On the first tithe day that Galahad would have to run by himself, Will made a point of escaping after lunch and walking over to the small church. When the church had first been built, Will had rather selfishly looked at the bell towers from the perspective of a father with two infants and had been less than pleased. But now that Galahad was there …
Well, Will would be a liar if he said that having Galahad right across the lane didn’t make every one of the du Lacs feel a bit more settled and right inside.
It wasn’t because they didn’t trust Galahad on his own. It was because now they could have a big family dinner several times a week, with Guinevere and Lancelot, Will and Jess, Leona and Galahad. Even Corentin and Celeste were getting big enough to sit up with them and eat a bit of solid food. It was just like old times, except now Corentin and Celeste were the twins most likely to throw their food, not Galahad and Leona. Or at least, Will hoped that was the case. Corentin and Celeste were young enough to legitimately not know any better, while Will was half afraid that one of these times, when Leona would laugh at their antics and shout, “Food fight!” somebody would take her up on it.
The other half of him almost hoped that would happen — as long as there weren’t any guests around.
He hurried up the dirt path already worn between the lane and the little rectory and up the porch steps. He knocked. “Galahad? Galahad, you there?”
No answer. Will shrugged and let himself in. “Galahad?”
Galahad had yet to master the art of locking the door when he left the house. It was just as well that few Sims were brave enough to rob a churchman, fewer still brave enough to rob a churchman who was the son of the local lord and lived well within sight of the lord’s castle. The guards kept a good eye on the rectory, too. A thief would have to be very creative indeed to get in, grab the loot and get out again without getting caught.
Besides, the loot wouldn’t be gold or jewels or silver — all small and portable objects — but books. Heavy tomes, too. With luck, most thieves would find places with fewer risks and greater rewards.
Hearing no answer to his calls, Will shrugged, left the house — locking the door behind him — and continued down the lane to the church entrance. Perhaps Galahad had decided it would be better to collect the tithes there. Add a little desk or table into the church for the moment, and it would all be quite manageable.
And just as Will had hoped, as soon as he pulled open one of the doors to the chapel, he found the man he was seeking. “Galahad!”
Galahad stood near the altar, cringing before … something. He spun around. “Will!” He gasped, one hand over his heart. “Oh, thank Wright!”
“Something the matter?” Will asked, stupidly.
“Look! Come — come here, and just look!”
Will hurried up the aisle and looked where Galahad was pointing. Oh, Wright. He took a deep breath. “Galahad …”
“They keep coming! And they don’t want to confess or anything! And I don’t know what to do!”
“And last night, a man with a wagon came and dropped off this big chest from the monastery! I told him to just put it here because I didn’t know what else to do with it! And it gets worse!”
“The people, they keep giving me money! And I don’t know what to do with it!”
Indeed, the citizens of Avilion were being quite generous, by the looks of the piles of silver and copper placed next to the chest. The du Lac family’s own contribution, measured in heavy gold pieces, weighed down Will’s purse.
Will took a deep breath. “Galahad … it’s tithe day.”
“Tithe — tithe day?” Galahad repeated.
“Aye. You remember, when we were children? Dad would to go down to the monastery, and he would take us with him. You used to have a long talk with Father Hugh, and I …” Will frowned. “I think I generally tried to keep Leona out of trouble.”
“Today — today’s tithe day?” Galahad repeated.
“Yes …” Will looked up to see Galahad’s face dangerously ashen. He barely avoided smacking his own forehead; Galahad would only take that the wrong way. “They didn’t tell you anything, did they?”
Galahad shook his head.
That was … typical. Brother Tuck was the ablest administrator in Brothers of St. Pascal, and he barely seemed to share so much as a tip or a trick with Galahad. What was the man’s game? Something nefarious, Will sighed, no doubt. At least Galahad had his family to look out for him.
Will stepped forward and surveyed the chest. “Did the man who delivered this happen to give you a key?”
Galahad shook his head.
