Three days before Samhain in that same year, Roland came riding into the Triangle, much to the surprise of everyone, especially Margueritte. “I was invited.” He professed and pulled Margueritte’s embroidered handkerchief from his pocket. Lady Brianna just smiled and welcomed him, regally. Bartholomew, though glad to see the young man again, looked at his daughter with a different eye. He knew nothing about it.
“Are you returning my token then?” Margueritte asked later.
“Not a chance,” Roland said. “I’ll let you know, but I suspect you may never get it back.”
Margueritte hardly knew what to say, but the joy got written all over her face.
At supper, Roland explained his presence. He was sent by Charles with letters to Urbon, king of Amorica. After leaving the Breton Mark and on returning to Paris with Father Stephano, he dug up the letters Bartholomew and Baron Bernard wrote over the last several years. He read all about the Moslem Ambassador and wished to convey his congratulations on Urbon having the foresight to throw the man out. The letters discussed at some length the incursions of the Moors into Aquitaine and suggested that Urbon keep a careful watch on the coast, knowing the coastline to be full of nooks and crannies where a raiding party might easily find a foothold. Should he need the assistance of the Franks, Charles assured Urbon of his friendship and support. And that was about it.
“Such letters could have been carried by courier. Nothing secret there to move you out of your comforts in Paris,” Lord Bartholomew said.
She kicked Roland this time, and she meant to.
Sadly, for her, Roland did seem to spend a lot of time with her father, Tomberlain, and even Owien. They rode once for an hour or so. They had a picnic on the second day, but Elsbeth came along and Goldenrod distracted everyone. They did walk by the stream, but not much got said. It seemed like they both became suddenly very shy. Then Margueritte had her chores to do before they could leave for Vergenville, and she did her best to see them done.
Margueritte worked in the barn, in the potato bins, when Roland came unexpectedly. She wore her apron. Her hands were dirty, and she even had a streak of dirt across one cheek put there by the back of her hand used to wipe away the sweat. “Oh, Sir.” She started to turn away.
“Oh stop.” He said in her same tone. “My mother and sisters sorted potatoes all the time, and likely more than enough for a lifetime.”
“It is important, you know,” Margueritte said.
“Absolutely. One rotten one can spoil the whole bin.” He looked up at Grimly, whom he genuinely liked, and Goldenrod for whom he had the deepest love and affection, and Hammerhead, whom he at least respected, even if he still found it hard to look at the fellow. They lounged around on the hay while their mistress sweated at her labor. “Say, though,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be better to let these little ones of yours sort the potatoes? You and I could maybe walk again by the stream before your brother and father find me.”
“Why sure.” Grimly jumped up. “We would love to sort the taters. I’m getting bored just sitting around anyway.”
“I can help.” Goldenrod assured them all.
“Er, okay,” Hammerhead said, not quite sure what was being asked.
Margueritte explained while she wiped her hands as clean as she could on her apron. “You just need to go through them one by one. The good ones go here.” She pointed to the empty bin. “Any that are especially soft or if they are rotten, or even if you are not sure if they are good to eat, put them in the bucket. Oh, I don’t know.” She said in one breath, turned to Roland, and nearly bumped into him. He put his arm over her shoulder as he spoke.
“We can stay a minute to see they get started,” he said.
Margueritte reached both hands up to hold his and make sure his arm stayed around her shoulder, but she said nothing.
“Now, if I’ve got it, the good ones go in the bin and the rotten ones in the bucket. Come on, then.” Grimly climbed up on the bin. Each little one took a potato. At least Goldenrod tried to take one, but she could not quite lift it. Hammerhead took about six by accident and stared at them in utter uncertainty. Grimly made up for the other two by instantly going from one to the next.
“No good, no good. Definitely no good. Nope. No way. Not a chance.”
“Ugh!” Goldenrod tugged with all her little might.
“Nope. No good. Ooo, this one looks like Herbert Hoover.”
“Let me see.” Goldenrod left off her tug of war.
Hammerhead, still unmoved, stared at his spuds.
“Who is Herbert Hoover?” Goldenrod asked.
“I don’t know, but this looks like him.” He looked at Goldenrod and they spoke in unison. “No good.” The bucket started filling rapidly and not one was yet in the bin.
“Nope. Nope. Nope.” Grimly started shoveling toward the bucket and Goldenrod got back to tugging until Grimly made enough of a dent for her potato to roll and take her with it with a “Weee!”
Margueritte’s sides were splitting with laughter, and Roland laughed right with her until she turned toward him, and their eyes met. The laughter vanished in an instant and he drew her up to him and held her tight. Their lips touched, soft and warm, and they might have remained that way for some time if Grimly had not whistled.
“Whaty?” Goldenrod said and got her little head above the edge of the bin.