Historical setting: 588 C.E. The Count’s Mansion
A victory feast at a fine estate is a great spread of meats and bold porridges, an abundance of saved melons and dried berries, honey and cream spreads, wine and mead flowing free. Possibly, in the other room at the women’s table they have these same indulgences as we have; only they, in their modesty, would prefer men not see them in such bliss. Here with only men is the great wolfing, and gnawing, belching and snarling until the great feast is in bare bones and shatters, and we sit back and paw the juices from our jowls then the servant comes in and says, “There is more.”
Now the women come in, fed and ready to slide their thighs between the men’s seated on the benches at the board. (I did mean to say, seated together, facing only the board as for a meal.) New sounds, women’s voices, giggles, delicate glassware, setting a new ding of note. A tray of honeyed wafers passes among the takers again and again, reaching and longing for more, yet the desert seems ceaseless. A thick sweet brandy wine fills each glass sticky and fragrant.
I watch as Thole watches his father’s hand finding the delicate edging on the hem of the widow’s tunic. This farm roughened hand has a comfortable place on the pallid knee, but then it slips ever so slightly onto the thigh of the widow of Saumer, and in an instant of rage Thole flees the table and the house, a child’s tantrum on a grown man with a great flood of tears and howls, and shaking, quaking from his shoulders to his belly, slamming him to earth like a swat to the back of his knees. I see this.
I’ve followed after him. I have a hint of a fear that he would prefer the bottom of the river to the great and sumptuous feast of victory. He sees me, and gathers himself to his feet to run again, toward the river.
“Thole! Stop! The river won’t take your hurt away. If you go in that water I will come in and get you, and we will both just be shivering on the shore! It won’t fix the hurt!”
I’ve rescued him from the river once, and I can do it again, with the help of God; but I can’t save him from his grief.
He shouts back, “Go away. You don’t know! Leave me alone!”
(Continues Tuesday, November 30)