Cis absolutely insisted, so that the heads of the household gave way, on riding out with Richard and Humfrey when they had a buck to mark down in Rivelin Chase. And she set her heart on going out to gather cranberries in the park, flinging herself about with petulant irritation when Dame Susan showed herself unwilling to permit a proceeding which was thought scarcely becoming in any well-born damsel of the period. “Ah, child, child! thou wilt have to bear worse restraints than these,” she said, “if ever thou comest to thy greatness.”
Cis made no answer, but threw herself into a chair and pouted.
The next morning she did not present herself at the usual hour; but just as the good mother was about to go in quest of her to her chamber, a clear voice came singing up the valley—
“Berries to sell! berries
Berries fresh from moorland fell!”
And there stood a girl in peasant dress, with short petticoats, stout shoes soaked in dew, a round face under black brows, and cheeks glowing in morning freshness; and a boy swung the other handle of the basket overflowing with purple berries.
It was but a shallow disguise betrayed by the two roguish faces, and the good mother was so pleased to see Cis smile merrily again, that she did not scold over the escapade.
Yet the inconsistent girl hotly refused to go up to the castle and help to make pastry for her mother’s bitter and malicious foe, and Sir Richard shook his head and said she was in the right on’t, and should not be compelled. So Susan found herself making lame excuses, which did not avert a sharp lecture from the Countess on the cockering of her daughter.
Festivals in the middle ages were conducted by day rather than by night, and it was a bright noonday sun that shone upon the great hall at Sheffield, bedecked with rich tapestry around the dais, where the floor was further spread with Eastern carpets. Below, the garniture of the walls was of green boughs, interspersed between stag’s antlers, and the floor was strewn, in ancient fashion, with the fragrant rush.
All the tables, however, were spread with pure white napery, the difference being only in texture, but the higher table rejoiced in the wonderful extravagance of silver plates, while the lower had only trenchers. As to knives, each guest brought his or her own, and forks were not yet, but bread, in long fingers of crust, was provided to a large amount to supply the want. Splendid salt-cellars, towering as landmarks to the various degrees of guests, tankards, gilt and parcel gilt or shining with silver, perfectly swarmed along the board, and the meanest of the guests present drank from silver-rimmed cups of horn, while for the very greatest were reserved the tall, slender, opal Venice glasses, recently purchased by the Countess in London.