“Hmm.” Will wondered — would he have to call Jess in here to bespell the lock open? He wondered what Brother Tuck would do if he knew that his own carelessness was the cause of spells being cast under the very church roof. Unless …
In a spirit of experimentation, Will tried to lift the lid of the chest, and found that it opened easily. Inside lay a stack of ledger books, identical to the ones he and his father used for the tax records. Will opened one of the books and flipped through. Yes, just as he had hoped, it was the tithe rolls for Avilion. On top of the stack lay a key.
He replaced the book, took the key, closed the chest, and handed the key to his brother. “All right. We have the parish rolls, which was … more than I was expecting. I don’t suppose you remember who already came in?”
“Oh, of course! The Bowers came, and so did Master Dyer, and Mistress Chevaux popped in for a minute and practically threw a purse at me, but she didn’t stay to chat — she never stays to chat, I wonder why that is –”
Will had an idea, but now was not the time to open that particular can of worms. “Good, good. Do you remember how much each of them gave?”
Galahad blinked. “No …”
Will hesitated, then decided that he really did need to know, even if he could guess the answer. “I don’t suppose you counted how much you got from all of them?”
“Right in front of them? That would be rude!”
Will sighed. That was something else that would need to be explained — but not now. Hopefully he could get Galahad set up before too many others came by. He glanced at the chest and the parish rolls inside of it. “All right, we’ll just put down that they paid in full. If they haven’t … well, it’s our fault that they weren’t told that immediately, so it’s only fair that they not be charged for it.”And if any of them decided to try to cheat the church, then this is their lucky year.And Will’s unlucky year. That shortfall, if there was one, would have to be made up somehow.
“Paid in … full?”
“Er, yes. Or if Brother Tuck was kind enough to …” Will threw open the chest, grabbed one of the rolls and started flipping through it. “Oh, good, he’s got records here of what everybody owed last year — and their valuation from the taxes. Good, good –”
“Hmm?” Will asked, working his way from one page to the next while trying the balance the heavy book on one arm. He wasn’t sure which was more challenging: trying to get the hang of Brother Tuck’s record-keeping, or the balancing act.
“Could — could you put the book down, please?”
Will glanced up — and one look at his little brother’s face was enough to make him comply, and close the chest too, for good measure. “What’s the matter?”
“Paid in full … that sounds like something you — you and Dad put down for the taxes. And — and you said Brother Tuck knows how much … Will, what did you mean by valuation?”
“Brother Tuck does know how much …” Will thought of the best way to phrase this. “Brother Tuck knows our estimate of the value of every parishioner’s real and personal property, and their income.”
“He does? Why?”
This was going to be a long afternoon.
Will took a deep breath. “Well … everybody is supposed to give ten percent of their worldly goods to the Church, aye? If Brother Tuck doesn’t know — approximately — how many worldly goods everyone has, how will he know if people are or aren’t paying their fair share?”
“F-fair share?” Galahad gasped.
“Yes,” Will answered. “You know — what they owe.”
“What they owe?!”
Will cringed. This was going to be a very, very long afternoon.
“You can’t owe money to the Church! She’s not — she’s not a creditor! Or a tax collector! What people give to Her, they ought to give of their own Free Will and open heart! And what am I supposed to do if somebody isn’t ‘paid in full,’ eh? Do I — do I go and beat down their doors and take their goods if they haven’t given ‘enough’? What if they can’t afford it? What if –”
“I’m not done! What if they don’t want to give to us? Who are we to say that they have to? We can say that they should give money to the Church, to help the poor and build hospitals and orphanages, and to buy books, of course, but — but we can’t tell people that they have to! That destroys the whole meaning of charity!”
“It might, but Galahad–”
“Caritas! That’s where the word ‘charity’ comes from! The Reman word caritas! And do you know what that means?”
“Of course I know what that means, that’s not the issue–”
“Yes it is!” Galahad retorted, recoiling.
