'Oh, show him up!'

“Oh, show him up!” Matilda cried.

Egelric here to see her! This was a fine surprise. She’d been drooping with boredom over her embroidery, but now she could have a nice chat with a clever man. It was tedious to be a woman, sometimes!

“Good evening, Egelric!” she beamed when he came in.

He bowed politely but his mouth was set in a grim line. His heavy hair was a bit wild, his eyes were shadowy, and he looked like a man who had spent the day pacing. Perhaps he was worrying about the new moon.

His mouth was set in a grim line.

“Won’t you sit down? You look rather tempest-​tossed today, Squire.”

“I would rather not sit. May Your Grace forgive me if I am abrupt or rude this evening, but I’m afraid I’m very angry. I gave myself the day to think about it and try to reason myself out of it, but I only ended up angrier than when I started.”

“Oh, my—angry?” she tittered. “I hope not at me.”

'I hope not at me.'

“Indeed I am angry at you,” Egelric said. “Perhaps you can explain to me why I should not be?”

His voice was level, if gruff, but his breathing was heavy. Matilda stopped giggling.

“Why, whatever did I do?”

“I believe that you repeated some part of a recent conversation of ours to Gunnilda, at his lordship’s dinner. I believe that you repeated a few things that I asked you not to tell Gunnilda. I specifically begged you not to tell Gunnilda. And you did.”

“Oh, my…”

It was true. She did remember something about that. It had been silly and foolish of her, but she’d been drunk, and she’d been surprised by this story about the stupid rubies…

'Oh, my...'

“Why?” he barked.

“Oh, my.”

Matilda’s head felt light. He was an impressive sight when he was angry.

“I’m afraid I had a little too much to drink that night…”

“A little! Does that absolve you of responsibility for anything you may have done, then?”

“Nooo… Oh, I’m terribly sorry, Egelric. It was so stupid of me.”

“Stupid?” he cried, his voice ragged. “It was cruel, I should say! Why?”

'It was cruel, I should say!'

Matilda bristled. She had just apologized, not to mention called herself stupid. And it wasn’t as if she were the only person at fault.

“Well,” she said, lifting her nose, “I suppose I was piqued at the idea that Alred had given her rubies. Did you know about that?”

“Of course I did. I told him he was an ass, but he couldn’t very well ask for them back, could he?”

He couldn't very well ask for them back, could he?

Matilda admitted, “Nooo…”

“Well then! So to get back at Alred you decided to hurt Gunnilda? That’s charming of you!”

“I don’t see why she should be hurt.”

“Don’t you? Then I can’t explain it to you. And I certainly do not see why you desired to hurt me in the process.”

“I never meant to hurt you, Egelric. Oh, I never meant to hurt anyone,” she sighed. “It was only one more stupid thing amongst the many stupid things I did that night.”

“It was far more than that, my lady! Do you know what you have done to me?”

'Do you know what you have done to me?'

“I’m certain she won’t tell anyone.”

“Won’t tell anyone! What does it matter now? You’ve spoiled the best and dearest friendship I’ve ever had, all to ease your pique and your jealousy. The devil! Women! When will I ever learn?” He turned and stalked to the door.

He turned and stalked to the door.

“Oh, Egelric,” she sighed.

“May I go?” he asked with his hand on the handle. “I must go find a cat to kick.”

“You may go,” she replied, smiling slyly once he had gone.

Gunnilda would get over it. Matilda certainly had. She thought it was very wrong of him, but—there it was! Men could not help being men. And she enjoyed his friendship too much to allow that to get in its way. If Gunnilda were wise, she would do the same.

And he was a sight to see when he was angry. Wouldn’t it be fun to try to soothe him? To tame him? She could see what Maud saw in him. Now, if only she could see what a man like that could see in Maud!

She could see what Maud saw in him.