Hilith Grancourt is back home, her education at the convent complete. She and her mother sew and read together; when the weather is fair, they swim in the lake.
They used to come here when she and Thomas were little, her mother tells her. Hilith does not remember it, though the deep feeling of calm the water brings her does seem strangely familiar.
By midsummer’s eve, Beatrice is ready to receive guests at home. The baker’s wife and daughters are making a strawberry tart to take to her. They combine fresh red berries with egg yolks and the crumbs of yesterday’s bread, then bake the mixture in a pastry shell.
The baby seems to be doing well.
The villagers are on the green when the news comes. It is the first of summer, but there will be no dancing today. Tephna, shaken by what she has seen, cries on Jaclyn’s shoulder.
Gradually, they disperse to houses about town. The baker and his family go with Henry and Beatrice to their home. Beatrice gives Tephna a cup of spiced wine and puts her to bed.
Marian Ros awakes on Friday morning barely rested.
Last night at the feast, Sir Vincent Le Roux asked her father for her hand. They negotiated it all then and there, over spice-stuffed pastries, plover pie, and what seemed like gallons of Black Friar. Marian has not had time to think about it, and does not now: in the great chamber, her ladyship has another piece of news.
Sitting at his own wedding feast, Roger is still surprised to find himself a married man. This is not how things were meant to go. His wife Matilda was chosen for him by his father, a noble bride to carry on the Cecil line. Last week Lord Snordwich came to watch his lessons, and at the end of his visit made it clear that during the celebrations he did not expect his son to try to dance or shoot, or do any other thing so poorly as to bring shame upon the family.
Roger, though, gave up trying to please his father a long time ago. Defiantly, he plotted to dishonour him by publicly refusing to accept his choice of bride. Yet when he saw her, shining bright in Howard green and gold, his courage failed him and he spoke his vows.
Matilda and he will not live together as man and wife until she is old enough to bear his children safely. Perhaps that is for the best, Roger reflects, since he can’t even get up the nerve to talk to her. Last night they walked quietly together in the gardens with her brother Sir Jacquemon, but Roger’s mouth was all dry and he almost tripped over his own feet.
Getting nervous all over again, he turns his attention to the dishes before them. He thinks he will like the herring best—boiled in something red, probably nectar—but his mother sends word from the other side of the table for him not to neglect the meat. She is still trying to make a man of him, he thinks with irritation, and has Alberic Roussel heap still more of the fish onto his plate. He can follow through on this small act of rebellion at least.
He looks out over his father’s hall, packed full of guests.
Ralf never imagined the spring penitence could be such a busy time. Though the food coming out of the kitchen is suitably humble—mostly fish, greens, and spring buns—there are more mouths to feed than there have been at any of the great feasts.
In addition to the newly arrived party of knights and squires, since Sunday there has been a constant stream of lesser visitors: messengers from far off lords; merchants with rare spices to sell; minstrels on the lookout for new patronage; even beggars from neighbouring villages, who know how generous the alms at noble weddings are.
He is glad to have Peter to help; the boy certainly seems to pick everything up fast.
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.