“Friend,” he said, “is it your duty to go back to Carl the Great?”
“I have left his service, King Offa; I am on my way homeward. It was but by the kindness of Ethelbert, to whom I helped bear messages, that I came hither.”
“Well,” he said, “I will not hinder you. Had you gone back, I would have asked you to tell him plainly all of this. As it is, Ealdwulf shall send churchmen to tell him; I would have him know the truth. Now I must thank you for this that you did last night, and tell you what shall be done in atonement for the death of your friend.”
There he checked himself and bit his lip.
“Nay,” he said unsteadily, “there is no atonement possible. There is but left to me the power of showing that I do repent, and will have all men know it for aye. There shall be at Fernlea, where he will lie in his last sleep, the greatest cathedral that has been seen or heard of in this land, and men shall hail him as the very saint that you and I knew him to be; and after his name shall it be called, and in it shall be all due service of priest and choir for him till time shall end it. What more may I do?”
“I think that the place where his body lay should not be left unmarked,” I said boldly, for so it had seemed to me. “May not somewhat be done there, that the spot may be kept?”
“Ay, at Marden,” he said eagerly, as if he did but long to do all that he might, “there also shall be a church, that it may be held holy for all time. It shall be seen to at once.”
After that promise Offa bade me farewell sadly enough, and I was glad to leave the chamber. Nor had we long to wait before Ealdwulf came out, and we were once more turning our backs on the palace of Sutton. On its walls I never set eyes again, nor did I wish to do so.
As we went in leisurely wise back to Fernlea, the archbishop told me those few things which I have set down concerning the way in which Quendritha had beguiled the king into suffering the thought of this deed of shame. No more than was needful for me to understand how little part, indeed, Offa had had in the matter did he tell me, for all else that had passed between those two was not to be told. Both he and I think that had the evil queen left the doing of her deed until morning it had never been wrought, for Offa would have come to himself.
Yet one cannot tell. What Quendritha had set her heart on was apt to be carried through, even to the bitterest of endings for those who were in her way thereto. How she would fare now Ealdwulf could not tell me. It was true that she was almost imprisoned, as I have said, but none could tell whether that would last. Yet he thought, indeed, that Offa would have no more to do with her.
So we came back to Fernlea, and when I saw the little church I minded once more that strange dream of the poor young king’s. I had heard the words which told that it would come to pass. Nor was there any doubt now in my mind that all those things which we had deemed omens were indeed so. The fears we had tried to laugh at were more than justified.