Meet A Discarded Son’s Lewis and Tilda Greene

Tilda and Lewis Greene Colourised

Lewis Greene is eighty-one years old and is landlord of the Greene Hall estate near Westport in Co Mayo, Ireland. His wife, Matilda (Tilda) Greene, nee Walker, is seventy-five years old. They married in 1834 and Tilda fell pregnant soon afterwards but it wasn’t until she gave birth that it was discovered she was carrying twins. Martha, Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, was born first but the second baby took a long time to be born. It was a boy – an heir to the Greene Hall estate – and he was named Miles.

Soon, however, it became evident that Miles was not developing like other children. He was examined by the Greene’s doctor and he was deemed to be – in the terminology of the time – a ‘simpleton’ or an ‘idiot’.

Tilda blamed herself and could not bear to even look at her son and when she claimed he was beginning to frighten Martha, Lewis made the decision to send Miles away to St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin – an asylum where he could be cared for properly. Lewis watched his year-old son being driven away in a carriage down the drive then let it be known that Miles had died and a large funeral was held for him.

Lewis and Tilda hoped they would have another son who would inherit the estate, but it was not to be and Martha had an isolated childhood, spending most of her time in the nursery with her nanny and nursery maid and then with her governess when the nursery became the schoolroom. A few days after her twenty-first birthday, Martha ran away to elope with the Reverend Edmund Stevens, the Church of Ireland (Anglican) curate of Ballyglas Parish and her parents disowned her.

Having lost both his children, Lewis’ interest in the Greene Hall estate dwindled and, as he aged, he spent more and more time in his library with his books. Tilda had more of an interest in the estate but the land agent, Mr Dudley, took no notice because she was a woman. Mr Dudley was given a free rein and, like many land agents, became feared and hated in the locality.

When Lewis’ health began to decline, Tilda devoted all her time to caring for him. But when Lewis’ doctor informs him that he has lung disease and it will kill him, Tilda is appalled and fearful when, not only do his thoughts turn to their son, but he resolves to go to Dublin and see Miles. Tilda does not want to go – both her children are dead to her – but Lewis insists and he has Knox, his butler, make inquiries as to the whereabouts of their daughter. Martha and her children are easy to locate, especially when the notice announcing the engagement between Martha and James Ellison is published in The Irish Times.

Lewis rents a house on Fitzwilliam Square and his granddaughter Isobel spots him in the congregation in St Peter’s Church on Aungier Street on her mother’s wedding day. That evening, Lewis confesses a secret to Isobel, her husband, Will, and her brother, Alfie – one which has been kept for over forty years – his son is alive – and he wants to see Miles one last time before he dies. This presents a huge conundrum. Martha believes her twin brother died at a year old and what, if anything, has Miles been told about his parents and family? How will he react when he is told that his mother does not wish to be reunited with him but that the father who sent him away to an asylum does? Will Lewis Greene ever get his dying wish?

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Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, marries solicitor James Ellison but an unexpected guest overshadows their wedding day. Martha’s father is dying and he is determined to clear his conscience before it is too late. Lewis Greene’s confession ensures the Ellisons’ expectation of a quiet married life is gone and that Isobel’s elder brother, Alfie Stevens, will be the recipient of an unwelcome inheritance.

When a bewildering engagement notice is published in The Irish Times, the name of one of the persons concerned sends Will and Isobel on a race against time across Dublin and forces them to break a promise and reveal a closely guarded secret.

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter One…

Hurrying to the east side of the square as heavy drizzle began to fall, [Isobel] saw a small group of people bending over a figure lying on the pavement which surrounded the railings and the gardens.

“I am Dr Fitzgerald, stand back, please,” Will instructed and they did as he asked. She crouched down on one side of Mr Greene while Will knelt on the other and felt her grandfather’s neck for a pulse. “He’s alive,” he told her before running his fingers across the elderly man’s scalp. “But only just. And he’s very cold but, thankfully, there is no head injury. Are all of you servants in number 7?” he asked the group and one smartly-dressed man in his fifties stepped forward with Mr Greene’s top hat and walking cane in his hands.

“Yes, we are, Dr Fitzgerald,” he replied. “I am Knox, Mr and Mrs Greene’s butler.”

“Please ask for some water to be heated and round up as many hot water bottles as you can find.”

“Yes, Dr Fitzgerald.” The butler turned to a maid who accepted the top hat and cane from him and ran across the street and down the areaway steps.

“Please help me carry Mr Greene upstairs to a bedroom.”

Isobel picked up Will’s medical bag as he took Mr Greene’s shoulders and Knox gripped Mr Greene’s ankles. She tailed them as her grandfather was borne across the street, up the steps and into the gas-lit hall but she halted at the front door.

“Where is Mrs Greene?” she asked a red-haired maid about to go down the areaway steps.

“I am here,” a severe voice announced from behind her and Isobel turned around.

At five feet eight inches, Isobel was considered tall for a woman. Standing in the morning room doorway, her grandmother was equally tall but as thin as Isobel was curvaceous. Plaited wavy grey hair was wound into a bun at the nape of her neck and she wore a purple satin dress. Mrs Greene looked her and then Will up and down, taking in her hastily tied-back hair and his lack of hat, collar and cravat. An eyebrow rose and Isobel fought to control a flush of embarrassment.

“Tell me what is needed and you shall have it,” her grandmother added crisply.

“Thank you, we shall,” Isobel replied before closing the front door and following the others up the stairs.

Her grandfather was brought to a large bedroom on the second floor at the front of the house and laid on the double bed. Will unbuttoned Mr Greene’s overcoat and raised him into a sitting position so the butler could peel it off. Discreetly turning her back, Isobel accepted her grandfather’s clothes from Knox as they were removed layer by layer. The overcoat was wet and the other clothes were damp and couldn’t be hung up in the huge mahogany wardrobe so she draped them over the back of a balloon-back bedroom chair so they could be taken away to be dried and aired.

When she turned back, Mr Greene was lying on the bed dressed in a white nightshirt and Will was returning a thermometer to his medical bag. Lifting out his stethoscope, he raised her grandfather into a sitting position again and Knox held Mr Greene’s shoulders while Will listened to his phlegmatic breathing and put the stethoscope away fighting back a grimace. Her grandfather was painfully thin and as Will lifted him up, Isobel pulled the bedcovers back. Mr Greene was placed in the bed and she covered him up to his chin.

“I asked for hot water bottles, where are they?” Will asked.

“I’ll go and see, Dr Fitzgerald.” The butler strode to the door and left the room.

“Does he have hypothermia?” she asked.

“No, but it could develop,” Will replied as the door opened again and her grandmother came in. “He must have been lying on the pavement since he left number 55 two hours ago.”

“My husband was determined to return there and speak with you and I assumed he was still with you,” Mrs Greene informed them. “Did not one of you offer to escort him back here?”

“I did,” Will said. “But he declined.”

“Will he live?” she asked, walking to the bed and gently smoothing long and bony fingers over her husband’s sparse white hair.

“Mr Greene is very cold but his temperature must be raised slowly,” Will said as a footman and two maids hurried into the room each carrying two hot water bottles and Isobel lowered the bedcovers. “Place all of them in the bed – not too close to Mr Greene – good. Thank you.”

“Can nothing else be done for him?” her grandmother asked as the servants left the bedroom and Isobel pulled the bedcovers up again.

“Sit with him, Mrs Greene, have the hot water bottles refilled every two hours, and raise his temperature.”

“Well.” Mrs Greene went to the bedroom chair and sat down, clasping her hands tightly together on her lap. “The boy has finally proved to be the death of my husband. My husband insisted on coming to Dublin. He insisted on reacquainting himself with Martha. And he insisted on telling you about the boy.”

‘The boy’ was now a man in his mid-forties but Isobel bit her tongue.

“You did not want Grandfather to meet Mother again?” Isobel asked and her grandmother fixed a cold stare on her.

“Your mother could have married into Lord Sligo’s family but she chose to run away from home and marry the curate of Ballyglas Parish. I knew the marriage would be disastrous and so it proved. She sent many letters bemoaning her situation and begging my husband and I to take her and her children in but, as you make your bed, so you must lie in it.”

“She told you Father was violent and you did nothing?” Isobel demanded.

“I burned the letters,” her grandmother replied matter-of-factly. “Your mother had made her choice and so she must live with that choice.”

“I did grasp your initial meaning,” Isobel replied tightly.

“I am so glad the items she stole from Greene Hall to pay for your excessively expensive education at Cheltenham Ladies College and for your brother’s at Harrow didn’t altogether go to waste.”

Isobel’s jaw dropped. “She stole from Greene Hall?”

“You thought that despite our pleas to your mother not to marry a man unworthy of her, your grandfather paid her marriage portion?” Mrs Greene smiled humourlessly. “No. He did not. Yours and your brother’s education were paid for by stolen property. Unfortunately, you chose to waste every penny by whoring yourself to a farm boy.”

“I did not whore myself to James,” she retorted, clenching her fists but unable to stop herself shaking with rage. “He seduced me.”

“You exude an overt sensuality, Isobel, which men are unable to resist,” her grandmother told her crisply, making a point of looking her up and down again. “I doubt very much if he needed too much of an excuse to get you on your back.”

“That is enough,” Will snapped and Mrs Greene gave him an icy smile.

“Took a fancy to Isobel in her parlourmaid’s uniform, did you, Dr Fitzgerald? Most men would not wish to touch soiled goods.”

“You have said quite enough. Isobel – we’re leaving.”

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Amazon ASIN: B07FDB3B3W

Paperback ISBN: 9781723286810

 

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
Photo credit: A portrait of an elderly couple: The digital photographic collections of the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County, based in Belleville, Ontario: Public Domain Mark 1.0
Photo credit: Florence Court, near Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland – by Andrew Humphreys and used under CC BY-SA 2.5

St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

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St Patrick’s Hospital was the first psychiatric hospital to be built in Ireland and one of the very first in the world. Its foundation was brought about by the will of Jonathan Swift, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who, upon his death in 1745, left £12,000 to ‘build a house for fools and mad’. He was keen that his hospital be situated close to a general hospital because of the links between physical and mental ill-health, so St Patrick’s was built on a site between Bow Lane and Dr Steevens’ Hospital in the west of Dublin city.

The motivation for Swift’s legacy grew from his involvement with the day-to-day problems of the Irish people, not only as an individual but also as dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. In the eighteenth century, there were no specific provisions for the mentally ill. The first record of public provision for the mentally ill were the cells erected in the Dublin City Workhouse in 1708 and three years later ten cells were allocated for insane soldiers at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Mostly, if not being cared for by their families or found wandering the streets or countryside, the mentally ill would be confined with criminals in prisons, with the poor in a workhouse, or with the sick in a hospital. Swift had firsthand knowledge of these conditions having served as a workhouse governor and as a trustee of several hospitals.

Bethlem Royal Hospital in London had been the first to house the mentally ill in 1377. By the eighteenth century, it had become infamous and known as ‘Bedlam’. It had a reputation for cruelty, neglect and poor living conditions, with an inadequate diet, rough clothing and inactivity. Worse still, the patients were displayed as entertainment – as a ‘freak show’, a ‘spectacle’, a ‘menagerie’ from which ‘both provincial bumpkins and urban sophisticates could derive almost endless amusement’ for a fee.

After a visit to Bethlem Royal Hospital, Swift got himself elected one of its governors in 1714. By 1731, Swift had decided on his legacy, intending his hospital to be charitable and more humane than Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Following the layout of the seventeenth century updated structure of Bethlem Royal Hospital, architect George Semple designed St Patrick’s with a basement, first floor, and second floor. Each ward was a long corridor with an iron gate, a keeper’s room at the entrance and cells opening from it. The eight by twelve-foot cells had sturdy doors and high windows.

St Patrick’s Hospital opened in 1757 with sixteen patients and a staff consisting of a master, male and female keepers, cook, laundry maid, housekeeper, porter, and surgeon. Lack of funds quickly required admitting chamber boarders (paying patients) along with pauper patients.

By 1793, two expansions provided more rooms and more staff but they had no special training to deal with the mentally ill and treatments were limited to baths, purges, bleedings, drugs or restraints and care was still primarily custodial. However, conditions for the comfort of patients in the early decades at St Patrick’s were superior to those at Bethlem Hospital.

On each ward, two apartments of sixteen feet by twelve were for the accommodation of chamber boarders who, in 1825, paid sixty guineas per annum. There were seven other apartments for the use of chamber boarders in the front of the building. In 1825, the occupants of these apartments paid one hundred guineas per year and had a servant for their own use exclusively.

