Oscar

I have recently started to paint portraits. I never knew I could do this. I don’t think I could before. Every attempt at art, other than on a computer, or with a blade of some sort to steady my hand and smooth the curves always seemed to look like my kindergarten work. That never even made it onto the refrigerator; it was so bad. This is therapy for me. It is good for my heart. It lowers my blood pressure. I started with a self-portrait. Now I have completed three portraits of two brothers and one sister from the parkway in Philadelphia: Rosalie, Alex and Oscar. Only Alex is still among the living, and he was the only one I had a photograph of. My paintings are cartoonish, not realistic. I am trying to capture something of the emotional and spiritual impact these people made on me, a touch of their beauty, if you will.

Oscar

I shared Oscar’s story more than 20 years ago in a newsletter shortly after he had died. Oscar was in his early 50s. It was 1992. I was 37. We were serving on the sidewalk on the City Hall side of JFK Plaza at that time, more commonly called the Love Park because of the world famous LOVE art in front of the fountain there. We would see Oscar on occasion. Every time he came, he made it a point to seek me out after to say how thankful he was for what we did. He would say how special that I am for doing this. I always deflected by saying something like, “I’m just doing what Jesus compels me to do. I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t do it. It is Jesus who loves you.” He would reply, “I don’t believe in any of that god stuff. I just know that you are really special and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”

At times, we would talk about history or philosophy or the arts. He was well educated. He had had a good paying job at one point. I don’t know if I ever learned how he ended up on the street. He had used cocaine and had suffered a couple of heart attacks as a result. He is among the most civilized people I have ever known, with a twinkle in the eye and a Bohemian side.

Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, FL, in August of 1992. Church groups were sending clothing and supplies down to the more than 100,000 families whose homes had been destroyed. Word got out that people were having a hard time surviving because it was it slow process to get any cash to buy necessities. So people started tucking cash into the pockets of clothing to short circuit that process, and get money into people’s hands quickly. Several bags of men’s clothing did not fit onto a truck bound for Homestead, so they got re-directed to The King’s Jubilee. They told me about the potential money in the pockets. Between working full-time, leading a Bible study at Graterford prison that afternoon while Bethann made the soup, coordinating with the Pottstown and SC serving sites, somehow searching pockets got missed.

When we gave away the clothing that night, it was a free for all, like always. There was one garment no one seemed to want. It was a corduroy sportcoat with suede elbow patches. Oscar grabbed it and put it on. It fit. It was warm. He said, “I’m not proud. It’s warm. It’s clean.” The others laughed and called him professor. Who knows? Perhaps, that’s what he had been. He disappeared for a couple weeks. When he came back, he told me what happened. Later that night, he checked the pockets of the sportcoat and found a $50 bill. He told me that he wished he could say he did something productive or constructive with it. Alas, he said, he had a good meal at a fancy restaurant and went on a week long bender. He said, “I’m sorry. But it’s been a long time since I had such a good time and could forget about all of this. Thank you. Can you forgive me?”

I told him there was nothing to forgive. He found the money. It was his to do with what he wanted. If he got some relief, well, who am I to judge? (I am weeping as I type this.) His eyes welled up and he thanked me again with a hug. The next time he thanked me for serving all the guys on the street. He said, “I thank God for you, Cranford.” My eyes welled up with tears.

I don’t know if he had found faith, or if he was just being gracious and kind to please me. It was the last time I saw Oscar. He died of a heart attack at 53. I attempted to paint this from memory. It is a poor likeness. The beret and the neck scarf are there. The beard, long, full hair, and brown eyes are there. I tried to convey both his thoughtfulness and the mischief, with the intent stare, the tilt of the head, and the slight smile.



Martin’s Ground Beef Hash

Thursday, it was unclear whether or not we were going to be able to serve anything in the city on Friday night. I had spent $400 of personal funds to make the TKJ-mobile operational again. Our personal budget was blown for the month. There was not enough money to buy any food and drink for Philadelphia, for the guys on the street. I shared the last post on Facebook with the tagline: “We are out of money and out of food for the street. The car is fixed, out of personal funds, so we are out of money for the month. But I deserve to end up homeless, so don’t send money to help the poor.”

