Ethelwyn was nevertheless hoping that he would not be caught nearly naked this corridor.

Although his wet hair and clothes would provide an excellent alibi, Ethelwyn nevertheless hoped that he would not be caught nearly naked in this narrow corridor. He would not mind being teased about it in the morning, but to actually be caught here now…

He could imagine each of the doors opening in turn as the ladies within woke and wondered at the commotion in the passage… He could imagine the row of white gowns, the braided hair, the blushes and the giggles half-​hidden behind the little hands…

He could imagine the row of white gowns, the braided hair...

He could imagine it so clearly that he was almost disappointed when he counted down the doors to his own without having been discovered. He consoled himself with the thought that he would at least be guaranteed the teasing in the morning, given that the Old Man and several guards were already in possession of the knowledge.

At breakfast the ladies would all whine about having missed the fun, and as for Mouse… If Mouse complained that he had jumped in the moat without her, he would offer to jump again for her sake.

However, he did not think she would. She who was supposed to have been so playful with him before now teased him least of all. She who was supposed to be in love with him scarcely spoke to him at all.

She who was supposed to be in love with him scarcely spoke to him at all.

But he knew she was in pain, and he admired her for coming to stay at the castle and attend these parties in the first place. She was suffering for his sake, he thought, in the hope that her presence would restore his memory to him, though he did not think she could have borne it without the Duchess propping her up.

The poor, sweet Duchess… She too seemed to have preferred the man he had been, or at least had not given up hope that he could make that man a part of himself again. Though they had both already lost the part of Ethelwyn Ealstan that they had most valued, he knew that Hetty and Mouse would be the two ladies most saddened to see his body go.

He left the door open for the moment.

Ethelwyn’s room was windowless, and he left the door open for the moment so he could see his way to bed. His wet clothes he simply dropped in a bundle onto the chest against the wall. He knew there was no point in spreading them out to dry. They would have to be washed in any case—this time without the man in them.

He had just begun to smile to himself at his little joke when he felt that wind come rushing through his mind again. There was something… a voice… a fire to his right…

But that whirl of remembrance was cut off by a blare that was like the trump of doom. A snore… Father Brandt! In his head!

No! Father Brandt in his bed!

Father Brandt in his bed!

Ethelwyn’s first surge of annoyance was quickly overwhelmed by a flood of mortification at the thought that he had entered the wrong room. He stumbled back into the hall, pink from head to toe.

It was true the rooms were all nearly identical… But he had counted correctly! He was certain of it.

But he had counted correctly!

Father Brandt continued snoring peaceably, so Ethelwyn crept back into the room and felt around in the pile of his belongings on the chest. There was the bag with his razor, his soap, his comb. Father Brandt’s face had not seen a razor in decades, and furthermore this razor had the very groove of his thumb in the handle. He had not entered the wrong room—Father Brandt had.

Ethelwyn stood and stared down at Brandt’s face, which appeared oddly flushed beneath the light from the hall. Had the priest been so drunk that he had stumbled into the wrong chamber?

And what was he supposed to do now? Was it a Christian act to chase a priest from one’s bed?

What was he supposed to do now?

But after his second surge of annoyance had subsided, Ethelwyn realized that he was not obliged to wake Father Brandt at all. He could simply go to sleep in the priest’s bed, and laugh over it with him in the morning when Brandt woke to dress for Mass and discovered that he had only a steward’s tunic with which to habit himself. And wet!

Ethelwyn smiled at this joke and sneaked down the corridor to the next chamber.

His room, like most of them, had a window.

As soon as he opened the door, he realized the priest must have been drunk indeed to have mistaken Ethelwyn’s room for his own. His room, like most of them, had a window; and although the moon was far from full, still the blue light of night illuminated something of the furnishings. This time Ethelwyn was able to close the door behind him.

As soon as he did, he saw the mirror that hung on the wall behind it, and he realized that he should have at least taken his comb. He thought of going to fetch it, but he did not want to risk being caught in the corridor nearly naked, for now he had not even the alibi of an armful of wet clothes. Comb or not, he was stuck here for the night.

He peeled off his wet underwear and turned his attention to his dim reflection in the mirror.

He peeled off his wet underwear and turned his attention to his dim reflection in the mirror.

“Damn it,” he muttered to his shadowy twin. “I hate going to bed with my hair wet. All the combs in Canaan couldn’t save you now, my lad.”

He had never slept with wet hair since he had awoken from his madness, but he knew he hated it as surely as he still knew how to write and how to ride. He could already imagine the state in which he would find his curls in the morning. He would be obliged to wet them again so they could dry in a proper arrangement, but for now he would try to straighten them with his fingers as best he could.

