'You can put me down now.'

“You can put me down now,” Iylaine giggled when Malcolm did not let go of her after lifting her down from Devil’s back.

“Put you down?”

“I want to walk into my house all by myself.”

“Silly Baby! I’m supposed to carry you into your house on your wedding day.”

“Oh, I forgot!” she laughed. “I never got married before.”

“Neither did I, but I know that much,” he said, pretending to grumble, but in truth he was so happy he feared he would cry if he didn’t.

Iylaine had been stronger that day than she had been in months. He had feared she would not hold up through the long ceremony and the Mass and then the feast that followed, but she had been bright and merry through it all.

'Let me look in the window!'

“Let me look in the window!” she squealed as he carried her up the steps.

“It’s your own house, stupid girl! She’s about to step inside herself, and she wants to press her nose up against the glass like a grubby peasant child!” he sighed.

“I know, but let me see! It’s all lit up!”

“I only had them light the fires and that one candle. Now, listen up, my lady, since you want to be looking in windows. That candle there is to be kept lit when you are at home after dark and I am not. That way I shall know my Baby is home when I’m still far up the path.”

'That candle there is to be kept lit when you are at home after dark and I am not.'

“What difference will that make?”

“A big difference in terms of what I shall have to look forward to. Shall we go inside?”

“Let me see!” she whined. “I hardly saw anything!”

“We shall go in and then you shall see. Kindly open the latch for me if you have a hand handy.”

Between the two of them they got the door opened and he carried her inside.

Between the two of them they got the door opened and he carried her inside.

Now, he thought, they were one step closer to truly being man and wife. Now they were only one step away, in fact. But first he would show her her house. He had been looking forward to that for so long. She had not come to see the house since they had only just begun work on the foundations. Indeed, she had not gone farther afield than the inner bailey of Nothelm keep since the beginning of the year.

“Let me see!” she laughed and struggled with him, for he had not turned her around to let her look. “All I can see is the door!”

'Let me see!'

“That’s the best part, I’m afraid,” he said gravely. “I spared no expense on the door.”

“I don’t know about that! What I saw through the window looked nicer than this door.”

“All that expense wasted!”

“Stop it!” she laughed and kicked her feet. She was easy for him to handle, but still she seemed stronger than she had been in a very long time.

“Kiss me first and I shall let you down.”

This she did, and thereafter he kept his word and set her gently on her feet. She turned away from him at once and stared. And then she turned back to him and cried, “Malcolm! You liar!”

'Malcolm!  You liar!'

“What?” he gasped.

“You told me it was just a plain little house, not fine at all! And look at it!”

“I simply thought it wasn’t nearly fine enough for you. That’s not a lie, either.”

“I don’t know about that! But anyway – lies, lies, lies!” she laughed. “You, and my father too, and everyone! Telling me about the daub and wattle walls when everything is paneled in wood! Telling me there’s one little room and a small bedroom, when there’s this great, big room, and I can already see two other doors from here!”

'I can already see two other doors from here!'


“Even Father Brandt lied to me! ‘A cozy little house,’ says he, and the Queen tells me ‘cozy’ is a kind word for small!”

“Are you suggesting I convinced a priest to lie for me?”

“Show me!” she commanded.

“Now, I wonder what my Baby will want to see first…” he mused, but Iylaine, of course, had already dashed for the nook around which he had planned the entire house.

“What a wonderful place to sit and watch the fire!” she sighed happily as she fell back onto the cushioned bench.

'What a wonderful place to sit and watch the fire!'

Malcolm busied himself with the fire so that he could hide his delight, which he supposed would have made him look rather foolish otherwise.

“And my desk is just on the other side of your bench, Babe, so I can sit and watch you watch the fire.”

“You will never get any work done.”

“That is perfectly acceptable.”

“And I can sit on one of the chairs by the candles and sew, and toast my feet meanwhile. I think my hands will be strong enough to sew again soon,” she said eagerly.

'I think my hands will be strong enough to sew again soon.'

“And your feet stale enough to be fit for toasting.”

“But I’m so tired now…” She tipped back her head, stretched her arms, and yawned. Even her yawn sounded healthy and happy.

“Ready for bed?” he laughed. In truth, he was in no great hurry now that he was sure of her. For a while at least, he thought he would like to enjoy her delight in the house and enjoy all the funny things she said before enjoying her.

“Not yet!” She hopped up again. “Show me the rest.”

“Well, then, my lady…” he drawled. He had been having fun calling her his lady all evening. He thought that Lady Iylaine was a very pretty name. Lady Baby was even prettier. “Shall we see the kitchen?”

“The kitchen!” she laughed when they stood within it. “Liar! You said there was only a hob and kettle!”

'You said there was only a hob and kettle!'

“And so there is!”

“Aye, but there’s more to it than that.”

“Not that it matters. My lady doesn’t even know how to cook an egg.”

“I shall learn.”

“If it amuses you,” he shrugged. “But you know you shall have Warty Mother Curran to do your cooking for you, and the cleaning. And her sister for your plain sewing.”

“Whatever shall I do all the day?” she giggled.

“Perhaps you will find something to occupy you before long,” he said.

'Perhaps you will find something to occupy you before long.'

“Oh, I know what you’re thinking, sir!” she said sagely.

“Whatever am I thinking, my lady?”

“You’re thinking about the turtles!”

Malcolm threw back his head and laughed. She had not mentioned the turtles in many weeks, and for a time he had feared that her unwillingness to joke about the famous turtles was a sign that she was failing.

