They were seated separately at dinner; Nesta at the foot with some the hangers-on and sundry; and Imogene at the Bayeux Bishop’s main gauche. All the men and ladies of the castles sat and servants wrought them bread with softened, salted butter and they ate it with their hands. Odo entered then, and all the conversation paused, and all stood up to welcome in the handsome host with sweet applause. (Although they had all seen him through the day, this was his custom: to be greeted by the company this way.)
“My dearly honored guests and all the rest of ye, may I present to you again our sister in the fight for Normandy and ere beyond this sainted land: Dame Imogene of dol-Combourg in Brittany; she is our honored guest for whom tonight we feast.” The ladies clucked to one another and the lords and knights smiled sweetly to the dam.
Odo’s blessing was perfunctory, and presently he disattached his collar and removed his scapular, revealing he an open linen shirt beneath, for on this eve, he hadn’t worn his habit; rather button-shirt and trousers, and some riding boots. He cut a silhouette!
The start of dinner was some pottage made of lentils, onions, garlic and of tongue. Followed that, the servants brought stuffed swan, with carrots in a garlic sauce as well. The main course was three boar, spit-roasted whole, and split among the men first, then the ladies afterward. Odo and his best man, Gabriel, ate of the brain and haunches of the best of three whole boars. But for those who didn’t fancy eating boar, the chef had also made up mutton haunch on cabbage cooked with mustard seed and weld. Fish were brought on Odwinsday and Freya’s, so there was none for the host.
As dessert, the men ate almonds. Nesta ate some, too, for she had dearly fancied some since they had reached the millhouse at Bec-Hellouin the other day. The ladies sipped on chilled fruit mash in wooden bowls. Within the mash were liquor, too.
All throughout the dinner, first one man and then another would they stand, and raise a toast to one saint or another, or a family they knew, or else the Summertime, or pass-times, or to one another. Nesta tried requesting ale, but this was not Le Mans: there was no ale or water to be drunk at one of Odo’s feasts; only peach-beer cider or red wine.
After dinner in the hall, some servants brought a grand container, some 4 pieds across and deep, upon a barrow made for such a task. All the waiting ladies and the ribald men let out a cheer and clapped.
Nesta knew not what the object were about!
A servant opened up the crate with great and fancy flourish, and came out were scores of goslings! Some were mottled yellow; some were black and some were brown. Each wore downy mantle and they waddled out and squawk at goose and man alike. “Swee! Swee! Swee!” they gaily called, and fluttered they their stubby wings!
As they spread about throughout the hall, each lady and each man took up a piece of linen, given for this purpose, in his hands and captured one the goslings in this blanket, yea but with great care. Some were very drunk by now, and fell upon the floor or missed their mark quite comically. Nesta caught on quickly to the sport, and picked one up as well. Hers was adorned in silvry sable downing, and a little sleepy did it seem. It was quite happy just to look about and see what’s going on, and not its freedom break to mean. She found that it had, tied onto its hallux with a ribbon, a wee tag of parchment with some writing put upon it in a woman’s hand.
The other guests were seated once again, and each held on a gosling, all around. Odo turned his gosling upside-down, and pulled the bit of parchment from the ribbon, and released the gosling down. It trumpeted in triumph, Swee! and strutted thence away. Odo read the note and smiled broadly, and then cast about the room. His eyes alit upon dear Imogene. He teased, “Shall I ask your squire there this question on my paper?” And fifty pairs of eyes turned ere to Nesta there. Fifty pair of eyes, sopped, and tokened up with two acclivities: the main part was there joy, but in the minor part, there was some vicious hunger, too. What could now these nobles mean to do?
Imogene saw Nesta was suspicious of the game. “Odo, shan’t we hold off with initiating her? She hasn’t got the notion of the game yet, has she now?”
“Very well,” he then acceded to her. “Very well, I’ll ask it of --” he looked about again and eyes alit upon a woman dressed in green, “-- Victorène, the Lady of Lion-sur-Mer!” Tense ghostfire filled the air betwixt the revelers, and some the women tittered at the choice. All eyes were on Victorène and off of Nesta now.
“Victorène,” Odo began, with shades of wolfishness at corners of his mouth, “tell us here: dans comment avez-vous été conçu? Dans quelle position? With that, the crowd erupted once again in peals of laughter and delight! The woman turned a shade quite sympathetic to her dress. That is to say, ivy-colored dress she wore then complimented well her florid, blooded skein. She was quite red! And everyone hung closely on her answer to the test.
“M-missionary, M’seeur?” Gasps and laughter eminate.
“Dost thou ask or dost thou say it?” Odo pressed her then. Wild laughter then again!
But Victorène had naught to answer him, and threw her hands up into the air, surrendering herself to one the knights nearby! He picked her up and threw her up about his shoulder as the merry host began to sing and cheer them on. The knight continued on, and merrily he stepped away and took Victorène withacht, and exited the fray!
“I shall go next!” exclaimed a boy named Jean-Jaquinot, perhaps thirteen, and seated near to Nesta’s skein. Unraveled he his message hie and puzzled out the writing on the note with trouble tried. He smiled and he turned to Nesta, and she turned to him. He said, “It says for you to chuse a body part.”
“For what?” She asked. The throng all pressed to her, from every side, to choose a body part. Some named some of them, and Nesta lost the thread in pressing bald cacophony. She blurted out, “La joue! That is, joue faciale!” And laughter and applause sprung forth around the feasting hall.
Jean-Jaquinot reached for a bowl of heavy cream with honey, and he ran his finger round the rim and picked up quite a dollop. He stood, and spread the cream upon his cheek – la joue, and came quite close that Mortimer. Near her ear he whispered in the way that all could hear it: “Lick it.” And there, a heavy silence in the smoky air beheld.
She was sorely glad she’d said the cheek!
She made a proper show of it! And all the dams and men about gave homage to their little act! Nesta, was she well relieved! She’d passed their test, she did believe.
One by one, the parties took their turn to ask and answer bawdy queries of each other one. And off they trod then, two by two. And Nesta gathered some these sloppy noblemen would ere continue with frivolity perhaps they past the dawn. As for herself, she wished quite dearly to retire rather proximately, than anon. She found a girl to take her to her quarters and to Nod. And so she went, and so she did.