Joe saw the smoke half a mile before the farm came into view.
As the wagon ambled down the lane and towards where a rutted path branched off towards the buildings,
he couldn't help but notice the lines of limp washing strung out in the small meadow between them and the farmhouse.
When the farmhouse windows became hidden from view behind rows of sheets, Joe brought the wagon to a halt and nudged the sleeping four-year-old next to him.
"What?" She asked, rubbing her eyes with one hand while the other wiped the drool from her chin.
Joe nodded towards the farm they were approaching. As they drew level with the rutted path that led up to the few clustered buildings, he hauled the wagon to a halt.
Joe turned to her, an enormous finger pointing at her nose.
"You stay here, I'll only be a minute."
Approaching a farm in broad daylight like this was not a clever thing to do. But Joe had seen something he needed to complete Ophelia's disguise.
His sensitive ears were on alert for signs of the farmer's wife, maid or whoever was doing the laundry today.
Joe quickly grabbed what he needed from the washing line and made a hasty retreat back to the cover of the lane.
"Here, go and put these on," he said, climbing up and dumping a bundle of clothes into her lap.
Not waiting to see if the little girl moved, the berserker then cracked the long reins, and the horses stumbled out of their unexpected rest into a clumsy, slow canter.
Ophelia was holding up Joe's presents one at a time.
"These are boys' clothes!" She looked less than happy. "Even these! Ewwww!" She whent on, holding up a pair of once-white underpants.
Joe, not seeing anyone running across the meadow after them, spared her a glance.
"Just get inside and get changed. Stop holding everything up for the whole world to see."
Ophelia disappeared into the back of the wagon. A few seconds later Joe caught the sound of even more juvenile disapproval.
"What do you expect? They came off a washing line."
Moments later a sulky four-year-old plonked her damp derriere down next to Joe on the diving seat.
"There's no shoes."
Joe frowned at her.
"Sorry your ladyship, but they don't hang shoes out on a bleedin' washin' line, now do they?"
Ophelia folded her arms and stared ahead. After a further hundred yards of bouncing too fast down the rutted road, it appeared that her grumpiness subsided.
A quick sideways glance and then a grin threatened to form on the berserker's face.
It was dusk when the wagon moved slowly along the single proper road of the small village.
The few pedestrians about hardly cast them a glance, even the guardsman at the entrance just waved them through without looking up.
Joe stopped the wagon outside the only inn.
"We're going in to eat." He started to climb down but stopped with his head level to the four-year-old's. "You're a boy, okay?" Ophelia nodded. Joe grunted. "Good, don't forget it."
"What's my name?"
"Well, you can't call a boy 'Feelya."
The berserker gave a little gasp of exasperation and then sighed.
"Fine, you're name's... I dunno, John."
"Dun like it," Ophelia said, shaking her head.
The vast hands tightened their grip on the side of the wagon.
"You don't have to bleedin'...." Joe took a deep breath. "What DO you want to be called then?"
Finny thought. Only when the giant's brows started to cross with impatience did she make a decision.
"Finnamena." She said.
"Still a girl's name."
"Oh. Finny then."
This time the thick plank the berserker was gripping actually split.
"Fine, Finny it is." He looked hard at the little girl to make sure.
Ophelia nodded, smiling.
Joe lifted her down.
"Glad we got that settled."
But 'Finny' was already running for the door of the inn.
"Can I have pie an' mash?"
Joe followed the little 'boy' into the hot and smokey interior.
"If they know what's good for them, you can." He mumbled.
Joe was entertained by watching Finny eat until she almost fit the stolen britches. She seemed happy, which made Joe feel, well, content.
This was good; he felt calmer than he could remember for a long while.
After the meal, Joe almost offered to carry Oph... Finny, back to the wagon.
However, the little girl had already slid off her chair and now sleepily followed Joe back out into the cool night air.
"Urgh! My feet are cold. You never got me any shoes, like you said."
Joe had forgotten about the shoe situation. A couple of people had turned their heads at Finny's remark, and one woman almost tutted at him... almost.
Not that Joe noticed, he tended not to pay attention to 'civilians', unless... unless they looked like they might be a means to an end, like those people over the woman's shoulder.
A few houses along, on the other side of the street, a family group had just left their home, and the father was locking the door. Well-dressed they were, even the daughter, who was about ten.
Joe took Finny by the arm.
"Come with me."
The berserker half dragged the little girl across the road and into a dimly-lit alley.
Moments later, they were outside the darkened windows at the back of the same house the small family had just left.
Joe looked up and thanked whichever god had just smiled on him when he saw the tiny window. Its single wooden shutter opened onto the back-street.
Joe squatted down in front of Finny, holding her by the shoulders. He glanced up and down the deserted ally.
"Right kid. I'm going to lift you up, and you're going to climb in that window and then come and open the back door. Got it?"
Finny stared at him.
"But it's someone's house."
Finny found the now-familiar thick finger, with its broken and dirty fingernail, once again held in front of her nose.
"Just do as you're told. And don't make a noise."
Not waiting for any further response, Joe put his hands under Finny's arms, and boosted her up into the air.
Ready to catch her at any moment should she fall, Joe watched the four-year-old scramble up and through the window.
She disappeared inside and it was long anxious moments before the ginger head popped back out of the window. Her nose screwed up.
"It's the lavvy."
"Never mind that," Joe hissed impatiently. "Get your little arse downstairs and open this bleedin' door."
Joe waited impatiently as the kid seemed to be taking forever to get to the back door. The berserker felt a sudden cold tingle run down his spine and settle into his stomach like cold vomit.
What if there was a dog? He hadn't thought of that; Joe closed his eyes. He should have thought of that. He should have!
Just then the door opened a crack, and partly in impatience, but mainly with relief, joe pushed the door open with a little more force than he intended.
The sudden scared look that flashed across Finny's face did nothing to ease the guilt.
Joe tried his best, disarming smile.
"Good girl," he said, patting her on the head. "Well done." He nodded towards the dark interior. "Exciting, innit? Come on, let's find you your shoes."
Later, after Joe had patiently shown and explained to the over-excited four-year-old what all the things they had taken from the house were and the Finny had finally fallen asleep,
Joe finished the small flask he had brought to bed with him and then leaned across her and snuffed out the candle.
Maybe, he thought, as he carefully turned over onto his side so as not to wake her, maybe it might actually work this time.