In this all-important matter of finding a wife, Eb wouldn’t look around, he wouldn’t try, he certainly wouldn’t flirt; he would only wait on the Lord’s time – and the Lord has plenty of it, it would seem. A little frown creased his mother’s normally peaceful brow.

The Kindred assumed Eb was too sober a troll to concern himself with such things, but it wasn’t so. In his heart patient loneliness longed for a helpmeet – his true companion to hold in his arms. It was just that he wouldn’t take what wasn’t given, and so far life had surely withheld the gift.

Sometimes he felt his soul stand at the shore of the world, looking out across wet sand and bleak grey water, waiting for the flutter of a rescuing pennant, the coming home of what he was waiting for. It hadn’t come, is all – and Heaven knows he had been waiting long enough.

He walked back up the track to his little house that stood on the edge of a drift of woodland, looking out across the dale that cradled the Kindredhof. It was his own choice to live alone – tradition preferred the custom of a young troll abiding with his parents until the Brothers worked together with him to build a cottage in celebration of his marriage. But this little house had stood empty a while. On the edge of the wood there, most folks had found its setting too lonesome; not really handy for visiting. Eb liked it, because of the wild creatures, the squirrels and birds, and the quiet company of the old trees.

He kicked off his boots in the porch, and went inside to light a fire in the stove. The evenings drew in chill and dark this time of year.

Eb ate a simple supper of bread and cold sausage (this was the kind of thing that worried his mother – he would have had a hearty stew followed by jam roly-poly and cream if he’d had the sense to stay home where he belonged) in the profound silence of his quiet house under the trees. Occasionally an owl called or a fox barked; nothing else broke the stillness.

Eb thought over the day that had gone, and the tasks that lay ahead tomorrow, and opened the stove door to watch the flames of the fire as he sat in its warmth.

He began to feel sleepy, but there remained one more thing to be done. Leaving his knife and plate to one side to be washed up in the morning, Eb carried from its shelf the old family Bible left him by his grandmother, to close the day with the holy Word of God.