'Come at last to see my humble offering to Margaret of Antioch?'

“Well, old man, come at last to see my humble offering to Margaret of Antioch?” Alred asked proudly.

Egelric was stunned by the beauty of the great window. It was like a picture in one of his lady’s prayer books, only it was as tall as a building and seemed to be made of light and jewels. Indeed, the whole chapel was filled with sapphire and emerald and ruby light.

He had long admired the pretty green windows in his lord’s castle, but this was far beyond what his imagination had believed possible.

“I would like to say it’s beautiful,” he said. “But I’m afraid my humble words cannot express what it truly is.”

'It's not too late to make a poet out of you.'

“I still say it’s not too late to make a poet out of you, Squire. You feel–that’s the important thing. All you lack are the words.”

“What will my lord not yet make of me?” he laughed.

“This man is a poet, too,” Alred said, waving a hand at the window. “Only he works in glass instead of words. Do you see the look on Margaret’s face? That’s feeling.”

“She’s lovely,” he agreed.

“I shouldn’t have had it done by now if the Queen hadn’t stopped work on that tower while you were away. It was a good thing for me she did – the glaziers finished my window, and I got the carpenters to finally put the floor in my new tower. But Sigefrith was spitting fire when he found out about it – like Margaret’s dragon here,” he added with a laugh. “I imagine Maud spent an unhappy afternoon when he got home.”

Egelric grunted. “She’s been trying to see me.”

'She's been trying to see me.'

“Don’t go.”

“I shan’t. I suppose she wants to find out what Malcolm said or asked about her.”

“What did he?”

“He only asked whether she was well. I was surprised.”

“Perhaps he no longer thinks of her.”

“I’m afraid of the contrary. But he’s safely married now.”

“That never stopped them before,” Alred grumbled.

“I think he meant it. When she’s not around, I do feel sorry for him. It’s a hard thing to love another man’s wife.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Alred said. “But I suppose there’s no dishonor in it, if she’s worthy. It’s acts that matter. And that’s why I have no respect – or pity – for him.”

Egelric sighed. “Your Grace didn’t send for me to talk about Malcolm, I suppose?”

'Your Grace didn't send for me to talk about Malcolm, I suppose?'

“That’s so. In the first place, I meant to show you my window, since you apparently weren’t intending to show up here without a summons – ”

“I’m not expecting a baby, you know!” Egelric laughed.

“True enough, but remember she was martyred because she refused to bed a man. Just the saint for you, old man.”

“Not this again!”

“I shall not leave you alone until you marry or become a priest. I know you would be far less gloomy if you had a sweet little woman at home.”

“But I already have a sweet little woman at home. Very sweet, and very little!”

“Don’t try to convince me that it’s the same thing, Squire.”

'Don't try to convince me that it's the same thing, Squire.'

“I had enough women between the ages of sixteen and twenty to last me for the rest of my life. Is Your Grace satisfied with that?”

“I still can’t believe it of you, old man. I have heard stories I simply couldn’t believe.”

“You can ask Gunnilda if you don’t believe me. I had every one of her sisters.”

“That’s one I hadn’t heard!” Alred laughed. “Not Gunnilda herself?”

'That's one I hadn't heard!'

“Luckily for her, she was only a child at the time.”

“Unluckily for you, no?”

Egelric sighed. “Let’s not talk about it. Certainly not here,” he said, waving a hand out into the cool stillness of the chapel. “And don’t ask Gunnilda about it either. I would prefer she forget that about me.”

“Oh, I never talk about you with Gunnilda. She’s mine now, old man. I claimed her while you were away.”

“So I have seen.”

“Did I do wrong, Father Egelric?”

'Did I do wrong, Father Egelric?'

“Let’s not talk about Gunnilda,” he sighed again.

“The poor shy thing would be horrified if she knew we did, wouldn’t she?” he laughed. “But, damn, can we mortal men be blamed? Clever old Alwy, hiding that lovely creature away under that mop of hair and that scruffy dress! I don’t think even she knew she was under there.”

Egelric coughed.

“Right, man. In fact, before you so crudely interrupted me to talk about sex and women in this sacred place, I was about to ask your opinion about something that does concern our fair Gunnilda to some extent.”

“What may that be?”

“You had her son with you in Scotland. What did you think of the boy?”

“Better ask His Majesty if you want an honest opinion. I’m afraid my fond eyes can overlook many faults.”

“I don’t expect a young boy to be a saint, Egelric. Perhaps not the rascal you were, but I will admit a few escapades now and then. And I did ask Sigefrith, but you know the boy better than he or I.”

“He’s a fine boy. Very clever, and he has a fine, big heart.”

“Ah, the man says he has feeling. Might I not make a poet out of him?”

'Might I not make a poet out of him?'

“Out of Bertie?” Egelric laughed. “Your Grace would have more luck with my prosaic self. But he’s a good, honest, loving boy.”

“What does he want to do?”

“That’s a delicate question. He knows his father wants him to get his farm.”

“So he is trying to want what his father wants for him?”

“He is wise enough to know that it is better to want what one can have. And a green branch can be bent far from the direction in which it was meant to grow.”

“But it’s a bit hard on the branch, isn’t it?”

Egelric shrugged. “Sometimes they do break. I suppose I did.”

“One would think the branch would know best for itself in which direction the light lies.”

“Is Your Grace trying to tell me something, or simply working on a poem?”

'Is Your Grace trying to tell me something?'

“Very well, I shall try prose. Egelric, I was thinking of taking Bertie as a page. Dunstan will need one. Caedwulf has young Malcolm, but Dunstan has had to carry his own sword. Besides, I think a good, honest, loving, prosaic boy is just what Dunstan needs as a companion. For a six-​​year-​​old boy, Dunstan is terribly sensitive and melancholy.”

“He only takes after his father.”

“I? Melancholy?” Alred laughed. “Damn you, Egelric.”

“Better not say that in a church. It might work. But I think that anyone who laughs as much as you do must have some great gulf of sadness that he is trying to span.”

“You are indeed poetic today, my friend. What about you then? You scarcely even laugh.”

'What about you then?'

“Oh, I? I fell in long ago. I simply sit in the depths of my sadness and look up for the two or three rays of sunlight that reach the bottom every day. When it doesn’t rain, that is.”

“Then you get a faceful of water, I suppose.”

“We poetic folk call those tears.”

“Egelric, Egelric, you have a poet’s soul. I’m sorry no one gave you the words when you were younger. You might have written yourself a rope to haul you out of there again. But I still have hope for you. Now, why don’t we go cheer ourselves up by visiting the lovely Mistress Hogge in her pretty kitchen?”

'Why don't we go cheer ourselves up?'

“Your Grace is about to break her lovely heart. She doesn’t want her sons to be soldiers.”

“No mother ever has, and every son has wanted to be, throughout all ages, world without end,” he sighed, leading Egelric to the door. “It makes one think that Saint Margaret was not, perhaps, the bravest of women.”