Will did not know that Peter could move so fast!

Whack! The troubadour’s staff came down across the larger man’s shoulders.

The bandit loosened his hold and Will dashed away. He’d never been so afraid in his life.

But could Peter handle this man? Apparently so.

The man whirled toward Peter, but suddenly he was on the ground with Peter’s long staff held across his chest.

“Now what do you mean intruding in our journey and threatening my young friend here?”

So, Peter had been a monk, a minstrel, a musician…but apparently he had even more talents than Will had realized. Had he been a soldier perhaps? The way he handled himself, it seemed possible….

“The gold!” the man growled, trying his best to rise, but not succeeding.

Will hurried forward. “I don’t have it. I dropped it when—” He suddenly realized he couldn’t tell where. He certainly didn’t want those women to be visited by this—ruffian. Yet, maybe they’d kept the money.

“Where!” The man tried to grab at the staff, but it didn’t work.

 “You mean the merchant didn’t get it back?” Will needed to find out what had happened! “They didn’t find it? And what about the soldiers?”  What he really wanted to know was what had happened to his family. Had the soldiers searched the woods and found their little ramshackle cottage?

“Of course he didn’t get it back—because you have it! Chickens running everywhere!” The bandit was furious. “My plan was perfect! And you had the gold—I know you did!”

“I told you—I dropped it.”

 “I don’t believe you.”  He heaved himself up and threw himself at Peter, but a moment later Peter had him subdued again—up against a tree this time!

“Stop this at once. Before I tie you to this tree!” They saw that another group of travelers were heading their way and Peter said, “I see a soldier coming. Compose yourself or I’ll have you arrested. The boy doesn’t have whatever you’re looking for. I can vouch for him—he was starving last night. If he had money he certainly would not have been going around hungry. Now—can I let you go?”         

 It was unlikely that the soldier would listen to the likes of common people like them, but even so the thief seemed to come to his senses.

 “All right.”

  Peter let him go and the man dashed off into the woods.

 “And stay away!” shouted Peter.

 “I still don’t believe you!” the thief yelled back. “But it’s obvious you don’t have it with you. You hid it! I know you did!”

The thief headed back the way they’d come, disappearing into the forest.

Will sank down against a tree, shaking. “Thank you, Peter.”

Angelina didn’t seem concerned. She’d had no doubt, apparently, about her father’s skills.

The horse, with the soldier astride him, came galloping through. Travelers arrived, chattering as they walked past.

“I didn’t have it. I dropped it. The women—must have stolen it. I guess I expected they would turn it in but I really haven’t thought much about it.”

“I think perhaps you should go back.”

“Back—where he’s going!” gasped Will.

“And make it right. Find out what’s happened.” 

Will thought about that. “I do need to find out if my family is safe.”

“Come, we’ll go on to the city.”

“The city, Father? We’re still going?” Angelina spoke for the first time since all of this had happened.

  “Yes, we’ll earn some money for the trip. And visit Francisco. I promised, you know. Then we’ll go. Perhaps not tomorrow but the next day. Does that suit you, Will?”

“You’re going with me?”

“If you would like.”

  Will drooped in relief. “Thank you, sir. I don’t deserve any help. I am a thief—like he said.”

He’d finally admitted it but he didn’t know about making things right. Even if there was any way he could. But he had to find his father and sister and make sure they were safe. That’s all he cared about. If they weren’t—it was all his fault.

 “My friend Francisco will lend us a wagon and horse. That will make the trip much faster.”

Will shook his head in amazement, stunned at this good news. His father would have said that this was God’s provision. But of course, Will didn’t believe in God all that much.      

  “Now, I think it’s time you told us the whole story.  Let’s stop here and have a bite and a sup.”

  “All right.” Will said, finally.  

Upon hearing the whole story, Peter assured him of their support and help. After they had finished eating the last of their food, the man made no move to go on. Instead he rested against a tree, pulling out his harp,. With Angelina playing her lute, they sang a beautiful and haunting melody.

God Almighty, Creator of all

Loves and Cares for us

Jesus His Son, gave his life

The great redemption plan.

The holy Scriptures comfort and teach

Our meditation is sweet.

Our hope will be complete

When we bide with Him eternally.

“That is such a strange song. I’ve never heard such a thing,” said Will, as Angelina laid aside her lute.

“Chants and liturgies are all I ever heard when we were going to the big church in the village,” said the boy wonderingly. “As Separatists, we don’t really sing anything.”

“My father is so talented. And this so beautiful when all the parts are sung by men and women alike—by the congregation,” said the girl.

