I shifted through the cupboards, my heart still pounding in my head from racing across the field to fetch something for our small party to eat. What a fine afternoon it was. Though the heat was almost unbearable, Mother, Jacob, and I had spent most of it in the shade on the sands of our stream with Nellie, Eliza, and her servant, Moira.
It had been four days since we had met them. Nellie would go back to her family each night, and return to work in the fields with us in the day, earning food Mother made for her and her family. Eliza and Moira had spent the last days with us, as the wheel of our cart was broken and Eliza's ankle was too injured head home. We were all more than happy to have them in our house the past days, it made our days brighter and full of amusement, and I felt I was becoming friends with the girls.
Retrieving a basket, I began to pack a loaf of bread, fruit, and other food as I sung softly to myself. How nice, how odd, the past days had been. We had not had many of those days since Father, Edgar, and Luke had left. Nothing seemed the same without th-
A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts, making me jump. It was probably one of the servants that Moira had rode to fetch yesterday to pick them up with a carriage. I set down the jam I was holding and walked to the door, trying to dab some of the sweat from my forehead and tuck some of my wild, loose hair behind my ears.
Opening the door, I had to blink twice. "Jon?" I was shocked. He seemed back so fast again. I felt my cheeks become warm, I sounded so rude. "I-I'm sorry. I just wasn't expecting you." I shifted awkwardly. "Hello. W-Would you like to come in?"
His face was serious and grave, but he gave half a smile. "Thank you. Is everything alright?"
"Oh, I am fine, thank you." I replied, stepping aside to let him in. "How are you?"
"Fine, thank you." Jon Hanway replied, taking a quick glance at me and I blushed furiously. He looked about, realising no one around. "Is your mother not here?"
"No, she is down at the stream with Jacob, Nellie, and Eliza and Moira." I explained.
"Eliza and Moira?" He inquired, though he appeared distracted with something. He was fiddling with a piece of paper in his hand.
I had forgotten that he had not met Eliza and Moira. "From Frances Hall. Sir Frances' daughter was injured ridding her horse before our farm and has been here for a few days. Moira is her handmaid. They are very pleasant people." He nodded, glancing about the house. I furrowed my eyebrows. He was acting strange. "Would you like a drink?"
"No-no thank you," he shook his head, looking down at the paper in his hand. I waited as he paused. "This was sent for your mother." He held it out to me.
I held my breath, anxiously taking the letter from his hand. What news could it be carrying? I began to tear it open, my eagerness overwhelming me.
Gasping, I threw my hand over my mouth as I rapidly glanced over the letter. "Ed....is ill...," I said quietly through my hand. Had someone slapped me? I was dazed as if someone had. It was so...unexpected. "...very ill..."
He put a hand on my arm, "Here, sit down."
I shook him off, meeting his eyes. My tone was shaking, desperate. "How? It is the midst of summer. He is coming home....they are sending him home...how could it be that severe? They only do that when...," My voice faded, as I looked down at the letter. I couldn't distinguish the words any longer, a veil of tears started to blur my vision.
"Katrina....," Jon began, placing his hand gently on my shoulder again, though I barely noticed.
My older brother....could this be true?