'You're not falling asleep, are you, Da?'

“You’re not falling asleep, are you, Da?” Iylaine asked.

“Perhaps I am,” Egelric yawned. It was too pleasant to lie before the fire and listen to his little girl prattle on about her day with Gunnilda and the children. It made up for his day spent out in the November wind.

“I want you to listen to me,” she pouted.

“I am listening, Baby girl. Go ahead.”

“Well, I wanted to ask you something.”

“What then?”

“What does it mean when people do this?” she asked, sitting up and making a gesture with her small hand.

She made a gesture with her small hand.

It was the sign to ward off the evil eye.

Egelric sat up abruptly. “Where did you see that?”

“I see the peasants do it sometimes when we go out walking with Gunnie and Bertie and Wynn and young Egelric.”

Egelric did not know how to answer.

Egelric did not know how to answer. They did not dare do it when he was with her – but they must not have feared Gunnilda enough.

“Don’t you know, Da? Gunnie said I should ask you.”

“It’s a rude gesture, Baby. The people who do it are very rude. I don’t want you talking with such people.”

You talk with those people. That woman whose dress got burnt does it.”

“I don’t talk to her any more. And anyway, I’m a man, and you’re only a little girl.”

“Well, I don’t care,” Iylaine said. “They’re just peasants, anyhow.”

'They're just peasants, anyhow.'

“Don’t say ‘just peasants,’ Baby. Your Da was only a peasant when he was young, and Gunnilda and Alwy too.”

“But now you’re a gentleman, and Alwy has his own farm. Da, how come you still wear your hair short like a peasant and dress like a peasant? I want to know.”

'Have you been talking with Her Grace?'

“Have you been talking with Her Grace?” Egelric sighed. “I’m beginning to think you two are ashamed to be seen with me.”

I’m not ashamed. You’re the handsomest man in the whole valley. But I don’t want people thinking you is a peasant.”

“‘Thinking you are,’ Baby.”

“‘Thinking you are.’ But how come? I want to know.”

“I suppose I would rather feel like a gentleman who dresses like a peasant, than a peasant who dresses like a gentleman,” he said thoughtfully.

'I suppose I would rather feel like a gentleman who dresses like a peasant.'

“But you are a gentleman!”

“And you are a proud little girl. It is not the dress that makes a gentleman, Baby. Nor is it disdain for the peasants. If you want to be a fine lady, you have to make the people proud of you – not be proud yourself. Do you understand?”

“No… but I shall think about it.”

“That’s my girl. And you watch His Grace when he is with the people. You will see what it is to be a gentleman. Now up with you and up with me,” he said, standing. “It’s time to put the fire to sleep and go to bed ourselves.”

He kissed her and then looked into her little face. How could they fear her? She was only a little girl!

He kissed her and then looked into her little face.