Wet Nurse

Copyright © 1999, Kellis


“Losing a babe is hard, Jill.  How can you bear up so well?”

The two women were standing at the foot of the sickbed.  Enough light leaked around the cloistering drapes for them to see each other without disturbing the sleep of the convalescent patriarch.

The speaker patted the other’s arm in sympathy.

Jill shrugged, pushing back a strand of chestnut hair that had escaped her bun.  “‘Bear up,’ Martha?  As if one had a choice!”

The dark brunette continued earnestly, “I lost one myself, and it nearly ripped out my heart.  I think it’s wonderful that you can be so fatalistic.”

“But your little girl was almost five.  In my case —  You knew my first babe died, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t.  You’ve lost two?”

“At five your poor daughter was a person, but my two boys were still babes.  Andy was only two months.  So many babies die in the first year.  I’ve learned to hold some part of my feelings back at least until they can talk.”  She smiled slightly.  “Fortunately I have two talkers running over the hills with your Bob as we speak.  They talk enough for four.”

Martha smiled more indulgently.  “Girls though they are, I doubt they outtalk my Bob.  It’s interesting, don’t you think, that only your girls have survived and only my boy?”

“So far.  If this war ever ends we’ll both make more, I expect.”

Martha glanced at the recumbent figure.  He had ceased to snore some time ago but the heavy breathing was regular.  “Do you … enjoy that, Jill?”

The chestnut’s eyes flashed.  “Should I know what you mean, Martha?”

The brunette recognized a twinkle and licked her lips.  “I heard James and you in the summer house one evening last June — mostly you.”

“Did you!  I think that’s when I conceived poor Andy.  If you heard me, you know the answer to your question.”

“I’m so glad for you …  Though at the time I thought you in agony at first.”

“That, too, Martha!  Have you heard it expressed that a ‘man possesses his woman?’”

“I believe so.”

“That’s how it was.  James possessed me, every part of me.  My only wish was to help him do what he wanted, get what he needed, give all he had.  Such times are the most wonderful experience in life.”

Martha’s eyes widened.  She took a deep breath.  “You speak as if they were common.”

“No, not common.  ’Twere common, they could hardly be wonderful.  Surely you know them, too!”

“Well, I … know of it.  In the summertime I’ve overheard the serving women through open windows.”

“Here at Georgewood?”

“Yes, in my youth.  I shouldn’t tell you this, but it’s not so bad to hear of a boy.  Our mother whispered that James caused most of that noise.”

“I don’t doubt it.”  Jill grinned.  “If we were cattle, he’d be a prize bull.”

Martha sniffed past her smile.  “My brother, the bull!”

Jill remarked complaisantly, “I’m certain he put the babe in my maidservant, though she won’t admit it.”

“My god!  You don’t mind?”

“Not really.  He’ll not run off with a servant.  And he doesn’t neglect me.  Four babes in five years is my evidence.”

The brunette shook her head.  “You’re such a strong person, Jill.  I admire strength.  You’re the right wife for James.”

“Thank you, Martha.  You’re a dear sister.”

“In-law,” the brunette corrected.  “James is strong, too.  Far stronger than I.”

“Of course.”

“I refer to his personality in this case.”

“Are you so weak?”

“In comparison.  Though I am a year older, he pestered me as a child until I gave in to his demands.”

Chestnut eyebrows rose.  “‘Demands,’ Martha?”

The brunette smiled self-consciously.  “Not as bad as that, Jill.  Fortunately we were too young.”  The smile vanished.  “Else he might have been just that bad.”

“How bad was he?”

“I permitted him to compare us intimately.”

Jill studied her sister-in-law.  Slowly she smiled.  “How old were you?”

“Ten and eleven.  Of course we were still ignorant as babes.  I didn’t appreciate the significance of what happened until much later.”

“What happened?”

“His thing … stuck straight out.”

“And you touched it, of course.”

“I …  Jill, I have never spoken with anyone of this, not even James.”

“What did you do?”

“We did a most thorough comparison.  In fact … your analogy of cattle is singularly appropriate.  I played …”

The chestnut’s blue eyes definitely twinkled now.  “His calf?”

The brunette flushed, nodding.

The twinkle became a chuckle.  “He still loves that game.”

“Does he!  Do you mean that you …”


“But … he is hardly a child!”

The chestnut chuckled.  “Hardly.”

“But a grown man makes such …”

After a moment the chestnut asked, “Were you about to say ‘an effusion?’”

