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    Original Essays | January 14, 2015

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    Gardens do not wait. Weeds grow and flowers wilt. In the days and weeks following my father's death, my parents' garden continued to flourish and... Continue »
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3 Beaverton Children's- Historical Fiction

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The Wicked and the Just


The Wicked and the Just Cover

ISBN13: 9780547688374
ISBN10: 0547688377
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1293 Assumptiontide to Saint Johns Eve Tonight at supper, over capon and relish, my father ruined my life. He smiled big, scrubbed his lips with the end of his cloak, and said, "Were moving house." "Thank the Blessed Virgin!" I sat up straighter and smoothed my kirtle. "Im weary to thimbles of Coventry. Will we be back at Edgeley Hall in time for the Maypole?" "No, sweeting. Were not going back to Edgeley. Were moving to Caernarvon." "What in Gods name is that?" "Its a town in Wales." Im in my chamber now. I will never speak to him again. Unless he buys me a new pelisson for the journey. Ill not go to Caer-whatsit, not while theres breath in me. Ill not eat. Not till my father gives up this foolish notion. At supper, I enter my uncles hall with my nose in the air and sit at my fathers right and sniff as the plates pass. Betimes I glance at my father to see if he notices, but hes too busy loading his gob with sowce so grease-slick shiny it catches rushlight, and pies with crusts that dissolve at the touch. I eat in silence. But everything tastes as bitter as wormwood. So I refuse to speak to him. Not one sweet word from his beloved daughter, his only living child, the light of his otherwise meaningless life. My father merely smiles and remarks to the saints, "My, how delightfully quiet its become." Ive no wish to resort to manipulating him, but its rapidly becoming necessary to end this worrisome notion of moving with a slightly underhanded blow. So I confront him in the public of the hall with my most piteous Salvo eyes and wail, "How can you do this to me? Ill die an old maid! There wont be a suitable man for leagues out in the wilderness!" "A pity you were not born a boy, sweeting," my father replies. "What a Kings Bench lawyer you would have made." And then he arranges for our household goods to be brought to Caer-whatsit by pack train. An unwelcome feeling is coming over me. This might really be happening. And there might be naught to do for it. Alice and Agnes pull me into the hearth corner, their eyes as big as trenchers. They want to know if its true, if were really leaving. I cannot speak, not even to Alice, who gave me her only ribbon to cheer me when Salvo went lame, nor to Agnes, who has held her tongue about how I kissed Wat the groom on May Eve. Coventry was bad enough when we came here last Easter. Filthy and crowded, not a patch of green anywhere. Only for a while, my father promised, since already we were straining my uncles hospitality. Only till we got Edgeley sorted. Now this. Giving up his birthright to live among savages. Dragging me away from my two dearest friends and any chance at all of making a decent marriage. All with good cheer, no less! Id think ruining a family would weigh heavier on a fathers conscience. My father may be going mad. Apparently Im the only one who sees it. Says my uncle William: "No service owed for your holding? Neither here nor overseas? Only twelvepence a year and thats all? Blast it, what fortune you have!" Say my cousins: "Hey, Cesspool, how will you keep your precious undershifts clean now?" "Poor Cesspile, youll have to give them up for want of lye!" "Cesspit, youll tell us how the Welsh lads kiss, wont you?" "Thats if you make it back alive, eh, Cesspile?" Charming. Youd think that one being a squire and the other a journeyman goldsmith would make them too grown-up to mock my name. Youd be wrong. My aunt Eleanor is the only one with something sensible to say: "Oh, Robert, how can you take a young lady into that den of vipers? Leave poor Cecily here with me." I seize my fathers sleeve and beg, "Please, Papa, couldnt I stay?" But my father only laughs, big like church bells. "I would miss you far too much, sweeting. Besides, its perfectly safe. I wouldnt put you in danger for all of Christendom." One morning in April just after Easter, my father rents a cart and hires a man who smells of cabbage to drive it. Most of our belongings will follow us by pack train, but my father would bring the valuables with him. The pewter and a strongbox are hidden among some of our simplest goods, and those will keep us till the pack train arrives. The cart fills up fast. Our things are stacked two and three bundles high. I direct two of the townsmen to load my coffer into the wagon. The coffer contains my most treasured possessions, so I know my father would want it with the valuables. Salvo limps out of my uncles townhouse. He stumbles over the doorframe and heaves his way to the cart, where he collapses against the wheel. I kneel and pet him, and he lifts his tail high enough for a single friendly whap. Then I peer into the wagon crammed back to front. Salvo whines quietly, nose on paws. This wont do, so I climb into the cart and shift the bundles and crates, but the stacks I make grow so high that the goods will end up in the mud at the first deep rut. Salvo closes his eyes. His sides are still fl uttering. My father is arguing with the carter. As usual, its up to me to make things right. I catch one of the townsmen by the sleeve and tell him that my coffer should be removed from the wagon to the pile of goods being brought later. The space it leaves is just big enough for Salvo, and I bring his sackcloth bed from my uncles hearth with my own hands. My relations turn out to say farewell. My uncle William clasps wrists with my father and tugs cheerfully on my veil. My aunt Eleanor kisses us again and again, sobbing into her handkerchief. She leaves wet smears on my cheeks. Alice and Agnes cling to my elbows and weep. My two friends are all that has kept my exile in Coventry bearable. I embrace them both and whisper, "Im coming back. Ill not be in that dreadful place forever." They weep harder. They dont believe me. The