Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The next morning, Iggy climbed onto his gelding and once again followed Robert down the dirt road in Routh. They passed All Saints and bisected the road Iggy thought they had rode into the village on. It was quite early, the sun was still rising; Iggy thought that at St. Osana's, his friends and parents would be hearing Prime.



            Robert led them to another dirt track, several miles east outside of the hamlet, and then turned north on it. Iggy made a turn to follow.
            This was the furthest away from home he had ever been in his life.
            The view was rather uninspring, all fields and woods. As they passed closer to other hamlets, pockets of civilization would show: a barn, a sunken graveyard, even once a manor home much grander than Collins Hall. They stopped for a break and a meal at an inn, Sir Robert's servants taking their breaks with the horses, who were watered and fed while Robert and Iggy dug into pork-filled pies and rhubarb tarts and drank bitter ale.
            "Where exactly are we going?" Iggy asked.
            "We're only ten miles away from Routh," Robert said. "Another ten miles will take us until supper and a decent inn to stay the night in. I gain rent from a few homes in Skipsea, but first, we will stop at an estate I own. 'Tis one of my largest in the East Riding."
            "How many properties do you own, Uncle?" Iggy asked around bites of his food.
            "I own…" Robert squinted, thinking. "I own some five-odd estates of any substantial size, thirty or forty smaller parcels of land spread about, I own a partial interest in my brother Edward's wool company. I earn rents off of homes and other buildings in York, Beverley, Skipsea, Whitby, Bridlington…it's quite a lot." Robert gave a firm nod. "And you shall see nearly all of it, except for the parcels I own in the south. We haven't time for a trip to the south just yet."
            "Have you been to London?"
            Robert snorted. "Rather more than I'd like, yes," he said. "London is exciting, I'll grant you that. But it is dirty and crowded and in the summer, it becomes plague-ridden. Perhaps, if I am called to serve my overlord, the Earl of Northumberland, in the south, I shall take you with me." Robert took a swallow of ale, then asked, "Ignatius, have you ever been outside of Scour?"
            "Only to the lands the priory owns nearby."
            Robert snorted again. "Lord! You're a country bumpkin."
            Iggy felt rather indignant at that expression.
            "Pax," Robert replied to Iggy's face. "I mean nothing by it, only that you have lived a sheltered life. I mean to amend that to an extent. One must be able to deal with all sorts on an even footing."
            That made sense. They left the inn soon after, reclaimed their seats on their horses and kept riding. The road they followed curved gradually northeastward, so the afternoon sun was at first behind them, warming Iggy's back, then blinding in its brilliant sunset to his left. The village they stopped in for the night had little more than the inn they stayed in, the horses put up for the night in a stable, the servants piled into a small room and Robert and Iggy in another.
            Supper was hearty: two whole chickens in gravy, slabs of bread with creamy butter, and chopped onions with cheese. They ate well and stuffed, Iggy rolled over into the blankets on his side of the bed he would share with his uncle for the night. Robert assured him that this inn, though truly in the middle of nowhere, had no fleas.
            They rose at dawn, the Latin songs of the monks echoing in Iggy's still-dreaming mind, said a quick prayer to St. Christopher for a speedy and untroubled journey this day, and broke their fast with thick horsebread and local cheese, slices of cured ham, and pears. Today, the journey would take half a day and would break for nearly three days as Robert inspected his estate.
            Iggy found himself able to think of other matters as the horse did all the work. He didn't want to marry Margaret, oh no, but in the future, would he rather be a simple villager or a monk shut away from the world or a man like his uncle Robert? Robert was a war hero, he had immense courage and bravery. The man, though he must have been easily in his late forties or fifties—Lord, no wonder Uncle was thinking of such things that portended mortality, like heirs—was still vigorous. He rode his horse as if born on it. At home in Collins Hall, he was indefitagable about work and his mind was razor-sharp, from Latin to the crop yieldings on his lands to the bales of wool that would be sold and even to catechism. Yet he dressed well, looked after his family, and was an important member of the community in Scour.
            Sir Robert. Iggy rather fancied the idea of being called Sir Ignatius someday. Sir Ignatius FitzClement.
            He frowned. His mother had given him FitzClement because she had to give him a surname of some sort. But 'twas a bastard's sort of surname. If he was going to be Sir Robert's sir, perhaps he should instead be Ignatius Collins.
            Then unbidden came the image of Brother Clement. Father would understand, perhaps, but he would be displeased and disappointed. Iggy lodged a reminder to himself to write in the notebook Clement had equipped him with. But what would he write about? The fields, grass and woods?
            Perhaps he could ask to see the map Robert's secretary carried and write about the geography of Yorkshire. Or perhaps he could ask some pertinent questions about the history of the places they passed through.
            Father was always pleased with his intellectual endeavors. Iggy had always, from the moment he fell under Brother Clement's tutelage, been eager to please him. He hadn't found the quiet, intimidating monk inclement at all. Even those years when Iggy realized that Clement was his father—before he confronted the monk with the information—he had felt nurtured in his intellect. Clement not only taught Iggy by rote, as was customary, but he found interesting charts and maps in the library to demonstrate what the border with Scotland looked like or why the English and the French often squabbled, as the Channel was so narrow. He found a decent family tree in another book to show Iggy visually how the Yorks and the Lancasters had been related and how they had destroyed each other.
            When Iggy asked about religious matters, Clement always answered with both Scripture and the great Doctors of the Church—St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius of Antioch and more modern philosophers as well.
            For his father's sake, for the love and respect Iggy bore the man, despite his impotence in swaying Robert's doings or opinions on what would be correct for Iggy's future, Iggy would not take on the Collins name.
            And yet, he did not want to remain a mere FitzClement, a boy of made-up last name, a boy with clearly dubious origins, his whole life. 

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