Sigefrith scowled at his parchment.

Sigefrith scowled at his parchment when he heard the door open and the quiet feet of a slippered woman take a few tentative steps into the room.

He was growing tired of these little interruptions of Eadgith’s. In his household it was well known that the King did not like to be disturbed at his work. Only his children were met with tolerance, and only when they did not come to whine or beg. He wondered now how he had made them all realize this, so that he could apply the same technique to his cousin.

Perhaps he had growled at them like a bear disturbed in his den. He would try that. “Who is it?” he growled, not looking around.

“It is only Maud.”

'It is only Maud.'

Maud! She never came to him here. She never came to him at all.

“Only Maud?” he asked as he got up, laughing like a boy. “Only Maud? You mean, the only person I should be glad to see just now!”

She smiled shyly. “I’m not disturbing you?”

'She smiled shyly.'

“As if you ever could! But look at you! My favorite dress!” Her hair hung loose, still wavy from the braids, and she wore the soft green gown she liked to wear for her visits to the deer on summer mornings – but he had never seen it on her after noon, and she had been wearing another gown at supper. She had changed into it since – but why?

“I remembered you liked it,” she offered.

“Did you wear it for me?”


He was overcome.

He was overcome.

“But it is dreadful of me,” she said. “I’ve come to ask you a favor, and I tried to think of what would please you. I should think of that every day.”

“I believe it comes naturally to you, Maud.” But then he couldn’t even think of what to say. He felt as if he were fifteen again. Just then he envied his young godson and namesake nothing. “Ask me anything.”

“I do not believe you will like it.”

“I guessed that,” he smiled. “If you believed I would, you wouldn’t have bothered to wear your green dress.”

'I guessed that.'

“I shall wear it more often, for you.”

“Wear it at night, and come visit me here, as if I were a deer.”

“As if you were a stag, you mean. The one I call Silly Sigefrith.”

“Magnificent Maud!” he whispered and tried to kiss her, but she pulled her head away.

“But I haven’t asked you yet.”

'But I haven't asked you yet.'

“Yes.” He tried to kiss her again, and she ducked.

“You don’t even know to what you have agreed.”

“I hope it isn’t too dear, for I fear I shall be poorer by three half-​​marks of silver before long.”

“Oh, Sigefrith,” she said a little sadly, “It may be that you find it far dearer than that.”

'It may be that you find it far dearer than that.'

“Why, what then?” he asked, growing serious. What could Maud be asking? She never asked for anything – not since she had asked him for her garden, years before. Was she asking a favor of the King for another?

“You must give up your little wife for a month.”

“I – why?”

“Because I have sinned, I must give up speech for one month as penance – the month of October. And if you will permit it, I should like to spend the month at the abbey, where I shall not be tempted to speak, and may meditate and pray in peace.”

“Oh, Maud,” he sighed indulgently. “You and your little sins. What have you done? Been gossiping with the servants again? I know, I know, you needn’t tell me. But don’t you find that you exaggerate just a bit? You haven’t eaten meat in – how long? Not since spring, I believe. Surely Father Brandt doesn’t recommend such things.”

She gazed at him silently, with a plea in her dark eyes.

'She gazed at him silently, with a plea in her dark eyes.'

“The entire month of October?”

She nodded.

“What shall I tell the children?”

“I shall tell them their Mama is a sinner,” she said, her mouth trembling, “and she must go away a while to beg forgiveness.”

“Maud, Maud,” he said, embracing her. “I shan’t allow you to tell them their mother is a sinner. They believe you are an angel, and they are right to think so. We shall tell them that their Mama is an angel, and that is why she is going away a while to pray.”

'We shall tell them that their Mama is an angel.'

He suddenly wished he had asked King Malcolm how he managed a devout wife. But at the time, he had not dreamed he would ever have one.

“Will you allow it?” she asked.

“If it is what you desire. You so rarely ask me for anything, I must not miss an occasion to oblige you.”

“I thank you.”

“How shall I ever manage a month without you?” he asked, stroking her back through her soft hair.

'How shall I ever manage a month without you?'

“You have managed much longer before.”

“It has only taught me that I should not like to do it again.”

“You were trying to save England, Sigefrith. I am trying to save my soul.”

“Oh, Maud,” he whispered. It was no wonder her eyes always looked so frightened, if she believed herself in such danger. “For Christ’s sake all shall be forgiven.”

'For Christ's sake all shall be forgiven.'

She nodded resolutely.

“If you feel the need to save souls, you might try working on mine. I fear it’s a fair bit blacker than yours, though I haven’t hunted on a Sunday in more than year,” he chuckled. But he thought he had said the wrong thing – her eyes looked pained. “But I shan’t hunt the deer any longer, remember,” he assured her. “So I hope that both God and my wife will forgive me for my past sins.”

“Of course,” she said, her face paling beneath the golden glow of the lamplight.

“Then smile for me, Maud. It isn’t October yet, and I hope we shall make the most of the time we have left.”

'Then smile for me, Maud.'

“You speak as if I didn’t mean to return.”

“A month is a long time to a man. And it is a month of thirty-​​one days,” he reminded her.

She smiled at last. “Does the one day make such a difference?”

'Does the one day make such a difference?'

“The one night does.” That brought the color back to her face, and then some.

“Oh, but Sigefrith, perhaps when I return I shall have something to tell you that you will like to hear.”

“What kind of something?”

“I don’t like to say yet,” she said shyly, but he knew that look.

He pulled her against him, laughing like a boy.

'He pulled her against him, laughing like a boy.'

“You won’t be too disappointed if I have spoken too soon?” she asked.

“No no, no no. I shall be happy enough to see you again. But after a month of silence, I should think that it would be a very agreeable thing to say.”

'I should think that it would be a very agreeable thing to say.'