The sound of laughter rose from the Dart River as Tressa swung from a
rope tied to a tree. Many of the children of their village of
Buckfastleigh, Devon were splashing in the water. Tressa’s sister Gwen
screamed as their brother Jory swung the rope higher. Gwen dropped into
the water with a splash and laughed.
This was an exciting day for them because their father was supposed to
come home from Northern Devon where he had been trying to sell his
latest invention. Jory decided to tell his sisters that it was time to
head back to the cottage. He felt lucky because he was the oldest boy
at the river that day. He knew that most seventeen year olds had to
help their families put food on the table. He and his sisters did help,
but also had more free time than most children in Buckfastleigh.
“Tressa, Gwen, let’s go!” Tressa immediately obeyed, but Gwen
said, “Oh Jory do we have to?” Jory replied, “Yes, you know father
will expect us to help get supper on the table.” They dried off as
best they could and walked to their cottage in companionable silence.
Jory hoped that father had made some money this time. Mother was taking
on more laundry, and had a cleaning job down the street for an older
widower once a week. It would be nice if she did not have to work so
The children took a short-cut through the wood and were on Tulip Street
in less than fifteen minutes. They walked in their front door and into
their dark cottage.
The children loved their home. It was similar to all the other cottages
on the street except they had two bedrooms due to an overhead addition
of a loft bedroom their father Pasco had put on when Gwen was born.
That had been over sixteen years ago. It had a beautiful beamed ceiling
and deep-silled windowswhich held bric-a-brac of all sort.
Jory headed out to the back garden to collect wood for the inglenook
Fireplace and bread oven. He then collected eggs from their chickens
while Gwen started to cook a hunk of venison.
Tressa was the youngest of the siblings at age fourteen. She
straightened up the cottage and set the table. She carefully poured the
tea for supper as Gwen pulled out the fresh bread out of the oven.
Jory walked back into the cottage and sniffed the air. “Smells good,
Just then Caja walked through the door. “Mother!” Tressa shouted
and ran to hug her. The children hugged their mother and asked how her
day was. “Wonderful children and how was yours?” They all agreed
that it had been a wonderful day.
Jory retrieved some hot water off of the kitchen stove for mother to
tidy up with. She took off her apron and went to her bedroom. Just
then the children heard whistling. Father was home! They ran out and
greeted him with hugs in the front garden. They asked so many questions
all at once. “All in good time,” said Pasco. “I will answer your
questions over supper.”
He walked into the cottage and smiled, “mmm smells great, I’m
famished. Where is your mother?”
“Right here,” Caja replied. “I will get you some fresh, hot
water. Go change.” Pasco obeyed.
What a supper they had. They ate their fill as father told them of his
adventures. He was always good with a story.
After supper, father stood and the family followed him to their sitting
room. “What about your invention Father,” said Jory?
“Oh yes,” said Pasco. The Earl of Killigrew was happy with the wood
cutter and took it on the spot.” Pasco reached into his pocket and
pulled out a one pound coin. Caja gasped, “how wonderful Pasco!”
They hugged and the children danced around them.
Pasco wanted to hear about what they had been up to while he was away.
The family spent the rest of the evening talking and laughing until
Tressa yawned and Caja told the children that it was time for bed.
They changed into their bed clothes and went up to their bedroom. The
girls cuddled up in the bed they shared and giggled until they heard
Jory gently snoring and then their eyes got heavy and they fell into a
Pasco had taught his children the basics of reading, writing and math.
He did not enjoy teaching them this but wanted them to have the
advantage of some education to help them out in life.
Jory did not enjoy the lessons, he enjoyed the outdoors. He often asked
Pasco why he had to bother when the other boys and girls did not have to
learn so much. Pasco always said that they were of a different class
than the other children and that someday they may make use of the
He also insisted that the children learn how to ride a horse well and
had rented a horse on and off through the last five years.
Tressa especially loved riding horses and was known in their village as
a good horsewoman.
On Her fifteenth birthday in November, Pasco rented her favorite mare.
Tressa happily decided that she would have a long ride today, down past
the abbey and then to the moor beyond.
She would walk the abbey grounds on her way back from the moor. She
brought some bread and an apple with her for dinner time.
The mare’s name was Dutchy and she was a proud, beautiful bay colored
horse with a bold eye, strong quarters and a sure foot. Tressa
carefully maneuvered through the village and then started to gallop
toward the Abbey with her blonde locks flowing backward in the breeze.
It was such a freeing feeling to be away from the muddy streets of their
village and to be one with nature. She made her way through the tall,
proud oak trees on the edge of Buckfastleigh and the hilly pastoral
farming land of the neighborhood. She saw hundreds of sheep scattered
eating the soft grass of the land and could hear their gentle baaing as
she galloped through them.
She was so blessed to have such a wonderful, carefree life when many in
their village were suffering, hungry and living just at subsistence
level. Tressa and her siblings often listened at the closed door of
their parent’s bedroom and heard her parents worry about dysentery
from the open sewers, drinking water and the unsanitary living
conditions. They worried about their neighbors and left gifts of food
by their front doors whenever they had a little extra to spare.
