Eb raised his head. At last he could look at his mother. Relief shone in his eyes. “I love you, Mooma,” he said: “Thank God for that.”

Now Hannah Stilleschuyler was a normal troll. She liked a party. She would have revelled in preparations, time spent together talking things through with Eb and Flo, meeting Flo’s mother, making a new dress, working out a plan of campaign for her garden, and her storage cellar. She would have enjoyed getting together with the other Sisters to make bunting and elderflower champagne.

But Hannah had read something years ago, when she had been at the hospital, living through the nightmare of repeated pregnancies and babies that died. She had sat stoically in a waiting room, Samuel at her side. Sometimes as they waited, they talked quietly, but mostly they sat in silence, not enjoying the attention they attracted, dressed Plain in a worldly setting. Flicking through the magazines spread out on the table there, to pass the time Hannah’s eye was caught by a headline and large picture. Esther Lauder, rich and successful business woman, so glamorous and elegant, looked out of the photograph at her; and Hannah thought she looked both kind and shrewd. The feature covered the approach of celebrity women to gracefully managing the challenge of being a mother-in-law.

“Keep your mouth shut and your handbag open,” had been Esther Lauder’s advice.

Sensing Samuel’s uneasiness as she became engrossed in a magazine for worldly women, Hannah closed it, and laid it down on the table again. She didn’t have a handbag; her apron pockets sufficed. Until this week, there had been no prospect of a daughter-in-law either. But Hannah had retained that snippet of wisdom, and it resurfaced after so many years. She thought it was worthy of those shrewd, kind eyes; very sound wisdom indeed.

So with only the slightest pang of regret, she detached herself from imaginings of having time to make a wedding quilt and a rich fruit cake.

She contented herself with saying “Maybe you will like to bring Flo here to talk through what must be done? Eb, I am so happy for you both.”

And Hannah knew that she had lost the mixed blessing of six months’ stitching and cooking and planting and planning – but kept the heartfelt gratitude of her son.