Mrs. Glover’s cat, Queenie, sneaks into Sylvie’s bedroom, attracted by a new smell. She settles into the “perfect little cat-sized bed, already warmed by a perfect little cat-sized cushion.” Ursula begins to suffocate, unable to breathe under Queenie’s body, until Sylvie grabs the cat and throws her across the room, and then gives Ursula mouth-to-mouth until she returns to life.
Atkinson’s timelines become increasingly muddled, as different timelines no longer take on a linear path (for example, it is unclear whether the previous chapter was a continuation of the chapter just before it or not). Thus, Ursula’s reincarnations sometimes serve as stand-alone episodes.
Elsewhere, Mrs. Haddock, the midwife, is sipping a third glass of rum. She had been on her way to deliver Ursula when the snow had forced her to take refuge in a pub. The barkeep tells her that they could be stuck there for days, and she may as well have another drink.
This scene is also the one that ends the novel. Here it seems mundane and simply expands upon the perspectives surrounding Ursula’s birth. Yet at the end, the scene gains a profound gravity, implying that sometimes mundane incidents can be the difference between one version of events and an entirely different version—even the difference between life and death.
Sylvie urgently knocks on Bridget’s door, announcing that the baby is coming early. Bridget scrambles to help as Sylvie says there’s no point in calling Dr. Fellowes—he’ll never get through the snow. Bridget informs Sylvie that the baby is blue, strangled by her own umbilical cord. Sylvie asks what they can do, but Bridget tells her that Ursula is already dead. Sylvie refuses to accept this and grabs a pair of surgical scissors that she keeps in a drawer by her bed. She snips the umbilical cord. “Practice makes perfect.”
Ursula is not the only one who appears to learn from her mistakes. While it is never implied that Sylvie experiences the same reincarnations that Ursula does, the fact that she now keeps a pair of surgical scissors (which she had made a note to do after a previous version of Ursula’s birth) implies that she is somehow also gaining knowledge from previous lives, and does not want to rely on fate to save her daughter.