1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 38
It was with great reluctance Phillip abandoned his library in favor of the tools of his trade and ran back into the laboratory. John had raided Phillip’s sadly depleted larder and had a stale loaf of heavy rye-bread in his hands. He hand it to Phillip. “We have to go now, otherwise they’ll catch us!”
Phillip added the bread to the clothes and journals he’d already bundled into the blanket and thrust it into John’s hands and grabbed his medical kit and apothecary’s box. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
Phillip sat at the loading hatch of Mr. Legard’s barn idly rubbing his fingers over his lucky crystal while he watched the flames claim his laboratory. He stared at the crowd gathered around his former home, trying to identify them, but it was too far, the light was bad, and his eyes weren’t the best. Still, his eyes were good enough to count individuals, and by his calculations, over half the adult population of the village were gathered there. That didn’t bode well for his continued safety in Anlaby.
Phillip sat down in the moonlight to check what he’d managed to save. It wasn’t much. In addition to his own and his grandfather’s journals he’d managed to save a summer weight coat, a hat, and couple of changes of clothes, and a spare pair of leather boots on the woolen blanket. He also had his medical kit and his apothecary’s kit, and finally, a very stale loaf of rye-bread. He hacked off a bit with his belt knife and manfully chewed on it. It wasn’t much, but it quietened his grumbling stomach. With his stomach settled Phillip reassembled his possessions and set out for Hull.
Phillip entered Hull early the next morning. His mind was set on getting out of the city before the stories of him being a devil worshiper could catch up with him, but his first order of business was to get a proper meal. Only after he’d eaten did he walk over to the Holy Trinity Church where he explained to Rev Richard Perrott why he was leaving and to ask him to pass on some money to young John’s father.
“I’ll ride over to check on William and Edmund tomorrow. Then, if they’re fit, we’ll drop in on Anlaby to talk to the villagers,” Richard said. “Will you hang around in Hull long enough for me to get back, just in case we’re able to salvage anything from the ruins?”
Reluctantly, Phillip nodded. “I’ll wait.” he dug some coins from his merger supply and handed them to Richard. “Could you pass this on to John Beecroft, a shepherd in the employ of Robert Legard Esq as thanks for sending his son to warn me what was happening. I owe him my life.”
Richard counted the coins. “A pound?”
“Is it too little?” Phillip asked, concerned that he might not be adequately rewarding John Beecroft for his help. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford much more, not after losing most of his possessions in the fire.
Richard hastily closed his fist around the coins and shook his head. “No, no. Dr. Gribbleflotz. A pound is more than adequate recompense for the service Beecroft performed for you.”
Phillip released a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
Phillip had time while Rev Perrot was gone to think about where he should go next. It had helped that amongst the few things he’d save had been Michael Weitnauer’s letter. The Danes had recently signed a peace treaty with the Emperor, so it should be relatively safe to travel from Hamburg to Jena, so Jena was where he would go.
Rev Richard Perrot was only gone a day, and when he returned he had a few of Phillip’s possessions. There was his portable fire assay kit. That had probably survived the fire because it and the cupels were supposed to operate at temperatures hot enough to melt gold. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for any of his fine clothes or books. They’d all been lost.
Richard made apologies on behalf of the good people of Anlaby, and asked that he reconsider leaving, but Phillip’s mind was made up.
“I have a friend I haven’t seen for over ten years who has recently taken a position in Jena. I think it’s time I dropped by to see how he is doing.”
Richard nodded his acceptance of Phillip’s departure. “The good people of the parishes of Hessle and Kirk Ella will miss your medical services.”
Phillip wanted to shout that they should have thought about that before they burned him out of house and home, but you couldn’t say things like that to a minister of a church, so instead he settled for a silent smile. Rev Perrot seemed to understand the silent message and took his leave of Phillip.
Phillip bought a donkey in Hamburg and set off along the main trade route south to Erfurt, a distance of some two hundred and thirty miles. A teamster moving cargo by pack animal would normally make the trip in ten or eleven days, but Phillip wasn’t in any hurry. Instead he followed his usual practice of stopping at every village to talk to the locals, discovering uses for local plants and providing his professional services in exchange for food and lodgings.
It was August, some two months after he left Hamburg, before he reached Erfurt. He found stabling for Dapple (the third of that name) and a room for himself. After washing off the dirt of the road Phillip went for a walk around the city. He didn’t need the exercise, but he was desperately in need of intelligent conversation.
He found the conversation in an inn, naturally. A group of people were talking when one of their number, a wine merchant by the name of Casparus Menius, announced that he’d been offered the chance to buy land in which a magical plant grew. The plant was magical because pollen gathered from the plant in the light of a full moon on the evening of the summer solstice could be turned into gold.
That caught Phillip’s attention and he responded without thinking. “That’s impossible.”
Casparus turned to glare at Phillip. “I have seen it,” he said.
Phillip did some rapid mental calculations. “What did you see? Did you see them harvesting the pollen?” he asked. “The last full moon on the evening of the summer solstice happened sixteen years ago.”
“No,” Casparus admitted reluctantly, “but I watched as they showed me the pollen they’d collected being turned into gold.” Casparus smiled at his colleagues before returning his attention to Phillip. He pulled out his purse and extracted a small bead of gold. “Tell me that’s not gold,” Casparus said as he placed the bead on the table.
Phillip looked at the bead. It certainly looked like gold. He pointed to it. “May I handle it?”
Casparus nodded and Phillip picked up the bead. It certainly felt heavy enough to be gold, “I’m a trained assayist and I have a touchstone with me. May I test this ‘gold’ on it?”
“Of course,” Casparus said.
Phillip pulled his portable assay kit out of his satchel and proceeded to test the bead. “It’s pure gold,” he declared, handing the bead back to Casparus.
“See,” Casparus said with a meaningful look at one of his more vocal colleagues. “I told you it was gold, Jacob.”
“But I doubt that was made from some wondrous magical pollen,” Phillip said.
Casparus turned to glare at Phillip. “How can you say that?” he protested. “You weren’t there. I saw them with my own two eyes use their magic pollen to make gold.” Casparus stared suspiciously at Phillip. “You just want to beat me to the gold.”
Phillip shook his head. “Sometimes something is just too good to be true,” he said. “Tell me, why would these people be willing to sell your this ‘gold mine’?”
That’s simple,” Casparus explained. “Their father didn’t know what he had when he collected the pollen sixteen years ago, so he didn’t collect very much, and it took years to discover how to turn it into gold.” Casparus smiled smugly. “Now they find themselves in need of money and unable to wait until the next full moon falls on the evening of the summer solstice.”