In the Lightfoot household, a certain scrap of blanket had gone missing in the course of the day from the possession of one of the children.

Darkness had settled on the yard, and though Florence searched with a lantern, it was nowhere to be found. Assurances that daylight would discover it and put all to rights brought no comfort. Without this beloved scrap of blanket, the child was inconsolable. Dorcas was gently pacing the family room, singing quiet lullabies to a wakeful baby, its beady eyes wide open and fixed on the lamp’s peaceful light. Silas was falling asleep where he sat, dog-tired after a day’s carpentry.

Florence sat and rocked the little one weeping for her blanket scrap, made up stories of its possible adventures, offered her kerchief, her shawl, her kapp as possible alternatives til it be found. To no avail, but eventually the sobs died away to sniffs and hiccups and the small troll’s eyes closed. . . opened . . . closed . . opened , swimming in drowsiness. . . and closed as with a last sniff and shudder the little body gave way to sleep.

Florence carried the child to the cot Silas had made, bedded her down tenderly, tucking the soft quilt around to keep every breath of cold away, and tiptoed back to the family room where Silas was fast asleep in his chair and Dorcas still trod patiently the length of the room. She paused her singing. “See you in the morning,” she whispered. Flo nodded, and let herself out.

It was late by the time she stepped into the Whicharts’ house; they were both long gone to bed. Florence was exhausted. She dropped her clothes on the floor in a heap, dragged on her nightgown, stood one moment with hands folded and eyes closed to give thanks and to seek God’s blessing on her sleeping, her waking, the work of her hands this day, Dorcas and family (bless them with sound sleep this night), her own kindred back home, Harold and Harriet, all those who watch and wait and cannot sleep this night, the dying and those who grieve, every child born this night . . . and . . . please; bless Eb Stilleschuyler.

Then she sank into her bed, touched and grateful to find it warmed ready for her by a hot water bottle in a flannel cover. Flo was asleep after a mere minute snuggling cosy down into the warmth, feeling well satisfied – it had been a good day. She slept soundly til well after sun-up, when she emerged into the family room in her nightdress.

“Harriet! Why didn’t you wake me! Poor Dorcas! Heavens! All she has to do!”

Harriet smiled at her. “Florence, I think you have earned your sleep. Get a wash and dress yourself, tidy your hair. I’ll make you a bowl of porridge. There’s hot water here for you to wash – mind how you go with that jug, it’s massive! Don’t you fret about Dorcas. As it happens – I can’t think why – Eb Stilleschuyler dropped by, the sun barely over the rim of the world. I thought he might as well make himself useful, so I sent him along to Dorcas to help out with the children. Good practice for him, I thought.”

“Oh, thank goodness! Thank you, Harriet, thank you so much!”

Relieved, Florence turned back towards the bedroom with the jug of water Harriet handed her. She paused, suddenly. “Practice for what?” she said.

Harriet’s eyes barely flickered. She shrugged, carelessly.

“Oh, just for life and times,” she said, giving the pot of porridge a stir. “It does a Brother no harm to learn the ways of little ones. After all, you never know. Make haste, then, and get ready for the day. I think he’ll be back again presently.”