Elizabeth took the box silently and looked in. Lucas's one pound, forty, was there, almost all in pennies and ha'pennies. "Lucas, honey," she said gently. "This is your savings. It has taken you years to collect all of these coins."

His lower lip quivered, but somehow he managed to expand his little chest until he stood like one of his toy soldiers. "I'm the man of the house now. I have to provide for you."

Elizabeth nodded solemnly and moved his money into the box where she kept household funds. "Very well. We shall use this for food. Perhaps you can come shopping with me next week, and you may pick out something you like."

“My kitchen garden should begin to produce vegetables soon," Susan said helpfully. "Enough to feed us, and maybe a bit extra we could sell or barter in the village."

Jane started to squirm on Elizabeth's lap. "Please tell me you didn't plant more turnips. I hate turnips."

"We all hate turnips," Susan replied. "But they're so easy to grow."

"Not so easy to eat," Lucas grumbled.

Elizabeth exhaled and closed her eyes. How had they come to this? Theirs was an old, honorable family—little Lucas was even a baronet! And yet they were reduced to growing turnips—which they all detested—in a kitchen garden.

She was failing. She had thought she could raise her brother and sisters. When her father had died, it had been the most impossible time in her life, and all that had kept her going was the thought that she had to protect her siblings, keep them happy and warm. Together.

She'd fought off aunts and uncles and cousins, all of whom offered to take on one of the Hotchkiss children, usually little Lucas, who, with his title, could eventually hope to marry a girl with a nice large dowry. But Elizabeth had refused, even when her friends and neighbors had urged her to let him go.

She'd wanted to keep the family together, she had said. Was that so much to ask?

But she was failing. There was no money for music lessons or tutors, or any of the things Elizabeth had taken for granted when she'd been small. The Lord only knew how she was going to manage to send Lucas to Eton.

And he had to go. Every Hotchkiss male for four hundred years had attended Eton. They hadn't all managed to graduate, but they'd all gone.

She was going to have to marry. And her husband was going to have to have a lot of money. It was as simple as that.

*      *      *

“Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judas ..."

Elizabeth quietly cleared her throat and looked up with hopeful eyes. Was Lady Danbury asleep yet? She leaned forward and studied the older lady's face. Hard to tell.

"... and Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar, and Phares begat Esrom..."

The old lady's eyes had definitely been closed for some time now, but still, one couldn't be too careful.

"... and Esrom begat Aram, and ..."

Was that a snore? Elizabeth's voice dropped to a whisper.

"... and Aram begat Aminadab, and Aminadab begat Naasson, and..."

Elizabeth closed the Bible and began to tiptoe backward out of the drawing room. Normally she didn't mind reading to Lady Danbury; it was actually one of the better parts of her position as companion to the dowager countess. But today she really needed to get back home. She had felt so dreadful leaving while Jane was still in such a tizzy about the prospect of Squire Nevins entering their little family. Elizabeth had assured her she wouldn't marry him if he were the last man on earth, but Jane hadn't been very confident that anyone else would ask, and—

THUMP!

Elizabeth nearly jumped out of her skin. No one knew

how to produce more noise with a cane and a floor than Lady Danbury.

"I am not asleep!" Lady D's voice boomed.

Elizabeth turned around and smiled weakly. "So sorry."

Lady Danbury chuckled. "You're not in the least bit sorry. Get back over here."

Elizabeth suppressed a groan and returned to her straight-backed chair. She liked Lady Danbury. She truly did. In fact she longed for the day when she could use age as an excuse and carry on with Lady D's signature brand of outspokenness.

It was just that she really needed to get home, and—

"You're a tricky one, you are," Lady Danbury said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"All those 'begats.' Hand-chosen to put me to sleep."

Elizabeth felt her cheeks grow warm with a guilty blush and tried to phrase her words as a question. "I don't know what you mean?"

"You skipped ahead. We should still be on Moses and the great flood, not that begat part."

"I don't think that was Moses with the great flood, Lady Danbury."

"Nonsense. Of course it was."

Elizabeth decided that Noah would understand her desire to avoid a protracted discussion of biblical references with Lady Danbury and shut her mouth.

"At any rate, it matters not who got caught in the flood. The fact of the matter is that you skipped ahead just to put me to sleep."

"I...ah..."

"Oh, just admit it, girl." Lady Danbury's lips spread into a knowing smile. “I admire you for it, actually. Same thing I would have done at your age."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. If this wasn't a case of "damned if you do and damned if you don't," she didn't know what was. So she just sighed, picked up the Bible, and said, "What portion would you like me to read?"

"None of it. Bloody boring, it is. Haven't we anything more exciting in the library?''

"I'm sure we must. I could check, if you like."

“Yes, do that. But before you go, could you hand me that ledger? Yes, that one on the desk."

***

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