Will took a deep breath —
But he didn’t have time to let it out before Galahad got going again. “Love! It means love! And love isn’t forced. Love is given freely — which you should know better than anyone!” he accused, pointing at Will and scowling at him.
Will barely avoided rolling his eyes. “Of course I know that. But Galahad –” Galahad’s mouth opened, but Will managed a glare just fierce enough for it to click back closed. “We live in the real world. This is what the Church has done for centuries. Come now, you know that the Glasonlander tax system was built off the backs of Church records, don’t you? You all were the first ones to get things organized –”
“I know that!” Galahad snapped. “I know that this is what — what worldly and venal — yes, I said venal! — orders do! But the Pascalians don’t! Because we’ve read the Book of Wright and we’ve actually thought about what it says!”
And here we go, Will sighed.
“And the Book says –”
“Galahad,” Will interrupted. “I know what the Book says about that. And let me tell you something — it justifies everything that the Church is doing.”
“No, it doesn’t! It says –”
“It says ‘give ye no more than one out of every ten of your worldly goods at one time.’ At one time, Galahad. That’s the loophole. Tithe day? That’s one time.”
Galahad’s jaw fell. Will winced. Galahad’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down; his eyes grew wet. “But — but that’s not fair! That can’t be right!”
Was it fair? It was one way to get money out of the hands of misers and the lords and into the hands of those who needed it far more. The problem came when the money left one miser or lord’s hand and only entered another miser or lord’s. For there were plenty of abbots — and abbesses — in Glasonland, Reme, and the other countries of Wrightendom who lived like lords. They only reason why they didn’t in Albion was because they didn’t have the time or the manpower.
“That’s the way it is, Galahad. Look, if you don’t like it, you can argue with Brother Tuck and Father Hugh — tomorrow. But today, today you need to collect the tithes and do it right, so that –”
The door opened, and shut, and Will shut his mouth in a hurry.
Will glanced down the aisle — and did a double-take. Was that girl wearing —
“Cherry!” Galahad called out merrily. “What brings you here today?”
If Galahad knew her name, then she had to be one of the students at the school — she certainly looked young enough to still be in schooling — or else she was just a regular churchgoer. But would a young girl who didn’t bother to wear a full bodice to the church really be one to attend services all that regularly?
The girl — Cherry — lifted up a purse and shook it so the coins clinked together. “Tithe day!”
“Oooh …” Galahad turned a bit green. “Er … er, well …”
Will nudged Galahad and shook his head. He wouldn’t do more — not unless he had to — so hopefully Galahad would get the hint.
He got it. He sighed and scowled, but he got it. And he took Cherry’s purse from her, once she made her way up the aisle. “Thank you, Cherry. Have you met my brother?”
“The good brother has a brother?” asked Cherry, grinning just a little wickedly for a church.
“Aye, oddly enough. Cherry, this is my brother Will — er — Sir William. Will, this is Cherry Andavri.”
“Mistress Andavri,” Will replied, inclining his head. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Cherry’s fine,” she replied with a smile. “And same to you, sir.”
Galahad, meanwhile, was tossing the bag of coins from hand to hand. The clinks filled the church and echoed from the rafters. Cherry and Will both watched it. “Er …” Cherry started. “Not to be rude, Brother Galahad, but aren’t you going to count that?”
“What? No! No, no, no!” Galahad hurriedly put the bag onto the lid of the chest … where it promptly slid down and landed on the floor with a metallic splat. “That — that is, I trust you, Cherry, of course!”
“Really?” Cherry asked. Now her grin was definitely wicked. “Never met a southlander churchman who wouldn’t count your tithe after you gave it to him — usually twice, to see if he could make the count come up shorter.”
Will glanced at his shoes and snickered in spite of himself.
But Galahad went white. “Cherry! How could you say something like that?”
