The baroness is sitting in the nursery with her handmaid Marian, watching her three youngest play together.
Aldiytha is full of energy, but little Linyeve seems to prefer sitting quietly with her brother as he gravely explains the order of precedence among her dolls—one a duke’s daughter, another a marchioness.
As the afternoon draws on, Linyeve starts to yawn, and her nurse asks permission to put her down for a nap. The sun is still shining outside, so Lady Snordwich decides to take her other children for a walk in the gardens before evensong.
Marian seems cheerful. She must be looking forward to seeing her family at the wedding feast.
They all need to be on their best behaviour this week, Rohesia reminds the children. Snordwich’s most honoured knights and gentlemen will arrive on Tuesday evening, ready to welcome Lord Effenmont’s bridal party the following day. After that, other great men will no doubt come to wish the couple well.
She is not so worried about Marian, who always spares a thought for what is proper before she says or does anything; her own children, though, are another matter. That night in her chamber, she asks her handmaid to keep a careful eye on her daughter in the days that follow, and especially to stop her from running off. Aldiytha is a good girl really, never wilfully disobedient, but she sometimes forgets herself. She has, perhaps, too great a part of her father’s boldness, as her brothers have too little.
The next day, the knights and squires that owe her husband homage come to Plumbob Hall with their sons. Their wives and daughters will join them on Thursday for a day of feasting. First to arrive is Sir Thomas. Rohesia’s son is by his side, dressed in the Cecil family colours, white and dark gold.
She and her husband both rise to welcome Roger home.
Sir Thomas smiles to see the reunion. When they have each embraced the boy, he ushers forward his own son John, dark-eyed like his mother and barely old enough to ride. The child looks up in awe at his great namesake, as Sir Thomas proudly tells Lady Snordwich that John is a gifted singer. She will hear him every day they are together, she promises.
Clerinell comes next, beaming with joy. After he has made the due obeisance, he explains that his wife is with child again. This will be their sixth, but he feels more sure than ever of a boy.
It is almost suppertime when the last of the days’ guests arrive: Sir Vincent Le Roux, his brother Ansellus, and his squire Simon, clothes all dyed black in mourning for Sir Vincent and Ansellus’ late father. With them is Simon’s father, Sir Geoffrey Bonel.
At supper, Lady Snordwich has Grancourt seat Sir Vincent by her side. She last saw him as Sir Geoffrey’s squire, and was struck even then by what a fine young man he was. He loved to fish and hunt and run, danced with vitality and grace, sung like an angel.
She has planned for a while now to see this paragon wed to her handmaid Marian. She is uncertain sometimes, wonders whether he means to aim even higher than a fellow knight’s daughter—for if Sir Vincent has a fault, it is ambition. But surely once he sees how fair Marian is, how charming, and how high in the Cecils’ esteem, he will gladly take her as his wife.
After they have eaten, the baroness asks Sir Vincent to walk with her and her girls in the garden. It has been a long time since he was last her husband’s guest, but he tells her that the seasons passed have left no mark upon her.
She has been sick, she says; dead, but for the Watcher’s grace. He knew and would have come to her then—to her lord husband, that is—but his father needed him too much.
She asks him how things have been since they lost him. Difficult, Sir Vincent admits; Ansellus has pulled away from him and can only sleep in fits and starts. Before their father’s death, his brother had been studying at the university in Effenmont, but all that has been put on hold now. Might it not help his brother to go back, Rohesia asks. Maybe using the gifts the Watcher has given him would help him find himself again.
The young knight looks uncertain, but he thanks her graciously for her wisdom. Their conversation then turns to happier subjects, and Rohesia has a chance to propose the intended match. She mentions that Marian is eldest daughter to Sir Thomas Ros, whom Sir Vincent knows and respects, as do all Snordwich knights. The girl had something of a temper as a child, she explains, but applied herself as diligently to the correction of that fault as she did to her music and dancing. She would make a fine wife for a man like him. Perhaps, Lady Snordwich gently suggests, he would like to catch her up and talk with her.
Though clearly surprised, Sir Vincent quickly composes himself. He stares steadily at Rohesia for what cannot possibly be as long it feels.
At last, he breaks the silence, saying that her favour is all the proof he needs of the girl’s worth. As they walk on, he is all probity and grace, his voice as musical as ever, but there is something cold about him that was not there before.