“Yes. Are you getting your father’s jug?”
“No,” Alden blushed shamefully. “He is sleeping it off. Mother sent me to get some medicine from Dr. Diefendorf to help with her nerves. I also had to go to Madam Nefi to get some herbs. Have you ever been there?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“I’ll take you some time, she is–” Alden cuts off when something catches his sight. “There goes my Aunt. The one that works for Mr. Berry. Let’s go talk to her.” Alden and Walter walk over to a tall brunette woman, wearing an immaculate stiff grey dress with a starched collar. She smelt of perfume and soap. She resembled like Alden’s mother only younger and less like a frump. She was carrying a wicker basket and had a stoic expression on her face.
“Hallo, young man,” she greeted Alden.
“Hallo, Aunt Josephine.”
“Who is your friend?” she glances briefly at Walter.
“This is Walter. His Uncle owns the Swan Inn.”
“Ah, Mr. Banny. Yes, I know him. How are you young man?” she directs her question to Walter.
“I’m fine thank you,” Walter says.
“I hope he has been teaching you manners being in a place like that,” she says in an imperious manner. “I would ask how school is going, but knowing what happened to Mr. Crabb—for heaven’s sakes, child, stop looking at me like that.” She looks at Alden when she said that. “Of course I know what’s going on in this town. I don’t live in a cave. That is the only thing people talk about. They are nothing, but busybodies. Have you eaten anything today? Heaven knows you mother can barely feed herself. Well, speak child.”
“I had some bread with honey and milk this morning,” Alden said.
“Bread! Bread is not enough food for a twelve year old,” she starts rummaging through her wicker basket. “Those parents of yours. Sometimes I wonder what’s going on through their heads.” She takes out a wrapped bag of confectionery and handed it to Alden. “Those are the finest chocolates from the city and other regions. You will like them,” she says, handing him another bag with exotic fruits and a few silver coins. “That should be enough to keep the pantry full. Put that money away. Quickly, quickly. We don’t want to repeat last year’s incident when your mother and that husband of hers spent it away on rubbish. Heaven knows your grandfather is not there to sustain them. Does your mother know?”
“No, she thinks she has an admirer,” Alden said.
“She always had her head in the clouds,” she rolls her eyes. “That mother of yours.” All of the sudden she freezes in place with her gaze fixed straight ahead. Alden looks at Walter with worry. Has she been bewitched?
“Aunt Josephine?” Alden calls out to her, but she doesn’t respond. “Aunt–”
“I need to go,” she begins to act expeditiously. She turns and hurries off as if something had frightened her. Walter and Alden turn to see what she was staring at. It was Mr. Bagley, staggering towards them as he points at her. When he reaches them, he burbles, “That wuz her, wasn’t it? That was yer mother’s sister, Josephine. Wasn’t it?” Alden didn’t respond.
“Wait till yer mother hears ‘bout this. She thinks yer aunt’s been brainwashed by that, that Mister Berry. Oi think she is a hoity-toity, like that Berry. What did she want? What did she say?”
Alden just shook his head.
“Say,” his father looks at the bag of confectionery and the bag of exotic fruits. “Did she give ye those?”
Alden couldn’t say no to his father and nodded.
“That’s all she gave ye. While we starve to death she gives ye candy an’ fruit,” he says disconcerted.
“She knows yer mother doesn’t eat fruit an’ Oi don’t like candy. Wait till yer mother hears ‘bout this. Let me take those from ye. Ye better git home.” He takes the fruits and confectioneries away from Alden and staggers away.
Alden looked upset.
“I’m sorry,” was all Walter could say.
Alden shrugged his shoulders. “I better go,” he walked away with his head hung low. Walter wish he could help his friend out but he himself had very little to give. What he had wasn’t his to give. Though, many would disagree, because he was Uncle Obel’s nephew. He had riches to spare. What was Uncle Obels’ was his, his mother reminded him. Uncle Obel did not owe them a living. That Walter knew was true. With a sigh, he walked back to the Swan Inn.