'Well, Gunnilda?'

“Well, Gunnilda?” Egelric asked curtly. He had known whom he would find behind the door as soon as he heard the knock, coming so late. “Come in,” he added when she did not respond.

The smile she had been wearing when he opened the door had flickered out. No doubt this was not the reception she had been expecting.

The smile she had been wearing when he opened the door had flickered out.

“What is it, Gunnilda?” he asked. “Did Baby forget something?” He thought he ought to offer her a way out – if only she would take it!

“No,” she said weakly. “No, I come to say goodbye.”

“We did say goodbye but a few hours ago,” he reminded her coldly.

She looked at him.

She looked at him with eyes that revealed her hurt, and revealed her disbelief that he was hurting her.

“You can’t keep doing this,” he blurted in his discomposure. “You can’t come here every time I must leave for a week or two and expect me to – ” To what?

'You can't keep doing this.'

“My God, Gunnilda,” he went on. “I shall return in two or three weeks – I’m not going to war! I’m not going to die. You seem to think that because I made allowances last time – ”

“Allowances?” she cried harshly, still disbelieving. “That was allowances?”

'That was allowances?'

“The word was perhaps ill-​​chosen, but the fact remains that you should not be here. Does your husband know you are here?”

“Alwy’s sleeping,” she admitted.

“Why was it necessary for you to wait for him to sleep?” he asked, pressing on.

“Egelric!” she gasped. 

All at once he thought back to what he had said to Iylaine about a gift given in love being thrown away. And back to Gunnilda, who had once told him that he was hard. But so he would have to seem.

“Go back to your husband, Gunnilda. You must not come here like this. It is wrong.”

“Do you know what you’re saying?” she flared. “Do you know what you’re calling me?”

'Do you know what you're saying?'

“Us, then, if you prefer,” he said, searching desperately for the right thing to say. He was making a dreadful mess of this. “I don’t pretend to be innocent.”

“What did we do that was wrong?” she demanded.

What had they done? In all those years he had never so much as kissed her. He had kissed the girl Wecta though then still married to Elfleda, and yet that hadn’t been as wrong as – this. But he could not say the words necessary to explain it to her.

Still, she was waiting for him to say something.

She was waiting for him to say something.

“Nothing,” he sighed. “That is why you must go now and why you must not come like this again.”

“So I mayn’t see you again?” she snapped.

“Of course you may, only not – not like this. Don’t you see the difference?” he asked desperately. Would she make him explain? He remembered what Father Brandt had said in the church, and could see now why Brandt had not wished to say more for fear of saying too much. He little knew what she heard in her heart.

'I see.'

“I see,” she said, her voice tense with anger. “You think that I – ” 

And then her anger failed her. Choking on a sob, she pushed past him and fled out the door.

She pushed past him and fled out the door.

That was done. Poorly done, but done. He thanked God he would not need to see her again for several weeks.

Egelric leaned his head wearily against the wall and studied the floor. What had he done? Here was another reason to hate himself. He wondered whether Gunnilda had it in her nature to hate him as well. What must she think of him now?

But he had asked Iylaine, “How would you feel?”

“Sad,” she had said, simple and wise.

Egelric leaned his shoulder wearily against the wall and studied the floor.