Excerpt from Here There Be Dragons by Elaine Cust
It hadn’t occurred to Henry that he should speak to Margaret about whether or not she wanted to marry him. He hadn’t spoken to Anna. He knew he and Anna would marry. They had played together as young children and had grown up next to each other though her family moved to Scawton when Anna was twenty. When he was ready to marry, he was twenty-one and Anna was twenty-two. Henry had spoken to her father who had readily given permission. Henry had known that Anna was in favour of the marriage by the way she blushed the next time he visited.
After that, they had walked out together a number of times. He remembered when he first had taken her hand as they walked, how it felt warm, and how Anna had stolen a glance at him, her face a rosy pink. Shortly after that time, the banns were announced in the parish church of Scawton, where Anna and her family lived and in Helmsley, where Henry lived. On three Sundays, the banns were announced – “if anyone knows of any reason why Henry Cust and Anna Garbutt should not be joined in holy wedlock, let them speak now.” No one had spoken, of course. Henry and Anna were not cousins. Neither had been promised to another. So, the marriage had taken place on the steps of the church with all of the village of Scawton as witnesses.
The evening of their marriage, Henry and Anna had walked behind the cart that carried her belongings. Hand in hand, shy now that they were man and wife, they had walked the hour or so it took for the oxen to pull the cart to Helmsley. Her father had fashioned a sideboard and a bench for them out of local oak. Her mother had sent fresh rushes for the hall floor and the scent of rosemary followed the cart. Still, when he smelled rosemary, he remembered Anna, her face a telling shade of pink, explaining to him that the aromatic herb was to make sure that husbands didn’t stray from their wives. It was also guaranteed to protect against evil spirits. They had laughed at the thought that they would need any such protection.
As they walked, they shared bread, white enough to be manchet, and cheese that Anna’s mother had wrapped in a cloth and handed to Anna as they set out. The sun was setting as they reached Helmsley. There, they had begun their life together.
As a yeoman, Henry worked in the fields. But, his livelihood didn’t depend solely on what his fields produced, as was the case for husbandmen like Owen and for the cottiers who were Owen’s tenants. Henry Cust was also a merchant, a draper. He was a member of the drapers’ guild, officially known as the Worshipful Company of Drapers. He bought and sold cloth, mostly wool and linen. He had a stall at the Helmsley market. But, he also sold cloth in York, about twenty-five miles to the south, and occasionally in London.
Henry lived on a burgage in Helmsley, next to the Borough Beck, one of the small disappearing streams in the area. His house was at the end of the narrow strip nearest the market square. Anna had planted vegetables and herbs, and she had persuaded Henry to house the animals in a separate byre toward the back of the lot. Henry’s house was a long hall with three bays. The floor of the house was beaten earth, covered with straw and rushes into which Anna had mixed dried herbs to freshen the air. It was a house that any woman would be proud to be the mistress of.