Snordwich Chronicles, XXIX: Leave-Taking

Matilda and Cecily are given the guest bed that night. Triston moves his bedroll into the main hall, and the boys take theirs upstairs to sleep near their parents.

In the morning, the family sees their guests off with a bottle of Plumville Purple and two little bundles of bread and cheese.

A little later on, Small Ralf makes his way home from Plumbob Hall.

He stops at the bakery to say hello to Tephna. She is happy to see him.

Her family are making Yacothian spiced buns for the second day of the Feast of the Watcher. They learned the recipe from Ralf’s master, and the boy knows it well enough, so he stays for a while to lend a hand.

Back at home, his mother serves Ralf’s favourite salad of cabbage and mint, along with individual fish pies, each cooked in a pan over an open flame.

The boys spend the afternoon playing catch. Mark easily outruns his older brothers.

On Friday, the family is invited to Henry and Beatrice’s home to celebrate the final day of the Feast of the Watcher.

After lunch, they take a walk to the riverbank. Richard loses no time getting in the water, while Ralf chases beetles and Mark plays quietly with Oriel.

The boys stay up late that night, telling stories and sharing secrets.

In the morning, the family once again bids Ralf goodbye. It may not be until harvest time that they see him next.

With the holiday season behind them, everyone returns to their usual business. Mark helps his mother groom Speckle.

Richard is sent to the parsonage, where Reviers gives him his weekly lesson. His education will not match that of a gentleman’s son, but he will learn enough letters and numbers to keep the brewery’s accounts and label the nectar bottles.

Later that morning, Tall Ralf rides through town. He is bringing sad news to Plumbob Hall: his master, his lordship’s old chaplain, passed away in the night.

He returns a few hours later looking quite overwhelmed. He takes a cup of Bishop’s Gold at the brewery to calm his nerves, and tells Henry what passed at the manor house.

When Lord Snordwich read out old Wereables’ will, Ralf heard himself named as one of the main beneficiaries. With no close family to endow, the chaplain divided his books among his friends, entrusted his savings to the village parson for the relief of the poor, and left most of his household goods to his faithful groom.

That would have been fortune enough, but then the great baron himself, anxious for the newly built house not to fall into disrepair, offered Ralf the lease on his late master’s lands.

There will be rent to pay, but he can grow vegetables, take honey from the hives that his master showed him how to tend, and offer bed and board to travelers. And he will at last be in a position to marry, and start the family he always wanted; in fact, there is a young widow in the neighbouring village that he has admired ever since he saw her at Havlock Hall. Ralf is resolved to be a good husband to her if she will have him, and a loyal tenant to Lord Snordwich.

He buys two rounds of the brewer’s finest Cranerlet for everyone in the room, and asks that they remember his kind master in their prayers.

Word of the young man’s good fortune quickly spreads through the village.

The next day at church, Parson Reviers honours Werables’ memory, praising his good judgement and sobriety.

He is laid to rest close to the church.

The villagers hardly knew the old chaplain, but Ralf is well liked among them, and they are all glad that he will continue to live near to the village.

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