They heard their father proclaim loudly to their mother that the poor
have a right to basic necessities such as enough food, a good paying
job, and sanitation. They also heard mother complain to father about
their neighbor James Allen and how he was not taking care of his wife
and growing brood. She was upset about his gin drinking. She wondered
how his wife was supposed to work and raise five young children. She
was with child almost every year and the last two born were dead within
two months after their birth. Caja left her some money a few times for
food but did not like to go into her neighbor’s small cottage because
it was dirty and smelled awful. Father comforted her by telling her to
keep leaving food and money when they had some to spare. He also told
her at the risk of sounding just like his father, turn to the good book
and cast all your care on God because he cares for us.
Mother laughed at him and told him he did just sound like his father.
Father laughed and said that was how he grew up every day and he knew
his Bible well. They turned serious again and father related that he did
not want his children growing up in this poor environment, but what else
could he do? Mother comforted him and said “Come kiss me and all will
Tressa was confused at her parent’s talk because she loved her
village. She could not imagine anything better like father talked
about. He was fond of telling his children of his childhood at Castle
Lyon in Padstow, Cornwall.
It was such a grand castle on top of a cliff close to the Atlantic
Ocean. He would describe his boy-hood trips down to the harbor and the
ships that would come into port. He said the ocean had a mind of her
own and he heard many a story in his youth of its dangers. He also told
us stories of the shipwrecks near his home due to the rocks and sand
bars in the neighborhood.
He told us of the Pilchard and how they were a plentiful fish in Padstow
and how many made a living due to them. They would dry them, smoke them
or salt them. They also could reduce them to fish meal or oil.
Tressa and her siblings loved hearing about their father’s childhood
and encouraged him to talk. Their father often talked about how he met
their mother at Castle Lyon. Their mother had grown up right in Padstow
and was a daughter of a fisherman. Her mother had died at her birth and
she was raised as an only child by her father.
Her father had died when she was fifteen and she went to live with her
grandmother at Castle Lyon. She helped her grandmother who was the cook
at the castle and loved to make the desserts that Earl Richard was so
I always thought the story of how they met to be so romantic. My father
was just coming up from the harbor on his mare when he heard my mother
screaming. He galloped to her and saw that she was terrified of an
angry grass snake. She was so happy to see him and told him that the
snake had bitten her ankle when she accidentally stepped on it.
Father threw a stone close to the snake and pulled my mother away. He
explained to her that she had no reason to fear because the snake that
had bitten her was a grass snake and they were non-venomous. He always
explained to us that he had seen many grass snakes in Cornwall because
they favored living in damp places with long grass close to the water.
He picked her up and put her on his mare and mounted up behind her, and
He asked her where she lived and she replied Castle Lyon. He thought
she must be shocked by the ordeal she had just been through because he
never saw her before. Something just felt so natural and right about
Once they reached the stable, father lifted mother off of the mare.
They just stared into one another’s eyes while father still held
mother around the waist. A groom interrupted their thoughts when he
said, “Why Caja! Where have you been and how did you come to be on
master Pasco’s horse?”
I asked the groomsman how he knew her and he said that she was the
cook’s granddaughter who had just moved in a few months back. Then
father introduced himself as Pacso Lyon, second born son to Earl Richard
They met every day and finally were married without the Earl’s
knowledge. He was very angry at his son’s marriage to a mere servant.
Father said he was sick of listening to his father’s prosing on and on
with life advice and religion. He also felt he had to protect his new
wife from his father’s displeasure. So, father took his new wife away
with a small inheritance that was left to him and after a long journey
they ended up in Buckfastleigh, Devon.
We loved the story and made him repeat it many times throughout the
years. We often asked him about our grandfather and his elder brother
and he just said they were fine, upstanding, Godly men of faith. We did
not know more about them and my father did not invite more questions
My mother did volunteer information about her grandmother. She dearly
missed her and did receive letters from her sporadically. She would be
old now and I could tell that mother would love to see her again. From
the last letter awhile back, grandmother still lived on in the castle as
an elderly servant, taken care of by the Earl.
There was a newer cook that had been there these past seven years.
Grandmother always asked about her great grandchildren and said that she
would love to meet them, but could not travel due to her age. I know
that for the few months that my mother had lived with my grandmother she
had taught her many things. She taught her how to cook and for that my
father, Jory, Gwen and I were thankful. My mother was a good cook and
looked forward to cooking the Christmas feast for us this year.
I passed the abbey and rode on. I stopped after a while to feed the
deer some of my apple. They were enclosed in fencing and lovely to
watch. My mother adored fresh venison and my brother would often help
our butcher out. In return, he received a hunk of venison to take home
at the week’s end. He hated the work and called it savage and bloody.
But, he did it for my mother and we were all grateful for the meat since
we did not eat meat every day.
