Alred whistled.

“Oh, my, Matilda!” Alred whistled. “This is neither a boy nor a girl – it’s a warhorse! Feel him kick!” 

“Quit touching him then,” Matilda growled. “His kicks hurt me more than they do you.”

“Oh, now, it’s just a game we play with you,” he winked. But his smile faded as he looked her over. “How are you feeling, dear?” he asked gently. “You look tired.”

'You look tired.'

“Oh, I’m not tired,” she sighed. “I’m so bored. I have written to everyone I know in Ireland and Denmark. It makes me wild to be trapped in my room all day.”

“Why don’t you have Githa or Colburga come to visit?”

She shook her head. “Colburga isn’t visiting lately. She’s not well – or not happy. She won’t talk about it. And Githa is so busy with her children and with managing her farms. She’s quite a tough little woman, after all, Alred.”

Alred chose not to comment.

“By God, I think I could almost stomach Maud,” Matilda said grimly.

“This is getting serious!” Alred smiled.

'This is getting serious!'

“I don’t know – I’m so tired of this. Yware is asking for Caedwulf now. I think he just likes Caedwulf’s toys.”

“I don’t know, Caedwulf is a funny little boy. Why don’t you have her come visit?”

“She wouldn’t!”

“I don’t understand it, Matilda – What’s her problem?”

“Oh, I think she’s simply unhappy about Sigefrith being away so often, so she doesn’t like to see anyone else happy.”

“Selfish little brat, isn’t she? I can think of one or two things that Sigefrith needs to give her a little more of.”

“One of which is a spanking!” Matilda laughed.

“As a matter of fact, that ought to lead into the other thing,” he winked.

He winked.

“You’re so wicked.”

“You say it as if it were a flaw in my character,” he huffed. “Well, I wish you luck with Maud in any case. As far as I know she packed Sigefrith off without getting so much as a spanking.”

“Sigefrith told you that?”

“I asked. I know, I know, I’m wicked. But it was painfully obvious, poor man. Why are women such fools? They’re so set on hurting other people that they don’t mind hurting themselves more.”

“Are you speaking ill of women before your wife?”

“Now, Matilda, you know I don’t mean you. You’re not a fool, you’re a damned fool, just like any man, which is perfectly respectable.”

'Now, Matilda.'