She was sitting up next to the lamp when he came into the bedroom.

Alred had thought that he would find his wife already abed, but she was sitting up next to the lamp when he came into the bedroom.

“Am I interrupting my lady in her devotions?” he asked, surprised to see her reading.

“No,” she giggled. “I was reading the book that Magnus sent Yware.”

'I was reading the book that Magnus sent Yware.'

Harold’s son Magnus had sent a sort of bestiary to his little cousin, detailing the strange creatures that existed in parts of the world that few men had ever seen. Now Yware talked of nothing but how he would travel to these places and hunt these animals, and bring their heads home to hang on the walls of his castle.

“That?” he laughed. “Some devotions! ‘And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion…’”

“What kind of animal is that?”

'What kind of animal is that?'

“That animal is not in your book there, Matilda,” he said as he began to undress. “At least, I hope it is not. God help us if Yware gets it into his head to hunt the beast ‘having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.’ Would make an interesting trophy, I admit.”

“Oh! It is from the Book of the Apocalypse again,” she scoffed and closed her book. “Had a little chat with Maud tonight, did you?”

'It is from the Book of the Apocalypse again.'

“I did, but not about that.”

“How is she?”

“Much the same, only bigger.”

“What did you talk about?” she asked as she got up and went behind the elaborate Moorish screen to stand near him.

“One of my favorite topics,” he said. “The sins of the fathers. Fortunately for me, I have already had all of these same arguments with Theobald, so I have an easy time of it.”

“You spend as much time arguing theology as a priest.”

'You spend as much time arguing theology as a priest.'

“It is no reason to complain. I do many other things from which priests are exempt.”

“That’s so,” she giggled.

“What can I do? We have Father Brandt, who thinks that Augustine is the fifth gospel; Theobald, who thinks that every prophecy of misfortune in the Bible applies directly to him; and Maud, who only speaks in verses. I am but a funny little man with an excellent memory for what he reads, but someone must take care of these unfortunate people.”

'Someone must take care of these unfortunate people.'

“I am certain that the Lord is reserving a special place in Paradise just for you.”

“I hope it is in the library.”

“Did Cenwulf and Edris come after all?”

“They did, and I heard something you won’t believe. He was talking to Eadgith, something about something Baldwin had done, and he kept referring to Edris as Baldwin’s mama.”

'He kept referring to Edris as Baldwin's mama.'


“I would not lie to you.”

“What brought that on?” she asked, following him around the bed.

“Damned if I know.”

“Do you think she told him about – ” She stopped suddenly and laid a pretty hand over her pretty lips.

“About what?” he asked, turning back to her.

“About nothing.”

He grinned at her. “You are learning discretion, Matilda. I shan’t damage it by asking what you meant, although I suppose I can guess.”

'You are learning discretion, Matilda.'

“Don’t say anything to anyone.”

“Don’t assume I would because you would.”

“I don’t, I don’t. I wish I could have gone,” she sighed. “I like to watch them together.”

“You aren’t planning anything, are you? I hope you will leave those two alone and let things take their course.”

'I hope you will leave those two alone and let things take their course.'

“I shall, but it’s difficult sometimes. I know how Edris feels.”

“I doubt you truly do. Nor do you know how Cenwulf feels.”

She snorted. “All he ever feels is her hands.”

'All he ever feels is her hands.'

“Apparently not, but we shall save that conversation for another day. I admit it’s rather funny to the two of us, because we watch him with her hands. But I believe it’s a good sign. The man is perhaps a little too worried about her health – although we can understand why – but I also believe it’s good for him to think about someone else’s condition, instead of brooding over his own as he did for a year.”

“He wasn’t worried about his own health, was he?”

“No, but I don’t think it’s truly Edris’s health that worries him. I don’t think he knows how to express himself any other way.”

“Do you think he is coming to love her?”

'Do you think he is coming to love her?'

“Oh, Matilda, that’s enough now,” he said, putting a gentle hand over her mouth. “I am worried of what you will do with your good intentions. Leave them alone, I beg. Moreover, I find myself getting dizzy when I think about Cenwulf and Edris for too long. As soon as I try to understand him, I must try to imagine myself in his place, and it is like staring into an abyss. Do you understand?”

She nodded, and he took his hand away and replaced it with his lips.

'He took his hand away and replaced it with his lips.'