One friend responded with a $100 donation. So I called up Tony and told him to get himself up here to help me cook and gear up for the street. Friday morning, we shopped, then Tony peeled and diced potatoes while I cooked.

Ingredients:

  • 9-1/4 lbs. 80% lean Ground Beef
  • 7 lbs. red potatoes, peeled, diced to ~1/2″ cubes and rinsed
  • 3 lbs. yellow onions, diced
  • 5 large, sweet red peppers, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 head Garlic
  • 1-1/2″ fresh Ginger
  • Black Pepper Grinder
  • Ground Red Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Ground Coriander

In the largest cast iron skillet you own, start to fry up a large handful of Ground Beef. Add a diced Onion or two and some of the Sweet Pepper. Add a bunch of the diced potatoes. Grate some ginger onto it. Crush a clove or two of Garlic onto it. Shake some Paprika, Red Pepper and Coriander on. Grind some Black Pepper on. Keep stirring and turning this until all the beef is cooked and the potatoes are looking delicious, but not crispy. Dump into large, agate roaster pan and repeat. Try not to have the skillet so full that you end up with your range full of potatoes and onions at the end of the process (voice of experience). Stir everything together in the turkey roaster pan. Cover. Place in the oven and slow roast for three to five hours at 190º.

Notes: Do not short circuit this recipe by failing to slow roast it. That is the secret to its success! The initial sauteeing released all the flavors, but the slow roasting allowed the subtleties of them to blend throughout the dish.
Coriander adds a very subtle, earthy flavor note. It is more important as a nutrient. It is helpful to the kidneys. Ginger is a bit of a surprise, but subtle in this amount. It plays a bit with the garlic. Only the more sensitive palates will notice, but they will smile.

It’s a low sodium recipe. We let people add their own salt. Very few people did. This is the first time in 30 years we served hash. The guys were enthusiastic! They told us to make it part of our regular rotation. We said we would try. Now we just need to try not to become homeless ourselves, and find some regular support.



The Lady on the Basilica Steps

This article should just about write itself. It has all the elements to tug at the heartstrings like classic poverty porn. However, this is what has made it so hard for me to write. After more than 30 years writing newsletters and blog posts about the shocking way the poor, the disabled and the aged are treated in our country, it has gotten old. It has only gotten worse, with the government cuts to every kind of assistance and the general hardness of hearts in our society. It is just downright depressing.

Last Friday evening, Tony found a woman, about my age, lying on the Cathedral steps and invited her over to see what we had to offer. She was very timid. We had to invite her to accept each thing, some soup, pumpkin rice, hard boiled eggs, pie, etc. It was apparent that she could hardly speak due to stroke damage. She needed a better hat and a blanket. Susan found these for her. She had tears of gratitude as the hat was placed on her head and the thick blanket was wrapped round her shoulders. She shuffled as she walked and didn’t have full function of her hands. What a picture! She sleeps outside the Basilica. St. Basil founded a city for the poor with free hospitals and shelters funded by taxation on the rich! She sleeps in the cold on the steps of the Basilica! In one of the richest countries in the world, where we pay three times more per capita for healthcare than all but one other country, yet, somehow, we can’t afford to take care of the lady sleeping on the Basilica steps.

Perhaps she can qualify for Medicaid or public housing, or SSI. I don’t know. I do know that the process to get these benefits is anything but easy. I am a fully vocal person, with a place to store my records and a phone. It took months of back and forth and filling out forms to get Medicaid. It took years to get SSI after having six strokes, kidney failure, cPTSD, a summer of disabling migraines, my business failing, and almost losing my house to foreclosure. We are almost certainly going to lose it to foreclosure because they still have not paid the back benefit that they owe. So how does one who lacks speech, lacks confidence and sleeps on the steps of the Basilica with no phone and no safe place to keep her records follow through with that process? IMPOSSIBLE! The govt. made it this hard for two reasons: to keep out the riff-raff; and to necessitate lawyers to navigate the system. The problem is, the lawyers are the riff-raff, and it keeps out the most deserving of help.

