'How kind of you to come and see us.'

“Egelric! How kind of you to come and see us,” the Queen smiled.

“Your Majesty commanded it,” Egelric said quietly.

“You needn’t wait for my command, you know,” she scolded sweetly. “We like to see you, don’t we, darling?” She took Colban’s arm and made him wave. “How is my goddaughter?”

“She is well.”

“Kiss her for me when you return home.”

Egelric bowed his head.

Egelric bowed his head.

“I thought you might have a message for me,” Maud blurted.

“My cousin Colban’s prayers are with his godson, but I have already told this to His Majesty.”

Maud bounced Colban awkwardly. Malcolm had said that Egelric knew. “Nothing from your other cousin?” she asked, trying to make her voice light.


He looked unhappy to be there – surely he knew. And disapproved! But he knew. “Have you ever held him?”


“Would you like to?”

'Would you like to?'

“If Your Majesty wishes,” he said dully.

“I do.” She laid Colban in Egelric’s arms and stepped back to watch them.

Egelric had lost his look of discomfort in his intense study of the baby’s face. Maud knew he must be looking for the resemblance – perhaps calculating the likelihood of Sigefrith being fooled, or perhaps… 

Maud knew he must be looking for the resemblance.

“Does he resemble your son?” she asked.

Egelric looked up, startled. “Why should he?” he asked cautiously.

“They are cousins, after all.”

He looked back at the baby. “Perhaps in the nose and the chin,” he said thoughtfully after a while. He knew!

“And the mouth?”

'And the mouth?'

He turned questioning eyes on her.

“You and Malcolm have the same mouth, I have noticed.”

Egelric’s copy of that mouth twisted into a scowl. “Perhaps Finn had my wife’s. He was too tiny to say.”

“Look – he’s your cousin, too,” she murmured.

“I hope Your Majesty doesn’t repeat this information to anyone who comes to hold the boy,” he said darkly.

“I don’t. Have pity, Egelric – you’re the only person who knows. You’re the only person with whom I can speak about this – about him.” Her eyes filled with tears, and she let them come.

But Egelric was not moved. “Your Majesty would do better to forget him.”

“How can I?” she cried. “How can I? Could you forget a woman you had loved?”

Egelric glowered at her. “If she had been married to my friend I should not have lov – ” He suddenly turned his eyes back to the baby’s face.

He suddenly turned his eyes back to the baby's face.

Dare he not accuse her – or his cousin – in words?

“Your Majesty is unhappy,” he said after a time, still looking into Colban’s eyes, his face softer now. “I know something about that. But Your Majesty must realize that many other people are, as well: Malcolm, Colban, His Majesty the King – though he, at least, does not know it yet. This affair has created nothing but unhappy people.”

“And this child.”

“Aye. Perhaps he will be happy. But the older I get, and the more I look around me, the more I realize that nearly everyone is unhappy. There are a few that simply don’t know it yet. I am not the only unhappy man on earth – I am not the unhappiest man alive. It has made me humble. Perhaps also less unhappy. Your Majesty may wish to consider this.”

'Your Majesty may wish to consider this.'

“You are very wise, Egelric.”

“Father Brandt tells me I think too much,” he said, shifting the baby to his shoulder. “‘In much wisdom is much grief.’”

“In much grief is there much wisdom?”

He looked at her with new eyes. “Perhaps,” he mused.

“Then I shall be a very wise woman.”

“It is not too late,” he said.

'It is not too late.'

She wondered what he meant. “You are very unlike your cousin, except in the face.”

“And except in that we are both unhappy men.”

Is he unhappy?”

“Does that please Your Majesty?” he asked, sounding annoyed, his face hard again. “I have never understood the woman’s desire to prove the man’s love for her by making him suffer.”

“Then tell me – does he love me?” she asked desperately.

'Does he love me?'

Egelric scowled. “If he did not say, I shall not presume to speak for him. However, I don’t mind saying that His Majesty the King does.”

“Oh, Sigefrith!” she cried. “Then is that why he – oh, never mind!” She would not speak about Sigefrith with this man. They all adored Sigefrith. But they didn’t have to climb into bed with him at the end of every day. “Let me have the baby. You may go, Squire.”

Egelric bowed and left without another word.

'You may go, Squire.'