“Malcolm!” Iylaine cried as she rushed into the stable. She thought she had seen Malcolm riding over the downs!

“Oh, Baby!” he groaned.

“Malcolm, I want to ask you something.”

“Let me put my horse away, anyhow!” he grumbled.

Iylaine sighed and went to stand by the stall.

Iylaine sighed and went to stand by the stall.

There was no use talking to Malcolm until his horse had been unsaddled, rubbed down, and stalled – and there was no use in asking him to get a groom to do it, for no groom was good enough to touch Malcolm’s new horse. His father had brought it to him the last time he had come, but it was Malcolm’s cousin big Malcolm who had given him the horse – he had taken it from an Irish messenger he had captured. He would have kept it for himself, for the slender black horse was a great beauty, and many thought it was of the Moorish race, but it was too delicate for a tall man like Malcolm to ride.

Nevertheless, it was too tall for a small boy like young Malcolm to ride, and Malcolm had to stand on the step only to fling the heavy saddle onto its back, but he was all the prouder for it. He, though still a boy, had a full-​​sized horse, and it happened to be the fastest and, he thought, the handsomest horse in the valley.

“All right, my fine Baby, what is it now?”

'All right, my fine Baby, what is it now?'

“It’s a secret,” she said. “I have to tell you in private.”

“A secret! Do you see this?” he asked, patting the small sword he wore at his side.

“It’s a sword,” she shrugged.

'It's a sword.'

“I didn’t bring my sword to tell secrets with girls. Where’s Bertie-​​boy?”

“But I have to ask you something!” she protested.

“Someone been picking on you again?”


“Then I don’t need to hear about it. Good day!”

“But Malcolm!” she wailed.

“But Baby!” he wailed, mocking her.

'But Baby!'

“But Malcolm, I have to ask you something, because I want to know, and you know so many things.”

“Do I?”

“Aye, of course you do. Every time I want to know something, I think, perhaps Malcolm will know.”

“What is it this time?”

“Come with me, I know where we can talk in private,” she said eagerly.

'I know where we can talk in private.'

“Oh, Baby!” he groaned, but he followed.

She led him to the little room where she had surprised Wulsy’s wife with the groom Olaf. Fortunately it was empty.

“Malcolm, I want to know something,” she whispered once they were inside and she had seen that the door was well-​​latched.

'Malcolm, I want to know something.'

“What?” he asked with a weary sigh.

“Malcolm, I want to know, what is rape?”

Malcolm jerked his head away from her own. “Why the devil are you asking me?”

Malcolm jerked his head away from her own.

“Because I want to know, and Gunnie won’t tell me and Her Grace won’t tell me.”

Malcolm rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I should tell you to ask your Mama, but you haven’t one, so I suppose I must tell you. Listen up, little sprout – do you even know where babies come from?”

“From the mama’s belly.”

“Aye, but how do they get in there?”

'Aye, but how do they get in there?'

“God puts them there.”

Malcolm laughed. “He only did that once, and that’s why we call her the Blessed Mother! It’s not God that puts the babies in there, stupid sprout, but the papa.”


Malcolm laughed at her again. She didn’t like that, but she wanted to know, so she endured it without complaint. “You live on a farm, girlie. Don’t you ever watch the animals? You know how they do, with the stallions and the mares, and the bulls and the cows.”

“Aye, but…”

“It’s the same for the men and the women. They simply do it in the dark, so no one can see.”

'They simply do it in the dark, so no one can see.'

“They do?” she squeaked.

“Aye,” he laughed. “Poor little sprout! I guess you need a mama after all. Luckily you have me.”

“But I didn’t even ask you about that!” she gasped.

“That’s right, you didn’t. You asked me about rape. Well, Baby, that’s the same thing, except that’s when the man wants to do it, and the woman doesn’t, and he makes her do it anyway.”


“I don’t know. Because they like it, I suppose.”

'I don't know.'

“Does it hurt?”

“Don’t ask me!” he laughed. “I don’t know everything.”

'Don't ask me!'

“But Lady Eadgith had her face all black and blue.”

“What does that have to do with anything? Her husband beat her, is all.”

“Her Grace said he did rape her.”

“He did?” Malcolm asked thoughtfully. “Is that why you asked me, then?”

“No, I asked you ’cause of the Queen.”

“The Queen?” he cried.

“‘Cause the Queen was raped, and I wanted to know what it meant.”

'I wanted to know what it meant.'

“She was?”

“That’s what the Duke said.”

“He told you that?”

“No, he never told me. He told Her Grace, and I could hear.”



“Well, I can’t help it!” she mumbled. “I can’t help it if my ears hear so good.”

“Do they?” he asked with a curious tilt to his head.

“Aye, I guess so. I guess I can hear better than other people, ’cause when people try to talk quiet, they think they talk quiet enough, but I can always hear. And I think my ears are getting better lately.”

“Just a moment – ” He put his hand before his mouth and whispered, “Can you hear this?”

'Can you hear this?'


“Just a moment, Baby!” He trundled her into the corner, and then went to stand in the opposite corner and whispered into the wall, “Can you hear me now?”


“What am I saying?” he whispered. “One, two, three, mumblehead.”

“One, two, three, mumblehead,” she repeated.

'One, two, three, mumblehead.'

“Baby!” he cried with glee. “Just a moment!” He opened the door and went to stand in the hall. “Seven, six, five, creepy-​​mouse.”

“Seven, six, five, creepy-​​mouse!” she laughed.

'Seven, six, five, creepy-mouse!'

He stepped out of the hall into the open stables. He whispered something that sounded to her like, “Eight, nine, ten, eleven, mumblebrain,” and this she called back to him.

“Wait – I can’t hear you!” he called, running back. “What did I say?”

'Wait--I can't hear you!'

“Eight, nine, ten, eleven, mumblebrain,” she repeated.

“I only said ‘eight, nine, eleven, bumblebrain,’ but that’s close enough. It’s the devil’s own ears you have, my fine Baby!” he laughed. “I couldn’t even understand you when you yelled!” Suddenly he ran and pulled the door closed again. “Listen up, Baby – have you told anyone about this?”

“I tried to tell them, but they don’t listen or don’t understand how good I can hear.”

“Well, just don’t bother telling them anymore. Baby, that’s the finest secret you ever told your old cousin! Think of what we can do with your ears!”

“What can we do?”

'What can we do?'

“I don’t know yet, but if you can hear what the adults say without them knowing you can hear, we children shall have a great advantage.”

“But my Da says I shouldn’t listen to adult’s conversations, ’cause I only understand half.”

“Don’t you try to understand, my darling girl, only come tell your cousin Malcolm exactly what they said, and I shall understand for you.”

'I shall understand for you.'

“You will?”

“Don’t I know so many things?” he asked. “You said so yourself!” He laughed again and hugged her suddenly. “My fine Baby! What a team we shall make!”

He laughed again and hugged her suddenly.