As they walk home from little Jaclyn’s naming feast, Geoffrey and Avice Baker talk about their future, and hope that they too will soon be blessed with a child. Geoffrey would welcome the help around the shop, and his ambitious wife has her sights set on a marriage tie with the well-respected Brewer family.
The couple live in a two-bay house like that of Jaclyn’s parents, but they have converted one of the rooms into a bakery. For this privilege they pay a special tax.
Behind the shop, Geoffrey keeps a small garden. In summer it gives him strawberries, raspberries and mint, and in autumn yields blackberries, plums, pears and apples. The family also raises chickens, to which Avice tends.
The Bakers’ day begins early. There are bread and pies to be baked before the first customers arrive.
Their loaves are mostly brown and dense, made from rye or wholewheat. The finer, lighter flours are too costly for the daily use of anyone but his lordships’s own cook.
It is not until the first three batches are cooling and a fourth is in the oven that Geoffrey and Avice sit down to eat.
Some of the village wives choose from the goods Geoffrey has on display, while others simply pay him for the use of his oven.
The third day of autumn is The Feast of the First Fruits. Right on time, Geoffrey’s first blackberries have come in.
The villagers all bring the first fruits of their land to church, where the parson blesses them, and leads a prayer to the Watcher for a bountiful harvest. Some of the blessed offerings Reviers will keep for his own use; the rest he will give as alms to the poor, sick, and needy.
After the service, he invites the congregation to the parsonage, where they sup on sweet, buttery plum pie.
Reviers is a generous host, supplying three bottles of fine nectar to go with the meal.
Unlike Lord Snordwich’s sober chaplain, the parson is always in a good humour. He has many stories to tell Geoffrey about his time at the university.
The supper does not run late into the night. The villagers need to get as much sleep as they can, for the following day the season’s real labour will begin.
Throughout the harvest time, they will all be expected to work hard to bring the baron’s crops in. Geoffrey rises long before the sun to have a little time to tend to his own plot.
By dawn, men and women alike are all at his lordship’s demesne, picking autumn fruits and vegetables.
Beatrice Yates works with her little girl strapped to her back. When the villagers break for lunch, she is grateful to sit and rest for a moment, while Goodman Fowler and Goodwife Brewer coo over the baby.
The lunch is wholewheat bread from Geoffrey and Avice’s oven.
Ralf brings two bottles of Black Friar from his master’s cellar, a special gesture from his lordship to mark the first day of the harvest. The young groom stays for a while to play with Henry and Beatrice’s daughter.
He tells Avice that he hopes his service at Plumbob Hall will eventually position him to provide for a family of his own.
The villagers appreciate his lordship’s gift.
But the nectar is too rich for Avice, who starts to feel unwell.
She pushes through the sickness and joins the others in the afternoon’s work.
This is the most tiring time of year, but the villagers enjoy one another’s company, and every evening Lord Snordwich will provide food and drink for them in his hall.
After their first supper there, Geoffrey and Avice ask the cook to show them his kitchen and bakery. He is in an ill temper, but Avice easily flatters him into agreeing.
As he gives them a tour of his work space, Humphrey warms to the couple, and eventually shares with Geoffrey a spiced bun recipe he learned in Yacothia.
Geoffrey and Avice sleep well that night, exhausted but with full bellies. In the morning, Avice discovers the cause of her previous’s day’s sickness: she is with child.
Before they walk to the fields, they call Goodwife Jardine in to examine her.
Both mother and baby seem in good health, and Avice manages to help bring in the harvest during every day of her pregnancy.
The Bakers’ friends are excited for them.
On Friday evening, Eda take Avice home to prepare for the arrival of her child, while the other villagers, excused throughout the harvest time from fasting, walk up to Plumbob Hall for supper.
A few hours later, Geoffrey returns home, where his wife in already in labour.
When the women send him out, he rouses Goodman Brewer and orders several cups of Snordwich Sunset to calm his nerves.
He eventually falls asleep on the dirt floor of the tavern, where he stays until the brewer’s wife wakes him with the news that Avice has been safely delivered of her child.
Geoffrey rushes home to find his wife holding a baby daughter.
The baker has little time to spend with them before he must leave again to take in the harvest. But after sunset, he hurries back without supper to play with his daughter. On Sunday, when work in the fields will cease for the day, Geoffrey and Avice will take her to church to see her blessed and named, and to show her to their neighbours.