It is Thursday morning when John Cecil sees his guests off. It has been a joy to spend time with old friends, and to see his and Sir Thomas’ households united in marriage.
He is 620 days old now. His own father passed away peacefully of old age at 640. But he refuses to walk with a stick, or to drink less on feast days, or to give up his weekly hunts. He does not want to think about what the family name might suffer when he is gone and Snordwich is left to his son Roger, still as awkward and ungovernable as ever.
But Roger and Matilda’s son Edmund gives Lord Snordwich some hope for his legacy. The boy excels at languages and letters, and especially at music. Whatever his tutors throw at him, he practices until he has it perfect.
A thin layer of snow coats the ground as Fabyan Cecil rides up to his father’s manor.
It has been almost a year since he was sent away to serve the Bishop of Crafthole. He is not looking forward to seeing his family again. His elder brother Roger will be irritable and oafish, and will taunt Fabyan with everything that he, their father’s first born, will one day inherit. Their father himself will be playing the generous host, showing more affection to the sons of the lesser gentry than to his own blood. He will have read Fabyan’s letters to him, but will not be pleased by anything in them.
Aelfgiva’s child is born on New Year’s morning. It is a girl, Aphra rushes out to tell them.
Richard and Aelfgiva have decided to call her Francis, in memory of his late mother.
Richard is besotted with the baby. Scooping her up in his arms, he declares her the loveliest little thing he ever saw.
After half a week of fasting, the great winter Feast of the Nativity has arrived. Richard walks back from the midnight sermon with little Sabina asleep in his arms.
It has been a special evening—first a hearty meal to break the winter fast, then a beautiful Nativity’s Eve service, with candles everywhere and all the best hymns sung. It was daughter’s first, and probably the first that her older brother James will remember.
His wife sat by his side, looking as radiant as ever. All of their neighbours had put on their best clothes, but whenever he glanced over at Aelfgiva he thought no other woman more beautiful than her.
As soon as the children are tucked up, he tumbles her into bed. She smiles and pulls him close. Everything feels right with the world.
On All Soul’s Eve, Rikilde asks Robert to take their nephew James out gathering soul cakes.
He finds the boy just where he expected, playing with the horses with his little sister Sabina.
Ewfame Grancourt ambles about the house in her mourning dress. Just yesterday she laid her husband of nine years to rest.
They were not close, Gilbert and she. They lived apart for half their marriage, and the other half she spent in fear of his disapproval. But without him she would not have had her name, her home, or her two beloved children. For those blessings she prays to the Watcher to show him grace.
Their son Thomas is master now. It makes Ewfame happy to see him, so much alike in looks her own dear father, at the centre of the table commanding everyone’s love and respect. Thomas is given to the same black moods that Gilbert had, but is easier to lift out of them. He is always full of praise for everyone and everything.
The first day of autumn brings heavy showers.
Tephna is relieved to have made it back from Lockville in time to keep an eye on her mother during the wet weather.