His wife strode into their bedroom, her head high.

Britmar had just undressed and sat on the edge of the bed when his wife strode into their bedroom, her head high.

“That was quick,” he said. “He looked as if he had made up his mind not to sleep tonight.”

“He probably wore himself out from the screaming fit he had at supper,” she muttered.

“You can’t force the boy to like peas.”

“I can try.”

Britmar sighed. Everything was a test of wills with Judith. But if he told her so, another one would begin.

'Britmar sighed.'

“I never thought I should regret having weaned him,” she said. “At least milk was something he liked every day.”

“Speaking of which, Judith, I was thinking that now that the baby is weaned, we might pay a few visits.”

He did not like proposing such a thing when her head was so high, but he would have to hurry if he wanted his visits to coincide with the upcoming holidays.

“Oh?” she sighed.

“I thought we could go to my uncle’s for Ascension, and afterwards we could – ”

“But that’s only two days away.”

'But that's only two days away.'

“I know, but it isn’t far. And then we could – ”

“Oh, Britmar,” she groaned. “Don’t tell me you want me to pack up all our household and go out within the next two days. Only to have the pleasure of my-​​lording and my-​​ladying your uncle and his wife!”

“Judith!” he sighed. He knew what was coming.

“I don’t know how you can bear it. Your father must be rolling over in his grave to hear you calling his brother lord.”

“He is a lord.”

“He is lord of something! Lord of Raegiming! Your father was Lord Hingwar, and so should you be.”

“Judith, that title comes down from the Danish princesses. It belongs by right to Lord Hwala, but Sigefrith’s father courteously let my grandfather use it.”

'Judith, that title comes down from the Danish princesses.'

“And so you courteously let your uncle use it!”

“Perhaps I do! He was bold enough to claim it. And if Sigefrith calls him Lord Hingwar, then I am content to let matters stand.”

“And be what? Sir Britmar like any common-​​born knight?”

“I am called Lord Britmar here.”

“Lord Britmar of what?”

“Lord Britmar of Something!” he cried. “It does not amuse me to sit around making up titles for myself, but if it amuses you, Judith, do not deny yourself the pleasure! Only tell me how I am styled when you have decided, and I shall have it engraved on my seal.”

'It is up to the King to give you a title.'

“It is up to the King to give you a title,” she grumbled.

“Then you may remind him of his duty when we go to visit him! For Whitsunday,” he added under his breath.

But Judith heard. “Whitsunday! That’s only…”

“Less than two weeks away. I know. That way you will not tire yourself out ‘my lording’ my uncle.”

“So thoughtful of you.”

“You haven’t seen the ladies in so long. There are several babies to be greeted. And we must call on Sir Malcolm’s bride.”

'There are several babies to be greeted.'

“Oh, yes!” she cried. “At last I shall be able to see how my paneling looks on a wall!”

“Judith! Don’t tell me you begrudge Malcolm the damned paneling!”

“Well and look how we live!” she cried and pointed at the walls of their bedchamber, one of which was the raw stone of the tower, one the daub and wattle of the exterior wall, and the other two of rough, unpainted wood. “I’m sick of it!”

“Does it hurt you? Does it make you ill? No! Malcolm had to hurry to finish his house, you know that perfectly well.”

“I don’t know that! What was the hurry?”

'I don't know that!  What was the hurry?'

“His bride was very ill!”

“She’s still alive, isn’t she?”

“Praise God!” he gasped. “Judith! Tell me you aren’t so spiteful as to reproach Malcolm the good health of his wife, merely because we let him have the paneling we had made.”

“No,” she said grudgingly.

“You shall have finer paneling than we had planned as a result. Malcolm has been generous there.”

“He can afford it, being the King’s own lapdog,” she grumbled.

“He is the King’s very valuable servant and trusted friend. But I think if you tried to hold him on your lap, he would bite.”

'I think if you tried to hold him on your lap, he would bite.'

Judith only snorted.

“I don’t know, Judith. Just now I don’t think I care to take you anywhere. Unless that was the point?”

“The point of what?”

“Your bile.”

“Oh!” she scoffed. “Sir Malcolm can have his wife and his paneling for all I care. And your uncle can call himself the Pope for all I care. And we can go to the moon and back by Whitsunday for all I care. I simply follow you everywhere and do whatever you say.”

'I simply follow you everywhere and do whatever you say.'

“As is your duty. But you could do it graciously.”

“What would that serve?”

“It might make us happier.”

“You, perhaps.”

“You, too, I think. You might try it.”

She sniffed. “May I put out the candles, my lord?” she asked.


'May I put out the candles, my lord?'