“Bixby, there you are!”
“Did you miss me, Sir?” the chestnut seller grinned.
Nichols could not help grinning back. “Not a bit of it, but I wondered if I might ask you about those boys who were minding the stall for you yesterday.”
“The Shawley boys?” Bixby asked, his expression tinged with wariness. “Did they do something wrong? They’re good lads, but that Henry…well he’s a sweet boy but he isn’t all there above stairs. Fell out of a tree and landed on his head when he was a tyke or some such thing.”
“I had noticed that Henry is…different, but no, there were no problems.
That's my ten. More below, for those who are interested. I've come down with a cold and may not get to my visits until later in the day or tomorrow. I'm up now because I needed more medicine. Figured I'd get the post done before I fall asleep again.
"...I was rather impressed by them actually. The eldest, Edmund, is it? He seems quite industrious.”
“He is that. Smart lad too. Shame his mum can’t afford to send him to school.” Bixby shook his head and filled a bag with the roasted nuts for another customer.
“Yes, I see that the family must be in difficult circumstances,” Nicholas remarked, “but I think that has perhaps not always been the case.”
The chestnut seller snorted. “I’ll say. The missus has taken an interest in them. Sad story. The little ‘un, Betty, or Betsy, is sick. Needs an operation. Course they can’t afford that neither. They were well-enough off in the country for a while. Don’t know all the details o’ course but there was some doings with an uncle who inherited the widow’s father’s estate…” Bixby looked around covertly and lowered his voice, “and it seems he made improper advances to the poor widow. Can’t blame her for running as fast as she could from that. She’s a good sort, Mary, my missus says.”
“Mary,” Nicholas murmured.
Bixby continued as if he hadn’t stopped talking. “We in the neighborhood, we do what we can to help, ‘specially with young Henry. Poor Mary can’t be everywhere at once, can she?”
“Yes, about Henry. I understand he sells pencils.”
“Aye.” Bixby nodded as he stirred the nuts to keep them roasting evenly. “Would you be wanting a bag today then, sir?”
“I will. And could you possibly tell me where I might find Henry Shawley, seller of fine writing implements?”
“Three blocks that way,” Bixby gestured with his head while filling the bag. “Charges ha’penny a piece. Mary insists that he not stray too far from home.”