Maud stood at the window of the nursery.

Maud waited at the window of the nursery, peering out through the blue glass at the round moon. Through these windows she had seen it wane and vanish and wax full again; they had spent nights in moonlight and nights in such darkness that she could only find him in the room with her hands, and could only see him with her skin. 

Outside the blurs of trees swayed uneasily in the wind. Already their top branches were growing bare. Her heart ached. She hated the autumn and the death of all the lovely growing things.

She turned reluctantly when Malcolm padded softly up behind her.

She turned reluctantly as Malcolm padded softly up behind her. She could see his teeth shining in the moonlight. How could he smile?

“Oh, Malcolm,” she whimpered.

He said nothing, only took her in his arms and kissed her.

He said nothing, only took her in his arms and kissed her.

But when she did not respond he lifted his head and looked at her curiously.

“Are no happy to see me?”

He lifted his head and looked at her curiously.

“Of course I am, but I want – ”

“We talk later,” he interrupted, laying a finger on her lips. “I waited long enough for the night to come.” He pulled his shirt and tunic off in a single graceful sweep of the arms and then laid a hand on her shoulder and pushed her back against the wall. 

“Later,” he repeated as she opened her mouth to speak.


“Malcolm,” she whispered urgently, “Colban says you are leaving!”

“Aye,” he said, slipping her gown off her shoulders and down her arms.


“Whisht!” His eyebrows arched menacingly. “Wake them, will you?”

“Malcolm,” she repeated softly, as he pulled her gown down her hips. “You can’t go!”


“Later,” he said and kissed her.

But Maud struggled away. “No, now!”

He sighed and grumbled something in Gaelic, of which the only word she understood was “women.” But, resigned, he said, “Now, then.”

“Malcolm, are you truly leaving?”

“It’s getting on into autumn, a chagair. Would you have me slog home in the dead of winter?”

'It's getting on into autumn.'

“You can’t go, Malcolm,” she said, her lower lip trembling. “You can’t.”

“You knew I could no stay forever,” he said gently. “You knew.”

“You can’t,” she repeated stubbornly.

“I must. Now, we have little time – shall we waste it blethering?”

“You can’t! You can’t! I love you and – and I shall have a baby in the summer,” she sobbed.

'I shall have a baby in the summer.'

Malcolm said nothing, but laid an arm gently over her shoulder. Maud relaxed against him – he would know what to do.

“Have you been with your husband?” he asked finally.

“Have I – No! How can you think that?” she whispered, outraged.

“You must. Soon.”


“He’ll know it isn’t his.”

“It isn’t his!”

“He must think so.”

“Oh, you don’t understand,” she sobbed. “You don’t care.”

'You don't care.'

“I do. This is best for you. Would you have him kill me and cast you out with your child?”

“Take me with you,” she sniffed.

He sighed. “Are you prepared to leave your children?”

Maud didn’t answer. Couldn’t they take the children somehow? She wondered briefly how it might be managed. But no, of course they couldn’t.

'Stay here with your children.'

“Stay here with your children. And mine,” he added thoughtfully.

So that was all he could propose? He to return to Scotland, she to return to Sigefrith’s bed, and – then? “Will you come back?” she asked.


Perhaps! “Perhaps not!”

“Perhaps not,” he agreed.

“You don’t care about me.”

'You don't care about me.'

“You know I do.”

“You have never said so.”

“I say many things you don’t understand. Only a barbarian would say such things in your language.”

'Only a barbarian would say such things in your language.'

She gave a sobbing laugh. “You said you would teach me,” she complained.

“I always thought you understood. Perhaps later. Now – we have little time. Come and kiss me, a chagair. I want to be sure you will never forget me.”

'Come and kiss me, Maud.'