Iggy returned to Sir Robert's study a few minutes later. Robert glanced up from his chair, behind his oaken desk, where he was dipping a quill in ink.            
            "Get lost on the way, boy?" He asked.
            "No, sir. I had to wait, sir," Iggy replied, resuming his seat once again.
            "Very well," Robert said, shaking the excess ink of the quill before setting it down to write. "Now, where were we?" Oh, yes, marriage and procreation. You must marry, Ignatius. I've a bride in mind for you already, though I don’t tihnk the marriage will take place until you are both older."
            Iggy sat up straighter. "Truly, Uncle?" Drat, his voice had squeaked again.
            "God's honest truth," Robert said. "She's a good lass, good family. Only a year older than you, so they'll be no awkward age differences to be concerned over—really, the aristocracy make the most odd marriages sometimes! Your future wife has strong dower lands and a good inheritance. She is modest, devout and beautiful." Robert returned the quill to its holder and spread sand carelessly across the paper. "Is your curiosity piqued, my boy?"
            "Yes, Uncle."
            "I wish you to marry, in a few years' time, your cousin Margaret."
            Iggy's stomach felt like it had punched suddenly. His mouth gaped for a moment, as if he needed to catch his breath.
            Margaret? That snotty girl? His cousin? His future wife?
            "May I ask why Margaret, Uncle?" Iggy said.
            "You may," Robert replied. "Since you asked respectfully, I shall answer you. You see, you are close in age. You will my heir. Margaret will gain some dower lands and some money—what her mother brought to the marriage, essentially. And I'd like to keep both her lands and my own as intact as possible. 'Tis a simple contract, Ignatius. I think you will deal well together in the future."
            At his next appointed lesson time with Brother Clement, Iggy first went to confess his sin of masturbation and more frequent impure thoughts. Not of Margie, his future wife, but of vague sensations—a girl's soft lips on his, fingers touching parts of the body that were always clothed.
            Absolved of his sins and given penance, Iggy went to lessons with a clear mind. After a half an hour of Latin, then another half an hour of Greek, then some mathematics and learning some religious precepts, lessons ended and Iggy felt able to ask his natural father some questions.
            "He wants to marry me off," Iggy said.
            "That's hardly surprising, is it?" Brother Clement replied.
            "To my cousin Margie," Iggy said, resisiting the urge to cringe.
            Clement seemed surprised. "Hmm. Marrying you to his daughter. I don't know the girl. What's she like?"
            "A snob," Iggy replied.
            "That's uncharitable," Clement said. "As a monk, I must tell you that. As your father, I shall agree with you. Robert Collins has always had the remarkable power to annoy me to levels I've never known. So, the girl? You don't like her?"
            "She's not fun," Iggy said, frowning. "Not like the lasses here were. You know, they like to chatter and such, but the older girls treat the younger boys as if we were their children and the younger lasses like Isabel are sweet."
            "You live in the same house, lad. Do you never speak to her?"
            "I try," Iggy said with an awkward shrug. "She gives me this sort of look, as if she's glancing down her nose at me."
            Clement stifled laughter. "Have you told your mother?"
            "Nay," Iggy said. "I was going to find her after lessons."
            "Go find her then," Brother Clement said. "She'll have much to say."
            Iggy rose, retying his new cloak, adjusting the angle of the brown hat from Isabel, and tread the bitter cold of the priory yard to find his mother. He asked Sister Catherine, who pointed him toward the door of the prioress' house. Though St. Osana's was run by a Prior, the prioress was in charge of the nuns and novices.
            Approaching the neat, square cottage, Iggy saw Sister Benedicta standing at the door, the hem of her habit trailing slightly in the dirt. Luckily, the mud had frozen to brown sheets of ice.
            "Sister Benedicta!" He called. Benedicta looked up and her mouth curved into a smile.
            "Ignatius," she greeted. "How are thou on this bitter cold day?"
            "I am come from lessons," he replied. "I've some news." Then he added, clunkily, "Mother."
            She drew her eyebrows together, scrunching the skin between them upwards, for a moment. Then a serene expression crossed her face and Benedicta said, "What is it?"
            "Uncle has decided that I should marry or at least, become contracted to do so."
            Her mouth puckered as if she tasted something bitter. "Indeed?"
            "Aye," Iggy said. He leaned in close to his mother and said, "He wants to marry me to cousin Margaret."
            Benedicta's eyebrows rose, her blue eyes nearly bulging out of her face.
            "You're first cousins. The degree of affinity is too close."
            Iggy felt relieved. "So I won't marry her?"
            "Be charitable toward her, Ignatius," Benedicta said, "Come. Walk with me to the kitchens. I feel the need for some hot ale, do you not?"
            "Mulled wine?" Iggy suggested.
            "Perhaps," Benedicta said. They turned and walked side by side, picking their way across ice. "I know you have adjusted admirably to your position, but perhaps she has not yet. It must be strange to be the only child in the house and now to share the attention with you, you who her father has declared his own heir."
            "But she can't inherit the estate."
            "Not on her own, no," Benedicta pointed out. "Thus, he marries you both to each other, the lands and interests are kept intact, Margie is taken care of in a style she is accustomed to, and he's time to groom and rule you both." She tilted her head. "My brother is a diabolical warrior, you know. He fought at Bosworth Field."
            "Yes, I know. He has a sword he took from the battlefield hanging in the Hall."
            "He is also rather diabolical in scope—planning, I mean." Benedicta nodded her head. "Oh, aye. The affinity is rather common. Mary is our first cousin. My brother Henry in Hull married a second cousin. As it is so, the prior and the bishop above him will give the necessary permissions and such for the marriage to go on." She shook her head. "Pray forgive me, but you are too young to be married."
            "Uncle says the marriage will not take place for a few years." Iggy said, biting his cold bottom lip. "I don't like it, Mother. I don't like her."
            "I shall speak to my brother," Benedicta said. "But you understand, as a woman and as a nun, I have little power over his decisions regarding your future. I wish it were not so."
            Iggy wished it were not so either. He felt a surge of anger and a feeling of injustice deep within. And a small modicum of shame, for he was the child of two sinners who had sinned against the tenets of the Church they now served, the Church the Iggy had been brought up to believe in unquestionably.
            Those feelings would come to rule his mind and heart in the future.


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