“Come on and show me what is behind these doors!” she said eagerly and dragged him back into the short passage.

“There are only two doors, Baby mine, and one of them leads to the bedroom. So you had better choose wisely, or you shan’t see what’s behind the other until morning.”

“There’s no fire behind this one,” she said of the first after listening for a moment beside it, “so I think this is not the bedroom.”

“Ah! Now that’s my clever girl.” He went to light a candle, and then he opened the door for her and took her inside.

It was a small room with a window that looked out onto the trees.

It was a small room with a window that looked out onto the trees, and no furnishings as yet but for a small table on which he set the candle.

“It seemed like a good place to put a little room,” he said, “but after it was built I couldn’t think of what to do with it.”

“Oh,” she said softly.

“Perhaps you will have an idea before long.”

She stood very still and very quiet as if she had just realized something and was letting it sink into her mind. Malcolm stood patiently alongside.

Malcolm stood patiently alongside.

“I have an idea already,” she murmured. “And I think you had the same.”


“I think it would be a very good room for… for turtles,” she said with a giggle and a rapidly deepening blush. “In a year or so… as soon as we have… turtles…”

“Baby!” he moaned and grabbed her.


That was enough showing of houses, he decided. She could see the rest in the morning. She was too terribly, infinitely precious not to be held and touched and kissed.

But she did not allow it long. “Malcolm, you forgot about Devil!”

“The devil take that Devil!” he growled. “That horse can stand to cool his heels a little while, can that Devil.”

He tried to kiss her again, but this time she did not allow it at all.

'You had better put him away, Malcolm.'

“You had better put him away, Malcolm. He will look at me so sadly tomorrow and wonder why I didn’t tell you to take his saddle off his poor back and his bit out of his poor mouth, and put him in the shed.”

“Poor Devil!” he muttered. “I shan’t make him stand all night, Baby. I shall put him in after you fall asleep.”

“Oh, no,” she said firmly. “You shall take care of him now. Otherwise I shall be thinking of poor Devil and wishing you would hurry up so you could go to him. But what I truly hope is that you will take your time,” she added in a whisper.

'What I truly hope is that you will take your time.'


His cousin Malcolm had told him that a man could not die of grief, but he was beginning to wonder whether one could not die of overwhelming happiness. Certainly his heart felt as if it was expanding painfully, to the point that it must press all the air out of his lungs.

“Very well, I shall see to the horse. And you, Lady Baby, shall go in the bedroom, since you now know where it is, and – ” He was about to tell her to undress, but he realized in time that he might like to do that himself. “Wait for me.”

Malcolm ran out to where Devil waited patiently in the yard, as he would always stand and wait patiently whenever he knew Iylaine was near. Malcolm shivered from the February cold while he worked, and he quivered from his own happiness. 

Devil seemed sensitive to his master’s feelings, for he was nervous and agitated as well, and kicked and reared and whinnied once he was safely in his stall.

'You big, black, idiot!'

“You big, black, idiot Devil!” Malcolm cried and wrestled playfully with the horse’s head. “May you take your own self and make yourself a saddle out of your hide! You shall see her tomorrow. Tonight she’s mine.”

But the anticipation was pleasant enough that Malcolm stayed for a few minutes to play with his horse. Devil wrestled with him at first, but he finally grew frustrated and jerked his head back into his stall.

“Jealous!” Malcolm laughed.

Devil turned away from his master and kicked the wall that separated them. Malcolm only laughed at him again, put out the light, and went back up to the house.

Iylaine was not in the bedroom.

Iylaine was not in the bedroom.

“Still planning for your turtles, Babe?” he laughed and went to join her in the “turtle room,” where had left her.

Iylaine was not in the turtle room.

Iylaine was not in the turtle room.

“Don’t get scared now!” he cried and went back into the bedroom. “Where are you? Under the bed?”

She was not under the bed.

Malcolm went back into the hall. The house was larger than he had hinted to Iylaine through these last months, but nonetheless it was not a very large house. There were few places in which even a slender girl could hide herself, and he had quickly searched them all.

“All right, Babe, you can come out now!”

He had some idea that Iylaine knew how to hide herself in ways he could not imagine. On at least one occasion she had made it out of the keep past the guards, and she would never tell him how.

He went out onto the front step and shouted, “Baby! Come back here! It’s not funny!”

'Baby!  Come back here!  It's not funny!'

The only sound he heard was Devil kicking his hooves against the walls of the shed.

“Baby!” he cried at the top of his voice.

Even at her strongest, even she could not run fast enough to have outdistanced the range of his voice where her own ears were concerned. Wherever she was, she had to hear him.

“Baby! Come home! I shall sleep on the bench if you want!”

It was the only idea he had. She had seemed so loving and so affectionate all through the day, up until the last moment he had seen her. But he knew how nervous and capricious she could be where such matters were concerned.

He heard nothing besides Devil’s agitation.

He heard nothing besides Devil's agitation.

He did not know whether his heart was squeezing out his lungs or his lungs were squeezing out his heart, but he felt a sharp pain in his chest, and he could not control his ragged breathing. He had only been so terrified once in his life, when he had seen Iylaine drop beneath the surface of the water without warning.

Now he did not even know where to look. The ground was snowless but frozen: there were no tracks. She must have heard him, but could not or would not reply.

He could scarcely breathe, and his hands trembled spastically. He felt utterly helpless: she could be anywhere, and it seemed as if all the night and all the wide dark were his enemies in this.

The candle was still lit, but his Baby was not at home.

The candle was still lit, but his Baby was not at home.