Snordwich Chronicles, XIII: Brewing Season

The next morning, Henry Brewer asks after Elvina. Robert tells him that she is in good health, after having given birth to a baby girl.

The villagers continue to take in the autumn harvest. While the adults labour, Henry Yates’ daughter Jaclyn looks after the younger children.

On Tuesday, Elvina is back in fields, with her infant, Rikidle, strapped to her back. They have both already received their blessings, from Parson Reviers in the Fowlers’ little cottage. Over lunch, Francis asks to hold Rikidle.

Juliana would like to hold her too, but she and her husband both caught a chill from the wet weather the previous week, and she does not want to pass it on to little girl.

But her caution does not keep the sickness from spreading through the village. On Wedensday morning, Francis wakes up full of aches and phlegm.

Later in the day, she feels a churning in her stomach.

At supper she cannot bring herself even to touch the poached goose and sweet nectar served to celebrate the final day of harvest.

But when she starts to crave more bitter, acrid foods, Francis realizes that, while she may have caught the Cotters’ chill, the feeling in her belly has a different cause: there is a baby growing there. Back at home, she shares the news with her husband.

With the harvest time behind them, the villagers come together to celebrate the Feast of the Angels. The church is decorated with autumn flowers and fresh fruit.

After the sermon, they dance and bob for apples outside the tavern.

The baker brings pies full of plump blackberries and pears, but for Francis the highlight of the feast is a shoulder of beef, which has hung all morning by the open fire. She hopes that the meat’s dry, smoky warmth will help drive the cold, wet catarrh out of her lungs before her child arrives.

The harvest is in and the leaves are falling from the trees, but work at the brewery is nowhere near done. Now the grapes, apples, and plums from Henry’s garden must be turned into bottles of crisp Green Dragon and sweet Snordwich Sunset.

Henry is kept busy with customers eager for a hard-earned rest.

Francis finds odd moments here and there to play with the children, while she waits for her nectar to brew.

By the afternoon her phlegmy cough is gone, but Richard has started to sneeze and sniffle. Francis puts him to bed early.

The baby is due to arrive on Friday evening. Juliana is also with child, and expected to deliver around the same time. Since Eda needs to attend to them both, she invites them to make themselves comfortable in her home.

When the two women both go into labour, the Jardines’ cow comes to investigate the commotion.

Eda’s husband brings good news to the tavern, first to Henry and a little later to John. Both their wives are well, and have been delivered of their babes: a boy for Francis and a girl for Juliana. The fathers happily embrace one another.

Francis stays the night at Eda’s but in the morning she brings her son home.

She stays upstairs with him all through the day. Avice brings Jaclyn and Tephna to see the baby, with a gift of blackberry jam for Francis.

On Sunday, Francis and Juliana take their children to church to be given their names – Mark and Emma.

The naming feast is held at the tavern. Everyone enjoys cheese, vegetables and pie, washed down with generous servings of last year’s best nectar.

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