Today's Reading

One

April 1388

Louisa scooped up another half dozen tadpoles with her pottery cup and dropped them in the bucket.

"I'm hungry." Her younger sister, Margaret, sighed and sat back on her heels in the mud.

"Go to the kitchen and ask for some bread and cheese."

"Aunt Celestria said we couldn't come in until we caught at least a hundred tadpoles."

"I've almost got enough. Go get some food." Louisa continued searching the murky water of the fishpond for tadpoles that would grow up to be the croaking bullfrogs that kept their aunt awake at night.

Margaret gave her a look. "She will scream at me."

"Not if she doesn't see you. She never goes to the kitchen this time of day."

Margaret sighed again. "I can wait." She went back to dragging her little cup through the water.

"Girls!"

Louisa turned her head to see the housekeeper, Nesta, motioning frantically to them. Nine-year-old Bertram was beside her, making faces at them—sticking out his tongue and waving his hands above his head like donkey ears. As the heir, their cousin did only what he pleased.

Margaret jumped to her feet and began to run across the grassy yard toward the house, her feet and skirts slinging mud in all directions. Louisa stayed several feet behind her sister, carrying the bucket of tadpoles.

"Covered from head to toe in mud." Nesta's tense voice matched her face. "Get out of those filthy clothes and clean yourselves up. You have to get into your best dresses. Make haste!"

"Make haste!" Bertram mimicked, pointing at them.

"Why? What's happening?" But as soon as Louisa asked, she knew. "Another man looking for a wife." She let out a noisy breath and rolled her eyes.

"Yes, now hurry," Nesta said. "You know how your aunt and uncle get.

And you too," she said to Margaret. "You're invited to the feast as well." Louisa stopped midstep. "Margaret too? Why?" Margaret ran inside and

Louisa waited until she was out of earshot. "He would not marry Margaret off, would he?" She was only twelve.

Nesta's brows went up, wrinkling her forehead. "They don't tell me anything, but why else would she be invited?" She shook her head as she walked away.

In their bedroom, Louisa's heart was in her throat as she imagined her sister—the person she loved more than anyone else in the world; sweet, innocent Margaret—being married off to a wealthy suitor so she could bear the man's children. How could she endure that?

She and Margaret took off their muddy kirtles and underdresses and used their basins and a cloth to wash.

How much should Louisa say to her little sister? She wanted to warn her, but she also didn't want to frighten her. "Try not to smile or say anything sweet in front of our guest."

"Are you afraid he will pick me for his bride?" Margaret giggled. "I don't even have my breasts yet." She stuck out her flat chest.

"I'm sure you have nothing to worry about." Louisa tried to smile and lightly pulled her sister's hair, and Margaret responded in kind.

Their former nurse, Hanilda, came in. "Stop that foolishness and finish getting ready." She took the washcloth and started using it on Margaret's cheeks and forehead, making her yelp.

"I can wash my own face!"

Hanilda gave her back the cloth and started picking out their best dresses and laying them on the bed.

...

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Today's Reading

One

April 1388

Louisa scooped up another half dozen tadpoles with her pottery cup and dropped them in the bucket.

"I'm hungry." Her younger sister, Margaret, sighed and sat back on her heels in the mud.

"Go to the kitchen and ask for some bread and cheese."

"Aunt Celestria said we couldn't come in until we caught at least a hundred tadpoles."

"I've almost got enough. Go get some food." Louisa continued searching the murky water of the fishpond for tadpoles that would grow up to be the croaking bullfrogs that kept their aunt awake at night.

Margaret gave her a look. "She will scream at me."

"Not if she doesn't see you. She never goes to the kitchen this time of day."

Margaret sighed again. "I can wait." She went back to dragging her little cup through the water.

"Girls!"

Louisa turned her head to see the housekeeper, Nesta, motioning frantically to them. Nine-year-old Bertram was beside her, making faces at them—sticking out his tongue and waving his hands above his head like donkey ears. As the heir, their cousin did only what he pleased.

Margaret jumped to her feet and began to run across the grassy yard toward the house, her feet and skirts slinging mud in all directions. Louisa stayed several feet behind her sister, carrying the bucket of tadpoles.

"Covered from head to toe in mud." Nesta's tense voice matched her face. "Get out of those filthy clothes and clean yourselves up. You have to get into your best dresses. Make haste!"

"Make haste!" Bertram mimicked, pointing at them.

"Why? What's happening?" But as soon as Louisa asked, she knew. "Another man looking for a wife." She let out a noisy breath and rolled her eyes.

"Yes, now hurry," Nesta said. "You know how your aunt and uncle get.

And you too," she said to Margaret. "You're invited to the feast as well." Louisa stopped midstep. "Margaret too? Why?" Margaret ran inside and

Louisa waited until she was out of earshot. "He would not marry Margaret off, would he?" She was only twelve.

Nesta's brows went up, wrinkling her forehead. "They don't tell me anything, but why else would she be invited?" She shook her head as she walked away.

In their bedroom, Louisa's heart was in her throat as she imagined her sister—the person she loved more than anyone else in the world; sweet, innocent Margaret—being married off to a wealthy suitor so she could bear the man's children. How could she endure that?

She and Margaret took off their muddy kirtles and underdresses and used their basins and a cloth to wash.

How much should Louisa say to her little sister? She wanted to warn her, but she also didn't want to frighten her. "Try not to smile or say anything sweet in front of our guest."

"Are you afraid he will pick me for his bride?" Margaret giggled. "I don't even have my breasts yet." She stuck out her flat chest.

"I'm sure you have nothing to worry about." Louisa tried to smile and lightly pulled her sister's hair, and Margaret responded in kind.

Their former nurse, Hanilda, came in. "Stop that foolishness and finish getting ready." She took the washcloth and started using it on Margaret's cheeks and forehead, making her yelp.

"I can wash my own face!"

Hanilda gave her back the cloth and started picking out their best dresses and laying them on the bed.

...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...