Beth sat blissfully on the flagged floor, her huge grey eyes dreamy with love as she gazed at the snuffling piglet lying in a mass of rags near the range.
“Now, Beth,” Sarah said firmly. “Mind that dilling goes out of the cottage first thing tomorrow. I can’t have it under my feet.” She reached across to stir the bubbling stew.
“Sarah, she’s not an it! Her name’s Velvet.” Beth stroked the piglet’s floppy ear.
Sarah took a deep breath as a wave of nausea passed over her. Surely the morning sickness should have finished by now? But, of course, she’d had no first-hand experience of it, her first husband having died so early on in their marriage. She had thought she’d never be able to love anyone else. But just when she’d resigned herself to working in the glove factory for the rest of her days, Joseph’s wife, Elizabeth, had died, and the women had rallied to help the grieving family.
There had been something about Joseph Callow and his brood . . . She had set her mind to capture if not his heart, then his appreciation.
“Well, Velvet’s a fine name for such a little runt! However did you think of it, poppet?”
“It was Em who thought of it!” Johnny blurted out.
“No, it wasn’t!” Beth protested. “Emmy only told me about velvet. It was me who thought of it for a name!”
Beth’s mouth quivered as her eyes began to fill. Sarah knew she’d been bitterly disappointed that her beloved sister’s last visit had been so short. But with all that was going on at the big house, Emily had been lucky to have her afternoon off at all. They all missed her, each in a different way. Beth’s feelings were obvious, but Sarah knew that Joseph missed Emily just as much.
“Leave your sister be, Johnny. And you’d best go and wash those hands!”
Jenny looked up from where she sat at the deal table, bent over a pile of leather shapes. Prick-stitching stacks of gloves brought in extra pennies, and in the evenings she and Sarah tried to get through as many as possible before the light was gone. Above her, clothes airing from Monday’s wash hung from a string that stretched from beam to beam across the tiny room. She leaned back to stretch her back and as her head caught the sleeve of her father’s shirt, it crumpled over her.
She let out a puff of exasperation.
“While Em is trimming velvet gowns, I’m pricking gloves with shirts in my face. Beth should be doing some piece work! She’s old enough.”
“You’re right, love.” Sarah retrieved the shirt and draped it back on to the string. “I’ll start her on some tomorrow.”
She looked down at Jenny’s frowning face, framed by a tumble of golden-brown curls. She was such a pretty lass. Now that she was fifteen perhaps it was about time she had a sweetheart to cheer her thoughts. But it was a shame she spoiled her pleasing features so often with that pouting expression.