Then there are so many who say, this is not the government’s job. It is the church’s job to help the poor. Did I mention that she is sleeping on the steps of the Basilica? These are the same steps that Tony McNeal, Director of The King’s Jubilee, used to sleep on at times, when he was homeless. Back then, there was a sexton (that’s the church word for janitor) who used to secretly let some homeless sleep on the pews inside. Tony would then assist in keeping the peace, and cleaning up afterward. This all had to be done on the down low. If the priest were to find out, the sexton would have lost his job and possibly been charged with criminal trespass. Then there’s the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in North Phila. who put razor wire around their vegetable and flower garden rather than trust God for how its fruits were distributed. That’s so welcoming to their church, now that it looks like a prison. So much for relying on the church.

In fact, as government assistance has gone down in recent years, so has church’ and non-profit orgs’ assistance to the needy gone down. It seems people’s politics spills over into their religion in America, not so much the other way around.

We are not some big agency. We are basically a couple of families and a rag tag band of poor people with hearts breaking for the poor and oppressed. We love to give other people’s stuff away for them, and cook wonderful, nutritious meals for people who need them, with dignity and respect. Everything you give will help us continue to do this. Please give until it stops hurting. You’ll feel better for it!



I am tired of begging.

It took me over a week just to start this article, meanwhile our GoFundMe sits there with $20 in it, and we are another week closer to losing a lifetime’s worth of equity, and any shot at having a decent base of operations for The King’s Jubilee. We are serving a hot, nutritious meal to the homeless each Friday night on Logan Circle, now, and have nothing left in the checking account after putting gas in the tank. The people are so glad to see us! One lady kept repeating how she had missed my soups. I am a bad fundraiser, though. I don’t have many friends who are not homeless or poor.

As I am writing this, Tony is out back, working hard to finish the barn, so it can be our office, community kitchen, art studio, project area and drop off point for food, clothing, household goods, and furniture. Please give and share the GoFundMe however you can, online, or by printing the poster and taping it up on the fridge in your break room at work.

Thanks! Peace.



We’re on the road again!

The King’s Jubilee resumed serving on the street last night. Tony and I made soup and hot chocolate. We picked up a case of bottled water and cups. Our best driver, Will Toy, drove the newly, half-painted orange, yellow and green TKJ-mobile to Philadelphia. We made three stops to find people and serve the hot soup and hot chocolate and water. Tony went down into Suburban Station giving out water and inviting people up. Several people expressed their love for us and their joy at seeing us again after so many weeks absent. We also met a couple of young men from Minneapolis, who were so grateful for so many hospitable groups in Philadelphia.

It felt good to be on the road again. We had good, honest conversations on the way there and on the way home. Tony shared some of his vision for the future of The King’s Jubilee. He said that we will rebuild it from the ground up to be bigger and better than before. He sees it being more integrated with other agencies and thus, better equipped to help with various needs of our homeless clientele to help them move off of the street. He also works at Tindley Temple UMC’s Soup Kitchen, so there is already another connection, with our people. Most of the staff there are senior citizens, so he sees additional services involving seniors and for seniors. He is hoping to widen our base of volunteers so we can truly help men and women break out of the homeless culture and reintegrate into neighborhoods.

Of course, we cannot do any of this without support. We desperately need monthly pledges. It can be done easily and painlessly using Paypal, utilizing any of your credit or debit cards. Make a $25/month pledge today, so we continue to serve the poor and homeless. We operate on a frayed shoestring and give everything to the poor.

Thank you!



Fred’s Gone

Cranford & Fred at the Love Park
Cranford & Fred at the Love Park in 2010

It is so difficult for me to speak of Fred Benjamin in the past tense. I was speaking to him last Wednesday. His presence was always a little more than one could contain. One never knew quite what to expect, except that he would be high energy, assertive, and want to be involved.

