Mary made certain that her children were properly fed and clothed. She also made certain that there would be some gifts for Christmas and birthdays, and that they could afford coal for the fire through the winter.
The sound of Beth’s coughing reminded her of the coal. It was the best option they had, being less expensive and easier to find in town than firewood, but the dust was not good for the girl. If they could save up enough to rent a small cottage in the country, even just for a few weeks in the summer, it might make a great deal of difference for Beth. It went against Mary’s every motherly instinct to tell her daughter to keep well away from the heat of the fire, but it was necessary so that she would not breathe in so much of the dust and fumes.
At least Cousin Stephen had allowed them to bring many of their belongings with them when he pushed them to move to town. The blankets and linen were well worth having had to part with most of the family furniture that should have been Mary’s according to the terms of her father’s will. Stephen claimed to be keeping the items for her, but she doubted she would ever see them again. She sighed and fluffed a pillow, wondering if Stephen knew that his wife sent them gifts from time to time.
There have to be some bad guys, right? Stephen's not as bad as rumor would have him though, and Mary is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, in part because he married an absolute sweetheart. You'll find a bit more of the evening scene below a small slideshow of character art.
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“Thinking of our evil cousin again?” Edmund’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
Mary turned. “You should not say such things.” There was no real censure in her voice. “Stephen is not evil. He did help us find this house.”
“This house with four rooms, and as many drafts, away from the fresh air that Beth needs.” Edmund complained quietly.
“He could not have known about Beth’s condition.” Mary reminded her son. “We did not know of it ourselves before coming to town. And many families live with less than we have, with fewer than four rooms. We have a roof that doesn’t leak, thanks to Stephen.”
Edmund shook his head. “Sometimes, mother, I think you are too good for this earth. He could have let us stay longer, until we found a better place.”
“I hope you do not say such things in front of your brother and sister.” She admonished softly.
“I don’t.” He reached into his pocket. “Here. Our share of the day’s sales.”
The small bag felt heavy in her hand. “My!”
“The cold was good for business.” Edmund smiled.
“There’s a blessing.” Mary muttered. The cold was certainly not good for the coal bucket. “And just in time too, for I must visit the market tomorrow.”
He nodded. “It will be good to have butter again.”