“You’re Separatists then, too?  My father has heard of songs for the congregation but it’s usually acapella if anything. We had no such access to instruments or people who can perform such songs.”

“It’s not to just perform. It’s for everyone to sing together—in worship of our God.”

“Then you’re like us—or at least like my father and our group.”

“We worship with all kinds of people and groups.  As long as they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that we can only be saved by grace through faith.”

“That’s us! I mean. That’s….my father…. And the others.”

  Peter grinned.  “Our gift is music. And we met a man who thought singing by the congregation rather than just a choir would be quite nice.  So I started thinking about it and quite a few songs came to me.  This is the only one we’ve heard a group sing and it does sound very pleasant.” He brought out his pipe then and played some more, until the people passing gathered to listen. They had no money to give but Peter didn’t care. He told them of Jesus’ love and care before they went on their way.

The man put his pipe into his inside pocket and Angelina slung her instrument over her shoulder and picked up her bag.

 “Let’s move on and we’ll reach the city in time for the evening frolics. Then we’ll go to Francisco’s. A very nice supper we’ll have there, I assure you.”

***

They made quite a good amount of money that night at the frolic, but Will was a bit nervous as they made their way across the city through some very dark streets. He had a feeling some people were watching them, knowing that they had a pouch full of coins. He even thought he saw the big, tall thief—or at least his shadow. Was the man still following him?

    The shadowy figures faded away as they reached a rather well-to-do part of the city.

They went around to a back gate where a guard peered out at them.

Will was quite surprised when the man let them in with a nod.

 But as they entered, Will looked back and caught a glimpse of the shadow again. At least he thought so. Or perhaps not….

But suddenly there were voices.  “Peter! And Angelina! Welcome, welcome!”

A man in rich clothes suddenly appeared. He clapped for a servant. “Food for our guests! And prepare their rooms.”

The servant bowed his head and headed off.

“And who is this?”

“Our friend, Will,” Peter beamed.

  A gentle voice reached Will’s ears and he turned to see a slender woman in a beautiful dress. “Welcome to our home,” she said, graciously.

Will was astonished that she greeted a boy in such a way, especially dressed as he was.  He was even more surprised a little later. They were taken to rooms, he and Peter to one, Angelina to another. Then when they arrived back downstairs, faces and hands washed, but still in their grimy clothes, they were ushered to a table, as honored guests.

Chicken and beef, bread and fruit, pastries….Peter had certainly been right about anticipating a good supper.  Afterwards, they finally made their way into the sitting room, Peter and Angelina taking up their instruments which had been left by the door.

“Ah, you’re going to sing for your supper,” said Francisco as he lounged on a sofa.

“Dear, is that polite?” His wife shook a finger at him, gently.

  “Well, you did make me a promise….” the man gazed at Peter.

   “And I shall deliver.”  Peter’s eyes twinkled. “I promised you a new hymn. And God has given Angelina and I several.”

   Francisco grinned and motioned to sofas.

Angelina took up her lute and Peter his pipe and they played sweet music. Then he reached for his harp and their host and hostess seemed to know the words as the four sang together. Will listened, amazed, as they sang beautiful music to God. Then, he found himself surprisingly eager as Peter started the song they’d sung on the road. He sang with them, remembering the words, marveling how surprised his sister would be that he cared to share Devotions with these people. Then the men took turns reciting Scripture from memory and finally finished with a short time of prayer.

“How wonderful,” Angelina said, happily.

  “Yes,” agreed Lavinia. “It’s always so good to be together with other believers for worship.”

  It was an evening like Will had never imagined. Hot sweet drinks were brought in and frosted cakes. Then a tour—of the hall and a studio. He realized what this man was—a painter! Beautiful landscapes and religious portraits of the disciples and Mary and Joseph lined the walls. Half-finished paintings in the studio—and then Francisco showed off his wife’s talent—something Will had never heard of before—a woman sculpting exquisite pieces portraying animals and flowers and birds. 

 Finally he was in his bed next to Peter’s.

 “How do they ever stay friends with me, a vagabond?” asked the man, in the darkness. “Is that what you’re wondering?”

  Will, lying on his back with his head propped up on a cushion, wondered how the man had known his thoughts.

  “Good friends are always loyal, no matter what their station.”

   Will knew that wasn’t always true. But it certainly had been true here, apparently.

 “Francisco is working on a portion of the cathedral—doing some renovations and a little of his own creation, as well. But he’s never forgotten where he came from—a poor little village…an awkward—foolish boy, sometimes. But always with this wonderful gift. God uses everyone. Remember that, boy.”

