'It's too foggy today.'

“It’s too foggy today,” Alred said, “but when it’s clear one can see the lake, and Egelric’s castle on the hillside beyond.”

“I know,” Dunstan said.

“And it faces east. I have often thought I should like to see the sunrise through my bedroom window. Haven’t you?”

“I simply think it’s a pleasant change to see anything through a window,” Dunstan grumbled. “At home we’re squinting through green glass, and it’s all we can do to say whether it’s day or night.”

'I simply think it's a pleasant change to see anything through a window.'

Alred was briefly bewildered. “I had always thought you liked the green windows at home.”

Dunstan only snorted.

“Well, then,” Alred said briskly, “I’m pleased you like the view through these, for it’s the view to which you will shortly be waking every morning.”

Dunstan turned his head and squinted up at him as through dark glass.

Dunstan turned his head and squinted up at him as through dark glass.

“What I mean,” Alred explained, though Dunstan had not asked the question, “is that I want you living out here by Martinmas, so that you will see how the rents are paid.”

Dunstan paused, as if calculating by which flank to make his attack. “I already know how rents are paid.”

“I know you do. But these will have the particularity of being your rents, and it will be up to you to see that they last through to Candlemas.”

“And then?” Dunstan scowled.

“And then you will make those rents last through to Whitsunday. Need I continue?”

'Need I continue?'

“You’re saying you want me to live here.”

“That is what I am saying.”

“All by myself? I’m fifteen!”

“You will soon be sixteen, Dunstan, and you will not be by yourself. You will have your own steward and reeve, and Aylmer is here to manage the household, and Bertie will come with you so you needn’t talk to the walls.”

“I thought you didn’t mean to do this to me until next year.”

'I thought you didn't mean to do this to me until next year.'

Alred lifted an eyebrow. “You are either shrewder than I know, or you have an informant. I changed my mind.”


“And I do not like your expression: ‘do this to you’, as if it were some sort of punishment. I assure you it is not. You are a very clever young man, and you have an alarming capacity for finishing every task I assign you more quickly than I anticipate, which leaves you with too much time free.”

“So my ‘reward’ for doing my work well and quickly is more work?”

“The ‘reward’ for doing your work well and rapidly is the pride you should get out of it. The ‘result’ of exceptional talent, on the other hand, if one is lucky enough to have it recognized, is often more responsibility. That too should be a matter of pride.”

'That too should be a matter of pride.'

Dunstan tried another flank. “But this is my brother’s castle.”

“Your brother is in Denmark. Meanwhile there is a little village trying to grow down there, but I fear it will not come together as long as there is no lord in residence.”

“So while Yware is gadding about Denmark with nary a care, I’m stuck here minding his castle and mending his fences?”

'I'm stuck here minding his castle and mending his fences?'

“You are my heir. That is also a matter of pride, and of responsibility.”

“Lucky, lucky me to have it recognized!” Dunstan sneered.

“Dunstan, come with me, please,” Alred said and led his son into the sitting room off of the lord’s bedchamber. “Have a seat.”

Dunstan sat and scowled, and Alred pulled a chair up between him and the fire.

“Tell me something,” he said. “Why is it that your first reaction to this news is resistance? I do not believe you even took the time to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages.”

'I do not believe you even took the time to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages.'

“The only advantage,” Dunstan said, “is that I shall be left alone most of the time, though I do not doubt you will be riding out here frequently enough to ensure that I am doing my work and collecting my rents and saying my prayers and eating my peas.”

“You have my permission to ban peas from your kitchen, if that is your desire.”

“That was not a joke!”

“Dunstan, you have always done your duty without complaint before.”

“So you increase and increase my duty until I begin to complain. Even your most faithful mule will eventually balk if you put enough weight on his back.”

'Even your most faithful mule will eventually balk if you put enough weight on his back.'

“Am I truly asking too much of you?”

“I think so,” Dunstan sniffed.

“Are you not ashamed to admit it?”

Dunstan rose from his chair and stalked over to the window. “Why do you do this now?” he cried. “You had meant to do it next year.”