Heating came from coal fires in the corridors and the cleanliness of patients and their surroundings was a priority. Paupers were supplied with stools, wooden beds, and bedding (straw was only used for violent patients). Meals consisted of porridge at breakfast, potatoes plus meat three times a week at dinner, bread and milk at supper and beer occasionally. Chamber boarders brought their own furnishings and would have had a higher-quality diet.

The hospital grew significantly throughout the 19th century. By 1817, two building extensions saw the patient population rise to over one hundred and fifty and by 1872, the number of staff was over fifty.

Dr Richard Leeper was appointed medical superintendent in 1898 and was largely responsible for transforming St Patrick’s from an asylum for the maintenance of the mentally ill to a modern hospital for their treatment and cure. Dr Leeper abolished the use of restraints, introduced the segregation of female and male wards and oversaw the construction of bathrooms and day rooms providing work and leisure activities for the patients.

Dr Leeper’s successor, Norman Moore, removed the old prison-like doors on the cells, introduced occupational therapy (including crafts and farm work) to the patients and challenged the assumption that the mentally ill were a danger to themselves and society and should be locked away.

After the introduction of deinstitutionalisation in the late 1980s, the hospital went into a period of decline but in 2008 the hospital announced the expansion of its outpatient services to a series of regional centres across Ireland. Today, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is Ireland’s leading not-for-profit mental health organisation, with over 700 staff members delivering 12% of the country’s total inpatient care and treatment needs.

1024px-St._Patrick's_Hospital,_Dublin

Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, marries solicitor James Ellison but an unexpected guest overshadows their wedding day. Martha’s father is dying and he is determined to clear his conscience before it is too late. Lewis Greene’s confession ensures the Ellisons’ expectation of a quiet married life is gone and that Isobel’s elder brother, Alfie Stevens, will be the recipient of an unwelcome inheritance.

When a bewildering engagement notice is published in The Irish Times, the name of one of the persons concerned sends Will and Isobel on a race against time across Dublin and forces them to break a promise and reveal a closely guarded secret.

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…

They got out of the cab at the gateway facing St Patrick’s Hospital. Will paid the cabman then introduced himself to the porter, explained their reason for visiting and they were admitted to the grounds.

The porter escorted them to the seven-bay, two-storey over basement hospital which had further buildings to its rear she could only partially see as they approached. The area in front of the hospital, separated from Bow Lane by a substantial wall, was planted with trees and had a lawn surrounded by a gravel path. Outwardly, it all appeared very serene.

They went inside, up a beautiful cantilevered staircase and she and Alfie waited in the entrance hall while Will and the porter went in search of the matron. The sounds of a man sobbing echoed towards them and Isobel exchanged a nervous glance with Alfie.

“…No, Dr Fitzgerald, Miles is not on one of the wards.” They turned as Will, the porter and a middle-aged woman dressed in a black dress and a white nurse’s cap walked towards them. “I am Matron Rice,” she said, shaking first Isobel’s and then Alfie’s hands. “You are very welcome to St Patrick’s Hospital. Miles is what is known as a chamber-boarder. He has his own apartment and a servant.”

“An apartment and a servant?” Isobel exclaimed and the matron nodded.

“Oh, yes, Mrs Fitzgerald. Miles is very comfortable here.”

“How…” Isobel tailed off, racking her brains. “Is he?” she concluded the question feebly.

“Miles is a very gentle soul. Although, he is not as sharp-witted as you or I, he is certainly not considered an ‘idiot’ or a ‘lunatic’.”

“Then, should he really be here?” she asked.

“To be quite honest with you, Mrs Fitzgerald, Miles is here simply because his parents did not want a ‘dim-witted’ son.”

“We did not know of his existence here until yesterday,” Isobel said quietly.

“So your husband told me. It is nothing to be ashamed of, many families tuck their husbands, wives, sons and daughters away in establishments such as this. Please, come with me,” she said and they thanked the porter as he took his leave.

They followed Matron Rice along a gallery with windows situated high enough to be out of the reach of patients until the matron halted outside a door to their left.

“It would be best if you went in one at a time. Perhaps, you first, Mrs Fitzgerald. Miles, it’s Matron,” she said, opening the door. “I have a visitor for you.”

Isobel went inside, her heart thumping as Matron Rice closed the door, and couldn’t help but gaze around the parlour in a mixture of pleasant surprise and relief. The large window was sited at a standard height which could only mean the occupant was not deemed to be either at risk of trying to escape or taking their own life. The walls were papered with a pattern of green leaves on a cream background and on the floor was a rug, also with a leaf design.

To the right of the door was a small dining table and two chairs and to its left was a tall mahogany bookcase overflowing with volumes of all sizes. Two armchairs upholstered in green velvet stood on either side of the fireplace, above which hung a huge mirror. Sitting at a walnut writing desk at the window and reading a book was her uncle. He twisted around in the chair and looked her up and down, taking in her coat and hat’s leaf pattern and she smiled. Like his father, he had a beard but wore no spectacles.

“Good afternoon, Miles,” she said softly.

“Are you a new nurse?” he asked, getting to his feet and doing up the buttons of a black morning coat.

“No, my name is Isobel. What are you reading?” she asked, edging forward.

Jane Eyre.”

“Are you enjoying it?”

“Yes, I am. Do take a seat,” he said, gesturing to one of the armchairs.

“Thank you.” She sat down, trying not to make it obvious she was staring at him as he retook his seat at the desk. Dark-haired like her mother, he also had her mother’s high forehead and brown eyes and reminded Isobel of Mr Parnell, leader of the Home Rulers and president of the Land League.

“If you are not a nurse then, who, may I ask, are you?”

“Has anyone spoken to you about your family?”

“I have no living family,” he replied, turning his attention back to the book.

“That is not true,” she said and he lifted his head. “Miles, you are my mother’s brother – you are my uncle.”

He stared at her and she smiled again as he digested her words. “I am your uncle,” he stated and she nodded. “Why have you not visited me before?”

“Because until yesterday I did not know you were here. Out there,” she gestured to the gallery, “are my brother and my husband. Would you like to meet them?”

“Are you going to bring me home with you?” he asked and she stared at him in consternation.

“Matron Rice says you are very comfortable here,” she said instead of answering. “You have a lovely parlour and a lovely view,” she added, stretching her neck and catching a glimpse of the lawn and gravel path.

“I am lucky. Some of the other patients have cells. I am really your uncle?”

“Yes, you are,” she said. “My name is Isobel Fitzgerald and I have one brother called Alfie. My husband is called Will. Would you like to meet them?”

“Yes, I would, thank you.”

“I’ll go and fetch them.” She got up, went to the door and opened it. “Come in and meet Miles.”

They followed her into the parlour and she caught Alfie glancing around the room in surprise, having expected, like her, for it to be far more austere.

“Miles,” she said and he got up from the chair. “This is my brother, Alfie Stevens. And this is my husband, Will Fitzgerald.”

“I am delighted to meet you.” Miles greeted them formally. “Do you live in Dublin?”

“We all live on Fitzwilliam Square,” Alfie replied. “And I am studying medicine at Trinity College.”

“I am a doctor,” Will told him. “But I’m off duty today.”

“Are you going to bring me home with you?” Miles asked again and Alfie threw her a startled glance.

“No, we are not,” Will replied gently and Miles’ face fell.

“But we shall come here and visit you regularly,” she added. “I would very much like to take a walk with you around the lawn.”

“Why will you not bring me home with you?” Miles persisted.

“When did you last leave this hospital?” Will pointed to the gates.

“I…” Miles tailed off and his shoulders slumped. “Never.”

“We will come here and visit you,” she repeated, hesitantly reaching out and squeezing his hand. “Now we have met you, we will not forget you.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Good. That’s settled, then.”

“Is there a book you would like me to bring you when I come to visit?”

“Well.” Miles’ face creased as he pondered her question. “I have almost finished Jane Eyre and I would like to continue with the Brontës – perhaps Wuthering Heights?”

Wuthering Heights it is,” she said.

“When will you visit again?”

“In the next few days, I promise.”

“Thank you.”

Isobel returned to the gallery and rejoined Matron Rice with Will and Alfie following, hoping she wouldn’t cry. Alfie closed the door to the apartment and they went downstairs.

“You will visit again?” the matron inquired.

“Yes, we will,” she replied.

“Good, because we have had promises before.”

“I don’t make promises I will not keep,” she said. “Miles has asked for a book – Wuthering Heights – is it suitable for him?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And mince pies?”

Matron Rice smiled. “He will enjoy them very much.”

They walked in silence to James’ Street where Will hailed a cab. They climbed in and sat down but she couldn’t stop the tears coming.

“There is barely anything wrong with him,” she sobbed.

“Matron Rice explained that he appears to have the reasoning of a fifteen-year-old boy,” Will said, putting an arm around her. “When we return during the week, I will speak with Dr Harrison the medical superintendent.”

“When he asked me if we were going to take him home with us, I didn’t know what to say.” She fumbled in her sleeve for a handkerchief and blew her nose. “We can’t take him home with us.”

“But I could take him home with me,” Alfie said and grimaced. “What I mean is – if it would benefit Miles not to live in a hospital, then, number 55 would be ideal.”

“I shall mention it to Dr Harrison,” Will told him. “But there is the small matter of your mother and James, who are expecting to return from honeymoon to a quiet married life. As well as that, your grandmother doesn’t want anything to do with Miles, so we must not tell her husband we have seen him in case it causes friction between them. There are many things to take into account but first and foremost is what Dr Harrison has to say. We do nothing until I have spoken to him.”

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

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Amazon ASIN: B07V1C41X2

Series Page ASIN: B07W4WRWGM

Paperback ISBN: 9781089743835

 

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin. Photo credit: DubhEire [CC0] via Wikimedia Commons
Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas. Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

A Discarded Son: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Three is Out Now!

A Discarded Son by Lorna Peel Kindle Cover PNG

Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, marries solicitor James Ellison but an unexpected guest overshadows their wedding day. Martha’s father is dying and he is determined to clear his conscience before it is too late. Lewis Greene’s confession ensures the Ellisons’ expectation of a quiet married life is gone and that Isobel’s elder brother, Alfie Stevens, will be the recipient of an unwelcome inheritance.

When a bewildering engagement notice is published in The Irish Times, the name of one of the persons concerned sends Will and Isobel on a race against time across Dublin and forces them to break a promise and reveal a closely guarded secret.

Read An Excerpt From Chapter One…

Dublin, Ireland. Saturday, December 10th, 1881

Will exchanged a smile with Isobel as she came slowly down the stairs from the nursery holding his nephew, John, by the hand. His wife’s matron-of-honour dress was a high-necked emerald green satin creation with a gold-coloured trim and ribbons of the same green were woven into her thick brown hair. By contrast, the three-year-old boy didn’t look at all happy, glaring at his navy blue sailor suit with disgust.

“You look wonderful,” he said all the same and kissed them both.

“I hate my dress,” John declared and Will glanced at the knee-length box-pleated skirt. “Why can’t I wear a frock coat and trousers like you?”

“It’s only for Grandmamma Martha’s wedding,” he assured the boy for what seemed like the umpteenth time. “And she did choose it especially for you. Afterwards, you’ll be back in your short trousers, I promise.”

“But it’s a dress. Everyone will laugh at me.”

“Well, to be precise, it’s a skirt.” Crouching down, Will tilted John’s chin up and met the boy’s dark eyes, a legacy from his Indian mother. “If anyone says something nasty to you, tell them Roman soldiers wore what could be described as skirts and no-one dared to laugh at them. Isn’t that right, Isobel?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Are Ben and Belle fed and asleep?” he asked, mentioning the twins in the hope they would take the boy’s mind off his ‘dress’. “Good,” he replied as John nodded. “Shall, we go? We can’t keep Grandmamma Martha waiting on her special day.” Picking the boy up, they went downstairs to the hall where Zaineb, one of their house-parlourmaids, smiled at John before opening the front door for them. “Thank you, Zaineb,” he said as they left the house. “See you later.”

It was a chilly morning but, thankfully, there were no signs of rain and they walked around the private railed-off Fitzwilliam Square garden to number 55 – home to Isobel’s mother and brother. Two carriages were waiting outside and Alfie Stevens gave them a grin from the front door as they approached.

“The Fitzgeralds – good morning. Isobel, I think our darling mother is going to be late. May has been sent to the servants’ hall for something or other twice since you left.”

“Everything was fine fifteen minutes ago,” Isobel muttered, shaking her head. “I’ll go and hurry Mother up.”

She went inside and Alfie shrugged his shoulders as he came down the steps to the pavement.

“It’s hired,” he explained, gesturing to his frock coat. “And I think I’m the first man to have worn it. You both look very smart.”

