COUNTRY LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
 THE people of the Middle Ages would have thought it exceedingly strange for one man to ask another the price of a piece of
land, pay for it, and then call it his own. As a general thing, they obtained land in quite a different fashion. The
belief was that the king owned the whole country. But he could not cultivate it all, or even defend it with his single
sword. Therefore, he gave the use of large districts to his chief men. Each man, when he received a share, knelt before
the king with uncovered head, laid his hands in those of his sovereign, and vowed to be his man and to serve him
faithfully. Then the king kissed his vassal, or liege-man, and gave him a bit of turf and a twig to indicate that he was
to hold the land and what grew upon it. Often when land was granted to a man, he was required to make a small payment of
money or produce. This was not rent, but merely an acknowledgment that the property was not his, but his lord's. It was
sometimes nothing more than a measure of grain, or a fish or two from some river flowing through the land. In 1492, a
piece of land in New'cas-tle-on-Tyne', in England, was granted on condition that a red rose be paid every
midsummer day, if it should be called for.
The service that the king wanted for his grants was almost always service in war. When there was need of fighting, he
had a right to call out his vassal to fight for him. But every vassal
 divided his land into portions and gave it to people who were his vassals and had vowed to be faithful to him.
Therefore, when the king needed men he called out his vassals, the great nobles. They called out their vassals, and
these vassals called out those who were under them; and they must all go forth to help do battle. This was the feudal
system. It was a sort of endless chain, except that it did finally come to an end in the manor, or village.
ENGLISH MANOR HOUSE.
The early manor usually consisted of one house of fair size, perhaps even a castle, and, gathered around it, a number of
little cottages. They were thatched with straw and had generally only one room. The large house was the abode of the
lord of the manor, and the little houses were the homes of his tenants. Some of these were called "free" tenants, and
they generally paid in money for the use of the land and the protection of their lord. The others were called serfs, or
villeins, from the word vill, meaning village. They paid some rent in money or in fowls or produce, and they also
had to spend a goodly share of their time, sometimes as much as half of it, working on the land which the lord reserved
for himself. The lord of a manor always had a list of the tenants, called an "extent," which stated just what each one
was bound to pay and what work he must do. For instance, on one manor a man
 who had a cottage and an acre of land had to pay at the feast of Saint Mi'chael threepence, and at Christmas a
cock and a hen worth threepence. Another, who had only a little piece of land, had to bring to his lord one goose, worth
twopence, every year. The labor varied greatly in kind and in amount. One man, among other sorts of work, had to provide
"a cart and three animals of his own" and carry wood from the forest to the manor house two days every summer. This was
worth ninepence, but his lord was to give him three meals worth two pence, half-penny each. Twice every summer he was to
carry half a load of grain; but his meals in this case were not to be so extravagant, for they were to be worth only
OLD COUNTRY HOUSE.
(SAID TO BE THE OLDEST HOUSE ON THE RHINE.)
The arable land of the manor was divided into three or more great fields. One field was planted with wheat or rye,
another with oats or peas or barley, and the third field lay fallow for a season. The next year the arrangement was
 about, and thus every field had its rotation of crops and its year of rest. These lands were divided among the tenants
in what seems now a strange fashion. They were marked off into strips, usually forty rods long and four rods wide, and
instead of a tenant's having a field to himself, he had a certain number of strips. Moreover, these were not together,
but were scattered about, one or two in a place. Even the lord's land was generally scattered in the same way.
The villeins were not allowed to leave the manor; and if it passed into the hands of another owner, they went with it as
much as the oxen or the houses. And even if a man wished to run away, where could he go? The whole country was divided
into manors. Each one had its own tenants, and there was seldom room for any new ones. There was no work by which one
could earn his bread. For a long while there was only one way by which a boy could escape from the manor life, and that
was by becoming a priest. If he wished to be a priest and showed that he had the ability, his lord had to let him go
Farm work was exceedingly hard in those days, for the implements were rude and clumsy. The ploughs, for instance, were
made of wood and were so heavy that eight oxen were needed to draw them. The manor life could not have been very
agreeable, but it had one great advantage, it was safe, for the lord was bound to protect his tenants, and in those days
of strife and disorder it was a great thing to have protection. Indeed, it often happened that for the sake of being
protected a free man would go of his own accord to some powerful noble and offer to become his vassal.
Between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries, many
 knights went on crusades, or warlike expeditions to try to rescue the Holy Land from the Mohammedans. These knights
wanted large sums of money, and they allowed many of their tenants to pay their rent in money instead of work. Sometimes
they would even let them have a piece of land. This made the villeins feel a little more independent; but until after
the battles of Crécy and Poitiers it did not occur to them that they were well able to protect themselves with their own
weapons. They had supposed that to be a good soldier one must have a horse and armor and be trained as a knight; but
these two battles were won by men who had no armor and no swords, but only their bows and arrows.
Two or three years after the battle of Crécy, a terrible disease known as the Black Death swept over the land. So many
villeins died that now a man could find plenty of work at good wages wherever he chose to go. Moreover, if he did not
wish to work on a manor, he could live in a city if he chose, for fine wool weaving had been introduced, and he could
easily earn his living as a weaver.
Thus, little by little the old way of living on manors was given up, and the feudal system gradually disappeared. In a
few places in Europe, however, the ground is still cultivated in great fields wherein each person holds one or more
strips; and in the little town of Man'heim, in Penn-syl-va'ni-a, there is some land that is held by a sort
of feudal tenure. It was given by a wealthy baron a century and a half ago as a site for a church, and the rental was to
be, as in the case of the land in Newcastle, "one red rose, payable in June, when the same shall be lawfully demanded."
Twice the baron asked for the rose, and then the old custom was forgotten until it was revived a few years ago. Now one
 every June is set apart for the payment of the rose to some descendant of the baron. There is always a pleasant little
celebration. Then, after the music and the addresses in the church, the people present all walk past the chancel, each
one laying down a red rose as he passes. The roses are afterward gathered up and carried to the sick folk in some
The granting of land. — The service of the vassals. — The early manor. — The payment made by the villeins. — The division of the
manor lands. — Difficulty in leaving the manor. — The effect of the crusades. — Of the battles of Crécy and Poitiers. — Of the
Black Death. — Survivals of the feudal tenure.
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