Alwy Hogge was just heading in to bed.

Alwy Hogge was just heading in to bed when he thought he heard a cry.

“Did you hear that, Gunnie?” he asked his wife.

“No, Alwy, I’m sleeping,” she mumbled, her face buried in her pillow.

Alwy listened as hard as he could, but he could hear nothing further. Still, he didn’t like the sound of that cry. It made him think of a wild animal, and wild animals could mean trouble on a farm.

“I’ll just go check on the chicks,” he said, pulling his tunic back on.

“Mmph,” Gunnilda replied.

Outside, on his way back to the pen, he heard another sound. It sounded like… somone pounding on wood. Someone crying out. It sounded like it was coming from behind the woods, up towards Egelric’s farm. It sounded bad. And so Alwy began to run.

Alwy began to run.

The pounding was Egelric pounding on the barn door. The crying out was Egelric crying out, “No! No! No!” Alwy was frightened.

“What is it, Egelric?” he asked cautiously.

Egelric turned towards him, and then he kept turning, kept wandering around before the barn, muttering, “No, no, no.”

“Egelric?” Alwy whimpered.

'Help me!'

“Oh, Alwy!” Egelric sobbed, tears beginning to slide down his cheeks. “Help me!”

Alwy thought it must be about Egelric’s baby. He had helped Egelric search for that baby for many days and many nights. Alwy had the best finding dog in all of Lothere, but even that finding dog couldn’t find the baby. Gunnie said that Egelric was real hurt about losing his baby, and Alwy had only to think of how he would feel if someone took away Bertie or Wynnie to understand.

“Sure I’ll help you, Egelric,” Alwy said softly. “I’ll just go get my dogs and we’ll go right now. There’s a real good moon.”

Egelric blinked at him, not seeming to understand. And then he said, “No, Alwy. It’s Elfleda. She’s in the barn.” And then he began to sob again—“Help me, Alwy, please! Oh God, I don’t know what to do!”

'She's in the barn.'

Alwy didn’t know what to do either, but he guessed he had better see what Elfleda was doing in the barn first.

When Alwy stepped into the barn, he understood.

When Alwy stepped into the barn, he understood. Alwy did not have much imagination, but he had only to think of how he would feel if he found Gunnilda hanging there, and he understood.

He stepped outside to where Egelric stood, looking expectantly at him.

Egelric stood, looking expectantly at him.

“Well, it’s all right, Egelric,” he said gently. “I guess I know what to do. You just go inside with Baby, and I’ll get her down.”

“Don’t hurt her, Alwy,” he pleaded. “Don’t let her fall. Oh, her pretty, pretty face!” He began again to sob.

“I won’t hurt her, Egelric,” Alwy promised. “You go in the house. Father Brandt will come by and by.”

Egelric stumbled off towards the house, his head in his hands, and Alwy turned back into the barn.

Alwy turned back into the barn.

Elfleda had chosen a long rope, and so Alwy was able to climb into the loft and lower her gently to the ground.

When he had climbed down and lifted her off the floor, he thought back to that day when she had invited him in and leapt into his arms. Poor Elfleda, he thought, had only ever wanted a baby, and when she got one, she had it stolen from her. Alwy didn’t have much imagination, but he understood.

As he carried her outside, he thought that she felt lighter than she had that day when he had held her, all warm and pink-​cheeked and laughing, in his arms. He would try to remember to ask Father Brandt how much a soul weighed.