Copyright 2002-2003

Author's Note: The characters in this story are all my own. Please do not use them elsewhere without my permission.

Constructive feedback is wanted on this story, please! It's likely I will be tinkering with it from time to time.



Of course Edward and Emilia Morcroft wanted a son.

Every family who had a modest fortune and a large house - and even those who had neither - wanted a son to carry on the line and take their name forward for the future generations to inherit. The slim chance that an heir would not be born and the house passed into the hands of a distant cousin was never discussed, nor even thought possible. The very idea was absurd. Of course there would be a son.

But there was not.

Emilia's first pregnancy passed quickly and smoothly. As she lay in her marital bed at night, sleep eluding her but not her husband of one year, she would gently caress her swollen stomach and whisper to the boy she carried stories of everything that would one day be his. When the child they placed in her arms was revealed to be a girl, Emilia was flustered only for a moment and then immediately chose a name that demonstrated her conviction that the heir would come in time. Faith.

Faith, the girl who would grow up quietly in the knowledge that she had disappointed her mother. Faith, whose blue eyes rarely shone with happiness as she became used to life as a failure. Faith, whose only mistake was not to be born a boy.

The second pregnancy was much more troublesome, and many times the lives of both mother and son were in grave danger. Although greatly distressed, a secret part of Emilia rejoiced in the difficulties she experienced, certain that this could indicate only one thing - she had conceived the longed-for son. When it was discovered she had in fact provided Edward with a second daughter, Emilia accepted her fate with at least the appearance of grace.

Grace, who was anything but graceful. Grace, the most stubborn, opinionated, and argumentative girl her mother had ever known. Grace, so different from her siblings in both looks and personality.

When her third pregnancy produced yet another girl, Emilia was despondent but not yet resigned. She was relatively young yet and in good health. There was no reason why she could not give birth to a son. She still had hope that her dream would be realised, however faint that hope actually was.

Hope, the daughter who believed all dreams could come true if you wished hard enough. Hope, always smiling, never downhearted. Hope, the girl who wanted nothing more from life than a happy ending.

Emilia prayed nightly for one last chance to provide her beloved husband with an heir, but the next four years were filled with many disappointments. Then at last, just when she began to believe her fertile years were over, Emilia conceived again. For nine blissful months she waited for her miracle, and then as her youngest child was handed to her Emilia knew she must name her for the very thing she would have to rely on for her respectability - the kindness of others. Charity.

Charity, the baby of the family. Charity, a spoiled child who would grow into a girl capable of thinking only of herself. Charity, who from the moment she could walk would be groomed to snare a wealthy husband.

Faith, Grace, Hope and Charity. This is their story.