This time of year the butcher was very busy because it was costly for
many to keep their livestock all winter due to the feed required.
I skipped back to the Oak tree where I had tied my horse and rode on to
the moors. I reached the beginning of the moor and just kept riding
with the sun on my face and the cool wind whipping my hair around.
The moors were so breathtakingly beautiful, stark and solid. Dutchy
carefully navigated the gently rolling hills of the moor. The moor was
filled with wildlife such as deer, rabbits and wild ponies. There were
many types of birds as well like the Goosander, Peregrine Falcon, Dipper
I looked overthe glorious granite tors and hills dotted with huge
boulder rocks with wonder. I felt that I could see for miles and the
sky seemed so close. I stood up higher on Dutchy to see if I could touch
I rode up to a granite slab, dismounted, and sat down and let my
thoughts wander. Some in our village said that this moor was home to
pixies and fairies and even goblins. Looking out over the moor, I could
believe it. It was wild, untamed and expansive. I could imagine a
goblin pulling up soil to make a rut for a horse to trip over or a
mischievous pixie leading a wayfarer over the moors to get lost in the
mists where the bogs can lead to death. They said this is called being
pixy-led. Supposedly pixies loved to ride the wild horses over the
moors and to dance in the moonlight. I wasn’t so sure that these
stories were true, but I wouldn’t be caught on our moor at night.
It was heard by those in our village that when something unexplained
happened, it was the pixies playing their tricks. Many said that pixies
were originally druids who resisted Christianity. Some said that they
were a race of people that were not good enough to go to Heaven and not
bad enough to go to Hell, so they were condemned to roam the earth
I also heard about the green hedgehog fairies whose bells are heard
across the moor. They love to dance near stones and steal horses. It
was said that when storms raged across the moors that the Wild Huntsman
was riding again. He has a terrible pack of hounds with ears flaming
ready to satisfy the hunger of their master for human blood and the
souls of unbaptized babes.
I shuddered, waking out of my reverie. Although I was getting sleepy
from my journey and the fresh air of the day, I was determined not to
fall asleep here on the moor. I did not sleep well and awoke early
because I was so excited about my birthday. After all, it wasn’t
every day that one turned fifteen. I mounted Dutchy and turned around
toward my village and the abbey.
I loved the abbey. It was a ruin really, but the area had a still,
peace about it that I had never experienced before. I was not the only
one there that day as there were others walking for exercise and some
there for a history lesson.
My father had taken me here a couple of times in the past, but not as
often as I would have liked. Besides, I liked to come here alone and
I knew some history about the abbey, but walked over to where a man was
giving a history lesson to a boy about my age. They looked privileged
as they were well dressed in their fashionable coats with large buttons
over double-breasted waistcoats. The upper buttons of their waistcoats
were left undone to display the frill of the shirt beneath. The linen
breeches they wore were quite handsome and fitted their legs like a
second skin and they had tight fitting riding boots on. Their hats were
felt and of a bicorne pattern.
I listened while I pretended to sit on the grass nearby the pair.
“Now Thomas,”said the man, “It was in the year of our Lord 1018
that this abbey was founded. This was during the reign of King Cnut.
You remember him from your studies as Cnut the Great, Viking king of
Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. He was known as a
statesman with some success in politics and military. He also repaired
our churches and monasteries that fell victim to the Vikings.” “Oh
yes sir, I remember him! “replied Thomas. “Good, anyway, the abbey
became Cisterian in 1147 and was rebuilt in stone. The Cisterian monks
were hard working and self- sufficient. The abbey became rich through
fishing and trading in sheep wool. In the Middle Ages, the Abbey ran
its own guest hall, almshouse and school.”
“The Black Death had killed many monks, but they still remained until
the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the reign of Henry VIII between
1536 and 1541. This abbey surrendered in February of 1539. The king
also dissolved priories, convents and friaries all over England, Wales
and Ireland,” the man said. “Sir, how did King Henry VIII get the
authority to do this?” asked Thomas. “Good question Thomas,” the
man replied. “I actually read up on the subject a couple of days ago
as I knew we would be making this trip to the abbey. In 1534, King
Henry VIII was given the authority to do this in England and Wales by
the Act of Supremacy passed by Parliament. This made him the Supreme
Head of the Church of England. It was an end to the Pope’s
authority. The king was a reformed Catholic and established The Church
of England which, as you know Thomas, is part of our 16th century
Protestant Reform and includes the Nine Articles and the Book of Common
Prayer. The act was an administrative and legal process and the monks
here were forced to leave and the buildings were looted and destroyed.
The dissolution of these many monasteries and such was one of the
largest legally, enforced transfers of property in our history.”
I lost interest and walked away wandering through the stone ruins.
There was such an unearthly, surreal quality about the ruin. I started
humming a tune I often heard by father whistling then sat down and
enjoyed the hunk of bread I brought along with some tea.
I wondered if mother was going to cook something special for my
Excerpted from "Love, The Journey Uncovered" by Mara Gold. Copyright © 2017 by Mara Gold. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.