wagon is loaded. All is ready. My father embraces my aunt and uncle once more while I hold on to Alice and Agnes as though Hells great maw has opened beneath us. Alice and Agnes and I lean together in a tight knot and pledge to be friends forever, no matter how far apart we are. Their shoulders are warm and wisps of their hair tickle my cheek and Im choking out my promise because Im going to wake up tomorrow and Alices elbow wont be jammed in my ribs and Agnes wont be there to lend me a length of thread when mine goes missing in the dim. As I climb into the wagon, Alice catches my sleeve. She presses a soft folded packet into my hands and whispers, "We want you to keep it. To remember us." I weep as Coventry rolls out of view. I am like the saints who were sent into the desert to be killed by infidels. I run out of tears and rub my stinging eyes. The wagon jounces along a rutted track, hitting rocks and chuckholes. I have a blurry view of the carters faded hood and the oxens rumps, and Salvo is heavy on my feet. Theres something in my hands. The packet Alice gave me. I unwrap it and my throat closes up tight. It took us a year, all three of us perched like dolls shoulder to shoulder, bent over one long frame. My fingers throb just looking at the two dozen saints lined up before the throne of God. Alice was keeping this altar cloth we made to present to Saint Marys in Coventry at Whitsuntide. Instead she gave it to me. To remember them. As if I need an altar cloth for that. When dusk is falling, we stop at an inn. Supper is a meat pasty with stale crust and some small beer in a wooden vessel. Im so hungry that I eat the pasty in three bites without thinking too hard on what might be within. Then I find a hair in my teeth. I must share a pallet with two alewives. They both snore like pigs. The fleas devour me toe to crown. Once were stuck in Caer-whatsit, I will go to Mass as faithfully as an abbess and confess my sins every quarter-day. If Hell is anything like this journey, I want to be certain of my soul. Im restless all night, and I rise even ere dawn and watch the whey-pale daughter of the house blearily stir the fire to life. After she drags herself away, I wrap up tight in my cloak by the struggling fire and stare hard into the flames. Right now its lambing season at Edgeley, and I should be on the uplands watching the little darlings frisk and stagger. I should be admiring the clean cuts of the moldboard as the plowmen follow the oxen up and down the strips. I should be sowing my garden behind Edgeleys kitchen with rue and madder. "How are you holding up, sweeting?" My father glides out of the darkness and nudges my foot cheerfully. "Fine." "That well, eh?" His good humor makes Edgeley seem even farther away. "Oh Papa, why do we have to go to Wales?" My father kneels at my elbow and squints into the fire. "Im trying to decide what answer to give you. The one Id give a child who needs to hear everything is well, or the one Id give a grown girl who can cope with a bit of the worlds ill." "Im not a child, Papa." "Very well." He sighs like a bellows. "I lost the suit." "Oh, Papa, no! They found against your claim to Edgeley? How could they, when you ran it so well for so long?" He shrugs sadly. "Simple. Roger is my elder brother. The manor goes to him. I must wish him well of it." "I wish hed never come back." I fold my arms. "I wish the infidels had eaten him." My father stiffens. " Watch your tongue, Cecily. Your uncle Roger is a Crusader who followed his Grace the king to liberate the Holy Land." "And when he comes back, he liberates your land," I mutter. "Sweeting, come here." My father holds out his arms and Im so tired and heartsore that I shift into his embrace as if Im six again and scared of the bull. "Im not happy about it, but such is the way of the world. In Caernarvon, I can get a burgage for twelvepence a year without any military service due, not foreign or domestic. Its all I can get if Ill not have the humiliation of being a steward on a manor I was once lord of." "What about me? Thimbles, Papa, Edgeley was to be mine! Now I dont even have a dowry!" My father hugs me tighter. "You let me worry about that, sweeting. In the meantime, youll be lady of the house once we have our burgage." Lady of the house. Keys at my belt. Servants doing as I bid them. Like my mother once, at Edgeley. "Besides, Roger has no heirs, and he still gets those spells from so many years beneath the Crusader sun." My father looks pensive. "If we live quietly in Wales for a few years, who knows? I might find myself in possession of Edgeley after all, as will you and your husband when Im gone." That year in Coventry was bad enough, chewing my fingers to pulp and waiting for assize judges and Kings Bench lawyers. That year within walls was merciless without Plow Monday or Rogation, without Alreds Well and Harceys Corner and my mothers grave in the churchyard, where the yew trees grow in thick. Im ever so weary of endless green fields and priory floors and travel bread. I want to go home. To Edgeley. But every turn of the carts wheels takes us a little farther away, so I ask the carter if he knows anything about the Welsh. "Oh, aye, demoiselle." His breath smells like onions. "A tricky lot, those. Say one thing and do another. Cant trust em farther than you can throw em." Charming. Were going to be murdered in our beds. "Are they . . . Christian?" I whisper. The carter smacks his lips. "After a fashion, I suppose." Even better. Were going to be murdered in our beds by infidels. My father must not be aware of this. He can wield a falchion and knows a goshawk from a sparrowhawk, but he can be rather dim betimes. "Oh, demoiselle, beg pardon. It was a poor joke." The carter smiles like a dog thats used the hall floor as a privy. "Aye, the Welsh are Christian and hold Our Lord and His Holy Mother as sacred as we do." I pull my hood over my head. At Edgeley I heard Mass every day surrounded by Edgeley people who tilled the fields and drove the beasts and never once looked me in the eye. "And dont you worry, demoiselle," the carter rushes on. "The Welsh are harmless. Its been ten years since his Grace the king subdued the land of Wales, and there are over a dozen good Englishmen in Caernarvons garrison. Walls like Jerusalem. Caernarvons the last place thered be trouble, mark me."

