'Good morning, ladies.'

“Good morning, ladies,” Sigefrith said as he came into the nursery. “Isn’t Caedwulf here?” he asked, looking around.

“Malcolm took him out to the stables,” Maud said. “They meant to watch a horse being broken.”

“I’m surprised you let him.”

“Malcolm said you told him they might.”

'Malcolm said you told him they might.'

“Oh, I did? It’s a good thing Malcolm remembered, because I certainly forgot all about it.” He would have to have another talk with Malcolm, he saw.

“Is it dangerous?” Maud asked, alarmed.

“Oh no, there will be plenty of men to keep an eye on them. Don’t worry. The only danger is to Malcolm’s backside, and from me. What are you ladies doing? It looks pretty.”

“Papa, uppy! Papaaaaa!” Colban was trying to climb his leg.

“All right, uppy uppy,” Sigefrith said, sweeping the little boy up into his arms.

“Leila is showing me some embroidery stitches from her country,” Maud said, smoothing her work out on her lap.

'Leila is showing me some embroidery from her country.'

“That’s lovely, Leila,” he said, and the dark lady blushed and smiled. “Do you understand?” he asked her.


“Are there flowers like that in your country?”


“You must miss them.”

“Pardon please?”

“You must miss the flowers in your country.”

“Yes. The flowers.” She smiled and nodded eagerly, but Sigefrith wondered whether she really understood.

Maud coughed.



“What?” she snapped, as if she had been caught doing something she oughtn’t.

“There’s no smoke in here today.”

“I was only clearing my throat. Will I be scolded now whenever I cough or sneeze?”

“I’m not scolding. Are you cold?”

“I am fine.”

“Leila, are you cold?”

“I’m a little cold,” Leila replied.

“Why don’t you ladies get up and I shall take your chairs over to the fire for you?”

“The light is better here,” Maud said ominously.

Sigefrith met her eyes for a moment, and then looked away to Colban’s little face. “What say you, cub? Will you keep an eye on Mama for me? Make her sit by the fire if she gets cold later?”

'Will you keep an eye on Mama for me?'

Colban picked at his shirt.

“I’m not cold,” Maud said, “but I am certain that Colban will take care of me.”

“Then I shall leave you in his capable hands. Now, downy downy. I have to go find Malcolm, and see whether the horse trainer will lend me his whip.”

'Now, downy downy.'