The Planter's Daughter

The Planter's Daughter.

Here is a taster ...

‘Tis a Miss Sara, at the door, Ma’am.’ Kitty bobbed a curtsey. ‘Irish, I think, Ma’am. Says she knows you.’

Three times she’d tried to slam the door, but the girl had stuck her foot in the way till there was no closing it.

‘You be telling your mistress,’ she’d said, ‘her niece, her Sara is here.’

Only when Kitty promised to take the message, crossed her heart and hoped to die, did Sara take her foot from the door. She hurried to find her mistress. If she were in a mood it would be Kitty at the rough end of her tongue.

There was dust in the air in the drawing room, motes floating in the sunlight. They’d settle on the sideboard, on all those ornaments: the shepherdesses with shawls and small boys grinning like angels. More dusting. Kitty could only hope the mistress stayed straight-backed in her chair, eyes on her embroidery, with that bad- smell look on her face. Not that the pong from the doorstep could reach her here. That girl must have been in the same clothes for three weeks or more. Longer than that since she’d seen a bath. Not a bundle on her back nor a bonnet on her head. Her hair – Kitty cringed to think of her hair. So thin you could see skin, flaking, like a baby too long in the cradle.

Mrs Kemp bent to her next stitch. Who knew that sewing roses on the corner of a tray cloth could be so interesting? Kitty hopped from one foot to the other in the doorway.

‘I tried to send ‘er away, Ma’am.’

‘I’m sure you did.’ The mistress stabbed her needle into a rosebud. Only then did she look up. ‘I’m afraid we shall have to let her in.’

‘But …’

‘Well, go on – let her in.’

She couldn’t come in through the front, not whiffing like that. ‘She, well she don’t smell too good, Ma’am,’ said Kitty.

Her mistress pulled her thread and sniffed. ‘Then bring her through the kitchen. Get her clean. Then I’ll talk to her.’

Kitty turned to the door.

‘Before you go,’ – the mistress examined her stitching – ‘it’s best you know. This is my brother’s child. I told him not to send her, but my brother, as usual, thought he knew better. If she’s that filthy you must find spare clothes for her, and when she is washed bring her back here to me.’

She looked up. ‘Now – go.’

But what happened to Sara in that house? And why had she come in the first place?