On the first day of spring, the Feast of the Candles is kept. This festival, associated with purification and renewal, is a busy one for Chaplain Wereables. After he has blessed his lordship’s demesne in preparation for the spring planting, he must return to Plumbob Hall to bless the candles that will be used in the coming year.
It is also a good day for spring cleaning. The sheets have been washed and tapestries have been aired, and Ralf the Groom is mucking out the stables.
Humphrey the Cook tends his little patch of summer fruits and herbs. He looks forward to the juicy strawberries and sweet, refreshing mint that will come in with the warmer weather.
Candles burn brightly throughout the manor all day. As they light them, the household members make wishes and resolutions. The day’s sermons emphasize the virtues of self-reflection and hopefulness.
Between sermons, Lord Snordwich practices his archery.
Postel is busy attending Lady Snordwich, as her own gentlewoman has been taken ill and confined to her chamber.
Supper that evening is boiled capons, crusty white bread, and prune pie. At the high table, an additional course of roast piglet and a thick, spiced nectar is served.
Dame Joan remains in her chamber, but by nightfall feels well enough to take a little of the pie filling spread over bread.
By morning, she understand the cause of her sickness.
The child she is expecting will not be the only new arrival. Around midday, a young gentleman and his groom ride up to Plumbob Hall. The gentleman is Segar Darcy, nephew to the Bishop of Gastrobury, whose letter of introduction he bears.
In the hall, the lunchtime service is already underway. The household staff know better than to interrupt this carefully choreographed routine for anyone less than a peer, so Darcy is ushered straight to the guest lodgings. But later in the afternoon, when Lord Snordwich is at leisure, the young man is summoned to the great chamber.
There, he gives an account of himself: he is the youngest son of a youngest son, without lands or title, but favoured by his powerful uncle, who intends for him to enter the church. In his letter, the bishop praises his nephew’s courtesy and good sense, and asks that all great lords and gentlemen treat him as they would the bishop’s own person. Darcy explains that his university education will not begin until the autumn, and that he hopes to see as much of the country as he can before then.
The baron sits his guest beside him at supper, and asks him to stay until at least Thursday, when he plans to hold an archery tournament to celebrate the Feast of Absolution.
Some of his lordship’s tenants are also in the hall that evening, having spent the day planting his autumn crops.
After supper, Lord Snordwich challenges Darcy to a game of chess with Dame Joan.
As usual, she wins.
They spend Wednesday playing gnubb.
Wereables has not improved.
With Joan now in the final stages of her pregnancy, Mistress Clerinell has been summoned to wait on Lady Snordwich.
The labour does not begin until the early hours of the morning. Sir Thomas busies himself with the horses.
The sun has almost risen by the time he lies down to sleep in his lordship’s antechamber.
Dawn brings glad news: his wife is in good health, and has been delivered of a little girl.
Her birth falls upon the Feast of Absolution, which precedes five days of fasting and prayer. Great and small alike are are encouraged to use the day to shrive their souls before the fast begins, but the festival also offers one last chance to play games and eat rich foods. As is his custom, Lord Snordwich has arranged to celebrate the day with an archery tournament.
Sir Thomas obtains his lordship’s leave to ride down into the village to search for a mother with a daughter almost weened to nurse his little girl. He finds the villagers on the green, keeping the festival with their own entertainments.
In Ros’ absence, Clerinell and Perroy emerge as the day’s best archers.
Perroy eventually takes the victory after several tie-breakers.
Evenfall brings a more penitential mood, as the household gathers in the chapel.
Darcy is eager to ask the chaplain about life in the church.
During supper, Sir Thomas presents his chosen nursemaid to the baron.
Beatrice is given a new set of clothes and led to meet her young charge.
She makes her bed beside the baby’s crib.
When Lord Snordwich is ready to retire to bed, he bids farewell to his guest with gifts and a warm embrace. Darcy will set out to continue his travels early the following morning.
Sir Thomas and Dame Joan name their daughter Marian. They ensure the ceremony is a modest one, partly to respect the season’s somber tone but mainly to avoid offending the as-yet childless Cecils. As it turns out, they have nothing to worry about: that very afternoon, Lady Snordwich’s belly begins to swell.
A chamber is made up for the birth of her child.
She is attended during her confinement by Dame Joan and Mistress Clerinell.
When her time approaches, Goodwife Jardine is called.
On Saturday evening, Rohesia is safely delivered of her baby – a little boy, and future Baron Snordwich.