“Nay, Godwine,” said Relf, “Redwald will not bear much of this. He is the queen’s faithful servant, and will have nought against her, and he is right.”
“So he is, and I am wrong,” said the lad at once. “Forgive me, friend; I did not think.”
Then I laughed, and turned it off. Godwine was only too right, but I could not say so. Now, however, I may say that the memory of Emma the queen’s ways is to me as a nightmare.
“I would that I could meet with this Egil,” Godwine said as I gave him sword Foe’s Bane to handle; and then he forgot all else in the beauty of the weapon.
“What have you done with the brave maiden?” Relf asked me now.
“She is in the nunnery here,” I said. “She is friendless, having no folk of her own nearer than Peterborough.”
“That is far off,” said Relf, and began to think, twisting his beard as was his wont when pondering somewhat weighty.
Now, before he had made up his mind to say any more, Godwine was ready to hear about the winning back of the sword, and of the fights in Ulfkytel’s land, and then a man came from the ships with some business, and he went away with him. And by that time Relf had somewhat to say.
“Penhurst is a lonesome place, and it will be worse for my wife when Sexberga is gone,” he said musingly.
“Why, where is your daughter going?” I asked him.
He looked at me sidewise for a moment, and I thought that his face fell a little. Then he said:
“Going to be wedded shortly.”
“That is well,” I said. “To whom?”
Then the thane turned fairly round on me with wide eyes, and a blank fear fell on me that he meant that I was to wed her. Yet surely the lady had told him that I was betrothed.
“Ho!” he said; “did you not know that? Methought everyone did.”
That was worse, and I knew not what he looked for from me.
“I have been away; I have heard nought,” I answered lamely enough.
“Oh, aye; so you have,” he said. “Truly, I forgot that. We quiet people fancy that all the world knows our affairs. And it was in my mind that you had a tenderness that way yourself. I knew not how you would take it.”
Then we both laughed, but it was not a hearty laughter, for each feared the other a little, as it seemed.
“I am glad for Sexberga, if she is happy,” said I.
“Why, now, that is well,” said Relf. “I had thought that I must break this matter gently to you.”
“Maybe you would have had to do so had I bided at Penhurst much longer,” said I truly enough.
“All the same, Redwald, I wish it were you, on my faith,” said the thane, growing red in his earnestness.
“Thanks therefor,” said I. “It is good to hear you say so; but I am a landless warrior in bad luck, and so it is better as it is. Who is the man of Sexberga’s choice?”
“Eldred of Dallington,” said he. “A good youth enough, and with lands enough. He has never seen a fight, though,” and then he turned on me suddenly, putting his hand on mine. “I could have sworn, lad, that you were fond of the girl. Tell me if it is so, and Eldred shall go down the wind like a strayed hawk, for all I care.”