'I knew it!'

“I knew it!” Sigefrith laughed. “If this cub is with Malcolm I shall find the both of you in the stables.”

Colban shrieked and ran giggling away from his Papa to the protection of his favorite friend.

“His Mama said I might bring him out here,” Malcolm said.

'His Mama said I might bring him out here.'

“I don’t doubt she did. If you said you were taking him for a stroll along the banks of the River Styx I don’t doubt she would let you take him. I believe she has more faith in you than in his Papa, as far as this boy is concerned.”

“She knows his Papa is weak when the lad begins to beg.”

“So do you, apparently, you scamp!” Sigefrith laughed. “You have me all figured out.”

Malcolm winked.

“Papa, picky uppy!” Colban begged. “Papa, see horsies!”

“You want to get an eyeful of Darius, do you, cub?” Sigefrith asked, scooping him up. “And here’s old Cyrus, too, to say good morning. Don’t tell Maud,” he said to Malcolm.

'You want to get an eyeful of Darius, do you, cub?'

“I never do,” Malcolm smirked.

Colban patted the foreheads of the two tall horses until his Papa put him down again and he began to shriek.

“I know, I know, cub, but I must talk to Malcolm a while. If you stop your wailing I may take you for a ride later.”

“Now!” Colban demanded.

“Later. Or not at all if you don’t put a sock in it. Why don’t you go find a kitten to torment or something in the meanwhile?”

Colban sat sniffling, torn between his desire to scream at his Papa and his fear of losing the promised ride.

“As for you, you little cutthroat,” Sigefrith said to Malcolm, “you and I need to have a chat, followed by a meeting between my switch and your behind.”

'You and I need to have a chat.'

“Ah, no,” Malcolm sighed.

“Know what this is about?”

“I should rather not guess,” Malcolm said, his eyes twinkling.

'I should rather not guess.'

“Suppose you did and told me something I didn’t know about!” Sigefrith laughed. “I see why your father palmed you off on me. Your brother is a blessed angel compared to you, potlicker.”

“But what have I done?” Malcolm asked, with a ludicrously pious expression.

“I have just been talking to one of the Duke’s grooms. It seems you broke his boy’s nose.”

'It seems you broke his boy's nose.'


“You don’t even know whose nose you might have broken?” Sigefrith laughed.

“I didn’t know I broke anyone’s nose,” Malcolm shrugged.

“Could you have? Perhaps the boy’s a liar.”

“Oh, I could have,” Malcolm said. “Who was it?”

'Oh, I could have.'

“The boy’s name is Hanson.”

“You mean Anson?”

“That may be right. He says you broke his nose for him this morning.”

“The devil I did!” Malcolm grinned. “I didn’t mean to, mind, but it’s no more than he deserved!”

'The devil I did!'

“Do you care to tell me what he did that was so grave it couldn’t wait for the vengeance of the Lord?”

“Aye, I do care. He and some other boys were teasing my cousin Baby, and pulled her hair, and made her eat dirt, and threw her in the pond.”

'Aye, I do care.'

Sigefrith whistled. “The boy’s father didn’t tell me that part. I thought it was something between you boys.”

Malcolm shrugged. “I did what I had to do.”

“I see that. But I still must whip you for it. It’s what I have to do, you see.”

'It's what I have to do, you see.'

“I know. But I suppose I can take a beating if it will spare one to Baby.”

“That’s very gallant of you.”

“She’s my cousin. If anyone hurts my cousin, I suppose it’s my duty to give him a licking.”

'If anyone hurts my cousin, I suppose it's my duty to give him a licking.'

“I thank you for reminding me of mine,” Sigefrith sighed. “But wouldn’t you do the same for any young lady?”

“Aye, but I don’t know that I would be mad enough to break anybody’s nose,” he laughed.

'I don't know that I would be mad enough to break anybody's nose.'