“Thank you.” Will peered at his own new frock coat and silver-grey cravat. “But John doesn’t like his outfit, it was all Isobel and I could do to persuade him to wear the ‘dress’,” he told Alfie in a low voice.

“It’s only for today,” Alfie reminded the boy. “After the wedding, I’ll be back in my far more comfortable morning coat and you’ll be back in your short trousers. Yes?”

“Yes,” John replied firmly and Alfie gave him another grin.

Fifteen minutes passed with Will and Alfie glancing impatiently at each other and their pocket watches until Isobel and her mother came down the stairs to the hall. Mrs Henderson’s wedding dress was identical to Isobel’s, only that it was gold-coloured satin with an emerald green trim and ribbons of the same gold were woven into her greying brown hair. She paused to lift a bouquet of gold and emerald satin roses from the hall table before continuing on out of the house with Isobel following her. Alfie assisted his mother into the first carriage, gave Will a quick wave then climbed in after her.

Relieved they weren’t going to be excessively late, Will helped Isobel and John into the second carriage. He got in and lifted the boy onto his lap so John could see out of the window and the short procession left Fitzwilliam Square.

* * *

Isobel and young John took their places behind her mother and Alfie at the door to St Peter’s Church on Aungier Street. Will hurried inside and, less than a minute later, the wedding march began. Almost halfway up the right-hand aisle, an elderly man with a snow-white beard and hair and wearing small round spectacles caught her attention. His black woollen overcoat was far too big for him and a long white scarf was wound around his neck. He was seated twisted around in his pew while everyone else was standing to view the bridal party so Isobel couldn’t help but stare until the penny dropped and his eyes also widened in recognition as she passed him. Nearing the chancel steps, John tried to pull his hand away from hers and she looked down at the boy, realising she had been squeezing it tightly.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, rubbing his fingers with her thumb.

Taking the bouquet from her mother, she and John sat beside Will in the front pew as the ceremony began. Will lifted John onto his lap so the boy had a clear view of his Grandmamma Martha and soon-to-be Grandpapa James before clasping her hand.

“What is it?” he whispered anxiously during the first hymn. “You’re both freezing and on edge.”  

“I’ve just seen Mr Greene – Mother’s father,” she replied and his jaw dropped.

“Here in the church?” He threw an incredulous glance behind them. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Mother has only one photograph of her parents and her father has aged, of course, but it’s definitely him. He is sitting behind us in this central block of pews about halfway down the church and is wearing a white scarf. I don’t know why he’s here – he and my grandmother broke off all contact with Mother when she ran away from home to marry Father against their wishes.”

“What do you want to do?” he asked and she gave a helpless little shrug.

“I don’t know, because Mother and James are going to greet everyone at the door and I’m dreading a scene.”

He nodded as the hymn ended and they sat down. She did her best to enjoy the service but it was all she could do not to push past Will and John, run down the aisle and drag her grandfather out of the church. Alfie gave their mother away and joined them in their pew and, as the wedding concluded, she reached over and touched his arm.

“John would like to walk out of the church with you,” she said and both Alfie and the boy smiled. “And Will and I shall walk out together, too.”

Standing behind the new Mr and Mrs Ellison with Alfie and John bringing up the rear, they proceeded down the left-hand aisle. Spotting her grandfather through a sea of faces, Isobel noted how his eyes were fixed only on his daughter and that, thankfully, she had not seen him yet.

They greeted the happy couple at the church door, Isobel kissing them on both cheeks so she could quickly whisper in James’ ear;

“Lewis Greene – Mother’s father – is in the church. He is wearing a black overcoat and a white scarf wound around his neck.”

Her step-father’s brown eyes bulged in alarm but he nodded and she and Will moved on towards the gates to Aungier Street.

“Isobel?” Hearing Alfie’s fierce whisper, they both turned. “What on earth is the matter?” he demanded, leading John towards them. “You and Will were whispering through every hymn and now you’ve told James something that’s made him go as white as a sheet and—” He broke off and gasped as he recognised the elderly man emerging from the church clutching a top hat and a walking cane.

Mrs Ellison’s eyes widened in first disbelief and then shock before she forced a smile and greeted her father warmly and no different than anyone else. James shook his father-in-law’s hand then Mr Greene walked on and, to Isobel’s consternation, made a beeline for the four of them.

“You must be Isobel,” he said, leaning on his cane and looking her up and down. “You know exactly who I am.”

“I do. What do you want?”

One of her grandfather’s eyebrows rose at her bluntness but he didn’t respond and turned to Alfie.

“And you must be Alfred?”

“Yes, I am, but everyone calls me Alfie.”

“And who is this?” Her grandfather nodded to John, who was still clutching Alfie’s hand. The boy’s dark eyes were darting from Alfie to her and to Will, clearly sensing the animosity and suspicion amongst the three of them towards the stranger. “Your son?”

“No, my nephew, John Fitzgerald,” Will replied, holding out a hand. “I am Isobel’s husband, Dr Will Fitzgerald.”

“I see,” Mr Greene replied but made no attempt to shake Will’s hand.

“You haven’t answered my question,” Isobel persisted as Will picked John up. “What do you want?”

“I would prefer not to discuss the matter here in front of all and sundry.”

All and sundry? It was just as well the other members of the congregation were paying them little attention.

“Well,” she replied stiffly. “I am afraid it is here or not at all.”

Her grandfather’s eyebrow rose again. “I am dying, Isobel,” he said with equal bluntness and she heard Alfie gasp again. “And I wish to make my peace with your mother and get to know my new son-in-law and you and your brother before I die.”

This time, Isobel looked him up and down. Mr Greene was leaning heavily on his walking cane, beginning to wheeze and she hoped he had a cab waiting for him.

“Mother and James leave for a week’s honeymoon in London late this afternoon. It is bad enough you turn up at their wedding without warning but you will not break such news to Mother until she returns to Dublin. Is that understood?” she insisted and her grandfather exhaled a phlegmy laugh.

“I learned of your mother’s wedding purely by chance, I can assure you. But I understand.”

“Where are you staying? The Shelbourne Hotel?”

“Your grandmother and I have rented a house on Fitzwilliam Square,” he replied and Isobel’s heart sank. “Number 7.”

“I live on Fuzwillan Square with Will and Isobel,” John announced. “So does Grandmamma Martha. And Grandpapa James will live there, too.”

Her grandfather glanced at the boy in surprise before looking up at Will plainly of the opinion that children should be seen and not heard. “This boy lives with you, Dr Fitzgerald?”

“John is my late brother’s son,” Will explained. “He lives with Isobel and I and Ben and Belle.”

“Ben and Belle?” his grandfather-in-law inquired with a frown.

“Our twin son and daughter,” Isobel informed him. “Your great-grandchildren.”

“I have great-grandchildren.” Mr Greene produced another phlegm-filled laugh. “Your mother was a twin.”

“So I was told. Please do not upset her further on her wedding day – please go – and we shall call on you tomorrow.”

“Until tomorrow, then.” Putting on his top hat, her grandfather walked away and was soon lost in the crowd which had spilled out onto the pavement.

“Isobel?” A hand grabbed her arm from behind and she turned to face her mother. “Where is he? Where is my father?”

“I’m afraid he had to leave.”

“Had to leave?” her mother echoed incredulously and James turned briefly to the street. “Whatever was he doing here?”

“He and Grandmother live in Dublin now.”

“Where?” James asked.

“He did not say,” she lied.

“Oh, Isobel, I can hardly believe it.” Her mother fought back tears. “I thought I would never see my father again.”

“Never say never,” Isobel replied with a smile. “Congratulations again, Mother. And you, too, James.”

“Thank you, Isobel,” he replied and gestured to the gates. “I think we should make our way to our carriages.”

“I agree,” Will added. “It is far too cold to stand about here.”

As soon as they returned to number 55, Mrs Ellison insisted on speaking to her in private and, reluctantly, Isobel followed her mother into the morning room. Closing the door, she looked at the hearth. A fire had been set that morning but not lit and the room felt unusually cool.

“You may now tell me the truth,” Mrs Ellison began. “Where are my father and mother living?”

Isobel grimaced. Was she so bad a liar these days? “I don’t—”

“The truth, Isobel,” her mother interrupted crisply.

“They have rented a house here on the square – number 7,” she said and Mrs Ellison went straight to the window and looked out at the street. “And you will call on them when you return from London.”

“No. I want them both here – now.”

“Mother, no,” she begged. “You have been looking forward to this day for such a long time don’t allow them to ruin it.”

“They are my parents,” Mrs Ellison replied, her voice rising.

“The same parents who cut you off when you married Father and who are now suddenly here in Dublin for your marriage to a gentleman they approve of.”

That made her mother flinch and Isobel hoped she hadn’t gone too far.

“I want them both here – now,” Mrs Ellison repeated quietly, walking to the rope and ringing for a servant.

“Very well.” Isobel reached for the doorknob.

“And I want you, Alfie, James and Will here when they arrive.”

Letting her hand drop to her side, Isobel walked to the window turning momentarily to the door as the butler came in then watched a ginger cat squeeze between the railings surrounding the Fitzwilliam Square gardens before disappearing from view.

“You rang, Mrs Ellison.”

“Gorman, please, send someone to number 7 and ask that Mr and Mrs Greene join Mr and Mrs Ellison for luncheon and to meet their families. Oh, and this means there will be two extra for luncheon.”

“Yes, Mrs Ellison.”

“And ask my husband, son and son-in-law to join myself and my daughter here.”

“Yes, Mrs Ellison.”

The butler left the room and Isobel pulled a face, only turning around again when the door opened and James, Alfie and Will came in.

“I have sent for my parents,” Mrs Ellison announced and Isobel met Will’s brown eyes for a moment. “And, no, Isobel does not approve of my decision but I want them both here on my wedding day.”

There was no response, Mrs Ellison gave a little shrug and the five of them waited in a tense silence until voices were heard in the hall and the butler came into the room.

“Mr Greene,” Gorman announced, the elderly gentleman walked in and Isobel peered behind him. Where was his wife? Why wasn’t she here? And why hadn’t she accompanied her husband to St Peter’s Church?

“Martha.” Mr Greene went to his daughter reaching out his hands. “Oh, let me look at you.” Clasping her hands, he stood back with a smile. “Oh, how I have missed you.”

Isobel clenched her fists and banged them against her thighs in frustration as her mother burst into tears. How could she be so forgiving?

“And I have missed you.” Her mother smiled through her tears. “Oh, Father…” Holding him to her, the two cried unashamedly.

Isobel glanced at Will who returned a helpless expression while Alfie began to shuffle uncomfortably and James examined his hands.

When the two finally stopped sobbing, Mrs Ellison wiped her tears away with her fingers and looked over her father’s shoulder.

“I must introduce you to my family, Father. This is James Ellison – my husband.”

James joined them and greeted his new and unexpected father-in-law with admirable calm politeness.

“Alfie?” his mother called and he shuffled forward. “My son, Alfie, is a medical student at Trinity College.”

“A budding doctor, eh?” his grandfather commented.

“I have wanted to be nothing else,” he replied.

“And this is my daughter, Isobel, and her husband, Will,” her mother continued and she braced herself as Will took her hand, led her to them and her grandfather inclined his head politely.

“Your concern for your mother is commendable, Isobel.”

“I do not wish to see my mother upset – especially on today of all days.”

“But I am not upset,” her mother protested with an almost hysterical laugh which made her cringe. “I am absolutely delighted to have my father here today.”

“Where is Grandmother?” she asked on behalf of them all and he gave her a little smile, no doubt having expected her question.

“Resting,” he answered simply and she didn’t believe him for a second.

Quickly realising she wasn’t going to reply, her mother gestured to Will.

“This is my son-in-law, Dr Will Fitzgerald.”

“Are you a Dublin man?” Mr Greene inquired.

“Yes, I am,” Will replied. “I was born and brought up on Merrion Square.”

“Isobel and Will have twins – a boy and a girl – Ben and Belle – who are five months old,” Mrs Ellison went on. “And they are raising Will’s nephew, John, who is almost four.”

“I am a great-grandfather.” Mr Greene smiled and shook his head. “Good gracious me. I may be as old as the century, but this news makes me feel utterly antiquated.”

“I think we should go upstairs and introduce Mr Greene to our guests,” James suggested and his wife nodded.

“And luncheon will be served soon.”

They went up the stairs to the pleasantly warm drawing room where Mrs Ellison introduced her father – wheezing after the climb – to the guests. Will’s mother, in particular, was astonished, Sarah having assumed her friend’s parents were both long dead.