Cherry blinked and Will’s head snapped back up. “I’m — I’m sorry? I didn’t mean to –”
“I’m not like that! What — what would make you think I was like that? I’m not a swindler and a — a –”
“Galahad!” Will laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “It was a joke. Just a joke. That’s all. And like all good jokes …” He glanced at Cherry, who was staring between the two of them with eyes very wide, and smiled ruefully at her. “It’s maybe a bit too close to the truth in too many cases.”
“Far too close to the truth,” Galahad snarled. “If only –”
Will cleared his throat and nodded toward Cherry, who was looking between the two of them with one eyebrow raised. Galahad flushed. “Um — um — Cherry, have you had a chance to get through the Showings yet?”
“Have I? Oh, aye! It was amazing! And such a breath of fresh air! Finally we get a vision of hope and love!”
“Instead of harangues! I know! That’s how it should be.”
Now it was Will’s turn to let his eyebrows go up, though he wasn’t sure he had the courage to say anything.
But Galahad saw, and he flashed Cherry an apologetic smile. “Anyway — um — next Tuesday, when you and the Captain come for dinner, bring the book back and we’ll discuss it, rather than boring my poor brother.”
Next Tuesday when you come for dinner?!?
“Of course. See you then, Brother Galahad. It was nice meeting you, Sir William.”
“Same to you, Cherry,” Will replied. He waited until she was out of earshot — hopefully — before turning to Galahad and whispering, “She — she is –?”
“One of my students,” Galahad replied proudly. “And she’s quite bright! She actually thinks about what we read, not just –”
“Yes, I’m sure she does. You let her come over for dinner?”
Galahad blinked. “Only when the Captain is with her!”
“The Captain?” Will repeated.
“Aye! I’m not foolish enough to invite a young girl like that over for dinner with no chaperone! Although,” Galahad confided, “sometimes — honestly — I think it’s Cherry who is chaperoning him.”
“You — do?”
“Then — then why do you think he’s a proper chaperone?”
“Because he’s her grandsire, of course!”
“Her — her grandsire. Of course.” Will sighed. “Why didn’t I guess that?”
“Well,” Galahad mused, “I guess — I guess it might sound a bit unusual? But that’s what he likes to be called. He told me so himself.”
Will’s mouth opened — it shut — he patted Galahad’s shoulder. “I’m sure — quite sure — that it is. Anyway …” Will glanced at the looming chest. “We need to get these tithes sorted out.”
“The tithes can go –”
“Galahad, no,” Will interrupted. “Look, I understand and respect that you don’t like the idea of — of enforced tithing. And I will help you fight that battle if you want me to. But not — and this is important — not today. If you try to fight that battle, you need to fight it after you turn in perfect tithes and perfect tithe records — is that clear?”
“No! It’s not clear at all! Why?”
“Because if you don’t, then … then you’ll give your opponents a chance to take cheap shots. Like saying that you want to end tithing because you want to take all the money for yourself.”
“What? But that’s madness!”
“Of course it is. But, Galahad …” Will took a deep breath. “The thing about debates, disputations … they’re not always won by the facts, by reason. They’re won by emotion, by perception. And if your opponents win the battle of perception, then you can’t win the battle of the facts.”
“But that’s terrible! And it doesn’t make sense!”
“I know.” Will smiled ruefully. “Believe me, I know. But that’s how it is. And that is why we are going to figure out these tithes — together. So that when you go say you don’t want forced tithes any more …” Will’s smile morphed slightly — ever so slightly — into a smirk. “Then your opponents will be forced to debate with you on the merits of your proposal.”
And if there is any justice in this world, then you will kick that Brother Tuck’s arse from here to original Abbey of St. Robert and back!
“Are — are you sure –”
“And –” Galahad’s jaw began to quiver. “You — you’ddo that? To — to help me?”
Will’s jaw fell. “Galahad! Listen to yourself!”
And that was when Will barely avoided being knocked to the ground by his too-enthusiastic brother. “Thank you — thank you, Will!”
Will patted his little brother’s back and whispered, “What are brothers for, Galahad?”