'Perhaps I can sleep on my face.'

“Perhaps I can sleep on my face,” he murmured.

For the serious business of hair straightening, and also as a slight moral comfort against the chill of his drying skin, he decided he would light a candle. This done, he began combing his fingers through his curls, tousling them a bit as ladies liked to do to little boys and handsome men.

'You're so cuuuute!'

As an experiment, he crossed his eyes and cooed softly to his reflection, “You’re so cuuuute!”

At that instant he heard a snort and a giggle that struck him like the trump of doom.

“Oh my God!”

'Oh my God!'

Fortunately he was so startled that his falsetto squeak could not have carried far. Unfortunately he was so embarrassed to have been observed cooing to his own reflection that he forgot for a moment that he was entirely unclothed.

“Mouse!” he whimpered. How could he explain such foolishness?



Then he remembered. “Oh my God!”

In a bound he was before the mirror again and blew out the candle.

He cowered into the shadowy corner, but Mouse was already scrambling out of the bed.

“I beg your pardon!” he called in the loudest whisper he could produce. He did not know what else to do or say, but he was certain he should at least excuse himself.

'I beg your pardon!'

Mouse was clutching her stomach and making an odd, snuffling, puppy-​like sound. Ethelwyn was afraid he had frightened her into a fit.

“Are you all right?”

Her snuffling was then augmented by squeaks, and he realized that she was only trying desperately not to laugh out loud.

He realized that she was only trying desperately not to laugh out loud.

Ethelwyn pressed his back against the cool stone of the wall, sorry that he could not sink into it. “You didn’t… see…?”

“How could I see anything else?” she hooted.

“Well!” His outraged dignity surged up in a counter-​current to his embarrassment. “It is nothing to laugh about, young lady. If you had ever seen such a thing before you would know that.”

“I live—on a farm!” Mouse squirmed with silent laughter. “We have a bull!”

“In that case, I can understand why you find it so humorous. However, you should not let your bull serve as an example, or you are likely to be disappointed. You’re no cow yourself, you know!”

'You're no cow yourself, you know!'

Mouse hung on to the bedpost to support her convulsing body. “Rather reassuring than disappointing!” she moaned between spasms of laughter.

“I don’t know whether I should take that as a compliment or an insult,” he huffed, but his voice quivered with a rising laugh of his own.

“No offense intended! But—oh, please tell me what you are doing in my room—naked!”

Your room? This is Father Brandt’s room!”


“What are you doing in Father Brandt’s bed?”

“And what are you doing naked in Father Brandt’s room?”

'And what are you doing naked in Father Brandt's room?'

I am trying to get some sleep! Father Brandt is in my bed!”

Mouse choked.

“It is not what you think!” he said hastily. “He got drunk and went to the wrong room. I was not even there. Now, what is your excuse?”

Mouse was looking anxiously around by now, clearly realizing that she had indeed come to the wrong room. However, her wondering gaze passed several times over his body, and he was not certain that the shadows of the corner sufficed to cover him.

He was not certain that the shadows of the corner sufficed to cover him.

His teeth were nearly chattering with cold or embarrassment or he knew not what. “While you’re looking around, would you kindly see whether you could find something with which I might cover myself?”

“But did you come in here naked?” she gasped.

“Certainly not! I admit that I have little enough modesty that I can gad about the castle wearing nothing but my underclothes. However, I do have at least that much.”

'I do have at least that much.'


“However…” He coughed and slid his back across the stone until his shoulder was pressed into the corner. “They are wet.”

“Wet? Oh no!” Her voice softened in compassion. “Did you—”

Ethelwyn’s spine straightened yet again by force of insulted dignity. “I most certainly did not! Young lady! I am not three years old!”

“But… what…?”

“If you must know, I fell into the moat. That is to say, I jumped.”

Another strangled laugh burst forth from her.

Another strangled laugh burst forth from her.

Will you kindly find something for me to put over myself? You have no idea how difficult your laughter is to bear in my… absurd… situation…”

“But what…?”

“A towel! Anything!”

'A towel!  Anything!'

Mouse began rummaging through the priest’s belongings. Meanwhile Ethelwyn pressed his ear against the wall—Father Brandt had stopped snoring, and now that he thought about it, the only way this absurd situation could possibly worsen would be if the priest were to wake and decide to return to his own bed.

“Here’s something!” she whispered. “A—a—I don’t know what… A towel…”

“Anything! Give it to me!”

“Here!” She turned her face away from him and held out the dark cloth alongside her body at the length of her arms.

'You do mistake me for a bull.'

“You do mistake me for a bull,” he smiled as padded across the floor and snatched it away from her.

Mouse clapped her hands over her mouth and caught a laugh just in time.

