keeper.
Shaxper thanked them for the information and found himself a table by the hearth. He ordered something to eat and watched Meg from a distance. Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she poured drinks for her customers and leveled soft jests at them. In the ebb and flow of the neighborly banter that criss-crossed the bar, Shaxper heard the country pleasantries he knew so well. He realized they were as abundant in Hedingham as they were in Stratford, but they were absent, he thought, from the hustle-bustle of city life.
As the afternoon wore on and business became less hectic, Shaxper invited Meg to join him at his table.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish