April Munday

April Munday by His Ransom Read Free Book Online

Book: April Munday by His Ransom Read Free Book Online
Authors: His Ransom
is a banneret who lives half a day’s ride away. He has no money. His land borders the duke’s to the north. It is as poor as he is. He is a coward, so he made no money from the war. It seems he would rather marry it. His wife died in the Big Death, so he came courting my lady at the same time as Sir Simon. Rosamunde had not been betrothed earlier. The duke has some strange ideas and he thought to give her some choice.”
    Richard mirrored Thomas’ shrug. Women obeyed their fathers; they did not have choices. The duke was an indulgent father. Richard had already concluded that he was unusual. He had treated his prisoner well and told Thomas to treat him well. Now it seemed he had some strange ideas about fatherhood. Rosamunde was old not to be married. Richard thought she must be about seventeen. He had learned from one of his bedmates that she had only been betrothed for six months before Simon went away. Richard’s sisters had been married at twelve or thirteen. Perhaps there was something wrong with Rosamunde that had put off her earlier suitors. He could not think what it might be. She was beautiful and her body seemed strong. She would bear many healthy sons. She was clever, their conference this morning had demonstrated that, and that would put off many men. For himself, Richard would have valued a clever wife. This young woman had been left in charge of her father’s estates while he was at war and she seemed to be carrying out her charge well.
    “Anyway, Simon was young, rich, handsome and clever. Walter is forty-five, poor, plain and clever. Even a maid without Rosamunde’s intelligence would not find it a difficult choice. The duke also preferred Simon, but Walter did not take the refusal well. He had seen Rosamunde and lusted after her and her dowry.”
    Richard could understand that. Even without her dowry Rosamunde would be a prize to many men.
    “But why would he besiege the castle and why is he not in France?”
    “It was not supposed to be a large army that went to France. The Prince of Wales was only supposed to be annoying the French and the king thought to leave himself some defence here. Sir Walter is supposed to be defending his neighbours. As to Rosamunde’s safety, after the duke had given his permission and before the betrothal ceremony Sir Walter tried to abduct her.”
    Richard must have looked blank, for Thomas continued, “I don’t know how you do it in France, but if an unmarried woman is abducted and spends the night under a man’s roof, he has to marry her.”
    Richard nodded. “Then he lusts for Rosamunde’s body more than for her dowry.”
    Thomas looked at him shrewdly. “I think his lust has made him mad. He thinks the duke would give up my lady’s dowry to her abductor.”
    “And he would not?” Richard was surprised. Even though it would not be Rosamunde’s fault, the shame would be great and it would be impossible to find another man to be her husband if she was taken from Walter. Surely the duke would want to make the best of it and make his daughter’s life comfortable.
    “He would kill any man who did that to Rosamunde.”
    “And the lady?”
    “Would go into a convent for the rest of her days.”
    Richard shuddered. A woman such as Rosamunde should not spend her days in a convent. One of his own sisters was a nun and the life suited her perfectly, but Rosamunde was surely made to laugh and to love with a husband. But he was here to make sure that this did not happen and he thought it a good cause to fight to keep Rosamunde from the convent and safe for the marriage bed. Not that he had any choice in the matter.
    The two men came at the castle from a variety of directions and Richard finally identified a weakness.
    “The town is not protected.”
    “He does not come against the town,” Thomas protested.
    “I would hold the town to ransom for the surrender of the castle. You said he is poor, so he will not have siege engines or guns. But he is clever, so he

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