'I hate this weather.'

“I hate this weather,” Estrid moaned and laid her head back against the windowsill. “I always get a sick headache when it wants to storm.”

“Are you getting one now?” Synne asked.

“I’m certain I am. Oh, what a bother! My tongue is starting to prickle. Can you watch the babies a while? Or take them up to the nurse? I think I shall go lie down.”

“But Murchad is coming.”

“What a bother! I forgot. So, won’t Dyr and Daeg serve as chaperones? I’m tired of playing the old matron, anyway, and to listen to your gibberish.”

“It’s not gibberish, it’s Gaelic,” Synne giggled.

'It's not gibberish, it's Gaelic.'

“It sounds like Hundr when he gets a bone in his throat, that’s what Brede says.”

“And what does Norse sound like?” Synne asked and pinched her nose. “It sounds like when you have a cold and talk like this: Nunnr hundr thundr blundr.”

Estrid laughed and then moaned. “Ohhh, don’t make me laugh, Synn.”

“But what will Brede say if you leave me alone with Murchad?”

“But you won’t be alone. I leave you Dyr and Daeg to guard you.”

“What will they do?” Synne laughed. “They can’t even tell you if they witness anything.”

“There won’t be nothing to witness. You can’t ignore Dyr long enough for to do anything fun. And, so, Daeg, listen to Mama: Murchad, if he touches Synne anywhere that her dress covers, you pick him up and bang his head like you do poor Hundr.”

'And, so, Daeg, listen to Mama.'

Daeglan only glanced at her and went back to banging his blocks.

Synne giggled. “I don’t think Brede will like those rules. There’s still a lot my dress doesn’t cover. My face and neck and hands.”

“So, today is the day you tell him to teach you how to say ‘Kiss me’ in Gaelic.”

“Estrid!” Synne gasped.

“What? Didn’t he ever kiss you before?”

“How could he? I never saw him without Brede or you or Maire or Sigefrith.”

'How could he?  I never saw him without Brede or you or Maire or Sigefrith.'

“What a bother we are!” Estrid laughed and then moaned again. “However, today is your day. Brede is so far away, and I’m too sick to bother with you. Just tickle Dyr every so often and you will be fine.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think he will try.”

“Why not? I thought he liked you.”

“But he’s so shy.”

“Better kiss him then. You miss a lot of fun if you don’t kiss a man when you have the chance. But watch his hands! I think, so: a man, he cares more about where his hands go than where his lips go. His lips, that’s to distract you.”

Synne blushed.

“You have it easy – he has to marry you anyway. Ohhh!” she moaned as she dragged herself off the bench. “But you have two years before you can let him do what he wants to do, so, you must make him go slow, or he will get tired of you fast. So listen, don’t forget, as long as you say No, you have all the power. As soon as you say Yes, he does. So you must say No so many times for every time you say Yes.”

'So you must say No so many times for every time you say Yes.'

“You make it sound so…” Synne laughed nervously, for she did not even know how to politely say what she thought.

Ever since Sigrid had “got herself into trouble,” Synne had not been able to participate in the sort of flirtations that would have prepared her for the serious business of courtship that she was now expected to undertake.

Her only guide in this confusing landscape was Estrid, who made love seem a test of wills between a feverish, groping man and a coldly calculating woman. She felt queerly disappointed. She did not yet realize that Estrid only believed it so because it had been so for her.

She felt queerly disappointed.