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.
The Yates hold the wedding feast outside their house. Eda has loaned them her table; everyone else brings along a chair or two.
Margery dances all afternoon to Adam Baker’s fiddle.
The villagers celebrate midsummer’s eve on the green. Margery Yates is at the centre of the dance, having a wonderful time.
It is a special day for the family. Tomorrow her big sister Jaclyn is to be married to a man named Hugh, a tenant farmer from nearby Lockville.
As Lord Snordwich watches Roger and Matilda together, he thinks how ungainly his son looks next to his graceful wife. The boy has at least set aside that awful doublet he used to wear, but he looks so stiff and crooked.
Attending the young couple is Richard, Philip Clerinell’s only son.
Rikilde is Hugh Cotter’s wife now.
They were married shortly after her mother died. It was not ideal, to have a hurried little wedding so close to the funeral, but they both agreed it would help strengthen their bid for the guardianship of her little brother Robert.
They had worried that her sister’s husband Richard would challenge their suit, but he did not. Now she and Hugh will bring Robert up together, managing his inheritance for him until he is of age to claim it.
They first thought they might maintain two households, with Hugh, Robert and her in one cottage, and Hugh’s mother, sister and brother in the other, but in the end they decided it would be cheaper to keep everyone together under one roof.
The following morning, Ewfame and Hilith at last get some time to talk to Thomas. He assures them he is well, and shows them his favourite spot in the gardens. Things were too quiet here while the rest his lordship’s household were away in Advorton, he says, but now they have returned everyone is in high spirits. He and Sir Thomas’ son John take their supper together whenever it is not their turn to serve the high table, and they have become the best of friends.
Thomas has a wedding present for his sister, a piece of polished green jasper he bought from a merchant in Effenmont. If she keeps it close by her, it will bring her luck and good health. Hilith is touched by the gift.
On the morning of the wedding, Ewfame dresses her daughter in green silk and ties a flower in her hair.
They stop at the village church to hear the morning sermon before riding on to Plumbob Hall.