Chapter 8: Dressing the Part
"Your crazy French psychopath is trying to kill me!"
Elaine came down the basement stairs just in time to see Rory dash franticly across the rec room. He took shelter behind his cousin, pointing angrily at D'Albret, who had just stepped out of his bedroom. The Frenchman looked annoyed and confused.
"What now?" sighed Elaine.
"Your serving man offered me an impertinence," D'Albret replied.
"My – what?"
"They're perverts, all of them," Rory insisted.
"I bade him dress me, and he laughed and threw the clothes at me. You did send him down with the clothes, did you not?" he added, seeing Elaine's confused expression.
For a moment, she could only stare back and forth between the two of them. Both Rory and the Frenchman seemed to expect her to take his own side. They watched her impatiently.
"In America, everyone dresses himself," Elaine tried to explain. D'Albret looked astonished.
"But isn't that what you have a servant for?"
"Rory's not my servant. He's my cousin."
"He tried to beat my brains out!" Rory seemed to think the conversation was not going as much in his favor as it should be. Elaine glanced back at him.
"Did you hit Rory?" she demanded, turning back to D'Albret.
"I raised my hand at him, but he never gave me the chance to strike."
"No," snapped Elaine. "You don't ever strike my cousin. You do, and I'll throw the lot of you back out on the street. While we're on the topic, don't ever strike anyone here. Comprenez-vous?"
D'Albret was taken aback. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't know he was your cousin." He looked utterly bewildered.
Elaine passed a hand over her eyes. A thought occurred to her then, and she turned to Rory.
"Cuz," she said. "Being from the fourteenth century and all, Monsieur D'Albret may not know how to get into modern clothes. Can you go show him what to do?" Rory looked aghast. "Look, I'm not asking you to do a strip tease. Just show him which way the pants face and stuff like that. I'll be right here in the stairwell if you need me."
"Why me?" demanded Rory.
"In his day, noblemen didn't dress themselves, they had a servant help them. This is one of those big adjustment things Father Brian was talking about. I already set him straight about how to treat you. If he gives you any grief, give a call and I'll be in directly." She went to the stairs and sat down; Rory stomped, grumbling, back across the basement.
Ten minutes later, D'Albret emerged from his room wearing slacks and a green pinstripe button-down shirt that Father Brian had donated. Rory stood behind him, looking mildly pleased with himself.
"How's it fit?" Elaine asked. D'Albret pulled at the cloth.
"It feels odd."
"It doesn't fit?"
D'Albret shrugged. "It just feels odd. And it's all linen. There's no wool, and it's getting cold outside."
"We'll get you a coat if you have to go out," Elaine explained. To Rory she said, "Good job. He could pass for a regular guy now."
"Until he opens his mouth," he smirked.
It was a similar ordeal getting the others into modern clothes, except that D'Albret had passed on the information that Rory was not a servant, preventing that misunderstanding again. Finding clothing for Boucicaut was a particular challenge; he was just short enough that none of the clothes Father Brian had brought would fit. In the end he wound up wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt borrowed from Rory and protesting bitterly that he was fine wearing his own things.
When everyone was dressed, they sat down in the living room while Father Brian inspected them. Boucicaut shifted uncomfortably.
"These clothes smell funny," he groused.
"At least there are no fleas, my lord," said Montjoy. He was starting to look exasperated. Rory was examining them with a critical eye.
"We need to hit the thrift stores," he declared. "These guys look like they're homeless or something."
"They are homeless," Elaine corrected. She had her laptop out and was tapping away. "Let me finish this application. I just got my deposit back from the landlord; that should be enough to get these guys some decent things."
"I hope you're not spending all your money on them," Aunt Meg, coming to the door. "Speaking of whom, how do they feel about chicken enchilada casserole?"
"I think the chicken will be welcome," said Father Brian.
"I think they'll eat it if we set it in front of them," said Elaine. "They're too polite to say no."
