I was carrying out my morning chores when I saw him approaching Hillton Manor from Lady Elizabeths' window. He was driving father's horse and cart up the long winding lane that leads to the front of the main house. "Tomás!" I exclaimed aloud, the excitement flowed through me.
It was my older brother Tomás he was the eldest at 19years. He also worked at the main house now and again mostly delivering fresh food and milk from daddies farm. He was'nt due to leave the milk from the farm to the main house for another week; he'd only been here a few days ago with daddies latest supply to the Manor – that can only mean one thing!
"The baby is coming!" I thought, as I made my way through the huge country mansion that is Hilltown Manor. We hadnt been home in over 2months but mammy said she would send for us when the time came but it was still very early by my calculations, "no, I must be wrong!" I thought.
I found my younger sister who was in the dining room setting up for breakfast; "Mary when your finished ask ma'am if you're allowed to come outside to greet Tomás. Lady Elizabeth has gave me permission to leave my post – I think its time! Mammy has sent for us to help deliver the babe!"
Mary turned and looked at me smiling her bright blue eyes shinning "Ok Grace, I am finished setting, Ma'am is in the parlour, I will go ask now". I left my sister and waited on my brother at the front steps of the house, waving frantically. Mary had now joined me outside we both watched as Tomás approach.
As Tomás got closer I could see his face was solemn, he looked tired, his eyes were red and sunken in, it looked like he had been crying; those bright blue eyes he shared with our Mary looked lifeless.
Tomás greeted us as he dismounted from the cart, his shoulders were hunched over he did'nt look like my giant of a brother who usually stood over 6ft tall! What has happened to him? I thought.
"Grace, Mary..." he paused, his voice shaken. "I'm sorry" he continued, he was trying to find words but out they came almost inaudible "Mammy died, the baby came early and there was... complications..Father has sent me to bring you home, if Lady Brown will allow you leave".
I just looked at him in shock, Mary dropped to the ground wailing like a bashee just like the ones from mammies stories – it was a very fitting sound for the circumstances.
The sound of Mary's wails caused Lady Brown and her daughter, Elizabeth, to run from the house to see what the commotion was.
Tomás lifted Mary from the ground and hugged her. He then came to me and wrapped his long arms around me, I was clearly unable to process the news. I could'nt speak, I showed no emotion, I just stared through my brother.
This can't be true! I thought; how could it be true? Mammy delivered most of the babes in the village - it was her gift just like my grandmother and the generations of women on my mothers side before her! How could she die in childbirth?
Mammy taught me so much about birthing babies mammy and granny took me to all the births. Granny said I had the gift and that I would be the next generation of Maguire women to deliver the babies in our family. My mother was now an O' Hara but that gift will continue through me, Mary never showed any interest from the time we took her to a labouring womens house and she fainted. Mammy said she would send for me to help deliver my new baby sister or brother — maybe if I was there I could have saved her?
I was 17 and my sister was 16 it was time we went to work to bring in some money to help our mother and father. We were lucky Lady Brown and Captain Browns daughter was home from boarding school in France and needed two maids in the main house, which was an hours journey from the farm. Otherwise we would have had to seek work at the linen mill in Donegal which was 2days away from our village.
"Grace!" Tomás shouted, snapping me out of my thoughts. I looked at him, still emotionless, everyone's eyes were on me. "Did you hear me?" Tomás continued "We need to leave now for mammies wake, da needs you and Mary to help prepare for the funeral".
"Yes sorry Tomás" I turn to Lady Brown "I am so sorry ma'am can my sister and I take leave to attend mammies wake?" Mrs Brown looked at me with sympathatic eyes and in her soft English accent she replied; "Of course my dear, you can take as much time as you need."
Lady Brown was of Royal Blood, she was a distant cousin of Queen Victoria and she had inherited Hilltown estate from a long line of her English ancestors. Those ancestors took said land from my ancestors after many bloody a battle. However, Lady Brown had been nothing but kind to my sister and I since we came to work at the Manor house, so I felt a bit of ashamed for the resentment I felt towards her ancestors brutality against my people.
I thanked Lady Brown for her kindness and turned to Mary and said "Come Mary, we need to pack." My brother looked at me, concern in his eyes, he knew I had'nt processed the news, he knew when it finally hits the grief will consume me. I caught him exchancing glance's with Miss Elizabeth before he quickly looked away, she did'nt...weird, I thought; she probably hasnt ever saw an Irishman that tall before.
I realised I had'nt even consoled my sister. They must think me cold, not even shedding a tear for my own mother! The truth is, as soon as that tear is shed, then I accept my mother is gone.
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