Fred lived on the streets for over twenty years. On three occasions in 2010, he helped lead teams of volunteers on tours of the center city homeless experience for The King’s Jubilee, which included the refrigerator box he had lived in for many months. He had a desire to give back and to volunteer. He made friends with the Haverford College women, some of whom wrote to him from Sweden and Germany when they were on semesters abroad. He gave Esther McGraw her street name of “Trooper”, because of all nine of the McGraw children, she came down the most faithfully in all kinds of weather and truly enjoyed serving. She started as a tiny girl. Now she is in her twenties and is helping coordinate Thursday night meals for Twelve Baskets Full.

Fred had a temper and could be ornery, but he was loyal and with his charm and smile, one could not stay angry at him for very long if he got out of hand. He kept fights away from volunteers more than once or twice.

It was about 6 years ago that Fred moved off the street into an apartment. We helped him find furniture and a VCR and computers, etc. He still came out to help serve, and we’d give him rides home, many times. About a year ago, we didn’t see him so much. He said it was because he was taking care of his mom. I’ve met his mom. She seems fine. I have since learned that’s when his health took a turn for the worse. He says it was diabetes, but it was some kind of aggressive kind of wasting disease. He lost 120 pounds in 2 months according to his mom, after he had come down to 240. So in the end his blood sugar spiked and his blood pressure spiked and there was not enough of Fred left to fight it. He passed away at 7:08 am, July 18, 2015, in his apartment, with his cat, L.B. His mom had the police and fire break down the door to find him shortly thereafter.

Fred Benjamin had no insurance and his family has little money, so they are relying on the mercy of Fred’s friends to defray the cost of Fred’s funeral. They chose a modest service. The whole cost is $5500. Between Twelve Baskets Full and TKJ, we have at least $500 collected so far. This harks back to one of the 1st century ministries of Christians and is a powerful statement of love and mercy to the community. You may use the Paypal button to join in.

The viewing and funeral for Fred will be Wednesday, July 29, at:
Jason Lloyd Funeral Home
2125 N. 22nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19121
Viewing & Visitation: 9 am – 11 am
Funeral: 11 am




Pray and give to save Rashawn’s Diamond

I have known Rashawn for over 20 years. He suffers from dwarfism, yet I have rarely seen him with a negative attitude. He works hard whenever he can get work. He always has a plan for the future. I have never seen him drunk or high. He is known to be a reliable man. Life keeps knocking him down. He is trying to take care of his wife, Alice, who he calls Diamond. She is a beautiful, cheerful, African-American woman who is always thankful for every little blessing that comes their way. This has been a rough winter. There has not always been enough money to rent a room. The shelters don’t let people stay in during the days. There has not always been enough room in the shelters. We have not had enough money to make up the shortfall to provide rent for them. They had been working with a social worker and were on the verge of moving into a house last November. The social worker’s mother died. She went to France to bury her mother. The agency did not transfer their case intact to another social worker. They had to start the months long process all over.

All of this made for a bad situation, leaving Rashawn and Diamond out in the cold for some of the wettest, winter nights of the year. Diamond got walking pneumonia and TB. She spent a few days in ICU and a few days recovering with oxygen on a regular floor at Hahnemann, then they released her back onto the street, still coughing, during Code Blue weather. May God have mercy on us!

Many of the private shelters, including the one they have been staying at (because they can stay there as a couple) will be closing on April 1. That’s less than a week away.

I know we can’t save everybody we meet or intervene in every bad situation, but we can do this. At The King’s Jubilee, we have never had the institutional approach, that, if we can’t do it for everybody, we should do it for nobody. No. We have the attitude of “the starfish thrower” who when she was told that it was futile to throw the beached starfish back into the sea, because they were too numerous. How could she possibly make a difference? She replied, “It will make a difference for this starfish!” as she flung one more out, saving its life.

