Mary has taken to her bed after the stress of the past couple of days and the physical strain of the journey here. After her stoic bravery with the bailiffs today she has been in floods of tears with her fears of losing what she is convinced is a baby. God help her.
I was terrified last night when the knocking started. I envisaged a bailiff accompanied by a dozen armed officers, even though a forced entry at night would not have been legal. With two strong farm-hands in front of me I opened the door a crack.
“Simon! What on earth are you doing here?” It was Simon the Zealot. Again.
“Let me in and I’ll tell you. I’m starving and my blisters are killing me.”
Over a bowl of perfumed water for his feet, a cold shank of lamb and a cup of the mellow wine that I had been denied, he quickly brought us up to date.
Jesus had become increasingly aware of how long the latest tour was taking, and was getting desperately worried that he would not have time to save the people in the towns to the west before his Passover journey to Jerusalem. After urgent talks with the eleven apostles it was agreed that six of them would return to Bethany with two dozen of the best of the followers, to begin a tour spreading the word to Emmaus and beyond. The six had been Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Bart, Thaddeus and Simon.
When Simon heard from Mary B that Mary M had gone home in a hurry to deal with trouble caused by Cyrus, he had set off from Bethany immediately and had somehow managed to walk here in only three days, and was now here to protect her. Mary wept with gratitude at his loyalty, but he said he would do anything after what she had done for him.
While Mary and I read documents and made notes, Simon went round securing doors, blocking windows and waking up the servants to give them tools from the farm to defend themselves with.
Come the morning, the bailiff returned as expected with piles of papyri and an armed guard, though thankfully there were only two of them and they couldn’t have overcome us. We still refused to let him in the house, instead sitting outside in the pale winter morning sunlight to inspect his documents and then present our case to him.
My time spent preparing similar papers in my past career came in useful, and I was able to find enough deficiencies in the way these had been drawn up to be able to refuse him admission again. Usually in these cases, nobody looks at the papers in detail and the bailiff just blunders in with henchmen and helps himself, so he was very uneasy about being refused entry again.
But instead of sending him away immediately we handed him our own document to take away and explained exactly what was in it. I had been very careful when drawing up the lease for Cyrus to occupy the farm. While he had the right to use the farm and its equipment and staff as his own and keep all produce and profits, he had absolutely no legal rights over the land and other property, including the right to pledge it as security for loans. The only security he could therefore give was over produce and profits, but he lost the right even to these if he did not keep up with the terms of the lease, particularly the requirement to pay rent. When money had run short, he had missed a rental payment and was now in default, bringing the lease to an end. The document we gave to the bailiff explained in simple terms that they had no rights whatsoever over Mary’s farm or anything in it.
And just in case the bailiff hadn’t wanted to listen to reason, Simon and the farm hands were ready in the background with their makeshift weaponry. As Simon still had a price on his head, I was pleased that we didn’t need him to show his face while being extremely grateful he was there.
After an hour or so’s discussion we gave the three men a snack of bread and water and sent them away.
I later checked with the head servant and found that he had been meticulous in paying rent to Matthias for the land Cyrus had planted so many vines on, even though Cyrus had missed a payment to Mary, so Mary’s position was completely secure. She was so pleased that she gave the man a gold piece and promoted him to head manager, saying those who showed themselves faithful in small matters would be given more. Cyrus, despite his charm and generosity, had lost everything he had worked for here and would be lucky to get as much as a cup of water if he ever turned up at the gate again.
I have done almost nothing but read, write and argue for a night and a day, but now I can rest at last.