The brunette retorted dryly, “I was about to say ‘a mess!’”

“It can be done tidily.”  Jill cocked an eyebrow at her sister-in-law.  “I don’t believe you never served a grown man so.”

“Well, of course …  I suppose that every husband demands it.”

The chestnut grunted.  “Who waits for a demand?”

Martha’s eyebrows rose.  “Do you mean that you initiate it?”

“Why not?  It causes him to return the favor immediately.”

“‘Return the …’  Oh!”

“James has admitted making the servants squeal thus.”  The chestnut smiled reminiscently.  “Heavens, he makes me squeal!  He’s learned to wield his wicked tongue just —  But this is interesting, Martha.  Thank you for your disclosure.  I begin to believe that incest is common in all families.”

The brunette studied her companion.  “Including yours?  But you had no siblings.”

“Perhaps not, but my father’s sister bore eight, four after the death of her husband.”

“I knew that.  Are you suggesting …”

“Why do you think there was no scandal?  My father simply wouldn’t permit it.  He raised Aunt Vera’s children as his own along with me.  As well he might.”

“I admired your father.  There was a strong man!”

“Yes.  Unfortunately not stronger than a cannon shell.”

“This damnable war!”

“Do you have any news beyond the battle for Peregrine?”

“Only that our losses were frightful, and when the fighting —”

“Lula!”  A husky voice rose weakly from the far end of the huge bed.

Martha broke off in the middle of her sentence and hurried forward to lean over the recumbent form.  She spoke in soothing tones, “Lula is ill, Father, and can’t come.”

Toward her on the fluffy pillow turned a curly white beard, parchment skin with patchworks of wrinkles at eyes and forehead, and watery blue irises set in unblemished whites beneath incongruously black eyebrows.  A thinning mane of white hair spread around the face.

“Ill?” the quavering old voice repeated.  “How can she be ill?  She wath thpry enough thith morning.”

Martha glanced at Jill and sighed.  “I told you he’d not understand.”  Back to the old man she continued patiently, “She suffered an accident that seems to have hurt her back.  She won’t leave her bed.”

“If I don’t underthtand it’th becauthe you tell me nothing.  What kind of accident?”

“A … fall, I believe.”

The old man grunted contemptuously.  “Clumthy wench!  You muth call on Clemmie.”


“Before I have an acthident!”

“Clemmie was sent to the village, Father.  She’ll be gone another hour.”

The old eyes glared.  “I cannot wait an hour — nor even ten minuth.”

Martha squared her shoulders and raised her chin.  “Father, I’ll do it.”

“You will not!”

“I’m sorry, Father.”  She sighed heavily.  “If you miss the jar, you can hardly lie in … it until Clemmie returns.  It is I who must sponge you off and replace the sheet and your night shirt.  Please don’t balk me on this.”

The old man grunted again but said nothing further.  The woman retrieved a quart mason jar from the floor, clambered onto the high bed and worked it under the covers toward his midsection.  After a moment’s fumbling she came to rest, kneeling, both hands under the covers.  She blew a fallen strand of dark hair from her eyes and shook her head in mild exasperation at Jill.  “All right,” she announced.  “It’s ready.”

“I felt you!” the old man confirmed testily.  A moment later he breathed a long sigh of relief.  His eyes drifted closed and many wrinkles smoothed as tension left his face.  Martha said conversationally to Jill, “Mr. Mason’s invention has many uses, but a tin cup might serve better for this.”

“Why?” asked the chestnut.

“Because one could hear the progress.”

“But with a glass jar you can see it!”

“Oh, Father would never allow that!”

The old eyes flew open again and peered toward the foot of the bed.  “Who’th there?”

Martha rolled her eyes.  “Father, this is James’ wife, Jill.  You’ve known her for years.  She’s come to stay with us while James is away.”

“Jill,” muttered the old man, staring at the chestnut woman, who curtsied and intoned, “At your service, Father Westry.”

The old lips stretched in an attempted smile.  “Tho Jameth had the thenthe to marry a looker!”

“Father,” exclaimed the daughter in tones of disgust, “don’t pretend you never saw her before!”

“How can I tell if I ever thaw her before?”

“Well, of course —”

“Thith room ith too dark to thee my own hand if I could raith it.”

Martha’s lip curled.  “It’s light enough for you to admire her looks.  Are you quite finished?”