Rashawn and Diamond need $500 for one month’s rent to get a running start through the iffy weather of spring. This way, Diamond has a real shot at recovery. Frankly, I don’t understand why this is not covered as part of Medicaid. It is far cheaper than a return visit to the hospital. At any rate, we can do this. Rashawn and Diamond would be most grateful and they also deeply covet your prayers. (Rashawn’s Christian name is Jose’.)

P.S.  We paid over two months of their rent, even though less than that was designated for their support. They did join us for Memorial Day picnic. When I took them back, they were very upset because they did not have rent. They did not tel us this ahead of time. I told them I did not have money. Diamond got very upset. She started to call and accuse me of all sorts of all sorts of false things. Anthony answered the phone, since I was driving. He could not believe what she was saying. He has known me for many years and was at our house for the weekend. She began texting all sorts of accusations that we had not given them all the money that had come in for rent, etc. We paid the next month’s rent despite the accusations, even though none of the money was designated for them. We decided to go the second mile. A few weeks later they asked if they could store five bags of their things in our barn. We said OK and arranged for Uncle John to pick it up from their place on his way home from work.

When John arrived at our place, I went outside and found they had come home with him, expecting to stay with us. They had just not said anything to him and climbed into his car. They had never asked me if they could stay with me. They had accused me of all sorts of awful things the last time they were here for a picnic. We had helped them in spite of their behavior with another $600 month’s rent and $20 cash. It was close to midnight. There was no room. Bethann would have been very upset if she woke up to find them here. I was ballistic. I have never in all my years seen such gall and such deception! I gave them 10 minutes to put their bags in the barn and get off my property before I called the police for trespass. They called John. John gave them a ride to the train station to get a ride to Philadelphia.

Now they are texting me with a threat of suing me for not giving me all the money I raised for them. They are delusional and evil. Rashawn, as it turns out, has been offered housing through an agency in Phila., which he turned down in order to stay to the hotel without inspection with Alice Diamond Robinson.

Tonight’s Meal

Love Pack
Love Pack

Just because I said on Tuesday that we did not have the resources for Thursday night’s meal, does not mean we are not serving Thursday night’s meal. It just means somethings got to happen to make this possible. Not only are we serving a meal; we are serving a feast! I am making a turkey soup with beef broth. Miss April is making a vegan side and buttery cabbage and pasta side. Holy Annunciation are bringing peanuts, eggs, oranges, bananas, and pastries. Pennridge South Middle School are bringing blankets and “Love Packs” with toiletry items and snacks & water for later. Bob is bringing bags of socks. Esther is bringing spaghetti. I’m bringing iced tea, hot sauce, salt and pepper!

I forgot to mention sandwiches! I don’t remember who all are bringing sandwiches, but we will have plenty, so people will have enough for a late night snack or breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

Thank you, people, for coming through again!

Thank God!



The Legend of Sir Cleges

This tale is from the late 14th or early 15th century, translated from Middle English, provided freely with footnotes here. We present the same translation in more readable size and font here. It is one of a class of moral poems called Complaint Literature. It resonates with Bethann and me for obvious reasons. We thank Charli Riggle for calling it to our attention. It is long for a blog post, but well worth the read. It has been published as a children’s book, called “The Christmas Knight”. Enjoy!

Listen, lords, and you will hear of ancestors who were before us, both hardy and strong, in the time of King Arthur’s father, the handsome Uther Pendragon.  He had a knight named Sir Cleges; none at the Round Table was so doughty at need.  He was a man of high stature, fair of all features, and great might.  There was no more courteous, noble and generous a knight in the world.  He gave gold to squires who had fought in wars and had fallen into poverty.  He treated his tenants well, never quarreling or punishing them; he was as mild as a maid.  His stores were plentiful, and food was given to every man who came to him.

The knight had a noble wife named Dame Clarys; a better or more beautiful lady might not be alive, full of all goodness and of glad cheer day and night.  They were both great almsfolk to both poor men and friars. They cheered many a person, and because of them no man, rich or poor, suffered loss; they always made it right.

