The summer sun beat down on Mildred as she and the boys harvested more grass for hay and straw. She was getting older, and it was harder and harder to manage these kinds of labor, and have energy left to clean, cook, garden, sell hay and herbs, and serve as midwife. Most of the work fell to Mildred, with both Marigold and Gertrude now married and moved to their own homes. Marigold’s mother and Mildred’s sister-in-law, Ella, could not be counted on to help although she would play with the boys, or help sell herbs, and sometimes, even care for the herb garden. When their husbands, who were brothers died and widowed them, Mildred had hoped that the two women could help each other along, or, perhaps Ella would remarry and her husband would help. Ella was not interested in farm work, or marriage, it seemed. Mildred had been training Ella as a midwife, but she worried that Ella’s temperament was not suited to the work or the nurturing needed, so she wondered who would take it up when she could no longer do it.
Gertrude, Mildred’s daughter who had married the taverner, Giles, came by to help as she could. The boys were always glad to see their sister, and followed her whenever she was around. Marigold had moved further away, to the Vale, where she and her husband were fishers. Mildred hoped to see Marigold again for the summer solstice, at the Henge.
Although the boys couldn’t be midwives, they were growing like weeds, and would soon be old enough, and hopefully, mature enough, to take more responsibility with other work.
Despite Mildred’s warnings that they could suffer difficulties if their neighbors wish them ill, Ella continued to generate gossip. Although the gentry did not often frequent the village green, others noticed Ella’s flirtations, and as word spread, her reputation suffered. Already, Ella had caused tension between the Forrester family and Mildred’s. Eva Forrester made a point to come by the cottage each and every morning, to stomp and glare at Ella.
One morning at the well, Mildred noticed that her son, Bentley, and Lora Forrester seemed to be getting along quite well, though. Of course, a match between Lora and one of her sons had crossed her mind; it seemed obvious to consider both Lora Forrester and Hadley Gothard for her sons to marry, although there were other possibilities among Hilda Berry’s orphans. As far as Mildred knew, none of the girls who her sons might marry had dowries, and Mildred had accepted that was going to be the way things would be. She was grateful that as many young people as did, survived the plague. Mildred was a little more predisposed towards Hadley Gothard, who seemed like she had a good head on her shoulders, but she had nothing against Lora Forrester.
While Bentley and Lora chatted, Mildred and Zelda decided to see if Ella would listen to their counsel if they approached her together. Zelda was also concerned about the need for a woman to carry the role of Healer, and although Hilda was also learning some of the art, Ella was younger and could carry the knowledge for the younger women longer. Zelda pleaded with Ella, to avoid conflict with peasant families, and the judgement of the gentry, so that she could serve the community.
As if to prove their point, their conversation was interrupted Rhett Forrester, yelling at Ella in front of everyone.
He was angry that she had betrayed him with another man. Mildred thought that was rich, coming from a man who betrayed his wedded wife. She went home to begin to sell hay, straw, and herbs.
The Wise families’ nearest neighbor, the Gothards, needed lots of hay for their goats, to survive the winter. Traditionally, the Wise family supplied their hay, in exchange for milk, and occasional meat when the Gothard’s slaughtered a goat. When Hadley came to talk with the family about this years’ supply, she was met by Haylan. Haylan and Hadley had similar temperaments, Mildred had observed. Both were quiet and observant, unlike Bentley, who was outgoing, and sometimes, brash.
Mildred took over from Haylan to talk with Hadley about the hay. Hadley was distressed, because the goats were still not yielding any milk.
Mildred knew that the Gothards were still barely surviving the aftermath of the war and plague. Hadley’s father, Red, died in battle and left her mother a widow with a baby and a girl without a dowry. In the spring, someone had stolen one of their goats, and the herd was further depleted by paying rent and tax and tithe. Mildred offered to store plenty of hay for the Gothards and let them come get it as they needed it. They could continue to help each other out, she told the girl, who looked worried.
While Mildred was talking with Hadley, Ella had been helping the Captain of the Guard decide how much hay to take for the war horses. Mildred hoped they would give a fair price for the hay. If not, she would appeal to the squire.
As the sun began to set, Mildred closed up shop, but Bentley continued to chat and joke with a young woman Mildred had never seen before, who had come to buy herbs.
She left, but Lora Forrester was next. Bentley was popular, it seemed. Mildred could hear them flirting and laughing, just outside the cottage window as she prepared supper. Her son was bragging to Lora about his skills in fighting.
When the sun had dropped behind the mountains, she heard the girl tell her son that she could beat him at axe throwing, and dared him to come with her to the mid-summer faire. Mildred told them to be careful of charlatans and thieves, and sent them off together.
While Haylan slept, and Bentley was gone, Mildred brewed a reagent of newt eyes, and Ella pored over the family spellbook. Mildred wasn’t sure what she was searching for, but she did not think that learning more spells would help Ella’s situation. In Mildred’s opinion, Ella needed foresight and discernment, not magic.