"We should go soon if we want to be back in time for supper," said Father Brian. He and Elaine began rallying the Frenchmen while Rory got the keys to the minivan. As soon as they reached the driveway, though, and realized that they were expected to get back in the van, they balked.
"With respect, Madame," said Christophe. "If it's all the same to you, we'd rather walk."
"It'll be faster this way. If you walk it'll take hours to get there." The constant explaining was beginning to get to Elaine.
Father Brian spoke to them in Latin. It took several minutes of coaxing before they were willing to get in. The priest buckled into one of the middle seats. As Rory pulled onto the road he produced his rosary and began praying in Latin. The Frenchmen quickly joined him. It wasn't a long trip to the thrift store, a little more than a decade of the rosary; nonetheless, the four newcomers were all slightly green around the gills by the time they set foot in the parking lot.
"Alright, what do we need?" said Elaine. Her shopping trips tended to be organized like surgical strikes.
"Pants, at least two shirts apiece, warm jackets, modern shoes..." Father Brian listed. "We'll have to go to a department store for socks and underwear, I think..."
"First step is figuring out what fits," said Elaine. "Step two is finding it."
"Uuuuughhhhh!" Elaine dropped into a chair at the kitchen table and put her head in her hands. Aunt Meg looked up from checking the oven.
Elaine went off. "You know, I used to daydream about meeting someone from the medieval era, asking them questions, finding out what things were like then and how they thought..." She dug her hands into her hair. "Now I've got the medieval dudes here, and all I want to do is throttle them! It's like I'm suddenly the mother of four preschoolers, except they all outweigh me! Christophe and Charles are constantly wandering off and getting into trouble; it's a fight to keep D'Albret's attention on anything, and Boucicaut won't stop whining!"
"Welcome to motherhood," said Aunt Meg, and turned back to her cooking.
"They were all impressed with the stores and the fact that you could just walk in and buy whatever you wanted without having to wait for it to be made. But then Charles took it into his head that everyone else in there were peasants or something and got mad at some guy for not giving way in an aisle. We almost got kicked out before we were done. The only reason the Wal-Mart run was so easy was because we sent Rory in for what we needed."
The others came trooping in through the carport door, carrying their new clothes.
"These shoes don't fit," complained Boucicaut. Everyone ignored him. Rory plopped down at the table across from Elaine.
"I can't understand a word these guys say," he griped. Elaine didn't look up.
"Rory, if you start whining at me, I swear I'm gonna deck you."
Rory scooted back out of range.
It was about twenty minutes until supper. Rory had decided that the best way to bridge the communication gap was through TV; Father Brian had joined him as an interpreter. Charles, Boucicaut, and Christophe had allowed themselves to be steered into the living room for what had been described to them as "theater," but when Elaine had looked in, D'Albret had not been there.
She found him in the basement, sitting on the couch, staring off into space.
"You okay?" He started and looked up.
"Madame Elaine." He rose formally, only sitting down when she did.
"Is something bothering you?" she prodded.
He sighed. "How can it have happened? I keep going over it in my mind..."
"Agincourt? Or traveling here?"
"Everything." His voice was barely above a whisper. "It's so strange here. Wonderful, some of it, but so strange. And you say it's been six hundred years... Everyone, the king, the duke of Burgundy, my tenants, the beggars in the streets... gone." He shook his head. When he spoke, his voice was stronger. "And Agincourt, too. I don't understand. We were still so many; we had the high ground..." His voice trailed off. Elaine watched him soberly.
"I don't think you're ready to know what happened," she said. "Not yet."
D'Albret looked at her closely. "You know what happened, don't you?" She nodded.
"I studied it in university. I found some of my old books when I went upstairs, and I know who you are now. You're Charles D'Albret, the general in charge of the French troops." He looked confused by the term. "You were the Constable of France, the supreme commander of the army."
"With Maréchal Boucicaut, yes."
Elaine nodded. "I'll explain it all, I promise. But not now." D'Albret started to protest and she cut him off. "Not now. We have to eat soon. And you're not ready to hear it. Believe me."