One of my worst and most haunting memories prior to the Black Death was the day a priest put Augustus and I before a crowded church and entreated any willing person to take us in and make us their own. Adoption. I was so ashamed. There were no volunteers. We lived in the Southampton Abbey’s infirmary for a week before the deacon found someone to take us. I say us but I really mean Augustus. A married couple with a small parcel of land needed the extra labor in the field, and Augustus was a stout thirteen-year-old. They took us in, and put him to work immediately. Wheat was the main crop on their land, and I was too small to contribute much. It wasn’t long after when another couple, the Davenport’s (who wanted children but were incapable of producing them) took possession of me. They didn’t live far away—I don’t recall the names of the people who adopted Augustus and I, but it is of no relevance. I lived near enough to visit my brother regularly. That is until my new family, the Davenport’s, moved to the town I currently reside in: Surrey. My new mother, Maggie, died a few years later, and my adoptive father was unable to manage his affairs without her, so he became a merchant and I began life as my own custodian.
Before finally arriving at my story, allow me to dabble in the geography and social atmosphere of Surrey as it was during the time of Black Death. In these thirteen years following the plague’s halving of the population of England, and perhaps the world at large, much has changed, so I will take it upon myself to give you an insight into 1348 Surrey, England. The population in Surrey during March of that year was roughly five-hundred (only two-hundred two months later). It is a small town between the port town of Southampton and London, both being a full day’s travel by horse. Our Surrey didn’t have town walls like most larger towns, but I wouldn’t deem it to be a village, either. We had a marketplace, although it conducted business solely on Saturdays. We’d get traffic coming into Surrey from the nearby villagers and merchants abroad, hoping to peddle their goods. Because of this travel in and out of our town, there thrived an inn that was often booked to capacity, if only on the weekends. The town was the property of the Baron Robert Welles; which is to say, his manor encompassed the whole of Surrey. They were the Baron Welles and his wife, Lady Isabel. The baron has since died, and it is not with a small amount of pride that I tell you that he was laid to rest in a coffin built by my own two hands. But I digress. You may remember his name as he was somewhat of a war hero at the battle of Crecy, France, and commanded the division of archers who brought the French knights to their knees (and to their graves). The Baron Robert Welles had single-handedly killed a duke, an earl, and a half-dozen knights. Because of these dazzling heroics, he enjoyed the personal favor of King Edward III and lived without much fear of consequence for whatever laws he may have curtailed throughout the remainder of his life. I tell you this because this singular favor he enjoyed from King Edward III was the vehicle for which the plague entered Surrey. I’ll get to that in the course of this volume.