Then he remembered that of this matter Father Selred knew nothing, and he swore under his breath at his own foolishness; but the good father had not heard him, or his rough Danish prevented his understanding.
“What says he of the men?” he asked.
And when I told him he was well content, saying that from high to low all had a warm welcome for our king.
But even now Offa rises from the table and leaves the hall, all men rising with him. So he passes out of the door on the high place and seeks his own chamber, and there to him comes Quendritha.
“I have dreamed a dream, my king,” she says, standing before him, for he has thrown himself into a great chair, wearily. “I have dreamed that your realm stretched from here on the Wye and the mountains of the Welsh even to the sea that bounds the lands from the Wash to the Thames. What shall that portend?”
“A wedding, and a son-in-law whom you may bend to your will,” answers the king; but his eyes are bright, and there comes a flash into them.
That would be a mighty realm indeed, greater than any which had yet been in our land. If the East Anglian levies were his, he would march across Wales at their head, with the Mercian hosts to right and left of him. He might even wrest Northumbria from the hold of her kings.
Quendritha sees that flash, and knows that the cup has done its work. The mind of the king is full of imaginings. So she sits by him, and her voice seems to blend with his thoughts, and he does not hinder her as she sets before him the might and glory of the kingdom that would be his if that dream were true. And so she wakes the longing for it in the mind of Offa, and plays on it until he is half bent to her will; and her will is that the dream should come true, and that shortly.
Then at last she says, “And all this is but marred because of a niddering lad who will leave the hall at a feast for the whining of the priests yonder! In truth, a meet leader of men, and one who will be a source of strength to our realm! It makes me rage to think that but he is in the way. It is ill for his own land, as it seems to me.”
“Ay, wife,” says Offa. “But he is in the way, and there is an end thereof.”
“He is in your hand, and there are those who would say that Heaven itself has set him there. Listen. He hunts with you tomorrow. Have you never heard of an arrow which went wide of its mark—by mischance?”
Again the eyes of the king flash, but he does not look on the queen.
“Who would deem it mischance?” he says. “No man. And I were dishonoured evermore.”
“Not your arrow, not yours, but another’s—mayhap yonder Frank’s. He is a stranger, and would care naught if reward was great; then afterward he should be made to hold his peace.”
And at that she smiles evilly. A stray Frank’s life was naught to her if he was in her way.
“Say no more. The thing is not possible for me; it is folly.”