The old eyes, previously fixed upon Jill, seemed to turn inward.  “Almoth …  One more squirt.  There!  And don’t forget to shake it off.”

The woman’s eyes grew round.  “Shake it off?”

“Work the forethkin.  You muth watch when Lula doeth it.”

Jill grinned slightly.  Even in the dim light a flush had appeared on her sister-in-law’s face.

Martha demanded, “Is that enough?”

The old man’s eyes had returned to Jill.  A matching grin was evident behind the beard.  “Do it more,” he ordered.

Martha sniffed.  “I cannot believe you need it more!”

But she remained in position.  The bedcovers trembled.  The old eyes glittered on Jill’s.

Suddenly Martha snatched one hand away.  “That is enough!” she cried, glaring at the old man’s face.  She brought the mason jar forth more carefully and held it up for inspection.  It was nearly a quarter full of urine.  “You did well, Father,” she conceded.

“Told you it wath urgent,” he said, still grinning.

Martha got down from the bed, careful of the jar, found the lid and breathed easier when it was screwed down tightly.  She stood beside the bed, contemplating her patient.  “It’s almost time for luncheon, Father.  Will you eat a bowl of broth?”

“No.  Bring me a glath of port.”

“Have you forgotten?  The doctor permits you to have port only at night.”

“Damn the doctor!  He’th the reathon thith room ith clothed up dark ath midnight.  Jill, open thoth drapeth!”

“It’s dark so you can sleep,” Martha protested.

“Thleep!  I’ll thoon thleep forever.  Jill, open them, pleath.  Thath a good girl.”

The chestnut shrugged.  “Obviously you’re not sleepy.”  She went to the nearest window and threw back the heavy drapes.  A bar of brilliant spring sunlight fell across the bed, making all eyes blink.  Jill returned, now to the opposite bedside from Martha.  The old man cocked his head up at her.  The bright backlight turned the hair that escaped her bun to reddish gold, reflecting on the creamy skin above her low cut summer gown.

His eyes narrowed.  “I do remember you.”

“Of course you do, Father Westry.  You and I opened the reel Christmas last.”

“That we did!  How lightly you danced!  How thweetly you kith’t!  I wath jealouth when you left with Jameth.”

The woman laughed.  “Tell no one of that!”

Martha cocked her head.  “What does he mean?”

“I’m afraid I teased my father-in-law,” Jill admitted.  “I always wanted to be an old man’s darling.”

The old face sagged.  “Now I’m jealouth of anyone who can dance with you.”

Martha nodded.  “Of anyone who can dance, you mean.”


“Father, the challenge now is not to dance;  it is to live.  You must tell me what you will eat.”

The old man sighed.  “Bring whatever you have.  It’th all only thalt-water anyway.”

“You liked the honey and cider.  Will you try that after the broth?”

“You are out of honey.”

“Oh, that’s right.  The cider, then?”

“Bring it.”

She raised her face to the backlit chestnut.  “Will you keep him company?”

“Of course.”

“I appreciate it.  I must empty this and make a tray.  I am learning just how much we depended on Lula.”

She came around the bed and hugged the chestnut with her free arm.  “We are so fortunate that you could visit.”

“I’m glad that you need me, Martha.”

The brunette turned away and crossed the large room, bearing the mason jar.  Hinges squealed as she opened the door.  When it had thumped shut, Jill sat down on the edge of the bed, concentrating on the haggard face before her.

She asked, “What in the world happened to you, Milton?”

“What have they told you?”

“Of course James and I heard of the fall from your horse and the broken leg, but this …”  Her gaze upon him, propped up on pillows, cover raised to his shoulders, conveyed her astonishment eloquently.  “Your hair and beard are snow white in less than two years.”

He nodded.  “They didn’t tell you the wortht.  I broke my fool neck.”

“Your neck!  But isn’t that …”

“Fatal?  Usually.  If you believe the doctor, I’m a very lucky man.  I’m paralythed from the neck down, with no feeling in armth and legth, but at leath I’m thtill here!”

“Oh, Milton.  How terrible!”  Her cool hand reached out and stroked his forehead.  “Cut down in your prime!  What do they say?  Will you recover?”

“They thay I’m too old.”

“How old is that?”


She repeated his word exactly.  “‘Thikthty.’  Does a broken neck cause such a terrible lisp?”

“Not directly.  That part ith funny.  My falth teeth fell out and the horth thtepped on them.”

