'I thought I should see thee here sooner or later.'

“I thought I should see thee here sooner or later,” Father Brandt chuckled when he opened the door.

“I hope it isn’t too late,” Cenwulf said.

“Nor is it too soon. But I was awake, and only reading. Come in, come in. Father or brother tonight?” he asked, as he always did.


“Good, very good. Come sit down,” Brandt ushered him in gently and they sat together.

“Brandt – I – do you – ”

Brandt only nodded his head slowly as he turned to lay his book on the chair next to them.

The City of God?” Cenwulf asked.

'The City of God?'

“Even so.”

“Brandt,” he began again after a deep breath. “You know Col – your stepmother better than I do or Edris and Raedwald do. What do you think she meant?”

“Did she not send a letter?”

“‘Words are nothing worth,’” Cenwulf said, quoting the von Alsted’s own motto.

“Even so,” Brand chuckled. “It is very like the Baroness to leave thee the trouble of guessing what she meant. Perhaps she meant for thee to find out for thyself what is best to do.”

'It is very like the Baroness to leave thee the trouble of guessing what she meant.'

“What shall I do, Brandt?” Cenwulf asked desperately. “What am I supposed to do now? Raedwald doesn’t mean to stay, and I can’t have a lady come live with me without a – without some kind of – ”

“I could pay a small visit.”

“You could? Oh, Brandt, that would be too kind,” he sighed in relief. “Too generous.”

“Too kind? Thou thinkest on thy kitchens,” Brandt chuckled. “‘Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water,’” he quoted.

“I wasn’t thinking of my kitchens, Brandt.” Cenwulf smiled ruefully. “But I must think of those too, now.”

'I wasn't thinking of my kitchens, Brandt.'

“Shalt have many things on which to think, and many things to set aright. Hast not spoken with Edris?”

“I haven’t been able to meet her alone. Nor do I know what to say to her. What does she expect?”

“That is more than her old cousin can say.”

“You know her, Brandt. Better than anyone perhaps. I don’t believe Raedwald knows her, or truly understands her, at all. You are the only one who visited her at the convent.”

“That was years ago, brother.”

“Was she happy there?”

'Was she happy there?'

Brandt looked down at the candle and sighed. “Should I tell thee the secrets of her heart?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know. Does she mean to stay?”

“My mother would not take her from her convent and send her so far only to pay a visit.”

“But what does she expect of me?” Cenwulf moaned. “This is dreadful!”

“Edris is a woman who has learned to expect nothing. She gave up expecting long ago. Dost understand?”

'Dost understand?'

“When I married Colburga?”

“Not only. When she was well again, she sent a letter to my mother, for to say that she was ready to come home and be married to whomever my mother would choose. My mother wrote to say that it was a generous offer, but not necessary. And little Edris did not dare write to say that it was no generous offer, but what she desired. Do not tell her I told thee this.”

“But – but why didn’t you tell the Baroness this?”

'Why didn't you tell the Baroness this?'

“Ach, but I did.”

“And she left her there anyway?”

Brandt shrugged helplessly. “My mother may have thought that she could be of use in some other way, some other day. It would seem that day has come.”

“But it’s – it’s cruel, Brandt,” Cenwulf said, dangerously close to tears. “Cruel to me – so soon – so soon… and cruel to Edris, because she sends her to me, and not to ‘whomever she would choose.’ It must be – it must be – I can’t help but think it must be a humiliation to her. After fifteen years!”

“Ach, a humiliation? I think not.”

“Does she want to be married?”

'Does she want to be married?'

“She did, once.”

“To me?”

“That is more than her old cousin can say. Shouldst ask her.”

“Ask her? How can I ask her such a thing? ‘My dear cousin, tell me, do you wish to marry me?’”

“That sounds like a proposal.”

“Is that what she expects?”

“That is more than – ”

'That is more than--'

“I know, I know! God help me!”

“She is a young woman yet. Thou art not so old a man. And thou hast a son in sore need of a mother.”

“A mother!” Cenwulf cried, tears coming at last. “I am in sore need of his mother!”

'I am in sore need of his mother!'

“Colburga would have wished it.”

“Colburga! How can you say so? How do you know?”

“She told her old brother.”

“She told you I should marry Edris?”

“She only told me I should not let thee live too long alone.”

'She only told me I should not let thee live too long alone.'

Cenwulf considered this for a moment. “Then why have you said nothing to me?”

“I did not consider a year too long,” Brandt said gently.

“What is my duty, Brandt? Father?”

“Thy duty is first to thy son, and it is true that he needs a mother. Thy duty is also to thyself, and it is not good that the man should be alone. Thy duty is then to thy family. Edris is thy cousin, and it is not too late for her to have a happy life. And thy mother gave thee her only, beloved daughter, though I know it was the hardest thing she ever did. They never met again. Now it is her wish, I think, that thou and her niece marry.”

“Why could she not simply tell me so?”

'Why could she not simply tell me so?'

Brandt shrugged. “She is as she is.”

“You think I should marry her,” Cenwulf said. It was almost an accusation.

“Art come for my advice, or?”

'Hast come for my advice, or?'

“I am. I thank you for it. I only wish I knew whether that is what the poor woman wants. You know I cannot love her. It does not seem fair to her.”

“Edris knows that love is not all.”

“Do I?” Cenwulf laughed sadly, his face in his hands.

'Do I?'