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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Birth (infancy) (08/20/09)

TITLE: Child of Mercy
By Patricia Turner


The shadowy space under the bridge was an unlikely spot for a nursery. It belonged to the unwanted refuse of London. The midwife, fortyish in age but much older in life experience, wrinkles, and grey hair took a drag on a purloined smoke.

“So, do ye’ even want to know what it is?” The tiny wailing creature bundled in dirty rags lay on the icy stones between the midwife and his mother. The prone figure made a slight gesture and refused to turn her head to view the child.

The infant continued to cry. Grunts of displeasure emanated from the bridge’s denizens. No one however offered to pick him up or bother in any other way to provide the the most humble of human comforts.

The midwife looked away, smoke curling into the chilly evening air. Her work was done. The rest had been pre-arranged as usual.

A long while passed. The child’s crying changed to drained whimpers, ending at last in exhausted silence.

Finally the creaking sound of carriage wheels drew closer. On the road just beyond the bridge the carriage stopped and a man in a long black cloak stepped down. Leaning on a wooden cane, he descended the steps that wound down the side of the bridge abutment.

Approaching the midwife the man tipped his cap.

“Good day ma’am. A boy or a girl - dead or alive?” he asked gently.

“Boy; alive – it’ll be the customary charge sir.” The midwife was all business.

He reached into a pocket of his cloak and handed the woman a few shillings. The man then gestured toward the carriage and a young woman emerged engulfed in an oversized red woolen garment. After picking her way gingerly down the steps she joined the man and at a whispered word, knelt to gather the infant in her arms. Shushing him tenderly she returned to the carriage.

The man tipped his hat once more to the midwife and climbed the steps slowly.

At the top he stood and rubbed an arthritic knee. Reaching into an inner pocket of his cloak he retrieved a pipe and a packet of tobacco. He stood and smoked while he waited.

A few moments later the carriage door swung open and he went to it and stepped inside. The wheels creaked and they moved slowly toward town.

“This‘n ‘as hungry. ‘E took to ‘t quick too.” The child slept finally, lulled by a full belly and the warmth of the woman’s wool garment and the rocking carriage.

The gas lamp lighter was about his business by the time the wheels were clattering over cobblestones. The carriage drew to a stop before the doors of a red brick building. Over the door was a sign: Mercy House Orphanage.

“Thank ye’ again Louisa. We’re much obliged.”

“T’ain’t nothin’ sir. My Jake’ll still ‘ave plenty fer ‘is dinner. This’n got a place t’ go yet?”

“Aye, young couple down in Southampton. Infant boy died of the cholera.”

“Lord, ‘ave mercy. This’n ought’a be a comfort then. Another’n saved from them back street butchers.”

“Aye.” Smiling, he puffed silently and contentedly on his pipe as a couple emerged from the orphanage and loving hands reached to take the tiny boy home.

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This article has been read 698 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lisa Johnson08/27/09
Awesome story.
Robyn Burke08/27/09
You did as great job painting the picture with your vivid descriptions and minute details. Tender story.
Matthew Eldridge08/27/09
Creative. Thanks for taking me back in time.
Virgil Youngblood 08/28/09
A very enjoyable read with a well-crafted ending. Great writing.
Joni Andrews 08/31/09
I thought this was excellent. You did a great job of creating atmosphere.
Mona Purvis08/31/09
This is a wonderful entry. It reads like a Charles Dickens story.
You have a talent for setting the scene and for believable dialogue.
Bryan Ridenour09/01/09
Wonderful story of Mercy...Great dialogue and setting. Nicely done.
Connie Dixon09/01/09
Great story, I really enjoyed this. It's good to be reminded that a lot of sad beginnings take on happy endings. You did a good job with the dialect. Very believable.
Lisa Johnson09/03/09
Congratulations on your third place win. I knew the story was awesome when I read it.
Chely Roach09/03/09
Fantastic story, Pat! Loved it! Congrats on your EC! :)
Eliza Evans 09/03/09

Wow...this was FANTASTIC. I got chills reading it.

Richly deserved EC, my friend. Proud of you! :)

Mona Purvis09/03/09
So many unsung heroes who save countless lives everyday. I thank God for them. Thank you for reminding me to do so.
Congrats on a well-deserved win.
Chelsie May09/03/09
Heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time. Great job!
Coleene VanTilburg 09/03/09
The dialogue and the picture you painted just sent me back in time. All the characters could have stories of their own. This was very creative.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/04/09
Congratulations on a most well deserved placement for your beautiful story.