“Stepped on them!”  She covered her mouth.

“Ith all right!  Go ahead and laugh.  God knowth, I do!”

“Why haven’t you bought another set?”

“Did buy them!  Can’t thtand to wear them.  Only dethent dentith in the county’th gone to war.”

“To war!” she snarled.  “How I hate that word!  Does that bear on the reason James and I weren’t told of your ill luck?”

“I would not dithtract him, Jill.  What he doeth ith too important.”

“His family is very important to James!”


She nodded.  “I see.  Very well.  I know about it now, and I can help you.  Your new teeth need to be ground to fit.  You may find this hard to believe, but I can do that.  My father was older than you.  I helped him with his false teeth.  I’ll send for the tools today.”

His eyes lit.  “That would be wonderful!  If I could eat a dethent meal …”

“What are you eating?”

“You heard Martha.  Broth, thtrained thoup, thalt-water.  I love honey, but ith not yet in theathon.”

“I can help you there, too.  Milton …”  She took a deep breath.  Her eyes narrowed purposefully and she added almost under her breath, “James always says, ‘Damn the conventions.’”

“Perhapth a little too readily?”

“I don’t think so.  His string of victories suggests otherwise.”

“Yeth, but don’t dithcount luck.”

“He believes in making his own luck.”  She cocked her head at him.  “Martha says you’re dying.  She’s resigned to it.  The doctor gives you a couple of months.  You certainly will if you don’t eat.”

“When you fikth my teeth —”

“We daren’t wait for that.  Milton, why didn’t you possess me Christmas last?”

He stared at her.  His eyes softened.  “Becauth you were my thon’th wife.  I couldn’t betray him.”

She nodded.  “We thought that was it.”


“James remembered us together before he passed out.  He asked me what happened.  I told him.”

“You told him!  Everything?”

“Everything:  where you put your hands, where I put mine.”

“Good god, Jill!  What did he thay?  Should I fear hith homecoming?”

“He actually sympathized with me.  He accused me of cold feet.”

“Accuthed you?”

“He claims that in gentle company the woman controls subsequent events once they have gone so far.”

The old man stared at her and slowly shook his head.  “It wath hard, but I wath the one who walked away.”

“Because I let you.”

“You let me?”

“I sensed your embarrassment.”

“My god!”  The old eyes burned upon hers.  “He taunted you with it?”

“Taunted?  Not at all.  He knows my lustful nature very well, Milton.”

She took a deep breath and seemed to change the subject.  “My fourth child, your third grandson, Andrew Currin Westry, died just five days ago.”

“I’m thorry, Jill.  I hadn’t heard.”

“I suppose not.  He only lived seven weeks and I’m sure Martha wishes to spare you ill news.  I’m telling you so that you’ll see how you and I can do ourselves a favor.”

The old eyes narrowed.  “How did he die, Jill?”

She sighed.  “I don’t know.  He developed a high fever in the evening and was dead in the morning.  Our doctor is of course gone to war.  At least he might have put a name on it.  I brought my girls here in hope of avoiding the infection, if any should arise.”

“Thith wath four dayth ago?”


“Then your … breath muth be killing you.”

Her eyebrows rose.  “My breath?”

“Damn teeth!  I mean your bubbith.”

“Oh, god, they are!  I have bound them up, but they ache terribly.  I’ve not had a good night’s sleep since …  Can you … will you help me with them, Milton?”

The man’s mouth fell open, exposing a pink orifice in the midst of white beard.  She chuckled slightly.  “Now, Milton, are you truly so shocked as that?”

His tongue appeared, licking his lips.  “What I am ith drowning.”


“In thaliva.  I know the thweet flavor of human milk.”

Her eyes sparkled.  “Then you are hungry!”


She nodded.  “I suspect that is only too literally true.”  She sat up stiffly.  Deft hands behind her opened the buttons of her dark gown, which fell to her waist.  A camisole went over her head.  She untied two tag ends on her chest and unwound the binding linens, letting them fall to the bed.  Her breasts appeared at last, heavy and full, thickly veined, thin beads of milk already standing out on the freed nipples.  She spun around on the bed, settling her back against the pillows beside and above the man’s head, presenting the nearer nipple to his mouth.  He closed on it avidly.

The flowing milk actually hummed as it departed her.  She grimaced at the exhibited power, so much greater than a babe’s mouth, but within moments her expression relaxed into the sag of relief.  “Oh, god, Milton!” she breathed.  “You can never know how good this feels.”

