Mrs. Lovett sat sullen and quiet at the table.
"You don't like it?" said Lucy, with shy unease, holding up the clumsily knit dress.
"I've seen better, 'deed I have," said Mrs. Lovett.
"Please don't be unkind," said Lucy, softly. "I wish you'd help me."
"Hmph. Bet you do."
"Please. You're much cleverer with the knitting needle than I could ever hope to be."
Mrs. Lovett was flattered despite herself. She reached across the table and took the little dress in hand, examining it with a true professional's critical eye.
"Lord, but you need more practice, miss," she said, "this looks like a bleedin' sock!"
Mrs. Lovett laid the garment down. "We'd best learn you soon, too, else that babe'll have nothing decent to wear."
"Thank you—thank you, dear Mrs. Lovett! I'll make a ghastly mum, won't I? Oh—!"
Even though her face was pleasantly tinged with pink, Lucy's eyes were wet and anxious, and Mrs. Lovett felt a thrill of satisfaction. Served the lady right, really, didn't it? Silly thing. Couldn't knit worth a hoot! Probably didn't know a needle from a chopstick. Bubble-headed, mollycoddled—
That voice, so peculiarly high-pitched and tense when fretful, struck a tender chord in Mrs. Lovett's bosom and her eyes fell swiftly to rest on the slight and slender form of Mr. Benjamin Barker. He didn't spare her a glance. Straight to Miss Lucy he went, leaving the door wide open like a daft fool, the winter's chill winds blowing him straight to the blushing girl's side. Mrs. Lovett rose and shut it herself. A moment she stood, jealousy coursing through every palpitating vein. Dunderheads, the pair—
When again she looked towards the table, she caught them kissing with markedly indecent passion, taking advantage of her turned back, Benjamin kneeling close beside his wife's little chair. Her tender hands were laid upon his thin shoulders, and he stroked the fast-falling tears from her face. But still she wept quietly, and Benjamin's quick eyes flitted over her face, searching and frightened. Mrs. Lovett's scorn knew no bounds. He was every bit as worked up as his golden goose of a wife.
"Lucy, sweet one, what is it?" he said, very softly, his long, white fingers twisting in her hair.
"I—I'm so afraid—what if—"
"She can't knit worth a flip," said Mrs. Lovett, pointedly. "That's it."
"My poor girl!" cried Benjamin, "is that all! Neither can I."
"Mph," said Mrs. Lovett, "but you ain't no girl, Mr. Barker, nor soon to be a mum, either."
"I'll make a horrid mother," sobbed Lucy.
Benjamin embraced her. "Shh," he said, "'s not true, Lucy. You make up for knitting—if that is worth aught at all—with much, much more—! You'll make a perfect angel of a mother. Goodness, what other lass can read so well? You'll teach our little one to read, too, won't you? And that's ever so better creatively, don't you think? Ah! The strains of poetry—! Those intricately woven tapestries of romance and adventure! Let's see Mrs. Lovett knit them."
"Now, Mr. Barker," said Mrs. Lovett, "I'm practical, is all. And this—Lucy couldn't knit to save her soul."
Benjamin smiled, looking up at Lucy. "Don't cry, dear one," he said, "if your soul is lost, so is mine."