The Best Of Both Worlds – Episode 58

Joseph gave an indiscriminate nod and made for the door, and Sarah felt the colour rise to her face. He disappeared round the side of the cottage, and Sarah sighed, shaking her head.

“I do apologise, my lady. I hope you will forgive Joseph. He hasn’t been himself.”

“Of course, Mrs Callow. Men do get angry when they’re frightened. Do you know, once, when I was a little girl, I got myself lost. Daddy shouted at everyone so loud that the neighbours heard, and came running over to find out what could be going on!”

She looked into Sarah’s face, a small smile of sympathy softening her worried expression.

“I suppose this is one of those times when we women have to be the strong ones. I’ve been feeling weak myself these days.”

“You do look pale, if I may say so, my lady. May I offer you some brack with your tea? As I said, it may be dry, but ”

Thea bit her lip.

“I don’t know what brack is, Mrs Callow, but if it’s something dry that sounds just right. I’ve only been able to manage dry toast recently, though you wouldn’t know it by the size of me!” She stretched in her chair. “I’m expecting, you see.”

“My lady! May I extend my congratulations and my husband’s to you and Lord Witney? It is just what we all need just now – some good news to lift our spirits.” Sarah’s eyes shone with genuine happiness and Thea smiled at the kind woman who sat across the rough, scrubbed table.

“Thank you. I do feel so confused. It’s such a terrible time and I don’t know how long my husband will be away.”

“May I ask when your baby is expected?” Sarah filled the brown teapot, and little Joey stirred.

“About the end of September, the doctor says, at least I think he did. He makes me so nervous, I don’t always take in everything he says. Who delivered your little boy, Mrs Callow?” Joey opened his eyes, and without a trace of shyness smiled up at Thea. “Oh, he is sweet!”

Sarah went to pick him up.

“Well, Mrs Bond has been midwife for most of us on the estate, though I daresay Mrs Thacket, who has eight of her own, knows just as much! But it was our own little Beth who saw me through the beginning stages, bless her.”

“Beth?” Thea’s eyes were wide. “She’s just a child, how could she know how anything about . . .” She stopped, embarrassed.

“Beth was a marvel! Mrs Thacket said she and Mrs Bond couldn’t have done better. But you’ve nothing to worry about, with the Farringtons’ doctor attending to you.”

Thea sighed.

“The fact is, I don’t know anything about having babies. I don’t have friends or relations who have had one, and my mother died when I was just a child. She never got the chance to talk to me about it, and tell me what to expect. The doctor is so formal and I feel such a fool asking him questions. What’s it going to be like, Mrs Callow? Is the pain absolutely terrible?” She stopped, tears filling her eyes.

“The pain comes, but then it goes, my lady. You soon forget. And just wait and see, nature knows what it’s doing. Before you know it, you and Lord Witney will be holding your little one and wondering how it all happened so quickly.”

“I hope he gets back from America in time. He says he will, but what if something holds him up? And what if the baby suddenly comes, and the doctor doesn’t get to Farrington House in time?”

“You mustn’t worry about that. You will have plenty of warning. If you like, my lady, you can send Jenny for me and I’ll come up quick as a wink. I will bring Beth, too, for some extra help. Oh, dear, what am I saying? I apologise. I didn’t mean to get above myself!”

“Mrs Callow, I can’t tell you how much that would mean to me. Why, it would make all the difference, just knowing you’d be there! Please, will you promise?”

“Of course, my lady. I’d be honoured.”

“I wish you’d call me Thea. Would you, please? At least when it’s just the two of us?”

Sarah gave a tentative smile.

“I don’t know. But you must call me Sarah.”

“I will. And please tell your husband that, the minute I hear anything about Emily, I’ll send someone to let you know, day or night. I love that girl. She’s like a little sister to me, except she seems so much older and wiser than me, and so talented. So is Jenny, and, it seems, Beth! All the Callow girls put me in the shade.”

Sarah shook her head.

“You’ve done so much for our Emily and Jenny.”

Thea reached out her smooth hand, her fingernails polished and rings glittering. She took Sarah’s rough one in hers and squeezed it gently.

“If only I can bring our dear Emily home. Sarah, I do hope we can be friends. Heaven knows I could use one.”


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