Honour and the Sword Online - A. L. Berridge Page 0,1

together against the adults, though I’d have been fourteen then and him only eleven. So I never said a thing, I just went on working round him, but he wouldn’t keep quiet, he started up gabbing, then someone was coming and he was trying to burrow back under the straw, but it was the Seigneur himself at the door and we were caught.

It was terrible. The Seigneur kind of lifted him up, got him out of the stables and standing on the cobbles in front of him, all with just a look. It was a belting look, that one, very powerful. The boy inherited it, so I should know.

Then he really laid into him. Not the way my Father would have done, it was all just what he was saying, how the boy had let him down, let his whole family down, embarrassed his mother, failed as a gentleman, and shamed them all in front of their new neighbours. I could see the boy getting white in the face and his lip starting to tremble, then his father got even angrier and said in this terrible voice ‘You will not cry, André,’ and the boy swallowed it back and stuck his chin out and said ‘Yes, Sieur.’ There were times I wondered if my own Father really loved me because he beat me so much, but I remember thinking in a way what the Seigneur was doing was worse.

Then he turned to me and said ‘As for you, young Jacques …’ and my heart jumped I was so frightened, but the boy leapt in at once and said it wasn’t my fault because he’d ordered me. The Seigneur looked at him then, and I saw he really did love him after all, but that didn’t stop him giving him another bollocking for putting me in an impossible situation, which was apparently even worse than being rude to the Baron. Then he packed the boy off to apologize, but I saw Father watching on the other side of the track, then I knew I was really in trouble and felt sick.

But the Seigneur was nearer. I was standing in the doorway clutching my hat and rubbing and pulling at it, and my hands were all sweaty and I wished I was dead, but he just leant forward and said ‘You did quite right, Jacques. A gentleman never tells.’ That was an odd thing to say, but I knew he meant it kindly, so I tried to smile and say ‘Yes, Sieur,’ like the boy did, and he reached out and tousled my hair. Then Father was suddenly there next to me, apologizing for what I’d done and saying he’d deal with it now, and the way he was saying it was like telling the Seigneur to piss off.

The Seigneur said not to worry, it was his own boy caused the trouble and he hoped my Father wouldn’t be hard on me for it, but Father just bowed and looked him right in the eye, which you’re not supposed to do with nobility, you’re meant to look at the ground or your boots or something, then he stuck his hand on my shoulder and said ‘He’s my lad, Sieur.’

I could never understand how Father didn’t get sacked or flogged, because quite apart from the drinking he could be really rude sometimes, but instead of ordering him hauled off to have something horrible done to him, the Seigneur just looked at him a minute then turned away. I watched his boots walking out of sight, then Father took me into the stable and beat the shit out of me.

Nobody beat André, of course, that window was round him all the time like a bubble nothing could get through. I remember crawling home that afternoon, bruised and aching all over, and seeing him sitting by the sunken garden with a girl, deep in conversation like there was no such thing as a stable boy trudging past with a black eye and ribs that were purple for a month. That would have been Anne, I suppose, it was the first time they met, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time, I just wanted to get home to Mother and tell her it wasn’t my fault.

I avoided him after that. He caught me at the stables next day to say sorry, and I just mumbled it didn’t matter and wouldn’t look at him, and after a while he went away. He still came hanging