“You don’t seem at all happy to finally meet your grandfather, Isobel,” Will’s father commented and she sighed, taking his arm and leading him to a relatively quiet corner.

“My grandparents cut Mother off when she ran away from home to marry my father just days after her twenty-first birthday and yet here they both are in Dublin – twenty-five years later.”

“Your grandfather has the pallor and laboured breathing of a very ill man,” he said as they observed Mr Greene now leaning heavily on her mother’s arm and she nodded.

“Grandfather is dying and my mother does not know – and will not know – until she and James return from London.”

“Of course. They live in Co Mayo, don’t they?”

“They did, but not anymore, apparently. They are renting number 7.”

“Here on Fitzwilliam Square?” John Fitzgerald’s eyebrows shot up.

“Yes. I think their move to Dublin and my grandfather’s ‘sudden’ appearance at the church were very carefully planned, despite his words to the contrary,” she said as Will came to them.

“James seems rather stunned, what do you think of all this?” his father asked.

“Poor James is walking on eggshells,” Will replied. “He did not expect to acquire parents-in-law. I agree with Isobel that Mr Greene’s ‘sudden’ appearance has taken careful planning, so I am rather… wary.”

“Well, do not agree to be your grandfather-in-law’s doctor whatever you do.”

Will shot his father a sharp look. “I’m sure Mr Greene already has a doctor.”

“My namesake didn’t look too happy to be wearing a skirt.” John swiftly changed the subject.

“He wasn’t happy,” Will confirmed. “He hated his ‘dress’. But when I left him at number 30 with Zaineb, he went running up the stairs ahead of her for his short trousers immediately.”

A quarter of an hour later, they all sat down to the wedding luncheon – a place setting for Mrs Greene having been added and then quickly taken away. Isobel glanced at Will’s estranged parents, placed opposite each other at the huge dining table. Living separately – although under the same roof at number 67 Merrion Square – John and Sarah had behaved impeccably at Ben, Belle and young John’s joint christenings and could put on a show of togetherness when required.

Isobel was seated between John and one of James’ brothers and, although she spoke politely with both men, she couldn’t rid herself of the shock and anger of her grandfather’s unexpected arrival. She had rarely thought of either her paternal or maternal grandparents over the years. Her father’s parents had both died long before Alfie and she were born and she had never expected to meet her mother’s father and mother.

Mr and Mrs Ellison were to leave by cab at five o’clock. It would take them to the North Wall Quay passenger terminus and the boat to Holyhead in Wales. From there, they would travel to London by train. Isobel went upstairs with her mother and helped her to put on an exquisite three-quarter length ‘going away’ coat and hat made from the same gold and emerald green satin as the wedding dress.

“Promise me one thing,” Mrs Ellison said as Isobel opened the bedroom door. “Promise me you won’t row with your grandfather while James and I are in London. I know you are not at all happy at his rather sudden appearance.”

“I cannot promise you that, Mother,” she replied truthfully.

“In that case, I would like you to keep away from him – and your grandmother.”

Isobel’s jaw dropped. “Keep away?”

“Yes, Isobel, keep away. Yes, they hurt me deeply – cutting me off when I married your father – and I appreciate your wish to protect me from any further distress. But until I have the opportunity to sit down with them and determine whether their move to Dublin is temporary or permanent and what either could mean for us all, I would like you to keep away from them – please?”

Isobel gave a little shrug. “I can only promise you that I shall not call on them. But if they call on me…” She tailed off intentionally and her mother sighed but nodded.

“Yes, it is natural that they would wish to see their great-grandchildren.”

Is it, Isobel wondered. Today was the first occasion Mr Greene had set eyes on his grandchildren, never mind his great-grandchildren, even though he has no doubt known of us all and where we live for quite some time.

“And now it is time for you to go,” she said, hugging and kissing her mother. “Have a lovely time in London.”

“I’ll try.”

They went downstairs and she kissed James goodbye. He smiled before giving her a firm nod, silently telling her he would ensure his new wife enjoyed her honeymoon.

The wedding guests stood on the steps of number 55 waving the cab off and as it left the square Mr Greene turned to her.

“I shall take my leave now, too.”

“Goodbye,” Isobel said simply and her grandfather’s eyebrows rose, no doubt having expected something a little more acerbic. Turning away, she went back into the hall with Will following her. “My grandfather is returning to number 7,” she informed Gorman who lifted Mr Greene’s overcoat down from the stand. “And I hope the other guests leave soon as well,” she added to Will. “Because I don’t know for how long I can remain polite and make inane small talk.”

It took two hours for the last guests to leave and as soon as Will closed the drawing room door, Isobel exploded – throwing her hands up into the air.

“Twenty-five years—”

“Isobel.” Will clasped her hands and kissed them. “Let’s try and remain calm – we need to remain calm. Alfie, tell me what you know about your grandparents while I pour us a drink.”

“Well,” Alfie began, rubbing his forehead as Will went to the drinks tray. “They live – or lived – at Greene Hall in Co Mayo – not far from Westport. Their estate borders the Marquess of Sligo’s estate.”

“Their estate?” Will echoed, reaching for one of the decanters. “How much land do they have?”

“A lot,” Isobel replied, trying to recall what she had been told over the years. “About ten thousand acres. Some of it is peat bog and mountain and only fit for sheep, but there is also some good land. The house is large, too, according to what Mother used to say. But I’ve never seen a painting or a photograph of it, so I don’t know how accurate her description is. Mother took one photograph of her parents with her when she ran away to marry Father, that is all.”

“And they cut your mother off completely?” Will asked her while pouring the drinks. “There was no secret correspondence?”

“Not as far as I know. Do you know any different, Alfie?” she asked and he made a helpless gesture with his hands. “What about when Father died?”

“When Father died, Mother and I both decided to move to Dublin more or less straight away. If there were any letters, I knew nothing of them.”

Will passed her a glass of brandy and Alfie one of whiskey before holding up his own whiskey glass.

“Well, apart from your grandfather appearing, the day was very pleasant. Long life and happiness to the Ellisons.”

They touched glasses and drank.

“Today would have been an emotional one for your mother even if your grandfather hadn’t turned up at the church,” he continued. “So, let’s see what her state of mind is when she returns from London.”

“Hopefully, James will be able to talk some sense into her,” she added as the door opened and Gorman came in.

“Mr Greene has called and is asking to speak to Mr Stevens and Mrs Fitzgerald.”

“What does he want now?” Isobel muttered, rolling her eyes.

“Mr Greene needs to sit down, Dr Fitzgerald,” the butler added. “He is puffing and panting rather alarmingly.”

Will quickly put his glass on the mantelpiece, her glass and Alfie’s joined it and they went downstairs to the hall. Her grandfather was standing at the front door, leaning heavily on his walking cane and wheezing. Taking Mr Greene’s arm, Will guided him into the morning room and sat him down on the sofa while Alfie and Gorman lit the gas lamps.

“Breathe as slowly and deeply as you can,” Will instructed as she closed the door.

Mr Greene exhaled a phlegm-filled laugh. “That is easier said than done.”

“Would you like whiskey, sherry or brandy?” Isobel asked and he glanced up at her in surprise.

“Brandy. Thank you.”

She nodded and went to the decanters. Returning with a large glass of brandy, she passed it to him but his hand shook and Will had to grab the glass before it fell onto the rug. With Will holding the glass, the elderly man took a sip and sat back, pulling a handkerchief from his overcoat pocket and mopping his forehead.

“I don’t like sherry,” he announced. “I can tolerate a single malt whiskey, but I much prefer brandy.”

She almost smiled, as she had exactly the same taste in alcohol. Who knows what else she had in common with him.

“Why come to Dublin?” she asked and the butler discreetly left the room. “Why turn up unannounced at Mother’s wedding? Why did Grandmother not attend the wedding with you? Why did she not attend the wedding luncheon? Why is she not here with you now?”

“Because, Isobel,” he said, taking the glass from Will. “I am about to tell you something your grandmother wishes to keep secret.”

“Well?” she prompted irritably as he enjoyed another sip of brandy and handed the glass back to Will.

“It was wholly my idea to attend your mother’s wedding,” he told her. “Your grandmother wished to stay away but I wanted to see my daughter marry so I insisted I attend, even though it went against my doctor’s strict advice. I have chronic lung disease,” he added, with a glance towards both Will and Alfie. “I am dying, and there are many things I have done over the course of my life I want to try and put right before it is too late. I wish to get to know my darling daughter again. I wish to get to know my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. But I also have a son and it is my dearest wish that I see him once more before I die.”

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Discarded Son

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin

Genre: Irish Historical Fiction

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
Eugène Delacroix – Portrait of Léon Riesener: Photo Credit: irinaraquel via Flickr.com / CC BY 4.0
Lily Langtry, The Lily of Jersey: Photo Credit: the lost gallery via Flickr.com / CC BY 4.0

The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series

The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series is a gritty family saga set in Victorian Ireland. The series brings to life the dark underbelly of Victorian Dublin society and gets to the heart of the social issues of the day. As I publish each book in the series I’ll be adding blog posts with character profiles, location histories and general background information. Below, I’ve listed all the posts so far and categorised them. Tap/click the blue link to open the post in a new tab. All the posts contain an excerpt from the books. I’ve also created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in the series. You can follow my blog by tapping/clicking the Follow button in the sidebar on the right or tap/click the Follow button that appears in the bottom right-hand corner of this website so you won’t miss a post.

The Books

Book One: A Scarlet Woman

Can an idealistic young doctor and a fallen woman find love when Victorian society believes they should not?

Book Two: A Suitable Wife

Can Will and Isobel hold the Fitzgeralds together when tragedy and betrayal threaten to tear the family apart?

Book Three: A Discarded Son

Can Will and Isobel right the wrongs of the past without hurting those closest to them?

Book Four: A Forlorn Hope

Can Will and Isobel bury their differences with those estranged from them and unite in a time of crisis or are some rifts too deep to heal?

Book Five: A Cruel Mischief

Can Will and Isobel prevent events of the past from influencing the present and future?

Book Six: A Hidden Motive

Can Will and Isobel help two old friends to overcome their fear and start afresh?

Books One to Six: Box Sets

Out Now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Character Profiles

Meet Isobel Stevens

Meet Dr Will Fitzgerald

Meet Will’s mother – Sarah Fitzgerald

Meet Will’s father – Dr John Fitzgerald

Meet Will’s best friend – Dr Fred Simpson

Meet Fred’s wife – Margaret Simpson

Meet Isobel’s grandparents – Lewis and Tilda Greene

Meet Isobel’s brother – Alfie Stevens

Meet Isobel and Alfie’s mother – Martha Ellison

Meet Solicitor James Ellison

Meet Martha’s twin brother – Miles Greene

Meet Dr David Powell

Meet Gordon Higginson QC

Meet Dr Jacob Smythe

Meet Cecilia Ashlinn

Meet Peter Shawcross

Location Histories

A map of Dublin, Ireland – click/tap to open in a new tab

Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland

The Liberties of Dublin, Ireland

Monto: Dublin’s Red Light District

Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, Ireland

St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Rutland Square, Dublin, Ireland

The Four Courts Marshalsea Debtors Prison

Dublin City Morgue and Coroner’s Court

History

The Great Snow of January 1881

Dublin’s Coal Holes and Coal Cellars

Laudanum: The Aspirin of the Nineteenth Century

The Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company

Dublin’s Pawnshops

I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series is

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Meet A Suitable Wife’s Sarah Fitzgerald

Sarah

Sarah Fitzgerald, née Crawford, was born in 1824 in York Street, Dublin, Ireland the second of three daughters. Sarah’s father, William, was the son of a draper from Parliament Street and became a surgeon at Mercer’s Hospital through hard work and stubborn determination on both his part and his father’s. Draper Crawford had to ensure he earned enough to keep his family fed and clothed and ensure William had the means to be bound as an apprentice to a prominent surgeon.

Continually reminded that he has ‘come from trade’ by certain sections of Dublin society, Surgeon Crawford wanted Sarah to marry well. His former apprentice, Duncan Simpson, had married Maria Wingfield of Rutland Square (now Parnell Square), but Duncan introduced Sarah and her father to his best friend, John Fitzgerald. A doctor with a home on Merrion Square and heir to a prosperous medical practice on Merrion Street Upper, John is the ideal husband.

Sarah and John married at St Peter’s Church, Aungier Street in 1845. Their son, Edward, was born in 1846 and joined the army while Will was born in 1849 and became a doctor.

At the start of A Suitable Wife, Sarah has been married for almost thirty-six years and believes herself to be still in love with John. But did Sarah marry John, a stern and rather secretive man ten years her senior, simply to please her father?

