Dr. Fellowes orders Bridget to fetch hot water and towels before handing Ursula over to Sylvie. He tells Sylvie that it was lucky he arrived just in time, as he was able to use his surgical scissors to cut the cord around the baby’s neck. Sylvie makes a mental note to buy a pair like his in the future for similar emergencies.
In this chapter, the adjustment of a small chance detail—that Dr. Fellowes is able to make it out before the roads close—leads to a vastly different outcome and allows Ursula to have the possibility of life.
Dr. Fellowes got there just before the roads were closed. He had called for Mrs. Haddock, the midwife, but she got stuck in the snow. Sylvie invites Dr. Fellowes to stay the night, somewhat reluctantly. He delivered all three of her children and she does not like him—she believes that only a woman’s husband should see what he saw.
Mrs. Haddock becomes the central figure in the final chapter, and Atkinson’s inclusion of her character reinforces the idea that life has many random twists and turns (the snow is a representation of the unpredictability of life) that affect not only the story’s central figure—Ursula—but so many other characters within the network of the book.
Bridget, only fourteen, swaddles Ursula. Sylvie thinks about her own life at fourteen, ten years prior. She had been in love only with her pony, Tiffin, and had no idea where babies came from. Her mother, Lottie, had been very reserved, and her father, Llewellyn Beresford, had also been conservative. He was a famous society portrait artist who disliked nudity and “louche behavior.” Bridget hands Ursula to Sylvie, and Dr. Fellowes goes in search of Mrs. Glover for a light meal before bed.
Sylvie’s reserved mother and conservative father provides some explanation for her own tendency toward conservatism and her adherence to traditional gender roles. Her acknowledgement that she didn’t know where babies came from at the time makes it particularly hypocritical when she blames Ursula for being raped and getting pregnant in a later chapter, because Sylvie could easily have been in that situation herself.