Every year Sir Cleges held a feast, as royal as though he were a king, in honor of Christmas.  Rich and poor were invited, and no one refused to come.  There was much mirth, and when the feast was over the minstrels received gifts of horses, robes, rich rings, gold and silver and other things.  The feasts in worship of Him who rules all and died on the Cross for us were held for ten or twelve years, and though his fortunes began to slacken off, noble Sir Cleges continued to hold the feasts.  He mortgaged his manors to defray his debt, and in this way held feasts for many years, for both nobles and commoners in the name of God almighty.

Truth to tell, at the last all his wealth was spent, but though his goods were nearly gone he still made a feast and hoped to be requited by God.  His manors were all sold except one, which was of such little value that he and his wife could barely live.  His men, so full of pride, all left him, so to that only he, his wife and two children remained, and he moaned greatly.

One Christmas eve, Sir Cleges and Dame Clarys dwelt near Cardiff.  As it drew near noon, he suddenly fell into a swoon, woefully remembering the mirth he used to bring.  Now he had sold his manors with their tenancies and wide lands, and sorrowfully wrung his hands and sorely wept over his failed pride.  As he walked up and down sighing, he heard a sound of diverse minstrelsy: trumpeters, pipers, drummers, harpers and others.  There were many carols and great dancing, and he heard singing everywhere. He wrung his hands, weeping and moaning, and sighed piteously.

“Jesus, Heaven’s King who made all things out of nothing, I thank You for Your grace. I was able to make mirth in this time for Your sake; I fed rich food and good drink to all who came in Your name, free and bondsmen.  They lacked neither wild nor domestic game, and I spared no expense.”

As he stood there mourning, his wife came and embraced him.  She kissed him with glad cheer and said, “My true wedded companion, I hear well what you mean, but you can see it doesn’t help to have such sorrowful thoughts.  I advise you to stop, let go of your sadness, and thank God for His loan of all He has sent. For Christ’s sake, I counsel you to cease your sorrow in honor of this holy day.  Now every man should be merry and glad with such goods as they have, and I pray you do so.  Let us go to our dinner and be as joyful as we can.  It is for the best; I have made our meal truly, I hope, to your liking.”

Sir Cleges assented and went with her, in a somewhat better mood.  When he fell into thought and sorrow, she comforted him all the more, and he began to grow happy and quickly wiped the tears from his cheeks.  Then they washed and went to dinner with such as they could get and made merry.  When they had eaten, they spent the day in mirth as best they could.  They played with their children, and went to bed after evensong.  They slept until the church bell rang, then arose, got ready, and went to service with their children.  Cleges knelt and prayed to Jesus Christ on his wife’s account: “Gracious Lord, for my wife and my two children, keep us out of trouble!”  The lady prayed to Him, “God, keep my lord from pain into everlasting life!”  After service they thanked God omnipotent and went home quickly.

When he came to his palace, Cleges thought his sorrow was gone, and he sent his wife and children ahead and went alone into a nearby private garden.  He knelt in prayer and thanked God with all his heart for all those who suffered poverty that He had sent to him.  He reached for a bough of the cherry tree under which he was kneeling to help himself stand, and when he caught it he found green leaves and many berries.  “Dear God in Trinity,” he exclaimed, “what kind of berries can these be, growing at this time of year?  I have never seen a tree bear fruit in this season, anywhere I have been.”  He tasted one, and it was the best cherry he had ever seen.  He cut off a small branch and brought it to his wife.

“Look, here is a novelty I found on a tree in our garden.  I fear it is a token of more grief to come because of our great complaining.”  But his wife said, “It is a sign of more goodness and plenty to come. Whether we have more or less, it is always truly best that we thank God.”  The lady said cheerfully, “Let’s fill a basket with the fruit that God has sent, and tomorrow at daybreak you shall go to Cardiff and present it to the king.  For such a gift we may fare better, I tell you truly.”

