“We should have a fire in here,” Gino muttered, jumping from his seat on the sofa. The tinderbox was always kept on the mantel, and the servants were good about leaving a fire laid and ready to light now that the weather was cooling. So it wouldn’t take Gino very long to get the fire going.
But that didn’t matter. Sometimes, a man took all the distractions he could get. Like when his wife was in the next room, laboring to give birth to his child.
There was something peaceful, almost soothing about preaching to an empty church. The rafters and buttresses were designed all with one goal in mind: to amplify and project the Sim voice. (And to keep the roof from falling on the worshipers’ heads, but that wasn’t as important.) When Galahad spoke, his voice ballooned and filled every last nook and cranny. And when he paused, for effect or emphasis or just to remember what came next, the silence was complete.
Adding other people to that picture would have just spoiled the effect.
The sun was shining. The gulls called to each other, doing reconnaissance for their eternal mission of stealing food out of Sims’ hands or, when it could be managed, their mouths. Waves crashed into the dock and the strand below; a powerful wind puffed down the lane, carrying with it the scent of sun, salt, fish, and dodgy dockside takeaway guaranteed to keep you on the pot all day and all night.
The little boy beside Brother Andy — Basil — was struggling to hold in tears and mostly failing. Brother Andy wished that he had some words of comfort for him. He hadn’t. If he had learned anything from all the many, many times when peasant families had specifically requested that he — the least charismatic, some would say the least caring — of the Pascalian Brothers — come tend to their dying, it was that there was very little he could say that would ease the pain of the young messengers who turned up at the monastery door.
That never stopped him from wishing there was something, anything, that he could say … and that wouldn’t be a lie.
For the second time in a single year, the church was filled with the great and mighty of the land, all assembled to bid farewell to one of their own.
Tuck surveyed the packed church as dispassionately as he could. He had already conducted the preliminaries of the service: the initial blessings, the readings, the prayers and songs. But now came the hard part, the sermon that Tuck hadn’t had nearly enough time to work on. The sermon he wished he hadn’t had to write.
As he walked to the lectern and tried to gather his thoughts, his thoughts stole away from him and danced back to the last time he had preached a funeral sermon to a cathedral full of the greatest of Albion. That had been Lord Lot’s funeral — almost five years ago. Father Hugh had done the sermon for Lord Pellinore’s funeral. He only gave this one to Tuck because he thought it might be more fitting for a younger man to lead the service for a younger man’s funeral. That, and Tuck had to resume his duties sooner or later, and it might as well be now.
It was also, Tuck suspected, a test. Had he learned his lesson from the year prior? Or, given the least temptation, would he careen back into his old ways?
Glenna couldn’t believe her baby was a year old already. It was a horrible cliche, but the time had sped by like it was tied to a runaway horse and Glenna could only cling to its mane. And now, here they were — a whole year later, and Seona wasn’t a baby any more, not really.
“Come on, Seona,” Seumas said to her, “say Uncle Seumas. I know ye can do it.”