For this last stretch of the track that wound through the privacy of the trees, he wanted to take her hand again; but it was too narrow to walk alongside together. Eb felt deeply disappointed about this. He didn’t want the walk to end. He didn’t feel ready to go back to the hof and muck out chickens. He wanted to stay with her.

“Sit down a minute,” he said as they reached again the clearing where the trees had been felled.

They sat on their tree-trunk as before, and he felt her fingers just touch his wrist, moved his hand to cover hers, and stayed for a moment with the odd mixture of gladness and longing that had so entirely engulfed his soul.

He turned his head and looked at her; took in the sweet seriousness and softness of her face under its cloud of pink hair and white kapp. A question came into his mind.

“This isn’t to pick a fight, Flo.” There was something he wanted to know, but after his previous blunder he felt he must go cautiously. “I’m not looking to begin an argument. It’s an honest question.”

“Glory! That sounds ominous!” Flo turned to look at him, squinting against the sunlight to see his face. “Spit it out, then. What?”

“In the Quiet Way,” Eb went forward with caution, “there are eldresses, and your mother is one.”

“Yes.” Flo waited.

“Well, so – what’s her headcovering for? In the Old Order, the covering is worn for a troll’s submission to the authority of her husband. She wouldn’t teach in the meeting of the Kindred, or serve on the elders’ meeting. In the Quiet Way, if you can be an eldress, leading and teaching, why is the covering worn? I ask for my ignorance, Flo, not to be contentious.”

Flo took her hand out from under his only that she might give stroke his hand in quiet reassurance. “I know,” she said.

She took a deep breath.