“You’ll all have to leave that school, I’m afraid,” she said. “I’ve been doing sums back and front and sideways, and the only way I can see to keep the business going and take care of the three of you is to see you all settled in a promising apprenticeship somewhere. It isn’t practical to have you all in the shop. I can’t afford it. So this is what I’ve decided. Lettie first-“
Lettie looked up, glowing with health and beauty which even sorrow and black clothes could not hide. “I want to go on learning,” she said.
“So you shall, love,” said Fanny. “I’ve arranged for you to be apprenticed to Cesari’s, the pastry cook in Market Square. They’ve a name for treating their learners like kings and queens, and you should be very happy there, as well as learning a useful trade. Mrs.Cesari’s a good customer and a good friend, and she’s agreed to squeeze you in as a favor.”
Lettie laughed in a way that showed she was not at all pleased. “Well, thank you,” she said. “Isn’t it lucky that I like cooking?”
Fanny looked relieved. Lettie could be awkwardly strong-minded at times. “Now Martha,” she said. “I know you’re full young to go out and work, so I’ve thought around for something that would give you a long, quiet apprenticeship and go on being useful to you whatever you decide to do after that. You know my old school friend Annabel Fairfax?”
Martha, who was slender and fair, fixed her big gray eyes on Fanny almost as strong-mindedly as Lettie. “You mean the one who talks such a lot,” she said. “Isn’t she a witch?”
“Yes, with a lovely house and clients all over the Folding Valley,” Fanny said eagerly. “She’s a good woman, Martha. She’ll introduce you to grand people she knows in Kingsbury. You’ll be all set up in life when she’s done with you.”
“She’s a nice lady,” Martha conceded. “All right.”
Sophie, listening, felt that Fanny had worked everything out just as it should be. Lettie, as the second daughter, was never likely to come to much, so Fanny had put her where she might meet a handsome young apprentice and live happily ever after. Martha, who was bound to strike out and make her fortune, would have witchcraft and rich friends to help her. As for Sophie herself, Sophie had no doubt what was coming. It did not surprise her when Fanny said, “Now, Sophie dear, it seems only right and just that you should inherit the hat shop when I retire, being the eldest as you are. So I’ve decided to take you on as an apprentice myself, to give you a chance to learn the trade. How do you feel about that?”
Sophie could hardly say that she simple felt resigned to the hat trade. She thanked Fanny gratefully.
“So that’s settled then!” Fanny said.