The boy he kept nearby was Æthelward, a couching dreamer up with head up in the rafters. Charles, of the boy could dress him up, but never get the boy to look just right. Always was his tunic pull-dog, pull-devil, or he had split his hose. His ears curled forward and his front teeth abended out. He was the very etching of buffoonery to look upon him. However may that be, the boy, this Æthelward, was useful, and he never malapert, for he did take to catching rats, and rats did take to Æethelward.
|Aethelward, Lord High Rat Catcher|
A professional Rat-Catcher is essential to yon every castle, city, town, and village, or wherever there are people. These crafty Men, they couch and rampant for the foul rats, must frequently they work the abject under-places where these vermin fester, inclewd the sewers, basements derelict, and catacombs dug underward the Earth. They risk their health and safety, as men surely do in every age, in mean proximity diseased and rabid screaming scoundrels of the underfeet.
Rats and mice and insects of the Plagues, and other vermin, are ubiquitous throughout the realm. Even here in fair-kept Normandy, did God place down upon the Earth so many kinds of vermin, erst Men never knew their worth. These sharpened knaves of matted blood and fur, of yellow incisitory insult, les animaux nuisibles servile avec des dents de verre empoisonné, an ever-present harbinger of pestilence and famine and disease and epidemics. Keeping down the population of the bristly deluge of death’s knell, this putrid business, crucial be the work to keep our realm enpeopled with good health, and guard con damage to our bread and grains, and goodly beer and wines. Thus, that tinkerer, he called the Rat-Catcher, be always in demand. Despite his grim and dirty work, has he but earned the tip and untip of the knight and lowly man alike. They are welcome in all corners of our Normandy and other realms.
So then when Charles and Robert both did come to Maine to rule, Charles brought along his Æthelward to keep the house of God more Godly in the face of pestilence. He did pay to Æthelward one livre carolingienne per week, plus room and one meal per diem, a lordly sum for such a lowly sod. Also did he grant the boy the title of Lord High Rat Catcher and made him as a Gentleman so he outranked the butler (ere except when they were in the proper house.) Whether Olive cared he overmuch or no, he kept it to himself.