Snordwich Chronicles, XVIII: Comings and Goings

Throughout the spring, Parson Couer is at Havlock Hall every day to teach Thomas and Hilith to read and write.

They will not stay at home for long. Later this summer, Hilith will be sent to a convent to further her education, and their father hopes to have Thomas taken into Lord Snordwich’s service. While they are still with their parents, the children wait on them at lunch and supper, carrying plates and reciting short verses they have learned.

But between their lessons and these other duties, they are allowed time to play.

It is the second Monday of spring, and the children must be on their best behavior, as their father has guests: the Advorton lawyer Mace Rostand, along with his wife Alice and little boy Simon. The Rostands are on their way to Crafthole to spend the Feast of the Watcher with their parents, and to see the pageants the town guilds perform on the final day.

Supper that evening is a fish stew with spring buns, humble fare but served in generous portions. Grancourt is eager to hear details of the route his guests will take to Crafthole—and to suggest improvements to it.

After they have eaten, Rostand quizzes Thomas about his reading while Hilith shows Simon her toys.

The women walk together in the garden by the fading evening light. Ewfame is anxious after her many social mishaps, but something about Alice’s calm, open manner puts her at ease.

When the family departs the following morning, the women exchange promises to write to one another.

Gilbert rides with his guests as far as Plumville to show them the famed thunderstone.

He would gladly see them all the way to town, but he has already made plans for the Feast of the Watcher. That night and the next he will host his friends the Clerinells, and on Thursday both their households have been invited to lunch with Sir Thomas at Plumbob Hall. Mace proposes a solution: if the Grancourts will ride on to Crafthole after their engagement with Sir Thomas, they will arrive in plenty of time to see Friday’s pageantry and will be made most welcome in the Rostand family home.

Satisfied with the arrangement, the company sits down to lunch in the tavern before they go their separate ways.

Gilbert had been content in his friend’s company, but now he is left alone he feels a black mood again upon him. He takes the long way home through the woods to clear his head.

He finds his wife reading to the children.

The moon is high in the sky by the time their visitors arrive. They are Philip Clerinell, his wife Griselda, their two eldest daughters Alice and Beatrice, and their groom John. Adam opens the gate to the guests and has William show John where to stable the horses, while he takes the family to their beds.

Grancourt and his wife are already asleep, but the following morning Gilbert rises early to speak with Adam in the kitchen. He wants everything perfect for his guests, and has an exacting series of questions to ask about the meal he has instructed the boy to serve to celebrate the first day of the Feast of the Watcher: nectar-braised pigeon, fine white bread, candied ginger, and the last of the autumn’s plum jam.

He had hoped to hunt with Philip Clerinell between church and lunch, but heavy rain sends the household hurrying home after the morning service.Gilbert complains to his wife about the weather.

Ewfame does not know what to say to soothe her husband, but Philip lifts his  spirits with his lively conversation.

Thomas Grancourt is very much his father’s son, amiable among friends but prone to fits of melancholy. Today he is in a good humour, and plays happily with Alice, Beatrice and his sister.

Alice has already spent a little time at the convent to which Hilith will be sent. She explains that there are several gentlemen’s daughters in the care of the sisters, who teach them to teach them writing, embroidery and devotion. Alice enjoys the sewing especially, and often receives praise from the prioress for her needlework.

The rain keeps the children indoors all morning, but to everyone’s relief the skies have cleared by lunchtime.

The weather stays dry for the rest of the afternoon, and the gentlemen are able to ride out hunting.

Griselda Clerinell plays two games of gnubb with the children.

Alice knocks over the king both times. Hilith cheers for her new friend.

The following day, both families ride out to Plumville. Sir Thomas gives them a warm welcome in the manor house’s great hall. Most of the household are away, attending the naming feast of the Earl of Effenmont’s daughter, and the knight has been left to keep hospitality in his lordship’s name during the festive season. For several days now, he has enjoyed only the elderly Chaplain Wereables’ company at table, so he is especially happy to see his friends and their families.

Since the hall is quiet, Sir Thomas allows all the children to sit quietly at the end of the high table with a whole cannon of lamb to share.

He places the chaplain next to Ewfame, knowing that she likes to hear about the books he has been reading.

With half a day’s ride still ahead of them, the Grancourts cannot stay long after lunch. While William and John ready the horses, the children say goodbye to one another. Thomas and Hilith are loathe to leave their new friends, but excited to see the pageants.

Gilbert and Ewfame have left Adam in charge of Havlock Hall while they are away. The young cook spends most of Thursday tending to his garden. The spring cabbages and mint have already come in, and in a few days he will have cucumber and strawberries as well.

He tucks sprigs of mint inside the pillowcases to sweeten the chamber air for his master’s return.

On Friday, Adam visits his sister and nephew to celebrate the final day of the Feast of the Watcher.

Margery’s husband died shortly after after her return from Havlock Hall,  leaving her to run their farm until Hugh is old enough to take up the lease. She tells her brother that she managed to make it through the spring planting well enough, with a little hired labour from the village.

Before he leaves, Adam gives his sister a little coin to help her through the rest of the year.

On Saturday, he is busy in the house again. He does not expect the family back until late, but his master will want the fireplaces lit, bathwater ready, and hot food on the table when he arrives.

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