'I don't know but I guess I'm here to ask Your Grace what your plans are for me.'

“Well,” Bertie said, “I don’t know but I guess I’m here to ask Your Grace what your plans are for me.”

“Aren’t you and Dunstan getting along out there?”

“No, we’re getting along fine… even though there’s not much to do but drink and watch the rain fall,” Bertie sighed.

“There will come a day,” Alred presaged, “when you will look back on these rainy evenings and wish you could be seventeen again.”

“That certainly doesn’t make me look forward to my future.”

“Sorry, Bertie. I’m simply trying to polish up your memories of me so that, when I am gone, you will look back and think, ‘I don’t know but I guess that little Duke sure was a wise man.’”

'I'm simply trying to polish up your memories of me.'

Bertie laughed. “I guess I already think you are.”

“Little or wise?”

“Both,” Bertie shrugged. “But next to me, everyone is.”

“Well said, old man. Now what’s this about my plans?”

“I don’t mean for the winter. I mean for when I’m a man.”

“I think you wanted to be a knight.”

'I think you wanted to be a knight.'

“I know. But what about land and things?”

“Ah. Those are details that I had meant to determine later, but I admit I have begun to give the matter some thought. Are you itching to return to farm life?”

“Not me! Not me, personally. But… I don’t know but I guess I was wondering if you already had some farms picked out for me.”

“For the purpose of…?”

Bertie hunched his head miserably down into his shoulders.

Bertie hunched his head miserably down into his shoulders.

“I’m sorry, Bertie, but I can’t begin to guess,” Alred said.

“It’s for my sister,” Bertie mumbled.


“For Wynnie. I don’t know but I guess that Anson got her into… trouble.”

“Trouble,” Alred repeated.

“You know,” Bertie whimpered.

“Of course I know,” Alred assured him. “What I mean is… Jupiter! Trouble.”

'What I mean is... Jupiter!  Trouble.'



“So, I don’t know but I guess Ethelmund means to give them furniture and things for their house, but they don’t have a house. And my Ma doesn’t want to give her my father’s house because that’s for Beddy, and she’s afraid that once Anson gets in it, he won’t get out of it when Beddy is grown.”

“I see.”

“And so I said I would ask you.”

“I see.”

“I’m not asking you to do something for Wynnie. I guess we can take care of her in my own family. But if I’m going to have farms, then I don’t know but I guess I would like Wynnie to have one.”

'I would like Wynnie to have one.'

“And Anson.”

“Well, I guess he comes with her.”

“He means to marry her?”

“He says he will. But even before, he said he would marry her as soon as he had a house.”

“Did you know that Sir Baldwin was talking of taking Anson on as a trainer, and possibly his head groom?”

“I know, but Anson doesn’t want to be a groom and care for other men’s horses. He wants to raise his own horses.”

“Oh, he does?” Alred cried.

'Oh, he does?'

“He doesn’t mean to be a fine gentleman or anything,” Bertie said. “He wants to raise and train horses to sell. Like my father used to raise pigs. Or some men raise cattle.”

“I shall not deny that the boy has a way with horses,” Alred sighed. “And you mean to help him make this possible?”

“I have to do it, for Wynnie.”

“You must forgive an old man his cynicism, Bertie, but has it occurred to you that the only disadvantage to Anson in all of this is Wynnie herself, and the baby?”

“I don’t know but I guess she’ll make a fine wife.”

“I know that, but his punishment for dishonoring your sister is in fact beginning to look like a reward. Don’t you suppose Anson already planned all this out ahead of time?”

“I’m sorry but I can’t allow you to speak ill of Anson.”

'I'm sorry but I can't allow you to speak ill of Anson.'

“Do you still call him your friend?”

“No, I certainly do not. But I will soon call him my brother, so I can’t allow it.”

Alred sighed. “That is noble of you, Bertie. However, I can’t help but feel disinclined to help him.”

“I’m only asking you to give me a little of what will be mine, a little early. And not to help Anson. To help my sister. And my mother.”

“Ah, Bertie,” Alred smiled. “Clever lad. How is your mother? I shall go see her.”

“She’s that upset,” Bertie said. “And I almost hate Anson for that more than for what he did to my sister. My sister doesn’t know what’s happening to her yet. She’s even a little happy about everything. But my Ma knows. And she blames herself, too, and I don’t like that either.”

“That can’t be helped, Bertie. Parents blame themselves for everything that goes wrong with their children.”

'Parents blame themselves for everything that goes wrong with their children.'

“Well, I don’t know but I guess my Ma did the best she could. Anson is that cunning.”

“I know. Well, Bertie, I was thinking of giving you land out closer to Dunellen. With Dunstan at the castle and you in your manor, it ought to be enough to get a proper village going at last.”

“It’s a little far,” Bertie shrugged.

“You think so now,” Alred said. “But Dunstan will be there – probably until I die, since I don’t suppose Yware will care for such a life after what he has lived with King Harold’s sons. And there will be his lady and yours. And if Eadwyn consents to stay with me rather than return home, I shall send him out there as well.”

“That won’t be so bad,” Bertie said. “And it’s probably best for Wynnie to get away from the people she knows.”

“That too. I shall ask my steward and Dunstan’s what looks like the best farm out there, and she shall have it. But I shall dower her with it so that it will go to her children and not to Anson.”

“That would be fine!”

'That would be fine!'

“And, if you don’t mind, Bertie, I shall wait to knight you until the date planned. I want you to stay on with Dunstan for now.”

“That’s all right.”

“You’re not planning on coming up with any… similar request for your own benefit, are you, Bertie?”

“Not me,” Bertie grinned. “I don’t want to get married yet.”

“I suspect there are more than a few girls who might try to force your hand, not to say another of your members.”

'I suspect there are more than a few girls who might try to force your hand.'

“Don’t worry about me,” Bertie said, blushing beneath his tan.

“Careful, are you?”

“That’s right.”

“I was ‘careful’ to the tune of Margaret and Cynewulf, you know.”

“You mean…”

'You mean...'

“That’s what I mean. Be careful with your being careful, Bertie. Just a warning.”

“Thank you.”

“Say,” Alred said, trying to sound nonchalant and failing utterly, “you don’t suppose… Dunstan…”

'Say, you don't suppose... Dunstan...'

Bertie sat upright in surprise. “I don’t know whether I should…”

“No, no! I suppose you shouldn’t. You’re his friend, after all, and I’m only his father. But – damn, Bertie! I don’t know how a father is supposed to figure these things out. Dunstan certainly isn’t talking to me. My father died when I was a boy, so I don’t know what he would have done or said when I was sixteen.”

“Mine too, so neither do I.”

“That’s true. Well… tell him to be careful?” Alred said helplessly.

Bertie nodded.

Bertie nodded.