Leofric asks a favor of his daughter

October 31, 1078

'Oh, dear--has Hilda put Dora down for her nap already?'

“Oh, dear – has Hilda put Dora down for her nap already?” Eadgith asked, surprised to see her father come in to her so soon after dinner.

Leofric laughed a little sadly. “My baby! If I come to see you, does it mean that Dora isn’t receiving visitors?”

“I don’t know,” she blushed. “I didn’t mean it that way.”

“What way?” Britamund asked.

“In the way that says she thinks her father loves his granddaughter more than his daughter,” he explained.

'In the way that says she thinks her father loves his granddaughter more than his daughter.'

“But you love her as much, only different?” Emma offered helpfully. It was the answer her father always gave whenever she asked whom he loved best among his wives, his children, his friends.

“That’s right, Em. Baby, could I – ”

“But, Leofric,” Emma interrupted. “If my Mama Eadie is your daughter, is my Papa your son?”

'But, Leofric.'

Leofric laughed. “I suppose he is.”

“But he’s so old!” Emma said and wrinkled her nose.

“Not too old for me to have whipped when he was young! I shall have the satisfaction of that until the day I die. Son of a serpent! But I wish I had gone more easily on him, now that I think that he will have the whipping of my grandchildren.” He laughed again and winked at his daughter.

Eadgith looked down and folded her sewing with excessive care. She hoped her father had not come to discuss that. She had only been married four months, and already the ladies were giggling over her and peeking slyly into her workbasket in search of little dresses. Meanwhile her father liked to sigh ponderously over the delights of grandchildren, and how unfortunate it was for him that he had so few.

Only Sigefrith said nothing, but his patient waiting was almost harder to bear. It was not waiting – it was expecting.

“Baby, could I speak with you for a moment?” her father asked her, with a noticeable change in tone.

'Baby, could I speak with you for a moment?'

“Of course,” she said and looked up at him. His face seemed older. “Be good, girls,” she said as she rose.

“We shall,” Emma promised.

He led her down the corridor to a quiet alcove by a window. “I should like to ask a favor of you as my daughter.”

'I should like to ask a favor of you as my daughter.'

“And not as your Queen?” she smiled.

“Who am I to ask favors of a Queen?”

“You are my father.”

“That is precisely why I ask you as my daughter.”

“Oh!” she laughed, feeling as if she had got herself a little confused. “I see.”

'I see.'

“So, baby, I ask whether you will come home with me tomorrow, for Leila.”

“For Leila? You mean – but it isn’t until the end of November, I thought?”

“She believes she must have counted wrongly. She’s enormous, and she feels terribly. Already she can no longer wear the gowns she wore up to the end with Liss and Raegan. They’re too small for her waist.”

“You’re worried about her,” she said softly. It was this that made him look older.

'You're worried about her.'

“Aren’t I always?”

“Perhaps not like this.”

“Perhaps not,” he agreed. “I hesitate to ask, because I don’t know how long it will be. Suppose it is at the end of the month after all? But I hope not. She suffers so.” He frowned and scratched his beard awkwardly. “I suppose I should stick to grandchildren,” he said, apparently thinking of Haakon and Dora. And then he stopped scratching and looked at her, and his face paled as he seemed to realize that grandchildren were not necessarily borne by one’s daughter-​​in-​​law.

“I shall ask Sigefrith, of course,” Eadgith said abruptly.

“I would not have asked you if I had not spoken to him beforehand. He seems to believe you might like a chance to be a girl again, and not a wife and a queen.”

“I hope he doesn’t think that.”

'I hope he doesn't think that.'

“Wouldn’t you like to be?”

“I hope he doesn’t think that,” she repeated.

“You were married too young, my baby, whatever you in your great wisdom and your husband might have thought,” he said wistfully. “Suppose you allow me to think that you would like a chance to be a girl again?”

'Suppose you allow me to think that you would like a chance to be a girl again?'

She smiled faintly.

“I don’t think it will be a month. I don’t see how it can, unless she is with foal and not with child. And Sigefrith can come any time, you know. It is but a few hours’ ride. Old Darius will just have the time to stretch his legs. You can ride, can’t you?” he asked, as if he had suddenly had another thought.

“Can I ride?” she asked in confusion. “Of c – ” Then she saw what he meant, and blushed again, and looked away. “Yes.”

“Well, now, that’s not a problem then,” he said awkwardly and patted her shoulder with his great paw.

“Of course I shall come, if Sigefrith says I might. For Leila and for you.”

Suddenly he grabbed her and nearly crushed her against his chest. “Don’t come for me,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “Don’t make me believe that I shall need you.” She saw that he was afraid.

Suddenly he grabbed her and nearly crushed her against his chest.