As the summer continued, Haylan and Bentley took more responsibility. They cut and baled all the hay, and did most of the work of selling it. Meanwhile, no matter how many times she was redirected, Ella was more likely to be found flirting with someone behind a haystack than working. Mildred didn’t know what arrangements Ella might have, other than living with Mildred, but she was becoming more and more convinced that she could not stay here indefinitely. Perhaps she could move in with her daughter, Marigold.
One evening just before the solstice, Mildred decided it was time to talk with Ella about other living arrangements. She would not throw her out, and she knew Ella would not be able to move immediately, but with the boys growing up, and soon to take wives, a new generation would soon take over the farm and she needed to plan ahead. Mildred wanted the family’s path to be clear of things that might trip them up, as much as possible. She foresaw that things were only going to continue as they were, or worsen, with Ella.
Ella was surprised, but did not argue. In fact, she laughed it off. Mildred explained that it would free both of them to live more as they saw fit, and that she wished Ella well. She had planned to discuss options with Ella, like visiting Marigold in the fall, but instead, Ella walked away, and ended the conversation.
On the evening of the summer solstice, the family went to the Henge to celebrate with the other followers of the goddess. As the sun set, a warm rain began to fall. Bentley greeted Giles, his new brother-in-law, who said he would not stay all night if the rain was going to continue.
Continue to rain, it did. Ella looked miserably at the mound of wood, ready for the bonfire, as the rain drenched it.
But the Wise family were devoted, and they did not leave the henge. Zelda, Daralis, Gertrude, Marigold, and Mildred sat on the wet stone and chatted about Gertrude and Marigold’s new lives. The boys stomped in puddles, and Ella wandered over the edge of the cliffs.
Just before midnight, the rain stopped, and light, warm breeze started. Those who remained were able to ignite the bonfire.
Daralis’ betrothed, James, joined the group. The roaring fire dried their clothing and hair as they basked in the light and warmth.
Ella looked into the flames, and Mildred wondered if she could see her future any better than Mildred could.
Eva Forrester seemed at peace and there were no harsh words between her and Ella.
When the dawn was near, Gertrude sat with her Aunt Ella. Mildred wondered, and supposed Gertrude, a new bride, was gleaning what she could from Ella’s knowledge of romance. Although Gertrude had no interest in midwifery, Mildred had taken care that her daughter understood sex, and carrying and delivering a baby. She suspected Gertrude was more curious about the nature of a man’s heart, now that she was forging a relationship with her new husband.
Meanwhile, Haylan found Hadley and tried to cheer her up. He knew his brother was interested in girls, now, but he just wanted to see Hadley smile, and laugh.
Bentley and Lora were close by Hadley and Haylan. Under the full moon, Bentley reached to Lora, pulled her close, and gave her a kiss.
The two really seemed to get along, Mildred thought. Perhaps it would be best to go with the flow, and let Bentley marry her. But which twin should inherit the house and farm, she wondered. In her heart, she would like to have a daughter-in-law at the house who would continue the healing tradition, she thought. She did not know if Lora would, nor had she been impressed with Lora’s work ethic, as she had with Hadley’s.
As sometimes happened at the Henge, sometime after the fire died down and in the dark before the dawn, Hadley lost her inhibitions, pulled off her clothing, and ran through the night. No one thought much of it; Mildred noticed and wondered if the solstice celebration had freed the girl of her burdensome worries.
Morning was near. Everyone hoped first light would never come. With it, the nights would begin to lengthen, and warn that the ease and warmth of summer soon would cease.
The Wise family paid $1550 in taxes, tithes and rent, and I need to go back and have them pay $100 more for Marigold’s marriage. That brings the treasury to $39,000 (after the $100). $1000 to go till time to build the convent. Sometimes I feel like this summer round will never end. I like building and adding families but it sure has taken a while!
The Forrester family is next on the schedule. I did not have Mildred talk to any of the other parents about marriage negotiations, since Bentley and Haylan are males and they just turned teens on day 3. Males married at a later age than females in the middle ages. However, in the fall, I think she would seriously look at betrothals, whether one developed or not. That gives a little time for Hadley’s star-crossed romance with Brodie to either be discovered publicly or resolved, perhaps, and to see what happens with Lora and Bentley, as well as to allow the Berry orphans to age up and see what happens there for a bit. I don’t see Mildred holding Hadley’s relationship with Brodie against her personally, but I could see her thinking it ill-advised to have Haylan marry her when she loves another man.
I would like to start “training” a midwife as a young teen because it takes time to build the skill necessary to be a decent midwife, according to the Warwickshire guidelines. Hadley has the most skills, between her and Lora.
I am still working out what “magic” and being a “witch” means in Ayre. It feels very fuzzy right now.
Finally, the matter of where Ella could live. I am sort of dissatisfied with the options I can think of that fit the world as it is. I don’t want to foist her on Marigold (she’ll probably flirt with her new husband), but she might need to live there temporarily to see what else might pan out. I don’t want her options to be tied to her relationship to a man, which really goes in the face of the basic premise of the reality of a medieval world. Maybe she could live on her own in the forest as a witch, for lack of a better term. She would do well running a brothel but I just don’t think I can bear to play a brothel because it seems so oppressive. I’d love to hear your feedback or ideas!