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Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.

Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.

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Read an excerpt from Chapter Seven…

Will was quiet as they strolled home arm-in-arm, his mind clearly on his father. As they approached number 30, she could hear raised voices and they stopped. Tess, Will’s parents’ house-parlourmaid who doubled as his mother’s lady’s maid, was hurrying down the steps to a waiting cab while Mrs Dillon pleaded with someone from the front door.

“Doctor and Mrs Fitzgerald will be home soon. Please come inside and calm yourself.”

“But I have no money to pay the cabman.” Will’s mother emerged from behind the cab smoothing down the skirt of her black dress and, to Isobel’s horror, sank down onto the kerb bursting into tears.

“Christ,” Will whispered and they ran to her. “Mother?”

“Oh, Will…”

“I’ll pay the cabman, Mother. Isobel will escort you inside.”

“Sarah.” Clasping her mother-in-law’s cold hands, Isobel raised her to her feet. “Come into the house, you’re freezing.”

“Tess, too?” Sarah asked and Isobel glanced at the girl. Usually, a capable maid, Tess’ face was ashen. What on earth had she heard or witnessed?

“Yes, Tess, too. Come inside.” Slowly they climbed the steps and went into the hall. “Mrs Dillon, this is Tess. Tess, this is Mrs Dillon. I think we could do with some tea – all of us,” she added with a nod towards the maid, and the housekeeper took Tess’ arm.

“Yes, Mrs Fitzgerald.”

“Come into the morning room, Sarah.” Isobel led her inside and sat her down on the sofa, hearing the front door close then silence as Will most likely hung up his hat and overcoat before his footsteps could be heard approaching the door.

“What’s happened, Mother?” he asked, coming in and closing the door behind him.

“Oh, Will,” she said in a shaky voice. “I don’t know where to begin.”

“Take your time.”

“I have separated from your father.”

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Photo credit: Hubert von Herkomer – Emilia Francis (née Strong), Lady Dilke, is a derivative of irinaraquel, used under CC BY 4.0

Meet A Suitable Wife’s John Fitzgerald

George_Bernard_Shaw_1925

Will Fitzgerald’s father, John, was born at number 67 Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland in 1814, the eldest son of Dr Edward Fitzgerald and his wife Mary Jane neé Maquay. John’s younger brother Thomas died at a year old.

John met Duncan Simpson at the ‘Seminary for General Education’, a school run by the Reverend R.H. Wall at number 6 Hume Street. They became best friends but John followed Fitzgerald family tradition that the eldest son study medicine at Trinity College. Duncan was bound as an apprentice to William Crawford, a surgeon at Mercer’s Hospital while also studying at the private school of anatomy, medicine, and surgery in Park Street (now Lincoln Place) before receiving his letters testimonial from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. On graduating with an M.D. from Trinity College, John joined his father’s medical practice on Merrion Street Upper. Duncan became a renowned surgeon at Mercer’s Hospital and married Maria Wingfield of Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) in 1844.

In 1845, John married Sarah Crawford of York Street, William Crawford’s middle daughter. Their son, Edward, was born in 1846 and Will was born in 1849. In 1851, following the death of his father, John took over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice and entered into partnership with Dr Kenneth Wilson, father of Cecilia, Will’s former fiancée.

John is immensely proud of his sons but discovers they are just as stubborn as he is. Edward breaks with family tradition and insists on joining the army. Currently serving in India, Edward has been promoted to the rank of major and is married to Ruth with a son named after his grandfather but despite all this, John still wishes Edward had gone into medicine.

It is Will who was intent on becoming a doctor but John is appalled when, on graduating from Trinity College, Will joins the Merrion Street Upper practice only to leave after a few months to live and set up his own medical practice in the Liberties, a poorer area of Dublin. Nor does John approve of Will’s choice of wife. Isobel Stevens may be a well-educated clergyman’s daughter but she is a fallen woman and simply not good enough for his son. 

When Duncan dies suddenly in November 1880, John retires from practising medicine and offers the Merrion Street Upper practice to Will. When Will agrees to take over the practice, a relieved John takes up the position of editor at the Journal of Irish Medicine. It is a well paid position so John won’t be left out of pocket by no longer practising medicine.

Never one to display his feelings publically or otherwise, at the start of A Suitable Wife, John has become even more distant. At first, Sarah, Will and Isobel put John’s behaviour down to him coming to terms with losing his best friend, retiring from medicine and adjusting to an office job in a short period of time.

But when Isobel and Will each see John getting into a cab on St Stephen’s Green and then see him leaving a cab in the middle of Merrion Row whilest holding up all the traffic, they can’t help but be puzzled and concerned. Is John hiding something from his wife and family?

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Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.

Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.

FitzgeraldSeries_TWITTER

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

A copy of The Irish Times was lying on the desk as Will went into his surgery the next morning. He put his medical bag down on the floor and glanced at the advertisements on the front page. What was he supposed to be looking at?

“Page four,” Fred informed him from the doorway.

Will went to the page and his heart sank. Doctor Saves Infant’s Life Through New ‘Piglet Procedure’. The article described how he had saved the life of the premature newborn son of the late Clive Ashlinn Q.C. Will was named but Fred, and how he had saved Cecilia’s life, was not.

“This is nothing to do with me, Fred.”

“No?”

“No,” he replied firmly. “The detail in this article could only have come from a doctor and I haven’t spoken to Cecilia’s father since that night.”

“Well, Dr Wilson certainly told someone after I’d spoken to him.”

“I’m sorry, Fred. This article should be about you. You saved Cecilia’s life.”

“Yes, but not with the ‘Piglet Procedure’,” Fred muttered. “I’ll see you this evening.”

Will sighed and closed the newspaper.

“Will?” About to run up the steps to number 30 and escape the cold just before one o’clock, Will turned hearing his father’s voice. “Have you seen The Irish Times?”

“I have,” he replied shortly as his father stopped beside him. “Come inside, it’s freezing.” Will hurried up the steps, opened the front door and they went into the hall. “Who was responsible for that sensationalist article?” he demanded, quickly closing the door and putting his medical bag on the hall table.

“I met Ken Wilson and he told me—”

“He clearly didn’t tell you the baby was full term,” Will interrupted and his father’s jaw dropped.

“Full term?”

“Yes,” he replied, taking off his hat and hanging it on the stand. “And, thanks to you, all those who can count and know Cecilia was the one who ended our engagement and married Clive Ashlinn with undue haste, now know why – she was pregnant with his child after having sexual relations with him behind my back. For God’s sake, Father, did you not stop for a moment to think – to count back the months? If the baby had been conceived after Cecilia married Clive, it wouldn’t have survived five minutes – if even that – no matter what was done to try and revive it. Fred saved Cecilia’s life. He performed a difficult caesarean – that old fool Smythe should have done it hours beforehand – and I get all the credit for clearing the baby’s airway. It’s completely ridiculous. Please don’t do it again.”

His father’s eyebrows rose in clear offence. “The practice needs more patients and it was an ideal opportunity to obtain some publicity for you. As well as that, I was going to ask you to submit a paper to the Journal of Irish Medicine.”

“On how to swing a baby by its ankles? Thank you, Father but, no. Ask Fred for one on the caesarean.”

“We receive papers on caesareans all the time.”

“Well write an editorial on elderly doctors and how they put their patients’ lives at risk.”

His father nodded. “I have heard complaints about Smythe before but he cannot be compelled to retire until…”

“He does actually kill someone.” Will rolled his eyes. “While you’re here, could you come into the breakfast room, I need to speak to you about Fred.”

They went inside and Will closed the door to the hall. The table was laid for luncheon and his stomach began to rumble.

“Is Fred in trouble, Will?” his father asked.

“Yesterday morning, I caught him in his surgery with a young woman.”

“A young woman? You mean a whore?”

Will winced. He hated the term. “I mean a prostitute. And it doesn’t seem to be the first time he’s brought one to the practice house.”

“I caught him twice with one.” His father sighed. “I thought that now he is going to be a father…”

“It would seem that has only made matters worse. Needless to say, we had ‘words’ about it. I told him if I caught him with a prostitute there again, he’d be out and—”

“You can’t dissolve the partnership so soon, Will,” his father interjected firmly. “How would it look?”

“Father, Fred’s sexual excursions are none of my business, but he will not indulge his urges at the practice house. He and Margaret are coming here to dinner this evening and I want to try and build bridges with him but I also think he misses his father greatly.”

“We all miss his father greatly.”

“Could you speak with him, please?” Will asked. “Perhaps bring him to your club for a drink occasionally?”

“Be a father figure to him, you mean?”

“Yes. I’m finding it very difficult to be a friend to him at the moment and the newspaper article certainly hasn’t helped matters.”

His father nodded. “It was well intended.”

“I know it was,” Will conceded. “But don’t expect Cecilia or her parents to be too pleased about it either.”

“No,” his father replied quietly. “How is Isobel?”

“A little nervous about the dinner as it’s our first but other than that she is very well.”

“Good. Well, I’ll let you begin luncheon.”

“Please don’t tell Fred I’ve spoken to you about him?” Will asked.

“I won’t.”

“Thank you for calling, Father, and my love to Mother.” He saw his father out and turned as he shrugged off his overcoat, hearing the morning room door open. “My father,” he told Isobel, hanging the overcoat on the stand.

“Yes, I heard his voice,” she said and closed the door. “Will, have you seen today’s Irish Times?”

“Fred showed the article to me.” Taking her hand, they went into the breakfast room. “He isn’t happy about it. My father has just told me he is responsible.”

“Oh.”

“I’ve asked him not to do it again.”

“You didn’t row, did you?” she asked.

“No. I didn’t row with Fred either.”

“Good.” She gave him a little smile. “For a moment, I thought you were going to tell me Fred has refused to come this evening.”

“Fred and Margaret are definitely coming to dinner this evening,” he assured her. “I have some house calls to make this afternoon, but I should be home before six o’clock.”

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Photo credit: George Bernard Shaw 1925 – by Nobel FoundationPublic Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Meet A Suitable Wife’s Fred Simpson

Fred Simpson

Frederick (Fred) Simpson was born in December 1849 at number 1 Ely Place Upper, Dublin, Ireland, the only son of Duncan Simpson, a renowned surgeon, and his wife, Maria. Duncan Simpson and Dr Will Fitzgerald’s father, Dr John Fitzgerald were best friends and Fred and Will also became best friends.

Fred and Will attended the Weslyan Connexional School (now known as Wesley College) where they became friends with Jeremiah (Jerry) Hawley from Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire).

Instead of becoming a surgeon like his father, Fred studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin with Will and Jerry. On graduating, Jerry moved to London and set up practice there, Will set up a practice in the Liberties area of Dublin, and Fred joined Dr John Fitzgerald’s prosperous medical practice on Merrion Street Upper.

At the start of A Scarlet Woman in July 1880 and, after spending his last night of freedom with Will and Jerry in a brothel in Monto, Dublin’s red light district, Fred marries Margaret Dawson from Dame Street in St Andrew’s Church. By Christmas 1880, Fred’s father has died suddenly, his mother has gone to live with her spinster sister on Rutland Square (now Parnell Square), and Margaret is expecting a baby.

When Dr John Fitzgerald retires in December 1880, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice and he and Fred go into partnership together. They begin to rebuild the practice following the departure of many patients who left when Will’s father departed rather unexpectedly.

When A Suitable Wife begins in January 1881, Will finds that being in partnership with his oldest friend isn’t all plain sailing. Fred hasn’t come to terms with the sudden death of his father and his own impending fatherhood. Fred has become a law unto himself and is on the brink of bringing the good name of the practice crashing down. There is also ill-feeling between Fred and Eva Bannister, who has been practice secretary for the past twenty years but is now threatening to resign. Eva has always dealt professionally with both doctors and patients so the cause of the animosity cannot be a trivial matter.

Dealing with troubles of his own, difficulties with both Fred and the practice are the last thing Will needs to contend with and when he challenges Fred they almost come to blows. After almost five years of running the Brown Street medical practice alone, has Will made a terrible mistake in going into partnership with Fred? What can Will do to resolve matters before he and Fred actually do come to blows, Eva resigns and patients begin to notice a bad atmosphere causing more of them to leave the practice? Is this the end of Will and Fred’s long friendship?

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Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.

Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.

FitzgeraldSeries_TWITTER

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

The following Monday, a gradual thaw had begun and a smoke-fog hung over Dublin. Will walked to the practice house half an hour early in order to write to two suppliers of fish bladder condoms, preferring to correspond from and have them sent to him there to avoid any embarrassment at number 30.

