Snordwich Chronicles, LXXVIII: Aphra’s Answer

Aphra had not expected Robert’s offer. When they were playing with their nieces and nephew, or pulling up carrots in his lordship’s fields, she never dreamed he was thinking of marrying her. Now she turns the idea over and in her mind, trying to find an angle that will make everything click into place, and show her what answer she should give.

Robert is a sweet boy, a touch meek, but kind and careful. He is a hard worker too; she knows he will tend his little patch of land with love, and make it flourish. Though it is one of the smallest in the village, and though the cottage that sits upon it has fallen into disrepair, the copyhold will be securely his, and his son’s after him. An inheritance like that, however meager, means everything in Plumville.

Aphra sees how much her own brothers are struggling, thanks to the eldest’s wastefulness. She thinks they might be glad to have her off their hands. And Robert would expect less of a dowry from them than would a wealthier man. Not that any other man has made an offer to her. No, Robert’s is the best that she and her family are likely to receive.

But, for all this, the truth is that Aphra has no wish to marry. She likes her life as it is. Each day, she feeds and brushes the horses, animals she has adored since she was a girl. She talks to her brothers as often as she likes and can be there for Richard’s children when they need her. When she wants to be alone, she can usually find a little corner somewhere in the house’s three rooms and ample portion of land.

It would be quite a different story in Robert’s one-room cottage. She does not want to trade everything she has for a life with him there; or her nieces and nephew, known and loved, for the nameless, faceless children she might bear him.

Aphra nevertheless feels she should tell her brother Mark about Robert’s proposal. Though he is the youngest of them, save for her, he is also the most level-headed. She knows he will give her honest advice. She could never rest easy with herself if there was a way to help her family that she did not take.

She waits until their eldest brother Richard is busy with his friend Gilbert. Richard never says no to anything. He would give her away as freely as a bottle of Farmer’s Gold.

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Snordwich Chronicles, LXXVII: With the Cotters

Since his mother passed away, young Robert Fowler has been living with his sister Rikilde, her husband Hugh Cotter, and Hugh’s sister Emma. Hugh and Rikilde are both kind and patient, but Emma has a sharp tongue she loves to turn against Robert. She calls him a coward, and a burden on her family.

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Snordwich Chronicles, LXXII: Something Borrowed

Everyone comes out to watch when the noble folk ride away. Some of the grown ups mutter amongst themselves. It is never good for the village for his lordship’s entire household to be from home.

For at least one person, though, the bad news is softened by good. Tephna will at last be able to marry her sweetheart Ralf, who has been placed on leave until the winter.

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Snordwich Chronicles, LXXI: Granting Wishes

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.

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Snordwich Chronicles, LXX: Return to Plumbob Hall

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.

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