“That will do,” he said, immediately more at ease once he had it wrapped around his waist.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know! A towel.”

'I don't know!  A towel.'

“It’s not an altar cloth or anything?” she whimpered.

“Oh my God!”

Mouse laughed into her hands again.

Must you think of ways by which this absurd situation could be made worse?”

'Must you think of ways by which this absurd situation could be made worse?'

“If it’s happening to you, Wyn, it can only get more absurd.”

As awkward as was this “absurd situation”, it was sheer delight to hear her girlish giggles after so much painful silence between them. It seemed he had been haunting this castle all week merely for that.

“Well, you may reassure yourself,” he sniffed. “I swear to you, this is only a towel.”

'Well, you may reassure yourself.'

“Doesn’t Father Brandt have a towel he uses to wipe the chalice…?”

“Mouse!” he hissed.

“I’m joking! That little thing wouldn’t even be big enough to cover your—self!” She snorted and turned away to laugh again.

“Oh my God!” he sighed.

“How do these things always happen to us?” she laughed.

'How do these things always happen to us?'

“What are you doing in here?”

“‘You’re so cuuuute!’”

“Oh my God!” he groaned. “This is a nightmare!”

“If Father Brandt is in your room,” she said, poking him in the shoulder with her finger, touching him at last, “that explains why I am in here. I simply kept walking until I found the door that snored, and then I went back one.”

“Can’t you count? Because I can count.”

'Can't you count?'

“I wasn’t paying attention! And what are you doing jumping in the moat? Without me?”

“I was trying to remember,” he said mournfully.

“Oh…” At once her hilarity simmered down into warm compassion. She stroked a hand down his arm in a gesture that seemed too comforting to be entirely unfamiliar to him. “And did you?”

'And did you?'

“I only remember the tiniest bits and pieces… I’m not even certain whether I’m remembering anything, or whether I’m only remembering that I should remember… or whether I’m only fooling myself because I want to remember. I can never quite seize the memories…”

“They will come back to you.”

He shook his head briskly enough that he loosened the wet curls sticking to his cheeks. “I don’t believe they will. It’s not a fairy tale, Mouse. It’s not a curse or a spell, as you said to me. I shan’t wake up one morning and remember everything. Perhaps I shall reclaim some of the bits and pieces, but that man is gone.”

She tried to twist her mouth into a sympathetic smile, but her tears broke free nonetheless, and her smile crumbled beneath them.

Her smile crumbled beneath them.

“You don’t want to admit that, do you?” he murmured. He brushed her tears away with one hand, gently at first, but then for some reason he began wiping her cheek roughly, fairly pawing at her face.

“What are you doing?” she giggled. “Am I dirty?”

“I don’t know. I must be!” he smiled. “I think one is dirtier after washing oneself in that moat than before.”

She lifted her hand to ruffle his wet hair and paw at his face herself. “I like you better a little messed-​up!”

He shook with a spasm that was like pain, and he caught her wrist, though it was not her hand that was hurting him. He closed his eyes tightly against the outside world. “That!” he whispered. “That!”



“I don’t know! Something to remember. Shhh!”

He gripped her wrist and squinted his eyes shut as long as he dared. Nothing more came. When he opened his eyes, the look of love and heartache on her face was more than he could bear, and he closed them again.

“You love a dead man,” he muttered.

“No!” she whispered. “Never!”

As soon as he released her wrist, she stroked the backs of her fingers down his cheek and over his chin with such gentleness that he opened his eyes again to see what look of love was behind the gesture.

She stroked the backs of her fingers down his cheek and over his chin.

“You’re still you. You don’t remember what went before, but you’re still exactly the same man. Just now you reacted exactly the same way you always would have.”

“To an absurd situation.”

“Well? What is life but a series of absurd situations? Life with you, anyway,” she giggled.

“If I am exactly the same man,” he pouted, “then why does everyone like me better now than before?”

'Why does everyone like me better now than before?'

“What? What nonsense! Who does?”

“I think everybody does. The Old Man just said so to me, but I already thought it was so.”

“Oh, Wyn.” She sighed and shook her fingers through his damp hair. “Perhaps you were a little self-​conscious about certain things before, but since you’ve forgotten them, you’re more at ease with people. And perhaps you worked too hard, and now you’ve time to play. Nothing more.”

'Nothing more.'

“In that case, as soon as I have a few things to be self-​conscious about, and as soon as I get back to work, I shall be the same pompous ass I have always been.”

“Perhaps not, since you will know why. One is never too old to learn. However, I do not think you ever were. You have always been too hard on yourself.”

“You know more about me than I do,” he sighed.

“I shall tell you about yourself if you like.”

