On the first day of summer, the villagers gather on the green for a communal meal.
Next to the makeshift dining tables, they have erected a tall pole, covered with flowers, leaves and ribbon. Geoffrey plays the fiddle while the others dance and sing.
Eager for her son to hear the villagers’ music, Rohesia Cecil has ridden down from Plumbob Hall with her women.
Joan allows Beatrice to spend a little time with her daughter.
Henry gives her a bunch of wildflowers he has gathered for her.
They are not the only couple to exchange such tokens.
Jaclyn and Tephna get to know Robert and Elvina’s daughter Aelfgiva.
When the sun starts to sink low in the sky, Geoffrey and Avice take the girls home. The bakery will reopen the following morning.
They rise early to bake the day’s bread. Jaclyn and Tephna play near Avice’s skirts as she works.
The two girls have come to love one another like sisters.
Tephna is still nursing, but Jaclyn has moved on to bowls of bread, mashed up with a little milk.
As they grow steadier on their legs, they start to explore around the house.
Caring for two infants night and day proves to be quite a challenge.
Jacylyn’s father still sups with the family most evenings.
Sometimes, he and Geoffrey follow up the meal with a drink at the tavern.
With the big autumn harvest just two weeks away, everyone’s thoughts are on their crops. On the first Wednesday of summer, called Exhortation Day, the parson leads a procession from field to field, blessing the plants and humbly asking the Watcher to forgive the villagers’ excesses and grant them a fruitful harvest.
After the procession and following sermon are over, men and wives are encouraged to spend the rest of the day in quiet contemplation, fasting and prayer.
By allaying their anxieties about the coming autumn, the rituals grant the villagers the peace of mind to enjoy the first crop of summer fruits and vegetables, which by Friday morning, are at last ready to be harvested.
Henry arrives tired and sweaty for supper, bringing with him a gift vegetables from his garden. As usual, Friday is a fast day, with no meat or eggs allowed, but after two long seasons of pickles and preserves, the stew of fresh onions, mint and garlic that Avice serves seems more wholesome than any holiday feast.
Even sweeter treats are soon to come. On Saturday morning, Geoffrey and Avice start to bake their ripe strawberries and raspberries into light, crumbly pasty crusts.
Over the next few days, the bakery is full of wives eager to buy the summer pies.
Their children – Jaclyn, Tephna, Aelfgiva, John Cotter’s boy Hugh, and the brewer’s twins Richard and Ralf – share their toys and laughter, forming bonds that the villagers hope will tie the community together for years to come.