M r. Matthews raised Jacob’s chin with his hand. “Did you hide in my wagon?”

Jacob wanted to look away, but Mr. Matthews’s grip was firm, and his eyes were filled with warmth.

“Yes, sir.”

“Why?”

“My sister Idy lives here. We lived here together, up in the attic. I missed her something terrible, and wanted to see her… and bring her food. She’s starving.”

Mr. Matthews let go of Jacob’s chin. “Your sister lives here?”

“Yes, sir.” He pointed to the ladder. “In the attic, but she’s not there. She’s not anywhere.”

Mrs. Renard’s expression became smug. “You can go and search the whole house. There’s no sister here. Never was. The poor boy’s been delusional most of his life.” She held her hand towards the ladder. “Go ahead, take a look. If you find one trace of a sister, I’ll give you all the onions for free.”

“You know Idy lives here!” Jacob cried. “You know it! Fay said she’s gone.”

“Fay’s a fool,” Mrs. Renard said.

Fay’s face creased. “Ma!”

Mr. Matthews gestured at the girl standing near her mother. “Is that Fay?”

Jacob nodded.

“Where’s Jacob’s sister?” he asked her.

Fay looked at her mother, her eyes blazing. “You want to know where his dumb sister is! I’ll tell you! She’s gone. You hear me? Gone! She just ran away in the middle of the night, and took that bratty kid with her.”

“Fay!” her mother shouted jabbing her in the rib.

“Ow, Ma! Why’d you go and do that?”

“You’ve got a big mouth, Fay Renard! Big as a barrel. You just wait until Pa gets back!”

“Well,” Fay said, “I’m glad those two orphans are gone! I hate them! And I hate Jacob, too. Why’d he have to come back?”

Jacob shook his head. “Two orphans? Who else are you talking about?”

“That baby girl Pa took in after you left,” Fay said. “I couldn’t stand the looks of her. Idy took care of her like she’d be the queen, even gave her milk. Carrying her around like she’d be royalty. I don’t care how much money those men paid Pa! Good riddance to both of them!”

Mrs. Renard slapped Fay across the face. “Shut your mouth!”

Fay’s eyes bulged in shock and she let out a wail while running from the room.

Mrs. Renard shook with rage. “That girl!”

“Where’s Jacob’s sister?” Mr. Matthews asked.

“I don’t have to tell you anything.”

Mr. Matthews rubbed his neck. “No, you don’t, but I’m not so sure you’ll like the alternative.”

“What does that mean?”

“You tell me what’s going on or I’ll go for the police.”

“You’ve got no proof to show them.”

“I’ve got Jacob’s word and Fay’s. Even without their word, I’m a well-known man in town, influential too. Who do you think the police are going to believe?”

Mrs. Renard stared intently at the tall man. Then her shoulders unexpectedly slumped, and she breathed out a rickety breath. She pulled a chair out from under the table and sat down heavily on it. “I don’t want you to go to the police. Tell me what to do.”

“For starters,” Mr. Matthews pointed to the potatoes boiling on the stove top, “put some of those potatoes, and that bread and jam, on a plate. I don’t believe Jacob’s eaten any breakfast yet.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 677)