Young Bloods - By Simon Scarrow & Simon

Chapter 1

Ireland, 1769

With a last look back into the dimly lit room the midwife withdrew and closed the door behind her. She turned to the figure at the other end of the hall. Poor man, she thought to herself, unconsciously drying her strong hands in the folds of her apron. There was no easy way to tell him the bad news.The child would not last the night. That was clear enough to her, having delivered more babies into the world than she could remember. He had been born at least a month before his time.There had been only a flicker of life in the child when the lady had finally squeezed it from her womb with a piercing shriek of agony, shortly after midnight. The result had been a pasty thin thing that trembled, even after the midwife had cleaned it up, cut the cord and presented it to its mother swaddled in the clean folds of an infant’s blanket. The lady had clasped the child to her breast, awash with relief that the long labour was over.

That was how the midwife had left her. Let her have a few hours of comfort before nature took its course and turned the miracle of birth into a tragedy.

She bustled towards the waiting man, skirt hems rustling across the floorboards, then bobbed quickly as she made her report.

‘I’m sorry, my lord.’

‘Sorry?’ He glanced beyond the midwife, towards the far door. ‘What’s happened? Is Anne all right?’

‘She’s fine, sir, so she is.’

‘And the child? Has it arrived?’

The midwife nodded. ‘A boy, my lord.’

For an instant Garrett Wesley smiled with relief and pride before he recalled the midwife’s first words. ‘What’s the matter, then?’

‘The lady’s well enough. But the lad’s in a poor way. Begging your pardon, sir, but I don’t think he’ll last until the morning. Even if he does, then it’ll be a matter of days before he meets his Maker. I’m so sorry, my lord.’

Garrett shook his head. ‘How can you be sure?’

The midwife took a breath to restrain her anger at this slur on her professional judgement. ‘I know the signs, sir. He ain’t breathing properly and his skin’s cold and clammy to the touch. The poor mite hasn’t the strength to live.’

‘There must be something that can be done for him. Send for a doctor.’

The midwife shook her head. ‘There isn’t one in the village, nor near it neither.’

Garrett stared back at her, his mind working feverishly. Dublin was where he would find the medical care he needed for his son. If they set off at once they could reach their house on Merrion Street before dusk fell, and send for the best doctor immediately. Garrett nodded to himself. The decision was made. He grasped the midwife’s arm.

‘Get downstairs, to the stable. Tell my driver to harness the horses and make ready to travel as soon as possible.’

‘You’re leaving?’ She looked back at him, wide-eyed. ‘Surely not, sir. The lady’s still very weak and needs to rest.’

‘She can rest in the carriage on the way to Dublin.’

‘Dublin? But, my lord, that’s . . .’ The midwife frowned as she tried to imagine a distance further than she had travelled in her entire life. ‘That’s too long a journey for your lady, sir. In her condition. She needs rest, so she does.’

‘She’ll be fine. It’s the boy I’m concerned for. He needs a doctor; you can’t do any more for him. Now go and tell my driver to get the carriage ready.’

She said nothing, but just shrugged. If the young lord wanted to put the life of his wife at risk for the sake of a puny infant that was certain to die, then that was his decision. And he would have to live with the consequences.

The midwife bobbed, scurried over to the stairs and descended with a clumping of boots. Garrett shot a last look of disdain in her direction before he turned away and hurried down the hall to the room where his wife lay. He paused for an instant outside the door, concerned for her health in the difficult journey to come. Even now he wondered if he was following the best course of action. Perhaps that midwife was right after all, and the boy would die long before they could reach a doctor skilled enough to save him. Then Anne would have suffered for nothing the discomfort of the carriage’s bumpy progress along the rutted road to Dublin. Worse still, it might place her health in jeopardy