Hanging up his hat and overcoat in the office, he froze hearing a thud and then a moan from upstairs. He ran up the stairs two at a time and tried the door to his surgery but the room was still locked. He went along the landing, opened the door to Fred’s surgery and couldn’t help but stand and watch for a few moments. Fred was on his knees behind the desk, his head between the thighs of a young blonde woman seated in his chair, her head thrown back as she moaned and implored him never to stop.

“Fred.”

Fred jumped, straightened up and stared at him in consternation. “Will—”

“I think you should leave now.” He addressed the young woman remarkably calmly and she stood up allowing the skirt of her black cotton dress to fall. Grabbing her straw hat and black woollen shawl from the desk, she pushed past him and left the room. He heard her run down the stairs and a moment or two later, the front door slammed.

Fred got to his feet, pulled up his drawers and trousers and did up the buttons. “Will—” he began again but Will held up a hand.

“I could have been Eva coming to unlock all the doors.”

“I know. I’m sorry. Margaret won’t let me near her and—”

“That was the first and last time here, Fred. Do I make myself clear?”

Fred exhaled a humourless laugh. “You sounded exactly like your father, then.”

“Had my father caught you here with a prostitute?” he asked, Fred looked away and Will took it for a yes. “Well, I mean it, Fred.”

“Do you?” Fred demanded, turning back to him. “Christ, you can be so fucking holier than thou sometimes, Will. You wouldn’t be a tiny bit frustrated, would you? I take it you haven’t fucked Isobel since she lost the baby? Here.” Fred opened a desk drawer, lifted out a small red box and threw it at him. The box hit Will on the chest and fell to the floor. “Condoms. Take them and fuck your wife tonight.”

Will strode across the room, seized Fred by the throat and held him up against the wall. “First – my marriage is none of your concern. Second – your marriage is none of my concern. And third – if I find you here with a prostitute again, you will be out. You’re an excellent doctor but it was little wonder my father never made you his practice partner – you’re far too bloody immature.”

“Your father always wanted you to become his practice partner,” Fred croaked. “But you preferred to work in a fucking slum. You have all this and you still want to go back to the Liberties.”

“How many times do I have to tell you that Brown Street is not a slum and neither is Pimlico. I’m going back because I’m needed there.” Hearing the front door close, he let Fred go and stepped back from him. “You will not bring prostitutes here again,” he repeated quietly, then turned and left the room, stepping over the box of condoms.

Sitting down at the desk in his surgery, he closed his eyes for a few moments to suppress his temper before opening a desk drawer and lifting out some headed notepaper. He wrote the two letters then went straight out to post them so they would be amongst the first postal collections of the day.

After surgery three and a half hours later, he walked home without speaking to Fred again. He went into the morning room and found Isobel seated on the sofa reading a newspaper.

“Can we go to Pimlico this afternoon and clean the two rooms?” he asked her by way of a greeting.

“Yes, of course, we can,” she replied, closing and folding the newspaper before putting it on the arm of the sofa. “What is it? You sound angry.”

“I caught Fred in his surgery with a prostitute,” he said and her eyebrows rose but other than that, she didn’t seem at all surprised. “Needless to say, we argued. Oh, Christ.” Resting his hands on his hips, he stared up at the ceiling. “Have I made a terrible mistake going into partnership with Fred? Marriage hasn’t matured him, the death of his father hasn’t matured him, impending fatherhood hasn’t matured him…”

“Could you run the practice on your own?” she asked and he lowered his head.

“Yes, provided the number of patients stays as it is now but, ideally, the practice needs twice the number of patients we have now, and how would it look if I were to dissolve the partnership after such a short period of time?” Isobel’s frown gave him his answer. “I’ve given Fred one more chance,” he went on. “And if he throws it back in my face, then he’s out. Do you think Margaret suspects anything?”

“She seemed quite happy when I called but we aren’t really close enough friends for her to divulge anything too personal.”

“No, I suppose not. I’m sorry.” He bent and kissed her lips. “But sometimes Fred infuriates me.”

“Fred’s your oldest friend and you care about him. Which is why I think you should either postpone starting the surgery in Pimlico for a while. Or involve him, too.”

“Fred has the same attitude to the Liberties as my father and I don’t want a repeat of what that led to.”

“Well, it was just a suggestion,” she said with a little shrug.

“No, it’s a wonderful suggestion and if I broke Fred in gently—” He halted, seeing her smile. “Thank you,” he continued. “I’ll discuss it with Fred. The last thing I want is to fall out with him like I have with my father.”

“Shall we clean the rooms in Pimlico this afternoon, then?”

“No,” he decided. “Not until I’ve spoken to Fred. I have only three house calls to make this afternoon. Afterwards, I’ll take you out for tea or coffee – whatever you’d prefer. When the condoms arrive, I will make love to you for an entire afternoon.”

“When the condoms arrive?”

“I’ve ordered condoms from two manufacturers,” he explained. “And I’ll make my choice from them, although I know which Fred prefers.”

“Oh?”

“He threw a box of them at me.”

“Will, did you and Fred fight?” she asked slowly.

“Almost,” he admitted, staring down at his shoes like a naughty schoolboy. “I grabbed him by the throat.”

“For God’s sake, Will,” she snapped, getting to her feet. “What if Eva or your patients heard or saw you?”

“I know, I know. It won’t happen again.” She gave him a long look and he grimaced. “It won’t happen again, Isobel,” he repeated in a firm tone and this time she gave him a satisfied nod.

“You can take me out for coffee this afternoon. And perhaps a stroll around St Stephen’s Green? Then, on our way home, we’ll call to Ely Place Upper and invite Fred and Margaret to dinner in the next few days so you and he can discuss the future. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” he replied quietly then went to the fire to warm his hands.

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Photo credit: Portrait of a young man, 1870-1880: State Library of Queensland on Flickr: No known copyright restrictions

Meet A Suitable Wife’s Margaret Simpson

edith_wharton

Margaret Simpson, née Dawson, was born on Dame Street, Dublin, Ireland in 1857, the younger daughter of the late Nicholas Dawson and his wife. Nicholas Dawson was a solicitor and his offices at street level are now leased to a law firm while his widow lives alone on the floors above.

Having been in love with Dr Fred Simpson since seeing him at a church service when she was sixteen, Margaret can’t believe her luck when they marry in July 1880 and she moves to number 1 Ely Place Upper. In December 1880, Fred’s surgeon father, Duncan Simpson, dies suddenly and Fred’s mother, Maria, moves out and goes to live with her spinster sister, Diana Wingfield, on Rutland Square. Margaret is now mistress of number 1, but also finds herself expecting a baby.

As Fred and Dr Will Fitzgerald are old friends, Margaret hopes she and Will’s new wife, Isobel, can also be friends. Margaret has many acquaintances but none that she can discuss ‘marital matters’ with. When A Suitable Wife begins in January 1881, Fred and Will’s friendship has come under strain, mainly due to Fred’s erratic behaviour, and a dinner is arranged at number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, Will and Isobel’s new home.

While Will and Fred attempt to reconcile their differences over port after the meal, Isobel and Margaret retire to the drawing room. Knowing Isobel’s reputation as a fallen woman and assuming Isobel will understand and offer advice, Margaret seizes the opportunity to confess the strain her marriage is under. Margaret has been married to Fred long enough for her to realise that while he is the love of her life, Fred can only love her in his own way and that she alone will never be able to satisfy him. Margaret then admits she has given her husband her blessing to find sexual satisfaction with prostitutes.

Unfortunately, Margaret gets carried away and goes far too far. Isobel is already nervous because this is her first dinner party at number 30 and is uncomfortable at the conversation having turned to prostitution. When Margaret informs her that if she can’t be a good wife to Will, he is a very handsome man and there are many ladies in Dublin who would welcome him into their bed, Isobel can’t help herself and hits her.

Given her past, Isobel knows she can never be a true friend to anyone except Will, but can she and Margaret ever be simply acquaintances? If she and Margaret can’t get along, what hope is there for their husbands whose friendship and partnership at the Merrion Street Upper medical practice are on the brink of collapse. Is Isobel striking Margaret going to be the straw which breaks the camel’s back?

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Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.

Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.

FitzgeraldSeries_TWITTER

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

Isobel was in the drawing room by the time Will arrived home and his brown eyes widened as they took in her evening dress. It was new, short-sleeved, and deep red in colour. His eyes rested on her cleavage and she exhaled an exasperated sigh.

“It is cut too low, I knew it.”

“No. It’s stunning. You are stunning. Oh,” he added softly. “The condoms can’t arrive quickly enough.”

“Don’t mention the condoms,” she whispered. “I’m trying not to think about them. Go and get changed,” she said, giving him a gentle push.

The servants had worked hard and both the drawing room and dining room looked magnificent lit for the first time by the new gas lamps. Fires had been lit early in the morning and, despite it freezing sharply all day, both rooms were pleasantly warm as she made a circuit of them waiting for Will.

“Mrs Fitzgerald?” Will was standing in the drawing room doorway dressed in white tie and tails and she couldn’t help but stare. Would she ever get used to the fact that this handsome man was her husband? She hoped not. She never ever wanted to take him for granted. “Shall we do, do you think?” he asked with a grin.

She went to him and kissed his lips. “I think we shall do very well, Dr Fitzgerald. Ah.” She smiled, hearing voices on the stairs. “They’re here.”

Mary showed Margaret and Fred into the drawing room and Isobel kissed their cheeks.

“Thank you for coming. Come and sit by the fire, you must be frozen. Dinner will be served shortly.”

The three-course meal was delicious and, silently thanking Mrs Dillon for being such an excellent cook, Isobel got up from the table.

“It’s time to allow the doctors to have a chat,” she announced lightly and she and Margaret went into the drawing room. “Some more lemonade?” she asked Margaret as she walked to the drinks tray.

“Yes, please.”

“I think I’ll have some, too,” she added, reaching for the jug. “I don’t particularly like sherry and my mother always looks horrified when I ask for whiskey or brandy.”

“Don’t let me stop you.”

“Thank you, but I’d prefer lemonade.” She poured two glasses and passed one to Margaret. “Please, sit down.”

“Thank you.” Margaret chose the sofa and smoothed a hand down the bodice of her sky blue evening dress before resting it on her small belly. “This is a beautiful room.”

“Yes, it is,” Isobel replied as she sat down at the other end while glancing at the pale gold wallpaper and the sofa and two armchairs upholstered in burgundy silk satin. “Will and I really must use it more. Perhaps in the summer.”

“Isobel, while it is just the two of us, there is something I think you ought to know.”

“Oh?” she replied a little apprehensively.

“I know Will caught Fred with a prostitute in his surgery. In fact, I know Fred uses prostitutes regularly.”

Isobel had to consciously close her mouth. How on earth had Margaret found out? Surely Fred wouldn’t have been foolish enough to disclose to his wife of less than a year that he uses prostitutes? She took a sip of lemonade and put her glass down on a side table, not quite knowing how, or if she should respond.

“I have discussed the matter with Fred and he assures me he will be more discreet in future,” Margaret went on.

“In future?”

“I’ve known all along that Fred will not be faithful to me,” Margaret told her matter-of-factly. “My only stipulation during our discussion was that he use condoms with the prostitutes.”

“I see.”

“Oh, dear, I think I’ve shocked you, Isobel.”

It will take much more than that to shock me, she smiled wryly to herself. “No, not at all,” she said. “I’m glad you feel you can confide in me.”

“Thank you. I could never speak like this to my other friends but with you…”

“Being a fallen woman..?”

“I wasn’t going to put it quite like that.” Margaret put her glass beside Isobel’s. “But I have discovered I do enjoy sexual relations as well. However, I know I will never fully satisfy Fred. And I would rather we did not engage in sexual relations while I am pregnant,” she said, laying a hand on her belly again. “So he finds release elsewhere. With my blessing.”

“I must admit I could never give Will my blessing to—”

“You and Will are very lucky. You both love and satisfy each other.”

“Yes, we do.”

“But you cannot give him a child.”

Isobel tensed. “I will give him a child, Margaret.”

“I hope for your sake you are right, Isobel. Will is a very handsome man and I know for a fact that there are many ladies in Dublin who would welcome him into their bed and—” Margaret broke off and screamed as Isobel struck her hard on the cheek.

Buy A Suitable Wife: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Two for   

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Amazon ASIN: B07FDB3B3W

Paperback ISBN: 9781723286810

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Photo credit: EDITH WHARTON American writer 1862 1937: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Fitzwilliam Square

Fitzwilliam Square is a Georgian garden square named after the Fitzwilliam family, Earls of Merrion, who urbanised the land as part of their great estate on the south side of the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland. The square was managed and developed by Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam and was laid out in 1792. The centre of the square was enclosed in 1813 through an Act of Parliament.