Sir Cleges agreed with her plan immediately.  At daylight, Dame Clarys prepared the basket and told her eldest son: “Gladly take up this basket and bear it on your back easily after your noble father.”  Cleges had no horse for his journey, so says the book, so he took a staff for his hackney as do the poor.  He and his noble son went right to Cardiff on Christmas day and went straight to the castle gate as though they were preparing for the noon meal. But Cleges was dressed in poor, simple clothing, and the porter scornfully told him to leave at once.  “Otherwise, by God and St Mary, I will break your head.  Go stand with the beggars.  If you come in any farther, you’ll regret it after I’ve beaten you.”

“Good sir,” replied Sir Cleges, “I pray you to let me in, for I have brought the king a gift from Him who made all things out of nothing. Look!”  The porter went to the basket and quickly lifted up the lid and saw the cherries.  He knew well that the king would give great gifts for this present.  He said, “By Him who bought me dearly, you shall not come in at this gate, by Him who made this world, unless you grant me a third part of what the king will give you, be it silver or gold.”

Sir Cleges agreed and entered without any more resistance at a rapid pace.  The officer at the door was standing with a staff, and when he saw Sir Cleges come in so boldly, he said, “Get out of my sight, churl, without delay, or I shall beat your every limb, head and body without mercy if you advance farther.”

“Good sir,” said Sir Cleges, “for His love who made man, cease your angry manner, for I have brought a present from Him that made all things out of nothing and died upon the Cross.  Last night this fruit grew, which is noble and good; look to see if I am false or true.”  The usher lifted up the lid quickly and marveled at the fairest cherries he had ever seen.

The usher said, “By sweet Mary, I tell you surely that you will not step into this hall unless you give me, without refusal, the third part of your winnings when you return to me.”  Sir Cleges said no more but immediately agreed; it could be no other way.  Then Sir Cleges, with a heavy expression, took his son and basket into the hall.

The steward started forth quickly among the richly dressed lords in the hall and went boldly to Sir Cleges and said, “Who made you so hardy to come here before you were bidden?  Churl, you are too bold.  I advise you to withdraw immediately, in your old clothing.  Cleges told him, “Sir, I have brought a present from that Lord who bought us dearly and bled on the Cross.”

The steward came forth immediately and plucked up the lid as fast as he could, and said, “By dear Mary, I have never seen this at this time of year since I was born.  You shall not come near the king unless you grant my demand, by Him that bought me dearly.  By my fortune, I will have the third part of the king’s gift, or else go throw yourself out!”

Sir Cleges stood and thought to himself, “If I should share between three men, I will have nothing for all my work, unless it is a meal.”  As he thought and sighed greatly, the steward said to him, “Harlot, have you no tongue?  Speak to me and don’t wait long to grant what I ask, or I will beat your rags into your back with a staff and shove you out headlong!”

Sir Cleges saw no other remedy than to grant the steward’s demand and said with a sigh, “Whatever the king gives in reward, you shall have the third part, be it less or more.”  With that word, the steward and Sir Cleges were in accord and nothing more was said.  Cleges went up to the king quickly and he proffered his present full fairly, kneeling before him.  He uncovered the basket and kneeling upon the ground showed the bright cherries to the king and said, “Jesus our Saviour sent you this fruit with great honor, growing this day on earth.”

The king saw the fresh, new cherries and said, “I thank you, sweet Jesus; here is a fair novelty.”  He commanded Sir Cleges to eat dinner and to have a word with him afterward, without fail.  The king made a present and sent it to a noble lady who was born in Cornwall.  She was bright and beautiful, and afterwards was his own queen.  The cherries were served throughout the hall, and the most royal king said, “I counsel you to be merry!  And I shall make him who brought me this present so content that it shall avail him well.”

When all the men were merry and glad, the king told a squire, “Bring before me the poor man who brought the cherries.”  The squire went immediately and didn’t tarry, without scorn; he brought Cleges before the king.  Cleges fell on his knees and knew his reward had been lost.  He asked the king, “Lord, what is your will?  I am your freeborn man.”

The king responded, “I thank you heartily for the great present you have given me.  You have honored all my feast, most and least, with your dainties, and honored me also.  By God, I will grant you whatever you will have, whether your heart desires landholdings, or other goods, however it goes.”

