She thanked me, saying nothing but that when the time came, if I yet remembered her and would ask her, she might give me messages for those at Peterborough whom she had left, and I promised to do all I could in bearing them.
“I cannot forget the maiden who saved my life,” I said.
She made no answer, and the boat shot alongside the little wharf, where a crowd was gathering quickly to see us come. Many questions there were when Bertric’s men were known.
There was a kindly-looking monk among his people, and I went to him, and brought him to the nuns where they and Uldra stood apart by themselves, while the two men were busy with their folk.
“Pax vobiscum,” he said; “you shall be welcome, my sisters, at our little nunnery for tonight. Then will we ask the bishop on the morrow what you had better do.”
Then they were eager to go with him, and I bade them farewell, bowing, and they turned away. They might say nothing, according to their rule, Elfric told me, save in need.
Neither did Uldra speak, though no vow of silence was on her, but she went with them for a little way. I was rather hurt at this, and began to go back to the boat, wondering that she had no word of farewell.
“Redwald—thane,” came a gentle call in her voice, and I turned sharply.
She was close to me, and the sisters were waiting for her twenty paces or so away.
“Farewell,” she said. “I could but thank you for all your care for us.”
“It has been freely given, lady,” I said. “I only grieve that the journey has ended thus. May it be well with you.”
“I will pray for you, thane, day and night in the nunnery that it may be so with you,” she answered, with a little sort of choking. “The gratitude of us helpless women to you for your long patience is more than we can say.”
Then she went swiftly back to the nuns, and they went their way. I thought that I had not deserved so much. And of this I was sure, that had not the sisters’ dress kept me far from Uldra, I had forgotten Hertha in her company. Then thought I that there was no reason why I should remember Hertha any longer. And next, that it were better that I should think of no maiden at all, at this time.
Which last seemed wisest, and so I grew discontented, and went down to the boat and bade the men take my arms and few belongings to Earl Wulfnoth’s house.
When I came there the steward knew me, and made me very welcome. The earl was at Pevensea or Shoreham, but Godwine was in and out of the haven, and would be here ere long. So they told me, and set a good meal before me. And when I had eaten I lay down on a settle and slept the long sleep that comes to one wearied in mind and body alike. If the house had burnt over my head I should not have waked, for others watched now, and I had no need to wake for aught.
A man knows those things in his sleep, I verily believe. One ill dream I had, and that was of Bertric’s unlucky kitten, which seemed to be the queen in some uncanny way. Sometimes I wonder what became of it. I never learned, but it brought me no more ill luck.