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The Hon. Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion

The square comprises a central garden, surrounded by four streets – Fitzwilliam Square North, East, West and South. There are 69 houses with 17 houses in the north, west and east sides and 18 houses on the south side. All four sides of Fitzwilliam Square had long rear gardens and stable lanes.

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Fitzwilliam Square West

Lord Fitzwilliam opted for a simple design for the square consisting of red brick houses of four storeys over a basement with the windows diminishing in height in the first, second and third storeys. The typical Fitzwilliam Square house had a standard two-room plan with a rear dog-leg stairs and long yellow-brick rear buildings. Front doors were flanked by pilasters and surmounted by wide fanlights with delicate, lead glazing bars – creating the iconic Dublin doorcase. All the houses are two bays wide except for Nos. 56-59 (North Side), which are narrow three bay and Nos. 5 (East Side) and 35 (South Side), which have broad three bay facades.

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Georgian doors in Fitzwilliam Square

From the beginning, Fitzwilliam Square was a prestigious location and during the 19th century it continued to attract the middle classes, comprising of military officers and the professional classes. There was a significant increase in the number of doctors living in the square in the early 20th century, who were locating their consulting rooms within their private houses,which was also the case for the legal residents of the square. This period of change showed the adaptability of the houses and represented a growth of non-residential uses on the square. In the mid 20th century, doctors and their families moved to the suburbs and continued to use Fitzwilliam Square for their consulting rooms.

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46 Fitzwilliam Square

By 1950, only 24 houses were still residential and 69 doctors had consulting rooms on the square. This trend continued until the 1970’s when the relocation of St. Vincent’s Hospital from Leeson Street to a new campus meant many of the doctors in Fitzwilliam Square moved their practices south to Donnybrook. Following their departure, multi-office use became popular on the Square including accountants, solicitors, doctors, management consultants, architects and financial services.

The Garden

The layout of the garden in the centre of Fitzwilliam Square has not changed since its layout in 1813. The main reason for this may be that the garden has remained in private ownership unlike the other Georgian Squares in Dublin, i.e. St. Stephen’s Green, Mountjoy Square and Merrion Square whose original layouts have changed considerably over the years.

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Fitzwilliam Square Garden

In 1813, an Act was passed naming 14 Commissioners to be responsible for maintaining the central garden. The layout of the Garden in the early days comprised of perimeter planting of trees and flowering shrubs around the large grassed open space in the centre.

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Later in the 19th century, the planting of the flowerbed was added to the garden.  There was also the added responsibility of the maintenance of railings, gates and garden seats. In 1875, new gaslight pillars were erected and a few years later the Commissioners paid Dublin Corporation to widen the kerb and concrete path outside the railings. In the 1880’s, the final physical change to the garden was the erection of a small timber summer house on the eastern side.

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A hot day in 1890s Fitzwilliam Square. 

The garden became an international focus during the later 19th century when the Lawn Tennis Championships of Ireland were first held on the open grass centre. In the 20th century little changed until in 1963, the original 150-year lease expired ending an historic link with the commissioners and the early days of the square. After a few years of discussion it was agreed that the garden would be leased to the Fitzwilliam Square Association Ltd. for another 150 years.

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Irish Lawn Championships at Fitzwilliam Square

Today the large grassed open area remains and is used still for tennis in the summer and the pathways within this area along with the planted trees and shrubbery have remained intact as existed nearly two centuries ago.

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Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.

Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.

A_Suitable_Wife_SQUARE

Read An Excerpt From Chapter Five…

[Isobel] smiled then turned as the morning room door opened and Alfie was shown in.

“I was in the gardens, making myself scarce, and I saw the three of you walk home so I thought I’d follow you.”

“Is Mr Ellison is calling on Mother again?” Isobel asked. “Should I call, too?”

“What do you mean, again?” Will inquired before Alfie could reply.

“With all that’s happened, I forgot to tell you that Mr Ellison appears to be courting Mother,” Isobel told him.

“There’s no ‘appears’ about it,” Alfie added. “He calls to the house every few days.”

“Has he spoken to you?”

“Mr Ellison doesn’t need my permission to court Mother, Will.”

“No, but has he?”

“No, he hasn’t,” Alfie replied. “But he knows that I know why he’s calling. I also called to thank you for taking David on as locum, Will. He’s looking forward to Monday.”

“I’m looking forward to him starting, too. I dealt with all the patients myself last week. I don’t want to have to do that again.”

“When do you think Dr Simpson will return?”

Will didn’t answer the question and Alfie flushed. “It’s none of my business. I’m sorry, Will.”

“You and David must come to dinner soon,” Isobel interjected brightly.

“That’s very kind, but how, exactly?”

“We’ll invite David and you will call at an agreed time and be ‘persuaded’ to stay to dinner,” she said and Alfie mulled it over for a few moments before nodding.

When he had shown Alfie out, Will returned to the morning room and Isobel sat on the sofa making a helpless gesture with her hands.

“Someone needs to speak to Mr Ellison about him courting Mother so soon after Mr Henderson’s death. If Alfie is reluctant to do it, then I will. On Monday.”

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Paperback ISBN: 9781723286810

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Photo credit: Richard Fitzwilliam of Merrion: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Margaret Clough / Georgian doors in Fitzwilliam Square / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: Oliver Dixon / Fitzwilliam Square West / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: 46 Fitzwilliam Square by Ralf Peter Reimann used under CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: Fitzwilliam Square Garden – Alamy Stock Photo
Photo credit: A hot day in 1890s Fitzwilliam Square – Dublin Civic Trust
Photo credit: Irish Championship Matches – Cultural Tales 
Photo credit: by Robinson – Arthur Wallis Myers (1903): Lawn Tennis at Home and Abroad. Scribner’s Sons, New York. (online), Public Domain

The Great Snow of January 1881

2018 has been a year of weather extremes in Ireland. As well as a heatwave in July, Dublin had two ‘snow events’ in February and March 2018. The first was the ‘Beast From The East’ and it was followed by the ‘Mini Beast From The East’. But in January 1881, Dublin also went through a snowstorm of intense severity.

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Satellite view showing Europe partially covered in snow under the influence of the anticyclonic cold wave named Hartmut or the “Beast from the East” on 27 February 2018

January 1881 began with a high pressure system to the south of Ireland and Great Britain with a westerly/south-westerly air flow. The weather turned much colder as the high pressure drifted towards Greenland around January 8th and Arctic air was drawn over Ireland and Great Britain. A low pressure system moved in from the east on January 11th which met the freezing air and snow began to fall. As the low pressure system deepened, a gale force easterly wind developed with heavy blizzards and drifting snow on 17th January.

Freemans Journal

Reports of a ‘cold snap’ appear in the Freeman’s Journal on Monday 17th January 1881. According to the report, snow had fallen on the morning of Friday 14th January, but the main focus was on the severity of the cold. On Sunday 16th January, the temperature dropped to -19.1 degrees Celsius (-2.38 degrees Fahrenheit) at Markree Observatory, near Collooney in Co Sligo, the lowest air temperature ever recorded in Ireland. Dublin’s canals were frozen ‘inches deep’ and hundreds of people enjoyed skating in the Zoological Gardens, the Botanic Gardens, St Stephen’s Green and near Portobello Bridge on the Grand Canal. The Freeman’s Journal commented: ‘In a word, the weather was very pleasant for the young and well-to-do, but of course it has brought to the poor the double misery of failing work and biting cold’.

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Winter – The fountain beside the Mansion House, on Dawson Street, Dublin

‘The heaviest fall of snow which has taken place for many years occurred in Dublin yesterday’ reported the Freeman’s Journal of Tuesday 18th January. It snowed incessantly in almost blinding showers on Monday 17th January and when it stopped at about 9pm there was at least seven inches of snow on the ground. The snow impeded traffic through the streets, horse-drawn trams were unable to operate after 7pm and most cabs and cars also disappeared as their drivers did not want to work their horses in the thick snow. People had to make their way home on foot and ‘ladies especially felt the inconvenience as it was difficult to walk’. Trains continued to run but they were all late ‘as they were obliged to travel necessarily with great caution’. The snowfall did mean that the temperature rose and at midnight, there was an indication of a thaw.

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Weir on the River Dodder below Orwell Bridge circa January 1881

The Freeman’s Journal of Wednesday 19th January reported on the aftermath of the snowstorm. ‘Snowdrifts to depths of at least a foot, if not more accumulated at points exposed to the wind’. Gangs of men employed by the United Tramways Company worked through Monday night into Tuesday morning to clear the tramlines and ‘upwards of fifty tons of salt were thrown on the ways’. A large part of Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) adjacent to Nelson’s Pillar, was occupied by lines of tram-cars which had remained there all Monday night.

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The south side of Mountjoy Square in the snow of January 2010

On Tuesday morning ‘All fronts and gables of houses exposed to the wind were thickly flaked with snow, and the appearance of the streets generally, the river, and the sky was about as wintry as anyone recollected’. The snow was shovelled from the roofs of the tram-cars and they began to ply first from Rathmines and other shorter distances, and by the afternoon the whole tram system was operational again.

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Postcard of College Green, Dublin

Men from Dublin Corporation started clearing the pathways and streets, carting the snow to the river and throwing it into the Liffey at the bridges. The mail steamer from Holyhead did not arrive in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) until after 1pm, having been due at 7am, because the railway line at Conway in North Wales was blocked by a fall of snow. During Tuesday no snow fell but the weather remained very cold and ‘a terrific gale set in from the east’ and it remained stormy until night fell.

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Burgh Quay, Dublin on Tuesday, 11 February 1936, and was printed on page 2 of the next day’s Irish Independent with the caption:
“Yesterday’s snow being shovelled into the Liffey”

The Freeman’s Journal of Thursday 20th January reported there had been a succession of snow showers the previous morning, but by afternoon the sky cleared, the sun shone and the evening became very cold with indications of frost. Tramlines were free of snow everywhere and most footpaths were cleared but ‘vast masses of snow lay in most of the streets and on the housetops’.

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Marrowbone Lane, Dublin in the 1890s by Joseph Kavanagh

‘The severity of the weather continues unabated’ reported the Freeman’s Journal of Friday 21st January. The previous day, temperatures were still low and there was a heavy fall of snow at three o’clock in the afternoon. Large quantities of ice floated down the River Liffey during Thursday and collected in huge masses at the bridges. Telegraphic communication with England, which had been greatly impeded, was restored.

'A_Backstreet_in_the_Snow'_by_Walter_Osborne

A Backstreet in the Snow by Walter Osborne

By Monday 24th January, the Freeman’s Journal was reporting that ‘Saturday brought no relaxation of the iron grasp in which the frost has held land and water, sky and almost the sea itself during the past week’. Private individuals and extra labourers employed by Dublin Corporation were still clearing the footpaths and throwing the snow into the River Liffey ‘although in too many streets the highways were still encumbered by masses of snow’. Saturday evening and night were intensely cold and on Sunday morning there was the threat of snow but the sun shone in the afternoon and the rise in temperature brought on a thaw which produced flooding as the snow and ice melted.

A_Suitable_Wife_SQUARE

Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.

Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.

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Read An Excerpt From Chapter One…

Dublin, Ireland. Monday, January 17th, 1881

Will helped Isobel out of the cab outside the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green. He paid and tipped the cabman generously and they made their way carefully up the steps. A bellboy with a shovel – fighting a losing battle to keep the steps clear of snow – stood to one side to let them pass, and the liveried doorman touched his silk top hat with a white-gloved hand as they went into the foyer.

The heaviest snowstorm for years was wreaking havoc on Dublin and Will had considered cancelling the celebratory dinner but hadn’t the heart to send a servant out in such atrocious weather. The deep snow had resulted in traffic chaos, the cabman had been forced to take a longer route to the hotel, and they were cold and late.

Will’s oldest friend, Fred Simpson, and his wife Margaret were waiting near the reception desk and gave them relieved smiles as Will and Isobel stamped snow from their shoes. They were shown to a table in the hotel’s dining room and they sat down. Although the large room was pleasantly warm, Isobel opted to unbutton but continue wearing her striking new coat of black velvet leaves on a white velvet background with black velvet collar and cuffs and Margaret chose to keep her exquisite black velvet cloak around her shoulders for the time being.

“May we have a bottle of champagne?” Fred asked the waiter. “We will make our selections from the menu shortly.”

“Very good, sir.”

The waiter left them and Fred grinned around the table.

“It is the 17th of January. Doctors Fitzgerald and Simpson have been in general practice together for just over a month and in partnership for a week. We couldn’t allow it to pass uncelebrated – despite the best efforts of the weather.”