“Have mercy, liege king!” Cleges exclaimed.  “This is a high thing for someone like me.  To grant me landholdings or any goods, by God, is too much for me.  But if I shall choose for myself, I ask for nothing but twelve strokes; generously grant me now that I may pay them all with my staff to my adversaries in this hall, for St Charity.”

Uther the king answered, “I regret granting the covenant that I made. By Him that made you and me, you would be better taking gold or goods, for which you have greater need.  Cleges said without rancor, “It is your own granting; I may not be  denied.”  The king was angry and sorely grieved, but nevertheless he granted that the blows should be paid.

Sir Cleges went into the hall among all the great lords and sought the steward to pay him his reward, for he had angered him greatly.  He gave the steward such a stroke that he fell down like a block in front of everyone.  Then he gave him three strokes and the steward said, “Sir, for your courtesy, strike me no more!”

Then Sir Cleges went out of the hall, intent on paying more stokes without  delay.  He went to the usher, and when they met Cleges gave him such fierce, painful strokes that for many days afterward he would not hinder any man’s way.  Cleges said, “By my fortune, you have the third part of my gift, just as I promised you.”

He eagerly came to the porter and paid him his four stokes. For many days afterward he would hinder no man’s way, neither to ride nor to go.  The first stroke Sir Cleges laid on him broke his shoulder bone in two, and his right arm also.  Sir Cleges said, “By my fortune, you have the third part of my gift according to the covenant we made.”

The king was sitting in his chamber to hear mirth and revelry, and Sir Cleges went there.  A harper had told a tale that pleased the king well and fulfilled his desire.  The king asked this harper, “You may often hear much, since you have traveled afar.  Tell me truly, if you can, do you know this poor man who gave me the present today?”

The harper answered, “My liege, in truth men used to call him Cleges; he was a knight of yours, I think, when he was full of fortune and grace, a man of high stature.”

“This is indeed not him,” said the king, “he has been believed dead a long time, whom I loved very much.  I wish to God that he was with me; I would rather have him than three knights, he was so brave in battle.”

Sir Cleges knelt before the king and thanked him courteously for granting his request.  The king asked him especially why he had given the three men strokes.  Cleges explained, “I could not come inside unless I granted each of them the third part of what you would give me.  By that I would have nothing myself; truly, I thought it best to divide among them twelve stokes.”

The lords, both young and old, and all who were with the king had great pleasure and laughed so hard that they couldn’t sit.  They said, “It was a noble joke, we vow by Christ.”  The king sent for his steward and said, “If he grants you any reward, ask for it according to the law.”  Looking grim, the steward said, “I don’t intend to have anything to do with him; I wish I had never known him.”

The king said, “Without blame, tell me now, good man, what is your name?”  “My liege,” he said, “as this man tells you, I was once called Sir Cleges; I was your own true knight.”  “Are you my knight who served me, so noble and so gracious, both strong, hardy and manly?”  “Yes, lord,” Cleges said, “as I might thrive, until God  almighty afflicted me; thus poverty has been my destiny.”

The king immediately gave him all that belongs to a knight for arraying his body.  He also gave him the castle of Cardiff, with all its appurtenances, to hold with peace and security.  Then he made him his steward of all his lands, of water, land and forest.  He happily gave him a gold cup to take to Dame Clarys as a token of joy and mirth.  The king made Cleges’ son a squire and gave him a collar to wear, along with a hundredworth pounds of rent.  When they came home in this manner, the bright Dame Cleges thanked God truly in every way, for she had both knight and squire according to their intent.  They paid their debts as fast as they could until every man was satisfied.

Sir Cleges was held to be a noble steward by all men, young and old, who knew him, wherever he went in the land.  The courteous and gracious knight became so wealthy that he assisted all his kin, close and distant.  His lady and he lived many years with joy and cheer until God sent for them.  For the goodness they did here their souls went to shining Heaven, where there is joy without end.

Amen.