They sat on the floor of their house.

“Baby, why don’t you go to bed?” Egelric asked for the third or fourth time.

They sat on the floor of their house, Egelric with his book, leaning against a chair, and Iylaine cross-​legged before the fire in her nightgown.

“I can wake you when the servant comes with word, if you like. It might not be for many hours, Baby.”

“I want to wait.”

“Then don’t sit so close to the fire. It’s burning terribly hot tonight. I suppose that wood was dryer than I thought.”

Iylaine didn’t move.

Iylaine didn't move.

Egelric sighed to see her thus. Elfleda often sat watching the fire for hours, after she had begun to be unhappy. He wondered how much of Elfleda was in the girl. Of course Elfleda wasn’t her true mother, and so anything Iylaine had picked up had to be through watching her. He would never know what she had seen of Elfleda because he had spent the better part of the days working.

He did know now, thanks to Gunnilda, where she had found the idea to repeat “We don’t need her” to him after Elfleda’s death. It was Elfleda herself who had told her, “I don’t need you anymore” after Finn was born. There were many things that he could explain away by attributing them to her unhappiness, but that measure of cruelty went far beyond what he could excuse.

It was lucky for him that she did.

Gunnilda’s only idea had been that Elfleda had been jealous that Baby loved him so much. But it was lucky for him that she did.

He remembered now that she had told Alred, “We need you.” He wondered whether Iylaine had been thinking of the contrast between this and her last meeting with death.

“Da, do you think His Grace will go to heaven when he dies?” she asked, interrupting his reflections.

'Do you think His Grace will go to heaven when he dies?'


“Is your old dog there?”

He chuckled. “I hope so.”

“Is Mama there?”

He hesitated a moment. “I don’t know.”

“Why not?”

“Father Brandt says she can’t be.”

“Is it because she was bad?”

“It is because she took her own life.”

“Is that bad?”



“Baby, you ask your Da difficult questions tonight,” he sighed. “You should ask Father Brandt.”

'You ask your Da difficult questions tonight.'

“I want you to tell me.”

He thought for a moment. “Baby, what if you gave someone you loved a gift—the very best gift you could imagine. And what if that person didn’t like that gift, and threw it away. How would you feel?”


“Well, perhaps that is how God feels, when a person throws away the life that He gave him. Do you see?”

“I see,” she said after a while, with a sad sigh.

“Now, why don’t you go in to bed?”

“Because I like to sit here quiet alone with you, Da.”

This he could not refuse her.

This he could not refuse her.