Snordwich Chronicles, XXX: Unexpected Arrivals

The first day of summer brings a heavy rain.

The wet weather keeps the villagers from holding their feast on the village green. Instead, they bring their chairs and food to the brewery.

Mark feels cheerful surrounded by so many friends.

Some of the grown ups exchange love tokens. William gives his wife a bouquet of yellow roses.

The rain continues all afternoon.

When it finally stops, everyone is glad to step outside into the fresh air. By the last light of the day, they get their summer pole up, and the children dance to Geoffrey’s fiddle.

Most of the week that follows keeps to the usual rhythms of summertime. Henry’s grapevines have shot out green leaves, and need weeded and watered each day. Richard is easily distracted from the work, but his little brother seems to labour with the speed and strength of a full grown man.

In the afternoons, the boys usually swim in the river.

The family eats cucumber and cabbage with bread fresh from the baker’s oven.

On some days, the village boys have fish to sell.

So much cold salad and wet fish might be a health risk in the cooler months, but in summer the chances of catching a chill are slim.

On Wednesday, the Parson Reviers comes to bless their crops, and to ask the Watcher for a fruitful harvest that autumn.

The rest of the day is meant to be spent in quiet meditation and works of charity, but the boys sneak out to play with the baker’s daughters Tephna and Oriel.

Their mother is furious with them when they get back. She threatens to send them to bed without supper, but, when her eldest casts his big golden eyes up at her in contrition, she softens and promises them each a little boiled fish.

The boys are on their best behaviour over the next couple of days. Most of Thursday passes without event, but in the evening a group of strangers, richly dressed, ride through the village. Children run out of their houses to see them pass by.

Richard and Mark excitedly speculate about the noble folk with their friend Gilbert and his little sister Kinborough.

Another storm comes that night. Francis is up late with a turning stomach that has her running out into the rain to vomit.

Rain and thunder continue into the next day. The plants, at least, will not need watered, but neither Richard nor Mark appreciate being cooped up all day with little to do. Richard would rather be down by the rather and Mark would rather be running through the fields, but eventually they get absorbed in a game about sea monsters.

Francis, still feeling unwell, sends Triston to fetch Eda, who agrees with her own assessment: she is with child.

Eda soon has to leave to prepare her family’s lunch, but she promises to return on Sunday afternoon, or earlier if she is needed. Francis gives her a bottle of nectar in thanks.

By bedtime, Francis is doubly sure of her condition, and shares the happy news with her husband. They both wish for a fourth boy.

Over lunch on Saturday, she explains to Richard and Mark that they will soon have another sibling.

Richard is fascinated by his mother’s swollen belly. He cannot remember Mark’s earliest days, so he is eager to see what the newborn baby will look like.

Mark has lots of questions for their father about exactly how the Watcher blesses parents with children.

On Sunday morning, Henry takes Richard and Mark to church. His lordship’s guests are there, and are addressed by the parson as lords and ladies of Burdley.

After church, he takes the boys to play by the river. The baby is due today, and it would be too difficult to keep his sons from their mother’s side.

The boys play a game in the water. They are both wizards, bending the elements to their wills.

Their father sits quietly on the grassy bank, looking worried. Richard and Mark do not understand: a baby can surely only be a happy thing.

While they are out, Triston minds the brewery. Tall Ralf stops to buy some nectar for his wedding feast. His offer has been accepted, and he and his betrothed plan to marry on midsummer’s eve outside her village church.

Around supper time, Eda emerges from the back room with good news: Francis has been delivered of a little girl, and both mother and baby are in good health. She tells Triston to run to fetch the brewer and his boys.

Henry is relieved to see Francis looking so well.

Their daughter has Henry’s brown eyes and few whisps of aubern hair. Francis tells the boys that they plan to call her Aphra.

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