After a bit she giggled.  He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“When James does this, he cannot resist biting just enough to annoy me.  It may be unconscious;  more likely he does it in the belief that it titillates me despite my protests.  You demonstrate that the absence of teeth can be an advantage.  Not so a beard.  It tickles!”

They lay in quiet contact until he had drained the one breast.  She said, “I hope you’re still hungry, Milton.  I have another that aches just as bad.”

“Oh, god, oh, yeth!  Jill, you marvelouth creature!”  He licked stray drops from his beard.

Chuckling, she rose up and crawled across him, assuming a similar position to present the other.  He attacked it with equal vigor.

She frowned.  Her hand went to his forehead.  “You’re perspiring, you poor thing!  This is a warm day in May but they have you covered for January.”

She pulled off the blankets, leaving only the top sheet in place over his body.  “There, isn’t that better?  Hold!  What’s this?”

Her hand slipped under the sheet to a tented peak previously covered with blankets.  She felt him quiver at her touch.  She said wonderingly, “I thought you could feel nothing from the neck down.  No!  That’s right.  You told Martha …  She grasped you here, didn’t she?”

The bearded head nodded without releasing her.  “My god, Milton, you are certainly still a man in this part!  Can you … feel with it in the normal way?”

Again he nodded.

“How interesting!” she breathed.  “Though how can you be sure?  When you have emptied me, perhaps we can find a way to test it.  That is, if you wish.”

He nodded vigorously, causing her to laugh.

They enjoyed their very companionable silence only another minute before the squeaking door hinges announced Martha’s re-entry.  “I’m sorry I took so long —” she began but broke off upon approaching the tableau on the bed.  Both man and woman had twitched at the first squeak, but neither had man relaxed his mouth nor woman the arch of her back.

Jill forced a smile.  “As you see, we found a way to pass the time.”

Martha stood at the foot of the bed, eyes wide.  A hand rose to her mouth.  “You … you’re …”

“Feeding Father Westry,” Jill finished for her.

The brunette hurried around the bed and clambered to her sister-in-law’s side, hugging her about the waist, laying head on her bare shoulder.  “Oh, Jill, I’m so glad!”


“I wanted to ask you to do it.  I knew your breasts were hurting you.  I just couldn’t find a way …  Oh, Jill, I love you!”

Jill withdrew the arm that had been fondling the man beneath the sheet and hugged the brunette in return.  “And love your father, too, I see.”

“Oh, yes,” Martha declared.  She raised up to study the man beyond the swollen breast.  “Is he taking it well?”

“He has nearly emptied the both.”

“Oh, good!  Oh, this is wonderful!”

Jill chuckled slightly but her face showed curiosity.  “You wanted me to suckle him?”

“I know about wet nurses.  I have even served as one.”

“Have you indeed!  Who was the man?”

Martha shook her head.  “I’m not brave as you, Jill.  It was an old woman who had served my grandmother.  I fed her several times after the loss of my girl.”  She smiled indulgently at the watching man.  “How is this meal, Father?  Does it compare to the sexton’s honey?”

The man closed his eyes blissfully.  His mouth continued to work.  She reached out and stroked his cheek tenderly.  “My big babe,” she murmured, “how sweetly you must suckle!”

“This is no babe!” Jill declared.

“His mouth is larger, I admit,” Martha responded fondly.

“And this, too, belongs to no babe,” Jill added, slipping her arm between them to pull the sheet below the man’s hips.  He was still erect, foreskin withdrawn from the crimson head.

“Oh, Lula takes care of that,” Martha retorted after a single glance.

“Lula!” Jill repeated, cocking her head to stare at the man.

“Yes, Lula!”  Martha’s tone expressed vexation.  “Too well.  That’s what took so long.  I got the truth out of her.”

The man released the nipple at last.  “What did she thay?” he demanded.

“It’s her back, all right, and front, too.  She’s missed her courses twice.”  Martha sat up in the bed, eyes narrowed on the man.  “I don’t suppose you noticed if she douched, did you?”


Jill’s hand clasped the erect organ gently.  “Still a man where it counts, Father Westry!”

“That’s the strange part,” Martha continued.  “She claims Father had nothing to do with it.”

The man spoke up.  “Did she thay who ith the thire?”

“One of the lieutenants we boarded in February.”

“Hith name, daughter!”

