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"I am ready to pray now," said Mary, cuddling beneath the blankets with her two dolls.

After tucking the child in, Emma listened while Mary prayed for the usual people on her list. Tonight, however, Mary added a request.

"Please, save Mr. Brown's soul."

Finishing her prayer, Mary yawned sleepily-- the first unabashed admission all night that she truly was tired.

"Goodnight, Ma."

With a pained smile, Emma kissed Mary's cheek. "God keep you till morning."

"Emma, I'm waiting," Josiah said impatiently.

"Are you staying up?" Mary looked at Emma hopefully. "Can I stay up, too?"

"We're going to bed, and so are you. Goodnight, Mary."

Much was on Emma's mind as she crawled into bed. Josiah was quick to put his arms around her, but Emma remained so distracted, he finally stopped trying to kiss her.

"You feeling all right?" he asked.

"I don't want to tussle right now."

"But, I do."

Emma gazed at her husband. "She's calling you 'Mr. Brown.'"

"I ain't caring."

"You should."

Rolling onto his back, Josiah muttered something under his breath that Emma could just barely understand.

"What did you say?" she asked.

"I said," Josiah's voice grew impatient with anger, "if this is what I'm to expect with the runt around, then I'm sorry I let her stay."

"She's your daughter, Josiah."

When Josiah didn't respond, Emma reasoned he was deep in thought. After several moments of silence, Emma peered at her husband and was dismayed to find his eyes tightly closed, as though fast asleep. Emma's instincts told her he was still awake, and that this was his way of ending their argument.

This time, Emma went to sleep without kissing Josiah goodnight.

The day after Christmas, Emma took down their small tree from off the table, and while Mary wasn't watching, discreetly hid it outside where it could decay in peace. Its needles had been falling off at a quick rate, and Emma didn't want everyone to see their special tree completely fall apart before their eyes. After discarding the tree, Emma hurried inside before she froze.
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