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The taxman

Another day, another reluctant township.

I admit this is no enviable job, but it is a respectable one, and in the King's name. And although it is hard work, there's a rewarding amount of detail, and it's good to see things tidied away, and the rolls neatly completed.

The wagon was heavy today though. I am always uneasy with this much money aboard. The roll of the wagon alone would give away my business, and these wild areas are full enough of those ready to take a chance on the King's man, and the King's money.

Bath is supposedly a good place, and a neat little cloth trade too, so with luck I'll bring a few pieces back with me. The Bishop is disposed towards the King - this year, at any rate - so I should have an easy time of it. The Abbey collects its own dues and knows my lot only too well; they don't like having rival collectors, but the people of Bath will pay.

Some old coins have been showing up of late, some even from the heretics' mint that was here some few hundred years ago. Amazing, to think of the Danes tearing down the ancient walls and setting up their own government in this valley. There's little enough to show for them now - I saw a town gate, like any other, a broad river too rapid to cross, and a city with good streets, and houses packed in like London or Canterbury - the Abbey rising out of their low reach like an arm stretching towards God.

The inn is right enough, and the food's good. The walls here are all made of stone, which is unusual - with brick so cheap elsewhere, this place clings to its stone as the most readily available material. But I've seen few wooden buildings, and to my eastern eyes that's very strange.

One thing I have seen though, and that's people - people by the hundred. The waters here run warm, I'm told, and people bathe in 'em for their health - horrid, I'd say, lepers and plagueys and all in together. The water must be a soup of skin and fingers. The beggars as well - I was asked twenty times for alms between the gate and the inn - a distance of at least ten yards.

But there'll be some entertainments during my stay - there's bowls, and tennis, if that interests you, and there's always a kind of fair here - the bathers attract a ready stream of jongleurs and pedlars - always something to spend your money on. And the Aquatic doctors - if you don't want to take your health to chance, then pay them a tidy sum and they'll take your health very seriously and thank you kindly. Water for this, water for that - and all money for something that springs from the ground. If the money I gather came so easily I'd think myself blessed and that's a truth.

Text copyright Archsweet 1999

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