“Lucy?” He tried to make his voice urgent, but to him it just sounded like terror. “Lucy?”
Her face was pasty; her lips, bloodless. She wasn’t exactly unconscious, but she wasn’t responsive, either.
“What is wrong with her?”
The midwife hurried to the foot of the bed and looked under the covers. She gasped, and when she looked up, her face was nearly as pale as Lucy’s.
Gregory looked down, just in time to see a crimson stain seeping along the bedsheet.
“Get me more towels,” the midwife snapped, and Gregory did not think twice before doing her bidding.
“I’ll need more than this,” she said grimly. She shoved several under Lucy’s hips. “Go, go!”
“I’ll go,” Hyacinth said. “You stay.”
She dashed out to the hall, leaving Gregory standing at the midwife’s side, feeling helpless and incompetent. What kind of man stood still while his wife bled?
But he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know how to do anything except hand the towels to the midwife, who was jamming them against Lucy with brutal force.
He opened his mouth to say . . . something. He might have got a word out. He wasn’t sure. It might have just been a sound, an awful, terrified sound that burst up from deep within him.
“Where are the towels?” the midwife demanded.
Gregory nodded and ran into the hall, relieved to be given a task. “Hyacinth! Hya—”
“Oh my God.” Gregory swayed, holding the frame of the door for support. It wasn’t the blood; he could handle the blood. It was the scream. He had never heard a human being make such a sound.
“What are you doing to her?” he asked. His voice was shaky as he pushed himself away from the wall. It was hard to watch, and even harder to hear, but maybe he could hold Lucy’s hand.
“I’m manipulating her belly,” the midwife grunted. She pressed down hard, then squeezed. Lucy let out another scream and nearly took off Gregory’s fingers.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he said. “You’re pushing out her blood. She can’t lose—”
“You’ll have to trust me,” the midwife said curtly. “I have seen this before. More times than I care to count.”
Gregory felt his lips form the question—Did they live? But he didn’t ask it. The midwife’s face was far too grim. He didn’t want to know the answer.
By now Lucy’s screams had disintegrated into moans, but somehow this was even worse. Her breath was fast and shallow, her eyes squeezed shut against the pain of the midwife’s jabs. “Please, make her stop,” she whimpered.
Gregory looked frantically at the midwife. She was now using both hands, one reaching up—
“Oh, God.” He turned back. He couldn’t watch. “You have to let her help you,” he said to Lucy.
“I have the towels!” Hyacinth said, bursting into the room. She stopped short, staring at Lucy. “Oh my God.” Her voice wavered. “Gregory?”
“Shut up.” He didn’t want to hear his sister. He didn’t want to talk to her, he didn’t want to answer her questions. He didn’t know. For the love of God, couldn’t she see that he didn’t know what was happening?
And to force him to admit that out loud would have been the cruelest sort of torture.
“It hurts,” Lucy whimpered. “It hurts.”
“I know. I know. If I could do it for you, I would. I swear to you.” He clutched her hand in both of his, willing some of his own strength to pass into her. Her grip was growing feeble, tightening only when the midwife made a particularly vigorous movement.
And then Lucy’s hand went slack.
Gregory stopped breathing. He looked over at the midwife in horror. She was still standing at the base of the bed, her face a mask of grim determination as she worked. Then she stopped, her eyes narrowing as she took a step back. She didn’t say anything.
Hyacinth stood frozen, the towels still stacked up in her arms. “What . . . what . . .” But her voice wasn’t even a whisper, lacking the strength to complete her thought.
The midwife reached a hand out, touching the bloodied bed near Lucy. “I think . . . that’s all,” she said.
Gregory looked down at his wife, who lay terrifyingly still. Then he turned back to the midwife. He could see her chest rise and fall, taking in all the great gulps of air she hadn’t allowed herself while she was working on Lucy.
“What do you mean,” he asked, barely able to force the words across his lips, “ ‘that’s all’?”
“The bleeding’s done.”
Gregory turned slowly back to Lucy. The bleeding was done. What did that mean? Didn’t all bleeding stop . . . eventually?
Why was the midwife just standing there? Shouldn’t she be doing something? Shouldn’t he be doing something? Or was Lucy—
He turned back to the midwife, his anguish palpable.
“She’s not dead,” the midwife said quickly. “At least I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?” he echoed, his voice rising in volume.
The midwife staggered forward. She was covered with blood, and she looked exhausted, but Gregory didn’t give a sodding damn if she was ready to drop. “Help her,” he demanded.
The midwife took Lucy’s wrist and felt for a pulse. She gave him a quick nod when she found one, but then she said, “I’ve done everything I can.”
“No,” Gregory said, because he refused to believe that this was it. There was always something one could do. “No,” he said again. “No!”
“Gregory,” Hyacinth said, touching his arm.
He shook her off. “Do something,” he said, taking a menacing step toward the midwife. “You have to do something.”
“She’s lost a great deal of blood,” the midwife said, sagging back against the wall. “We can only wait. I have no way of knowing which way she’ll go. Some women recover. Others . . .” Her voice trailed off. It might have been because she didn’t want to say it. Or it might have been the expression on Gregory’s face.
Gregory swallowed. He didn’t have much of a temper; he’d always been a reasonable man. But the urge to lash out, to scream or beat the walls, to find some way to gather up all that blood and push it back into her . . .
He could barely breathe against the force of it.
Hyacinth moved quietly to his side. Her hand found his, and without thinking he entwined his fingers in hers. He waited for her to say something like: She’s going to be fine. Or: All will be well, just have faith.
But she didn’t. This was Hyacinth, and she never lied. But she was here. Thank God she was here.
She squeezed his hand, and he knew she would stay however long he needed her.
He blinked at the midwife, trying to find his voice. “What if—” No. “What when,” he said haltingly. “What do we do when she wakes up?”
The midwife looked at Hyacinth first, which for some reason irritated him. “She’ll be very weak,” she said.
“But she’ll be all right?” he asked, practically jumping on top of her words.
The midwife looked at him with an awful expression. It was something bordering on pity. With sorrow. And resignation. “It’s hard to say,” she finally said.
Gregory searched her face, desperate for something that wasn’t a platitude or half answer. “What the devil does that mean?”
The midwife looked somewhere that wasn’t quite his eyes. “There could be an infection. It happens frequently in cases like this.”
The midwife blinked.
“Why?” he practically roared. Hyacinth’s hand tightened around his.
“I don’t know.” The midwife backed up a step. “It just does.”
Gregory turned back to Lucy, unable to look at the midwife any longer. She was covered in blood—Lucy’s blood—and maybe this wasn’t her fault—maybe it wasn’t anyone’s fault—but he couldn’t bear to look at her for another moment.
“Dr. Jarvis must return,” he said in a low voice, picking up Lucy’s limp hand.
“I will see to it,” Hyacinth said. “And I will have someone come for the sheets.”
Gregory did not look up.
“I will be going now as well,” the midwife said.
He did not reply. He heard feet moving along the floor, followed by the gentle click of the door closing, but he kept his gaze on Lucy’s face the whole time.
“Lucy,” he whispered, trying to force his voice into a teasing tone. “La la la Lucy.” It was a silly refrain, one their daughter Hermione had made up when she was four. “La la la Lucy.”
He searched her face. Did she just smile? He thought he saw her expression change a touch.
“La la la Lucy.” His voice wobbled, but he kept it up. “La la la Lucy.”
He felt like an idiot. He sounded like an idiot, but he had no idea what else to say. Normally, he was never at a loss for words. Certainly not with Lucy. But now . . . what did one say at such a time?