 

A few moments more and Peter was snoring but Will had lots to think about. He wouldn’t mind seeing Francisco’s work in the cathedral sometime. He wouldn’t mind trying a little painting and drawing himself, but of course that would never happen to a poor boy like him. He’d be more apt to end up in a dungeon since he was also a thief.

Peter was snoring when suddenly—upon the balcony outside their window, Will saw a figure!

 “Peter!  Peter!” he hissed.

 The man awoke instantly and realized what was going on.

  “I’ll get him!” he whispered.

   Peter crept toward the big window that opened outward and he sprang! The man didn’t know what hit him. Then the guard from the back gate was suddenly there, too.

  The man was captured and this time he didn’t get away.  Francisco sent word to the magistrate and soon the man had been taken away to prison—after everything had been explained, of course.

  “He was on our property-and probably decided to try to steal from us as well as get the gold he thinks you have,” said their host. “He’ll go to prison for now while he’s investigated.”

  “And as for us, I think we’d better get to your town as soon as possible,” Peter told Will. “and find out what’s happened to that gold and get it back to it’s rightful owner if it hasn’t been already. We earned plenty of money for the journey this afternoon. God is good! We don’t usually get that much all at once!”

“Uh…all right…” Will was glad the bandit was out of the way but he wasn’t so keen on getting back and confessing. “But I could end up in jail, myself.”

“Ah, but it’s best to do what’s right and see what God does. I shall stand with you, my boy.”

What could Will say to that but accept the offer.

  The next morning, Will found new clothes by his bedside. Nothing fancy, but a clean, durable shirt and a pair of breeches. Peter was also pulling on new clothes and warm cloaks lay over the chair.

  “A gift. They always like to do this.”

   “They wouldn’t if they knew what I was really like. I don’t really believe the way you all do.” He could dare to say it to Peter.

   “Do let them give as they choose.”

    Will grinned. “All right.”

   They found Angelina breaking fast with their host and hostess, in a simple new green shirtwaist over a beige blouse and dark skirt.

  “Sit!” Francisco rose to gesture them to the table.” I must go soon to my work. I wish you could come and see what I’m working on—but next time you’re in the city you will. And the boy will perhaps like to paint with me and try his hand at a little sculpting. We will have faith that he will return to us. But I have a wagon for you. Use the horse as you wish. Sell the wagon if you choose later, and the hay. Our young friend here might need a place to hide before he fulfills his task of finding his family and making things right.”

  Peter nodded his thanks as he took fruit from the platter. Will started in on his porridge, unable to believe his good fortune. He was invited back!

“I want you to let me know,” the man said to Peter, “anything I can do to help.”

  However could they do that, Will wondered.

  No more was said about that until they’d finished the meal, then Francisco led Peter and motioned to Will to come too.

Up to the roof and outside to a balcony. A falcon in a cage squawked and snapped his jaws—and Will stopped to look.

Francisco led them on. “Boy, this is what we’ll use. Come and listen carefully.”

Pigeons! 

“Do you know anyone who has pigeons?  I’m going to send two with you.”

Will was excited, realizing how important this was. “Yes! Davy. He’s always playing around with pigeons. I never paid attention, really. “

“Well, he might know what he’s doing. We’ll try it,” said their host. “And I’d give you my carriage but it’s too fancy. I’m afraid you’d end up in a dungeon.”

“That’s for sure,” said Peter. “They’d be sure I stole it. Thank you, my friend. This is perfect.”

“I must go,” said Francisco. “My servant will explain how to care for the homing pigeons.  Be safe, my friend.” He slapped Peter’s shoulder. “And thank you for keeping your promise.  We will never forget your beautiful songs and we will look forward to when you can come and sing them again.”

He took his leave, his flowing, colorful coat swaying as he headed down the balcony stairs.

They left sometime later, passing the beautiful cathedral where Francisco painted. Will wondered if he would ever see the kind man again and what would happen next.

To be continued….

Definitions:

Separatist- Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries who chose to separate from the state church in England because of differences in beliefs about Jesus and the Bible

Troubadour-a musician who sang and played instruments for entertainment, especially love songs.

Minstrel-a musician hired to play and sing heroic songs for nobility, especially as evening entertainment.

Congregation-group of people worshipping together in a church

Acapella-singing without instruments

Note: I acknowledge that troubadours actually were known by this name earlier than in my story, in the 13th and 14th centuries, and were in France more than in England

All characters and places are fictitious apart from general historical information about separatists, persecution, and the culture of the time.