Jonathon still speaks to us directly~
I might tell you of the minutiae ... of each little thing that happened. Vampires are like that. We have so much time to study and think. I know. They who follow this account understand. They've read the words and imagined these things. They've 'seen' me sit before paintings in dimly lit museums. They've seen me trace each brush stroke with my eyes and count dust motes on crisp, dry mummy skin. Some mummies 'talk.' I hear their words... the tiny scratching of scarabs upon the sand.
And now, of Jeanette...
She traveled with her newfound companion till they reached the hamlet where I found her. They spoke. He told her of his life in the south. That part of France is foreign territory to people in the north. French holdings along the Mediterranean are more akin to Italy's Piedmont and Spain's Catalonia than Picardy or Champagne or even Burgundy. Kings grab what they can. Culture means little. It always has. And the Jew she met lived not in those sun kissed lands but up by the Channel. Still, people value their memories, whether true or not..
Jeanette became Hannah, his kinswoman. He taught her a few Hebrew liturgical terms... the names of holidays... a prayer or too. Women, in the general population, were never expected to know as much as men. Jewish women were taught enough 'prayer book' Hebrew to follow the service. Maybe the head of a convent might be literate. Maybe not. Some dictated daily records to a male clerk sent over from their brother monastery, who in all likelihood tailored her words to suit his lord and father abbot. Too much distaff knowledge hinted at witchcraft. Everyone knew that.
Her benefactor, the money lender Avigdor, meant to find her a place with a group traveling south toward Paris. She could find work there at a market stall and maybe put enough by to start a stall of her own. Any place else, her best hope would be a drudge for some well-off burgers wife, or dying young....
'Dying young' was a glamorous resolution back then.
And it was dangerous for Avigdor to help her, for Jeanette was a Christian. Anything he did would be twisted the wrong way. Besides, the lord of that place owed him five pounds of English silver...
Now every year just after the final harvest, when root vegetables were dug up and the soil had its rest, they made a count. All souls were listed in a book. The church kept count for Trinatarians. Jews in the district were not permitted their own official record, but one of their number was charged with that duty. The tally was passed to the local landowner. But, please know, all Jews existed for the benefit of the crown, or some other august member of the royal family. Lesser nobles served merely as stewards. They may skim off some of the take from the peasants and serfs, but all tax moneys owed by Jews went directly to the king. Woe to the baron with an inaccurate tally.
In this woodsy holding north of Paris but south of the channel things were coming to a head. The lord had sticky fingers. The tally was due. Taxes must be paid. He'd find a way to make things right. So what if others 'suffered?'... So what... So what, indeed.
When the clerk came to count souls all were gathered in a little clearing... Christians to one side... Jews (when there were any) toward the other.... Avigdor prayed. He'd planned for Jeanette to be in Paris by then. He thought she'd be long gone. But she was still there, seated in the dirt, amongst the Jewish women, demure in her simple tunic and robe...
This holding was a small one... a few semi-free peasant families... eighty male serfs and their households... seventeen 'benighted' (as they were always termed) Jews and their dependents...That was it... And then the clerk came to the Jewish women.... Each gave her name, her age, her marital status, whether or not she had reached childbearing age, was in childbearing age, or had passed childbearing age. Things moved at a pace... till he came to the former Jeanette, now known as Hannah.
Avigdor tried to hear, but he sat too far away. Jeanette's back was to him, though he could see the clerk's eyes. The sly, little man took down everything. Then he gave poor Jeanette an incredulous look. She trembled. Avigdor saw her shoulders shake.
Three nights later he was dead, bludgeoned and burned, along with all others in his household... but Jeanette, or Hannah (whatever name the clerk put down) wasn't among them. They slaughtered the entire community. No Jews were left. All debts owed Avigdor or certain lesser personages were cancelled as were the lives of even the little children thrown down the well.
The lord was pleased. He kept his five pounds of silver. Look, not only were all debts cancelled, all records were destroyed. Plus the land formerly occupied by the Jews was now free for crops... Later on, when things settled down, he could lure in other Jews. How would they know about the massacre? Just let the king have one of his fits and (temporarily) banish them from Paris. They'd be begging for any putrid, mud hole they could find. That's the beauty about 'milking' Jews. What other choice do they have?
But Avigdor was the ranking money lender in these parts. He didn't live in a cottage. He had the 'Jew's House,' a stout, stone edifice with thick walls, no first floor windows and only small slit openings upstairs... a secure place to keep precious metals. At one time that was the fortress around here, till they put up the castle and that was still a work in progress.
Now they dug there day and night. All that silver had to be somewhere. They didn't throw it in the well with the babies, after all...
Were they afraid Jeanette would run off? Well, she'd done it once before. That came out real fast. Sometimes all that's necessary is to show the intended victim the instruments of torture. Show and tell. Show and tell. You show. They tell.
Know how they kept her from running? Made her wear a chastity belt... a heavy duty, tortuous chastity belt. Even a blacksmith would have trouble cutting through such tempered steel. Plus there was an engraving along the waistband ---- Kindly return the loathsome device and wearer to the castle in question and collect twenty silver pennies. Nobody wants to die locked in like that.
So she stumbled through the night, never going far, mumbling to herself and visiting the blessed innocents in the well.
That's how I, Jonathon, found her. All it took was a little drink and her thoughts were my thoughts. That's how I'm able to tell you this.
I HAD to save her. A reverent life-eater has no choice...
Would I be compelled to leave that cave? Would I have to cease being the 'Hermit?'... Of course...
But I'd be true to my 'call'.....
Cull the wicked... Save the worthy.
That's what we do...
<more next time>
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