As told by Prince Peter.
When Father came out of Mother's bedchamber I looked to see if he seemed better. I could tell from his face that he had wept and yet that he felt hope. I did not understand, but tried to keep my faith in my parents' love for each other. I saw Father call to a servant to bring some strong fellows to his own bedchamber. I know about the stairs, so I thought how wonderful it was if he wanted to move the armoire from their door. Mother has not seen his chamber since she came this morning. I wonder what she will think when she sees the big curtained bed is gone.
I hope no one was trying to rest or nap this afternoon, because there was such a lot of noise from all the preparations for tonight's feast! I could hear clanking and shouting from the kitchen, all the way in my own chamber. Other servants set up the trestle tables, and I saw them standing on each other's shoulders to put up bright colored banners and bunting that are only put up on High Holidays and state suppers. The minstrels and other entertainers were in the Great Hall as well, rehearsing and joking. Shannon saw me and gave me one of those winks I cannot tolerate. This time he means to say that my parents are, well, busy. I suppose if he saw Father going about as I did he may have thought twice about that.
It was such a racket in the keep that Brother Benedict bade me leave off my catechism and just come watch the excitement. I came down to watch the decorating of the Great Hall. Everyone kept pushing me out of the way, so I gave up and went to see what Father was doing. I found him in his chambers, in his bedchamber actually. He had set some menservants to moving the armoire out of the way, just as I suspected. He smiled at me when I came in. He saw my questioning look and just winked. I don't mind when he winks. It is not as disturbing as when Shannon does it.
I looked at his little camp bed. He laughed and said he would have to have another large bed made. In the meantime he said he could sleep in Mother's bedchamber or stay here if she wanted to be alone. I tried not to look disappointed. I would never have sad anything about it to him, but had hoped they were in Mother's bed going at it like rabbits. Well all in good time, I suppose.
Father seemed to have the arrangement of his chamber well in hand, so I decided to go see if Sir Percy needed my help with anything. I found him in the stable currying his mount. I asked if I could comb its mane and fetch water and he said yes. It was good to have hard work to do to keep my mind off worries and the excitement of the feast. Afterwards I went to the well and washed the smell of the horse and stable off me. I went to my chamber and dressed in my best clothes for the feast.
When it was time for the feast to begin I went to find Mother. She was in the nursery seeing to it the children were dressed and ready. Father was there as well, standing behind Mother with his arms around her neck and his face up against one side of hers. It was a nice thing to see. Every so often he would kiss her or whisper in her ear and she would smile or laugh. She looked so beautiful, so young. She wore a deep crimson gown with a gold snood that held her hair. I should have liked to see the medallion that Lady Juliana had taken around her neck, but at least Father himself was there! Around her neck, I mean.
I must admit the children looked pretty nice, especially the girls. They were as elaborately dressed as one of their dolls. They for once were not squabbling but were helping each other braid and arrange their hair. Tavish had his best tunic on, the one that makes him look like a Roman child. The nursemaid was holding Donalbain who was barefoot as usual.
We, the whole family I mean, went into the Great Hall together. Mother and Father went in first with Father holding Donalbain. The people who were already in the Great Hall made a loud, long sighing sound, like they had seen a swan inn flight. I guess they must be happy to see my parents like that too. After Mother and Father, Caitie and Lainie went in holding hands and then I, holding Tavish's. I was looking to see where the children and I were going to sit. I was so excited when I saw that we would be sitting at the high table! Mother sat in her chair - it was so wonderful to see her in it again after so long - and Father sat in his. He had me sit next to him, then Tavish and Elaine. Caithness sat near Mother with Donalbain between them. Uncle Lorin, Aunt Larisa and our little cousin John sat at the end. You could see that John was looking around at the colors and the lights. He looked like he was in Fairyland!
When we were all sitting the servants in their best livery came in and brought us bowls with rosewater to wash our fingers. Donalbain tried to lean into the bowl and lick the water like a dog. Other servants brought bread for us to put our food on. I took my dagger from my belt to eat with. There were already minstrels playing. I saw that Shannon and a piper were trying to be heard over the chatter of voices.