“Ah, Ellington, I believe.  Harry mentioned that he was killed before Peregrine.”



“I mean, ith good becauth the bathtard of a war hero dethervth rethpect.”

Jill glowered, “And the man who falls in battle is automatically a hero.”

“Ith true!”

The brunette took a deep breath.  “Father, respect or not, I must know if the child could be ours.”

“Athk her again.”

“I … wish to ask you.”

“How can I know, when you’ve given her to passing soldiers?”

“I said ‘could be.’  Did you usually …”

The passage of time had moved the bar of sunlight across their bodies.  The brunette’s blush flared like a flame in the brilliant light.

The man demanded, “Did I what?”

“Ejaculate within her?”

“Ha!”  He stared into the distance.  “Within her, yeth, but not to make a babe.”

Jill smiled as Martha’s eyes widened.  “What do you mean?”

“After the firth time, when you watched to thee me not hurt, I cannot recall another dithcharge into her quim.”

“Well, if not … where …”

The man frowned.  “Where do you think?  In her mouth, of courth.”

Martha sighed.  “Well, then, I guess …  The first time was too long ago.”

Jill glanced at her curiously.  “You sound disappointed.”

“I am.”  Her eyes fell.  “I had hoped …  Father was such a fine man …”  She glowered at him.  “Why always in her mouth?  Have you no further use for women?”

He shook his head.  “It wath her choith.  I wath grateful for any attention whatever.”

“But I know she is a lustful woman!”

“She ith,” the old man agreed, smiling.  “If you notith, my tongue altho workth well, and Lula ith even lathier than she ith luthful.”

“Lazier!  You mean she reversed herself on you …”

“Egthactly.  We tried oneth with me on top, but she had then to work even harder.”

Martha snorted.  “I have taken my station outside this door numberless times to give you privacy with her.”  She glared at him before swinging passionately to Jill.  “How I wish that a lady might curse!”

The chestnut laughed.  “A lady can do anything she wishes.  But before you waste ingenuity in devising acceptable oaths, let me make a suggestion.”

Martha had sat up, releasing her embrace of her sister-in-law.  She shook her head.  “It seems too late.  Clemmie’s belly is too old.”

Jill’s hand reached out and raised the half-wilted organ.  “But this article isn’t.”  Her eyes burned into Martha’s.  “Have you considered that you have two other bellies available to you and still potent?”

“Two other …”

“With advantages that not even Lula had.  These bellies pregnant would produce no comment, being the property of husbands who take frequent leave, as neither would a resemblance to Father Westry among their fruit.”

Martha’s face paled as she stared into Jill’s eyes, her own eyes shifting from one to the other.  Jill inclined her head toward the extended hand.  “You have touched this fine article barely enough to feel it stir.  Did you never want it all over you, inside you?”

“I …”  Martha’s pallor vanished before an infusion of pink.  Her eyes turned to the indicated article, already stiffening.

“Wait a minute!” the old man cried.  “What ith thith propothition?”

Jill smiled dreamily at him.  “A reason for you to live, Milton, and the means:  mother’s milk for the fortnight until your teeth are fitted and beyond if you wish, and two eager houris to beguile your waking hours.”

Martha’s hand joined the chestnut’s.  “I’ve always wanted …” she murmured, voice trailing off in evident fascination.

“Of course you have,” the chestnut asserted.  “You’ve loved and admired him all your life.  You’ve squirmed in his lap to feel this very same staff rise under your bottom.”

“You know that, too!”

“We all do it.”  She chuckled.  “Fathers think of it as their guilty secret!”

“But I’m his full daughter.”

“Which makes it all the sweeter for you.”

“About to betray her husband.”

“Men define betrayal differently.  Attendance on your father will hardly reduce availability to your husband, especially when he’s gone six weeks out of seven.  And when it’s needed, I’ll jigger for you and you for me.”

“What if they take leave together?”

“Then Lula can resume with her mouth.”

“My god!” Martha breathed, her eyes shining.  “My god, it’ll work!”

“My god indeed!” the old man said dryly.  “Do I get no thay?”

“Of course you do, Milton,” retorted Jill fondly.  “I depend on you to say, ‘This one is empty.’”

Martha had leaned forward, holding the plum-headed staff now in both hands.  She glanced away from it long enough to suggest, “Or ‘slip down just a little.’”

Both women laughed heartily.  After a moment the man contributed a contented smile while his tongue searched for a last drop of milk in his beard.