'I shall tell you about yourself if you like.'

“Tell me about yourself, instead. I think it is you I’m trying to remember. All week, since you’ve been near, I’ve been finding these… fragments.” He shook his fist before her face, as if he held a fragment within it. “Not memories, but things that should remind me of some memory. Do you understand?”

She nodded slowly.

'No, you don't understand.'

“No, you don’t understand.” He dropped his hand and cast his imaginary fragment away, as he had all the others. “What it’s like…” he muttered. “It is like… when the farmers turn up a pagan tomb. The skeleton is often buried with jewelry and knives and bowls. To the dead man, those things had meaning, but to us they say nothing. We only know they must have meant something to him. Do you understand?”

Mouse only swallowed.

“I am constantly turning up bits and fragments of the belongings of a dead man. Do you understand that?”


“No!” She pounded on his chest with both of her fists. “He’s still alive! He’s still in there! He’s trying to tell you something. That’s all that means.”

He wrapped his arms around her back to stop her pounding, but once she had stopped, he had no desire to let her go.

“Mouse…” he sighed.

He lifted his and stared up at the wall above the bed behind her.

She bent her head and sniffled, and he lifted his and stared up at the wall above the bed behind her.

It was certainly another way to look at the situation. Perhaps Ethelwyn Ealstan was still alive, imprisoned inside of him. Perhaps these fragments of memories were not the last traces of a vanished life, but merely the only things the prisoner had in his cell, the only things he could fit through the bars to toss down upon the head of the sole passer-​by.

“What if I never learn how to let him out of there?” he asked her.

'You are he.'

“You are he. Even without his memories. I recognize you. I know you.”

He felt the same longing to let himself fall that he had felt on the bridge. Either he would break his neck, or he would not. Either outcome seemed equally acceptable, though there was one he desired more than the other.

There was one he desired more than the other.

His voice was already low from speaking too softly to wake the nearby sleepers, but he made it graver still. “If I stay in this valley and live this man’s life, I shall need help. A man’s past is a heavy burden to carry around alone. And soon, Mouse. I don’t know whether I would have waited before—probably I would have—but now I cannot wait. It must be soon, soon.”

Her face trembled between understanding and fear she had misunderstood. “Are you asking…?”

'Are you asking...?'

“You to marry me again? Yes, I am. Will you?”

“But are you certain…?”

I am.” He stroked his hand down the side of her head and down along one of her soft pigtails. “I am. And if that other man returns—I think he will be pleased to find that we have repaired his broken heart in his absence. Don’t you?”

'Don't you?'

Her laugh was not the girlish giggle he had listened for all week, but he liked it still better. He felt as if he were falling, and the wind rushing by his head was awhirl with the loosened sheaves of unseizable memories—laughter, and kisses, and happy things he could not remember but had not forgotten.

“But soon, soon…” he whispered.

“How soon?”

“Right away. Right now.”

“Are you mad?” she laughed.

'Are you mad?'

“Not any longer. Why? Is that absurd?”


“That’s life with me, young lady. Take it or leave it.”

She laughed and squeezed him. “Do you mean tomorrow?”

'Do you mean tomorrow?'

“I mean right now. I happen to have a priest in my bed…”


“What? Is it unchristian to be married in the middle of the night?”

“I don’t know, but waking a priest to do it?”

“It is perfectly Christian to wake a priest if he is unchristian enough to have fallen asleep in one’s own bed. What one does with him afterwards is irrelevant.”

'What one does with him afterwards is irrelevant.'

She bent her head and giggled into his shoulder, and his arms tightened around her almost on their own. This was precisely the giddy, girlish, complicit laugh he had been longing to hear. He did not remember it, but he still knew it, as he still knew how to write and how to ride. He was not falling but floating.

“Father Brandt would do it, too!” she said.

“I suspect he would. But would you?”

'So long as it is Christian!'

“Let it never be said that Mouse is afraid to do something absurd!” she declared. “So long as it is Christian!”

“It is the most Christian thing we could do tonight, for my other ideas are unchristian indeed.”

'My other ideas are unchristian indeed.'

“Let’s do it!” she laughed. “We shall out-​joke the Duke himself! And that will make a memory you’ll never forget. But, Wyn?” she asked with deceptive sweetness.

“But what, dear Mouse?”

“Are you certain it’s Christian to be married wearing nothing but an altar cloth?”

'Are you certain it's Christian to be married wearing nothing but an altar cloth?'

“If the good Father objects,” he said with deceptive gravity, “I shall gladly take it off.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” she gasped.

“Let it never be said that Ethelwyn Ealstan is afraid to do something absurd!”

'Let it never be said that Ethelwyn Ealstan is afraid to do something absurd!'