Egelric called brightly as he came through the door.

“Good morning, Gunnilda!” Egelric called brightly as he came through the door at dawn. “I’ve got a bit of early sunshine for you right here. She already ate with her Da so no need to feed her.”

Gunnilda stood before the fire with her back to him.

“Don’t you say good morning any more, Gunnilda?” he smiled.

“Good morning, Baby,” she said without turning her head.

“Where are Bertie and Wynna?” he asked as he set Iylaine on the floor.

“Their Da took them into bed with him last night. I guess they’re still there.”

“Where did you sleep? In the pigpen?”

“I didn’t sleep,” she muttered.

“Say, that doesn’t sound like the girl I know,” he said softly as he approached her.

That doesn't sound like the girl I know.

She turned abruptly to him, her little mouth set in a hard line.

He peered into her shadowed face. “You don’t look happy,” he said sympathetically. “Something wrong?”

“I just don’t want to see you!” she snapped. “Leave Baby and go.”

'I don't want to see you!'

He drew back, surprised. He couldn’t think of what he might have done – she had been perfectly friendly when he came to get Iylaine the day before. “What’s this about?”

“Just go.”

Hurt and angry, he turned and walked out the door without another word.

He turned and walked out the door without another word.

Once out on the road he stopped. Damn her! Every time he walked out on a woman he told himself he wouldn’t go back – that was just what she was waiting for. And every time he did go back, because otherwise he would spend the entire day in an anguish of wondering what he should do or say to resolve the situation. Was he going to spend the day wondering what in God’s name he had even done this time? Not likely. Better to get it over with.

“What’s this about, Gunnilda?” he asked when he came back in. “I’m not leaving until I get an answer, so let’s hear it.”

She turned away from him and pressed her hands together, her arms trembling.

She turned away from him and pressed her hands together.

Egelric frowned. This looked serious, at least to her. “Have I done or said something to hurt you?” When she didn’t answer, he took a step towards her.

“Don’t come near me!” she hissed, turning her head.

'Don't come near me!'

But what had he done? “Then tell me,” he replied.

“All right,” she said, turning her face away again. “It’s – it’s Alwy. Last night he – he did some things – tried some things…” Her voice trailed off in her embarrassment. And then she turned back to him, snarling again. “And when I asked him where he got such ideas, he told me it was you told him to!”

'He told me it was you told him to!'

Oh, Alwy! Why did Alwy have to go and get him mixed up in this? “Now, Gunnilda, I didn’t tell him to kick you in the teeth or anything.”

“How dare you laugh about this?” she spat.

'How dare you laugh about this?'

“How dare you talk to him about me? How dare you tell him what to do with me? You have no right to even – to even think about me and Alwy.”

“Gunnilda, listen – we were only talking in general, not about you. Alwy simply asked me for a little advice, man to man, and – ”

“I don’t want to hear it! You know I’m his wife and you know there’s no ‘general’ with Alwy.”

She was so furious that the ends of her hair were coming loose from the pins and sticking up from the top of her head like a woodpecker’s crest. She was really too adorable even when she was angry – nothing like Elfleda, who could turn a man’s blood to ice with one of her malevolent sneers, not that she had occasion to use them any longer. 

He broke into a laugh.

His lips quivered, and then he couldn’t help himself, he broke into a laugh. “Oh, Gunnilda, don’t be so serious. We never meant any harm. Poor Alwy!”

Gunnilda was livid. “How dare you? ‘Poor Alwy’? How dare you? He comes in here and hurts me, and then you laugh about it!”

'How dare you?'

“Now, Gunnilda,” he said gently, “if he hurt you he was doing something wrong. You have to tell him. You have to show him.”

“Stop it! Stop it!” she said, clapping her hands over her ears.

“Oh, that’s enough, Gunnilda!” he said, running out of patience. “Enough of this! You’ve been married for five or six years and you’re carrying on like a little maid who’s seen her first bull mount a cow.”

'Enough of this!'

“How dare you say such things to me?”

“I dare because I’m Alwy’s friend – and yours too. Now listen here: Alwy came to me because he thinks he’s doing something wrong, and as near as I can tell, all he knows to do is what he’s seen on the farm, and what you showed him, which is not much.”

'Now listen here!'

Gunnilda gasped in shock.

“Don’t interrupt me. It’s time somebody told you a few things. Now, Alwy didn’t tell me why he asked, but I’m a little more clever than my friend Alwy, and by God, I know what it’s like to live with a woman who doesn’t want to be touched, and if I had known a man that I thought could tell me what to do about that, you had best believe I would have asked him too.”

Gunnilda tried to turn away, but he grabbed her sleeve and whipped her back around again.

'I've not finished!'

“I’ve not finished! What would you have me tell him? ‘Don’t touch your wife, Alwy’? Need I remind you that you are his wife, and that you should be thankful that he cared enough about you to want to make you happy, when he could have easily just tossed you on the bed and did as he liked with you, as he has every right to do?”

Gunnilda stared at him, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open, finally speechless.

“Alwy is the kindest, gentlest man I know, and he loves you dearly – don’t forget that, even if he hasn’t the pretty words or the pretty ways to tell you so. And he’s your husband, Gunnilda, don’t forget that either. I won’t stand by and watch you hurt him any more than I would stand by and watch him hurt you, is that understood?”

“Get out,” she whispered, resting her hand on the fireplace to steady herself.

'There's one more thing I want to say to you.'

“So I shall, but there’s one more thing I want to say to you. You’ve been accustomed to keeping Alwy firmly under your thumb all these years, but I think you sorely underestimate him. What you need more than anything is for Alwy to sling you over his knee from time to time and give you a sound spanking. Now, when Alwy comes home today, I want you to look him in the eyes, if you dare. I have, sometimes, and you might be surprised what you will see in there – and who put it there. And apologize to him while you’re at it. After the theatrics I’ve seen this morning, I can’t believe Alwy passed a very pleasant night. Good day!”

And Egelric went out into the dawn, slamming the door behind him.

Egelric went out into the dawn, slamming the door behind him.