Written by Sienna James
Imagine my surprise when Laurie perched on the bench next to me in the servants’ hall yesterday and flung a letter on the table.
“For you, Arianna.”
Curiously I picked up the paper and studied the handwriting. It was Mama’s. We used to correspond regularly when I first came to Ickworth. And I had sent her and Mr Fairfax a Christmas card. But we haven’t written at all since then. Does she miss me? Do I miss her? My family is at Ickworth now and I expect she knows that.
I was pretty alarmed at the sight of it I must say. What kind of news could it bring? I slit open the seal and swiftly scanned the letter – it was very short. My heart gave one heavy thud and I couldn’t help a loud gasp. There was no bad news. No, not bad news but shocking news. I had no idea. Of course it makes sense though – mama had always wanted a large family. And two children who now live in Suffolk can’t possibly be enough for her.
The rather blunt letter is pasted below so I do not lose it. I wonder what James thinks about it.
July 10th, Bakewell, Derbyshire
I hope you’re well.
I write to you with exciting news – I dearly hope you will congratulate Mr Fairfax and I. We are expecting a baby, Arianna. Is that not delightful? I hope you and your brother will come to visit us once it is born. It is expected in September.
I know little about these kind of events. My time in domestic service might prepare me for cooking for a family but it doesn’t prepare me for having one. But I do know babies take longer than two months to grow and then be born. Nancy, I was sure, would know.
“Eight months. If it’s expected in September…” she counted on her starch covered fingers – she had been peeling hundreds and hundreds of potatoes. “Then the baby would have been conceived in January, I think.”
And mama hadn’t told me all that time. I suppose that is the reason she hadn’t written to me for a while. She and Mr Fairfax are getting ready for a family in their Bakewell cottage.
I did my best to put it from my mind. Luckily Cook kept us all so busy today in the sweltering kitchens. We made delectable jellies and savoury tarts as well as fresh elderflower cordial. Now I have been at Ickworth for so many months, Cook lets me watch her make sauces for the family’s main meal. At least if I do go to Bakewell and visit Mama, I’ll be able to show off all my cooking talent. And meet my new brother or sister.