“The valley spirit, the way of lowliness, gentleness and humility, seemed well signified by the head-covering – especially because it had always been traditionally the feminine way, when the masculine way tended more towards struggle and strength; and this new plan had come about through the searching of the Sisters, which made it feel right somehow.

“Once they had thought of it, wearing a head-covering seemed to them to be the perfect symbol; stepping into a fuller and deeper meaning than the old one about dominion of Brothers over Sisters. The covering was obvious to all – noticeable to those who looked at you and unforgettable to yourself wearing it. It was something you put on every day in the mornings which made it a daily choice you had to think about – and the eldresses made a form of words, a very short prayer ceremony for a troll to say each day when she put the covering on.

“The coverings had to be washed and pressed in the course of life, and when they were busy about that task the trolls were encouraged to think about tending, renewing, mending and refining – purifying – the way of the valley spirit (humility) they had chosen.

“As they washed the covering, they thought of how our best intentions grow grubby and stale; and Sister Water, so humble and pure and clean, must help us make a new beginning. As they pressed the caps, they thought about smoothing out differences and calming the way things are. They thought about the heat of the iron and the costliness of humility, that sears into our souls at times.

“And as they wore the covering, they did not resent it (should they forget their resolve and speak hastily or sharply) if someone said ‘I thought you’d taken the valley spirit vow!’ – they received it gladly, as a welcome reminder.

“That’s how it started. Each Sister makes her own kapp, and stitches onto the side of it the letters HH – humble hat.

“Nowadays, if anyone slips and starts to get a bit eggy with one of the kindred, a Sister will just whisper quietly ‘Keep your hat on, babe!’ – and that usually does the trick. Or they’ll even say nothing; just a quick glance at your kapp – and you suddenly hear yourself, how you sound to others; bossy or opinionated, or sharp and contemptuous. Or if someone gets a bit uppity about something, her Sister might say ‘Hmm. HH. That would be for . . . High Horse? Hot Head? What?’ or ‘Sorry, let me get my glasses, is that HH you have embroidered there, or HRH?’ And it generally dissolves in laughter. But if it doesn’t, if she’s gotten really steamed up about something, it doesn’t matter so much anyway, because by this time just about everyone wears the humble hat; and they all have such a habit of gracious, gentle speech that they don’t spark back – so the storm just blows itself out.

“What changed among us, was that the Kindred began to think as much about how they said things as what they wanted to say. Life together shook down better after that. And the Sisters feel proud to be carrying the Light steady in this way.”