Wynna gasped as she ran into the kitchen.

“Whew!” Wynna gasped as she ran into the kitchen. She had only been down into the cellar, but that brief spell of wind had been enough to leave her breathless.

“That’s what we get for praying for rain,” Gunnilda muttered over the stove.

“I don’t know but I guess the Good Lord means to send us two months’ worth of rain all at once,” Wynna said with a little laugh. “Where’s my father? He had better go out and make certain they closed the shutters on the barn before they went home for dinner. The wind nearly blew the cellar door off.”

'He had better go out and make certain they closed the shutters on the barn before they went home for dinner.'

“I sent Beddy out to do it. Your Da went up onto the downs to see whether they needed help bringing in the sheep.”

Wynna had only just begun helping her mother with dinner when an urgent knock came at the door.

“Who’s there?” Wynna called as she went to open, and “Anson!” once she had.

Her sometime sweetheart smiled sheepishly at her.

Her sometime sweetheart smiled sheepishly at her.

“Who is it, Wynn?” Gunnilda called. “Oh! Anson! Well, come in here before the storm comes in after you! That thunder is getting close. Oh – is it raining already?” she asked when she saw his wet hair.

“Thank you,” Anson said with a quick bow. “It’s just starting. I was thinking I wouldn’t make it home in time…”

Gunnilda snorted. “Well, I reckon you won’t now, but I don’t see as coming up onto the top of this hill was a shortcut to anywhere.”

“I can wait it out in the barn,” he smiled. “I don’t mind…”

“Oh, pish! You’re eating dinner with us. Your da won’t be worried?”

'Your da won't be worried?'

“He never knows where I am anyway, so he never worries,” he laughed.

Gunnilda snorted again, and Wynna flounced over to the stove to help her mother.

“Where’s Alwy?” Anson asked as he sat at the table.

'Where's Alwy?'

“He went up onto the downs to help bring in the sheep.”

“He’ll be wet as a rill by the time he comes in,” Anson said ominously.

“He’ll never even notice it but sit right down to eat, you’ll see,” Gunnilda said.

By the time Bedwig came in, the distant grumble of the thunder had given way to occasional echoing cracks, and the rain was clattering against the window.

“Bedwig! Where are your clothes!” Gunnilda gasped. “And Anson here!”

“I took ‘em off so they wouldn’t get wet,” Bedwig said. “Hallo, Anson.”

'I took 'em off so they wouldn't get wet.'

“Hallo, Beddy,” Anson said. “Don’t mind me!”

“I don’t!”

“Oh, yes you do!” Gunnilda cried. “You go back to your room and get a shirt on! For company!”

“I will. Say, Ma, I got the shutters all closed, even the one up top. But I think Smokey is real scared.”

“Beddy, your cat is perfectly capable of tending to himself in a storm.”

'Beddy, your cat is perfectly capable of tending to himself in a storm.'

“I know, but sometimes he gets scared. Da says – ”

“I know what your Da says, but that cat does not come into this house.”

“But, Ma!”

“But, Beddy! Scoot! Go get your shirt!”

“But where’s Da, anyway? Isn’t it dinner time?”

“He is up on the downs helping with the sheep. And even if he was here, you can not bring that cat inside, so scoot! And make sure your sister is decent, and tell her to come. It’s almost time to eat.”

Before Bedwig could move, a particularly loud clap of thunder sent Gytha scurrying out of her bedroom into the safety of the kitchen.

'Hallo, Anson.'

“Hallo, Anson,” she said shyly as she came to sit beside him.

“Hallo, Gyth. Who’s been pinching your cheeks to make ‘em so pink?”

“No one,” she said and blushed pinker. “When are we eating, Ma? I’m hungry.”

“As soon as your Da gets in.”

“Where is he?”

“How many times do I have to say it?” Gunnilda laughed in exasperation. “He went up onto the downs to help them bring in the sheep.”

'How many times do I have to say it?'

“I don’t know but I guess he must have taken shelter somewhere by now, Ma,” Wynna said.

“You think?” Gunnilda asked, and she tried to peer outside through the sheet of rain that streamed over the window. The ugly light of the storm revealed only an empty yard beneath a bruise-​​colored sky. “It would be the first time the idea ever occurred to him.”

“He never stops getting more and more clever, Ma,” Bedwig said as he clambered into a chair, still shirtless. “Pretty soon he’ll be just as clever as any man.”

'He never stops getting more and more clever, Ma.'

“I think we ought to just eat,” Wynna said.

“Well…” Gunnilda hesitated.

“I’m hungry,” Gytha said.

“And we got company,” Bedwig added.

“That fact didn’t occur to you when you sat down shirtless, did it?” Gunnilda snapped.

“No,” he giggled and winked at Anson.

“All right,” Gunnilda sighed. “All right. We’ll eat. But if your Da is sad when he sees we sat down without him, you can just tell him I didn’t want to. I won’t take the blame!”

'All right.  All right.'