'The problem is not that you don't want to come here.'

“I think,” Alred said, “that the problem is not that you don’t want to come here. The problem is that you do not want to leave home.”

Dunstan shrugged uncomfortably.

“What is so interesting at home, I wonder? Where your unbearable father resides?”

Dunstan did not answer.

Dunstan did not answer.

“Dunstan,” Alred sighed, “I think you’re wondering how much I know, and how I know so much. The fact is, I know everything there is to know. I was fifteen once.”

“Who told you?” he cried.

“No one told me anything,” Alred said. “I know everything, but I know nothing, in truth. I did not wish to involve myself in your affairs, as I thought you would manage them honorably. However, lately you have begun sneaking and skulking, and, if I am not mistaken – though I hope I am – you have been lying to me. You know my thoughts on the matter of boys your age and ‘interesting adventures’, as your godfather calls them, which makes me think that if you need to sneak, you are not merely having ‘interesting adventures’.”

'You are not merely having 'interesting adventures'.'

“I find the very term vulgar.”

“Have you been lying to me, then?”

“About what?”

“Does it matter? Are there subjects on which you are permitted to lie to your father?”


'Have you lied to me lately?'

“So! Have you lied to me lately? About where you’ve been, or where you’re going, or with whom, or how late?”

“Yes,” he admitted grudgingly, and then he flared into anger. “But I had to! You never would have let me go if I had told you the truth!”

“That is rather shaky logic, Dunstan.”

“It’s not fair! You haven’t promised my brother to anyone, and he gets to go all over the continent, and you don’t even know what sort of interesting adventures he’s having or with whom! And you told the King that Gwynn could marry whomever she liked! And no one made you marry anyone you didn’t want! Everyone in this family gets to do what they please and love whom they please, except for me! You make me come here early precisely to prevent me from being happy, and I shall not forget it.”

'I shall not forget it.'

“Dunstan, you’re fifteen – ”

“Right! And since you were already fifteen, you already know everything.”

“I know that there is nothing new under the sun. That is what you don’t understand, I think.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“When one is fifteen and thinks oneself in love for the first time, one thinks that no one else has ever loved before. One thinks that no one else can understand. One also thinks that one could never love again.”

“I know what you’ll say,” Dunstan growled. “You’ll say it isn’t love.”

'I know what you'll say.'

“And I know what you’ll say. You’ll say I’m wrong, and the shared experience of mine and of all the men I know will be as nothing to you, and you will think me unbearably arrogant for believing I understand how you feel. Nevertheless I do understand.”

“No, but you could understand if you wanted to. You simply need to tell yourself that fifteen is not too young to love. You simply need to tell yourself that I feel the same way about Anna as you felt about my mother. You simply – ”


Alred felt as if he had been slapped across the face with something wet and clinging and nauseating.

Alred felt as if he had been slapped across the face with something wet and clinging and nauseating. “Do not cheapen what I felt for your mother by comparing it to your first love.”

“You call my love cheap! I like that. Now I believe you’re arrogant. You think you’re the only man who has ever loved before! No man has ever loved as you have! I salute you, my lord, for being the first man to invent something new under the sun!”


'You're no better than any fifteen-year-old.'

“You’re no better than any fifteen-​​year-​​old. I know you loved my mother, but you mustn’t think it was some sublime thing only poets such as you can attain. If it had been, you wouldn’t have married again. If it had been, she would have loved you better. She preferred that brute Leofric to your sublime love. So don’t try to give me lessons about love, my lord. I shall do my duty, and someday I may even forgive you for holding me to it, but don’t you try to tell me how or whom to love.”

Alred was stunned breathless.

Alred was stunned breathless. He did not feel that he was crying; his eyes simply overflowed onto his cheeks. He was not ashamed of his tears, though he thought his son should have been. He wiped them away and whispered, “Are you proud to make your father cry?”

“There is no reason to be proud of anything that is so easy to do,” Dunstan said coldly. “I told you I would come live here. I shall do my duty. Don’t waste your tears on me.”

'Don't waste your tears on me.'