Before the feast really began, Father stood, holding his goblet in his hand. The voices quieted and the minstrels left off playing. Father looked down at Mother while everyone was looking at him. He raised his goblet to her and said loud enough for all to hear, "To my lady who hath brought the sunshine back to Christenlande!" He saluted her with his goblet and drank. Everyone else saluted and drank. I love what he said. Mother was called Sunshine when she was little. When Father calls her that it means he is really happy.
The food we ate was very special. After the bread trenchers were set down and wine poured servants brought sugared almonds and cucumber sliced and shaped into hearts. I saw Father and Mother feed one to each other. Father let me have wine without water in it, but he made me promise to make the goblet last all evening. The children had watered wine or mead. I don't think Tavish wanted ever to stop eating the almonds! There were also eggs that had been boiled and seasoned with mustard and some other spice I did not recognize.
The next thing the servants brought was cold salmon on fresh rosemary sprigs. There was a little bowl of sauce that you are supposed to dip your piece of fish in. It was delicious. With the fish there was cooked carrots with mint, some savory made with bread and raisins with cherries and horseradish. There were so many dishes I don't even remember them all even though the feast was just last night.
Then the centerpiece of supper was borne in on a huge tray. It was a whole swan, cooked and then the feathers put back on! Everyone gasped, it was so beautiful. The servanst brought the swan directly to Father. He presented it to Mother and then the servants took it to a side table to pluck and carve. Mother and Father got the first slices. With the platter of swan the tables had other dishes on them. There was a pork roast with a sweet, tangy sauce, chickens cooked in wine, mushrooms, a cabbage and quail stew, and cheeses. They also brought out apples and other fruit.
I did not think I could eat a single other thing until a servant brought in the sweet. It was a marchpane castle that looked just like this one. Donalbain demanded the banner that flew from the highest tower and Father gave it to him. The marchpane was rich and sweet. I thought I was going to burst. I had enough of my wine by then that I thought I would go to sleep, then burst.
It was time then for the food to be cleared away and nuts and fruit brought. Everyone turned to where Rory was standing. He gave a deep elegant bow and began to recite how happy everyone was that Mother is home, how she lights up and lightens everyone's heart. He was so eloquent I will admit to having almost wept. Then some musicians played while some people in costumes danced . There were two men and two women and they danced mostly with their feet, spinning and kicking their feet out towards each other. Sometimes they would do this in a circle around each other. It was very lively.
Next Shannon played his lute and sang. Lutes are very quiet so we all had to hold very still to hear it. I saw Mother look at Father and touch where his cheek had been broken by Shannon's lute. Other people saw and smiled and laughed. Father pretended to be offended. Shannon nodded his head to my parents as if he was bowing to them. He sang songs in his language that were kind of sad sounding but also very sweet.
Donalbain fell asleep in Mother's lap - I saw that Father had both his little feet in one of his hands to warm them - and Tavish was yawning, so Aunt Larisa took them and John to put them to bed. I saw Lady Jocelyn get up from near us and kiss Percy and leave. Both the ladies came back as Shannon was singing his last song.
Then Rory got up again and told one of his wonderful tales. This one was about the Lady of the Lake and how she imprisoned the enchanter Merlin in a tree. I saw Shannon make a funny face. I wonder if he does not like that story? Rory has a deep voice when he tells tales and it rumbles through the room, especially if he is talking about a dragon. I noticed that Erik was smiling while he listened to the story. He likes sagas and legends a lot and always asks Rory to tell one when he is here.
So everyone would not fall asleep, we then had some acrobats who also juggled. A piper played something really fast and it helped me clear my head a little. After that Shannon and Rory and some other singers sang some funny songs about frogs courting mice and other silly things. I was ready to go to bed when Shannon finished the entertainment with some love songs. You could hear ladies swooning and sighing all over the place. Oh brother!
When the feast was mostly over I saw Father lean over and whisper something in my mother's ear. She smiled and nodded and Father stood and told the company that he and his lady would retire. Some people made embarrassing noises. I wish they wouldn't do that. But Mother and Father just looked at each other and left the Great Hall holding hands.
I am writing this in the morning before most people are awake. I know that when the little children wake up they will go to Mother's room. She will invite them in and they will all get on the bed with her and Father. I will go join them. It will be so nice to see them there, my father sitting up against pillows and holding my mother while they both play with the children.
Next: After the feast
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com