Maud was watching the children play.

Maud was watching the children play when the servant came.

“You know that I am not to be bothered in the morning,” she said coldly.

“Beg pardon, Your Majesty,” the young man bowed, “It’s Squire Wodehead would see Your Majesty, if Your Majesty would.”

Egelric Wodehead! That was different. 

“I shall meet him here. Tell him he may come up.”

Perhaps he had news of Malcolm! There had been time enough for him to arrive home and send a message back. If she could just be sure that – oh, of course he still lived! But to be sure that he was still thinking of her…!

Maud smiled as Egelric stepped shyly into the room and bowed.

Maud smiled as Egelric stepped shyly into the room and bowed. 

Prince Caedwulf crowed and threw himself at his tall friend’s legs. Often when his father took him out riding they would meet up with Egelric and Yware, since Yware’s father could no longer ride. And sometimes the boys would beg to switch saddles, and then Caedwulf would go up before Egelric, and Egelric would let him hold the reins of the grey mare all by himself! His father never would, because his father’s horse was too mean.

“Take me riding!” Caedwulf demanded.

“Not today, Your Highness,” Egelric smiled. “I came with the cart because I brought some things for your mother, and the old gray mare is sulking in her stall.”

Caedwulf huffed and went back to his toys.

“I’m intrigued, Egelric,” Maud smiled. “What could you have brought me that demanded a cart?” What could it have to do with Malcolm?

He shyly twisted his hands behind his back.

“Well,” he said shyly, twisting his hands behind his back, “His Majesty the King mentioned that Your Majesty was hoping to have a garden. And my – my wife used to have a garden, and she had many plants that she had brought from her mother’s garden in the hills. And I thought – I don’t mean to be presumptuous – I thought that it’s still the season for planting the bulb plants, and so I dug up a lot of her bulbs and brought them here, and also a white rose and a red rose, and two of the young lilacs she planted. And I also – I also brought a lot of seeds. She gathered them last year before she – before she died – but they’ll still be good.”

He stopped, out of breath, and smiled up at her.

He stopped, out of breath, and smiled up at her.

His nose – his mouth – they were so familiar she could scarcely prevent herself from touching him. She couldn’t remember how closely he and Malcolm were related, but she knew Egelric was the only grandson of his Scots grandfather, and so they could not be so closely related at all. Thus that nose and that mouth must be deep in the blood. Her child would have them – she hoped it would – and prayed it wouldn’t.

“If Your Majesty would do me the honor of accepting them, I mean,” he said awkwardly when she didn’t answer.

Maud broke into a slow smile as her thoughts returned to the flowers.

Maud broke into a slow smile as her thoughts returned to the flowers.

She didn’t know why she had said what she did to Sigefrith. It was as if she had meant to say that she wanted something else that she could only mention in code – the wild places of which Malcolm had spoken, perhaps, or simply freedom. Thus she had not thought again of the garden, and was surprised to learn that Sigefrith had mentioned it to Egelric. She was surprised to learn that Sigefrith had thought about it at all. There was no war in a garden.

“Egelric,” she said, “I believe that’s the kindest thing anyone has done for me in – in a long while.”

Egelric flushed. “I don’t know what all of the seeds are,” he admitted. “Elfleda knew – my wife did. They’re all flowers, though. She kept the vegetable and herb seeds elsewheres.”

“Then it will be a spring full of surprises,” she smiled. “I like the flowers best when they grow together wildly.”

“So did Elfleda,” he said.

“I know how she felt.”

“I hope Your Majesty doesn’t,” he said grimly.

'I hope Your Majesty doesn't.'

Maud flushed. She wouldn’t argue with him over that. 

“Have you heard from your cousins?” she asked, trying to sound careless. “It’s been quiet at dinner since they left.”

Egelric smiled. “I haven’t heard. They should be home by now.”

She already knew that. But what more could she ask without arousing suspicion?

“Has Sigefrith chosen a place for the garden?” she asked, as if the talk of his cousins had been a fleeting idea.

“I found a few likely spots where the sun and soil is good.”

You did?”

'You did?'


“Are there still trees around?”

“Of course.”

She smiled. He understood a little about what was right for a garden. “Could you see that – how can I say this? That Sigefrith hasn’t too much a hand in it? He’ll plan it and plan it until it’s not a garden anymore.”

“I believe he means to leave it to Your Majesty,” he said gravely, but his eyes twinkled. He knew Sigefrith too!

“Will you help me?” she asked. “Will you show me the places – show me where I shall have them plant the bulbs and trees, and then – will you come sometimes to help? That is, to see? I know nothing about growing things. I know you will have better ideas than I.”

He bowed.

Maud smiled in satisfaction. It would be a better opportunity than she had dreamed to see Egelric from time to time – and in the garden they could be alone, and she could ask him what she would. 

“Allow me to dress the children and you may show me what you have brought,” she said.

Maud smiled in satisfaction.