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Dieveney, January 19, 2013 (view all comments by Dieveney)
The Wicked and the Just was not at all what I expected and I was astonished by this fantastic and fascinating book. It seems a charming coming of age story set in medieval Wales with unpretentious dialogue and amusing characters, but swiftly and surprisingly becomes a fast paced politically charged thriller. If this is J. Anderson Coats debut, I can't wait to see what she gives us next.
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Product Details

Coats, Jillian Anderson
Harcourt Brace and Company
Coats, J. Anderson
Historical - Europe
Children s-Adventure Stories
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 7
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 12

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Related Subjects

Children's » Action and Adventure » Adventure Stories
Children's » General
Children's » Historical Fiction
Children's » Historical Fiction » Europe
Young Adult » General

The Wicked and the Just Sale Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Harcourt Children's Books - English 9780547688374 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Cecily is furious when her father uproots her to begin a new life in Caernarvon (occupied Wales), where he will be a burgess, keeping order on behalf of the English king. The year is 1293, and tensions between the English and the Welsh are high. When Cecily arrives in Caernarvon, she behaves haughtily, attempting to act as the lady of the house in place of her late mother. Welsh housemaid 'Gwinny' hates her immediately, and the girls' battles and mutual resentment mirror the larger problems between their respective countries. Coats's debut shifts gracefully between the two girls' perspectives, finding empathy for both — no small feat when it comes to Cecily, who is naïve and sometimes downright cruel. She begins to recognize the injustices around her (including several of her own doing), while Gwinny struggles to keep her gravely ill mother and younger brother alive. Addressing the difference between vengeance and justice, the novel is steeped in the details and dialect of the Middle Ages, depicting barbaric events and dramatic inequalities. Ages 12 — up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,
This powerful historical fiction debut, set in medieval Wales, follows Cecily whose family is lured by cheap land and the duty of all Englishman to help keep down the "vicious" Welshmen, and Gwenhwyfar, a Welsh girl who must wait hand and foot on her new English mistress. As issues of prejudice, heritage, and occupation come to a head, both girls have to find a way to survive.
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