“No,” Will agreed. “And I’ve never been for a meal here before. Have you?”

“I have,” Margaret replied, glancing around the elegant room, where the murmur of conversation intermingled with the clinking of glassware and china. “But it was a birthday dinner a long time ago. Fred.” She turned to her husband. “Isobel and I shouldn’t really be drinking champagne.”

“One glass won’t do you expectant mothers any harm.”

“No, I suppose not,” she conceded.

“Could you ask for a jug of water as well, please, Fred?” Isobel asked. “I’m parched.”

“Yes, of course. I hope this will be the first of many celebratory dinners.”

“So do I,” Isobel replied but didn’t sound particularly enthusiastic as she tucked a wisp of her dark brown hair behind her right ear.

At almost three months pregnant, the new gold-coloured evening dress she wore only emphasised how pale she looked and she was unusually quiet. While at four months pregnant, Margaret in mauve was positively blooming with colour in her cheeks following a weekend away in Co Wicklow. He and Isobel wouldn’t stay out too late this evening. Reaching for her hand under the table, he gave it a little squeeze and she squeezed it in reply.

The waiter served the champagne and they made their orders from the menu before Fred raised his glass.

“I propose a toast – to Margaret and Isobel – and to the continued success of Doctors Simpson and Fitzgerald’s medical practice.”

“To Margaret, Isobel and the medical practice,” they all chorused and sipped the excellent champagne.

“You’re going to have to excuse me for a few minutes.” Isobel got up and Will and Fred also got to their feet. “Could you come with me please, Margaret?”

“Of course,” Margaret replied and the two women left the dining room.

“Will, is Isobel all right?” Fred asked as he and Will sat down again.

“She’s tired,” he explained. “I’m delighted she’s pregnant but, ideally, it could have waited a few more months. She was prepared to come and live with me in Brown Street but then her mother gave us number 30 and all it entailed.”

“I thought she was coping well with the servants?” Fred added.

“She is, but being mistress of number 30 is still a huge responsibility, as is trying to ensure we don’t spend too much while you and I rebuild the practice.”

“She must think this dinner is an enormous extravagance?”

Will opened his mouth to reply but heard Margaret’s voice calling him.

“Will? Please, come quickly.”

Turning in his seat, he saw Margaret at the entrance to the dining room beckoning him to come to her. Both he and Fred went to her and Will’s heart turned over as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Where is Isobel?” he demanded.

“In there.” Margaret pointed to the ladies cloakroom.

Will pushed the door open and found Isobel sitting on the edge of an armchair just inside the door, her brown eyes wide with horror.

“Will, I’m bleeding. The baby—”

“We’ll go straight home.” He helped her up and out into the foyer. “Fred, find a cab.”

“I’ll ask the doorman to hail one for us,” Margaret said and hurried away from them.

“Isobel’s bleeding,” he whispered to Fred. “We need to bring her home at once.”

“Waiter.” Extracting his wallet from the inside pocket of his tailcoat, Fred pulled out a banknote and handed it to the young man. “I’m afraid we must leave.”

“Thank you, sir. Do you need any assistance?”

“No, thank you,” Will replied, searching the foyer for Margaret’s blonde head and spotting her at the revolving doors signalling for them to leave the hotel.

He and Fred guided Isobel outside, carefully down the steps, and into the waiting cab. Sitting beside her, he clasped her hands. They were freezing cold and he raised them to his mouth, gently blowing his warm breath onto her fingers.

“Number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, please,” Fred told the cabman before tipping the doorman, assisting Margaret into the cab, then getting in himself.

The cab, with the four of them squashed in the back, travelled excruciatingly slowly through deep snow to Fitzwilliam Square. When it stopped outside the Georgian townhouse, the cabman was asked to wait and they led Isobel inside.

“Some towels and warm water, please, Mrs Dillon,” Will instructed the cook-housekeeper as she approached them with concern in the hall. “My wife is unwell.”

Isobel was brought upstairs to the bedroom they shared on the second floor and Will lit all the gas lamps then the oil lamp on his bedside table. Mrs Dillon came in with an ewer of water, a basin and some towels draped over her arm and placed them on the marble-topped washstand. She and Will undressed Isobel, helped her into a nightdress and let down and plaited her hair while Fred pulled back the bedcovers and laid out the towels in the bed. Isobel was bleeding heavily and Will’s heart plummeted.

“My wife has gone to wait in the morning room, would you please look in on her, Mrs Dillon?” Fred asked. “She may be a little upset. Oh, and please bring the cabman inside for a hot drink, he must be frozen.”

“Yes, Dr Simpson,” the housekeeper replied and left the bedroom.

Isobel was lifted into the huge double bed on top of the towels and the pillows arranged at her back.

“Let me examine her, Will,” Fred offered.

“No—”

“I’m calmer than you are, so let me do it,” Fred insisted softly. “Wait outside.”

Will nodded and went onto the landing. I’m delighted she’s pregnant but, ideally, it could have waited a few more months. Wincing at what he had told Fred, he pulled open his white bow tie and his collar before leaning on the banister rail and closing his eyes.

Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he jumped and turned around.

“You probably already know,” Fred told him. “But Isobel is miscarrying. There is heavy vaginal bleeding with clotting, but it’s not excessive and I’m afraid nature will just have to take its course. I’m so sorry, Will.”

“Is she in pain?” he asked.

“She says there is cramping but nothing too extreme. I’ve helped her into her drawers and placed two small towels in the drawers to absorb the discharge.”

“Thank you, Fred. Take Margaret home. This must be awful for her.”

Fred nodded. “I’ll take your surgery and house calls tomorrow. Be with Isobel.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

Fred squeezed his arm and went downstairs.

Will took a deep breath before opening the bedroom door. Isobel was lying back against the pillows but her face was turned away from the door.

Closing the door behind him, he went to the bed and sat down. Gently putting his arms around her, he held her, feeling her trembling.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“This is no-one’s fault.”

“But it must be my fault,” she insisted. “Did Fred’s father leave me damaged when he carried out the abortion?”

“I don’t know,” he replied helplessly and kissed her temple. “You wanted some water at the hotel, would you like some now?”

“Yes. But please hold me first.”

“Of course I’ll hold you. Fred is taking my surgery and house calls tomorrow. I’m staying here with you. Are you hungry at all?”

“No. Just very thirsty.”

“I’ll ask for some water.”

He laid her back against the pillows and left the bedroom. Downstairs in the hall, he met Mrs Dillon.

“How is Mrs Fitzgerald?” the housekeeper asked anxiously.

“Please come into the morning room.” He opened the door for her and they went into the large reception room at the front of the house. “My wife is having a miscarriage,” he said, hearing his voice shake, and Mrs Dillon’s face crumpled in sympathy. “She isn’t in any pain but the process will take a day or two. After that…” He tailed off and sighed. “She will need time to recover, both physically and mentally. But now, she would like some water, please.”

“Water? Is that all?”

“Yes. And Dr Simpson will be taking my surgery and house calls tomorrow, so I can be here.”

Mrs Dillon nodded. “I’ll bring up a jug of water. I am so sorry, Dr Fitzgerald.”

“Thank you.”

He went back upstairs and into the bedroom. Isobel was sitting up, her face in her hands. He sat on the bed and she clung to him, sobbing. He stroked her hair until she rested her forehead on his shoulder and he heard a knock at the door. He lifted her head, kissed her lips, and opened the door.

Mrs Dillon, with more towels of various sizes laid over her arm, was lifting a tray with a jug of water and a glass on it from a table on the landing. She had clearly discreetly waited for Isobel to stop crying before knocking.

“Thank you,” he said, taking the tray from her, and watching as she draped the towels over his arm.

“If there is anything else you or Mrs Fitzgerald need, just ring.”

“I will. Goodnight.”

He closed the door and put the tray down on the bedside table. He poured a glass of water, sat on the bed again, and passed it to Isobel. She drank the water in three gulps, he took the glass from her and placed it back on the tray.

“I’m going to put some more towels under you and then I think we should try and sleep.”

“Yes.” She lifted herself, he laid the towels under her, then leant back against the pillows.

He got undressed and pulled on a nightshirt, extinguished the gas lamps and got into the bed. “If you are in any pain or if you feel the bleeding getting any heavier, wake me.”

She nodded and he turned the oil lamp down before lying down and holding her hand. He listened until hers was the deep and slow breathing of an exhausted person fast asleep. But he couldn’t sleep. This was two miscarriages now. Was she right? Had Duncan Simpson damaged her while carrying out her abortion? Would she never be able to carry a baby to full term? He lay staring up into the darkness and didn’t fall asleep until dawn was breaking. 

* * *

Isobel opened her eyes and ran her hands over her stomach. She was still cramping and could feel herself bleeding like a very heavy monthly. Will was fast asleep and snoring a little so she didn’t move. Two miscarriages. She blinked back tears. She’d so wanted a baby with Will and this pregnancy had been progressing positively – she’d almost reached the three-month mark.

“Isobel?”

Hearing Will’s voice, she turned to him in the twilight. He looked as exhausted as she felt and tears stung her eyes. This must be awful for him, he had been looking after her so well.

“I’m all right.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“No, but I am hungry.”

“Good.” He raised himself up onto an elbow. “So am I.”

“And I’d like to get up. I don’t want to lie in bed all day.”

“Well, if you’re sure?” he said, sounding uncertain.

“I am. And please don’t tell my mother?” she begged.

“Isobel, I’m going to have to tell her. I want her to be here with you tomorrow.”

“Mother can fuss tomorrow,” she said. “I want peace and quiet with you today.”

He leant over and kissed her lips. “I need to examine you first.”

He got out of bed, opened the curtains, then went out to the table on the landing where their water for washing and shaving was left for them. Carrying the two ewers into the bedroom, he closed the door with a foot before placing them on the washstand. He washed and dried his hands then pulled the bedcovers down.

He removed the soiled towels from her drawers before helping her to take the drawers off. Wrapping them in a large towel, he placed it on the floor by the door. Lying down on the bed, she opened her legs and stared up at the ceiling as he examined her.

“Is your bleeding heavier than the last time?” he asked.

“It feels heavier. But I wasn’t quite two months pregnant then.”

“Yes.” He straightened up, reached for a flannel, and began to clean her. “I can’t see anything which would lead me to worry. Nature will just have to take its course.”

“That’s what Fred said.”

After washing, shaving and dressing, Will helped her to wash and dress. She pinned up her hair, placed two more small towels in her drawers, then stood in front of the full-length wardrobe mirror smoothing her hands down the skirt of her new high-necked emerald green day dress.

From arriving in Dublin with nothing but the square-necked navy blue dress and black coat she was wearing, she now had five dresses, two coats and three hats to her name. Sadly, the gold-coloured evening dress would now be forever associated with the miscarriage. Perhaps she could bring it back to the dressmaker and have it altered in some way, as it would be a shame – and a waste – to never wear it again. But that is a decision for another day, she told herself, closing the wardrobe door.

Taking Will’s arm, they went slowly down the stairs to the ground floor breakfast room overlooking the rear garden which they used as an everyday dining room.

“Mrs Fitzgerald?” Mrs Dillon followed them inside. “I was preparing a breakfast tray for Florrie to take up to you.”

“Thank you, but I didn’t want to lie in bed all day.”

“My wife needs peace and quiet today, Mrs Dillon,” Will told her. “So, no callers, please.” As he spoke, a bell jangled downstairs in the servants’ hall and he sighed. “I’ll see who that is.”

He went out to the hall and Isobel sat down at the table, her stomach rumbling.

“Some porridge, toast and marmalade and coffee, Mrs Fitzgerald?” Mrs Dillon asked.

“Oh, yes, please.” She gave the housekeeper a grateful smile as she heard Fred’s voice in the hall. “I’m very hungry.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“I’m afraid the bed is in rather a mess—” she began but Mrs Dillon held up a hand.

“Don’t you worry about that, Mrs Fitzgerald. You just rest and recuperate.”

Mrs Dillon left her and a couple of moments later both Will and Fred came into the breakfast room. The weather must be bitterly cold still as Fred was wearing a black woollen overcoat with a grey scarf wound around his neck almost covering his chin.

“I’m delighted to see you up and about.” Fred bent and kissed her cheek and she smiled as his black moustache tickled her ear.

“Thank you for all you did last night, Fred.”

“Not at all. I’m glad I was able to help.”

“I hope Margaret wasn’t too upset?” she asked.

“She was, a little, but she’ll be very relieved when I tell her you are up and about and hungry.”

“Fred.” She clasped his hand. “The last thing I want is any awkwardness between Margaret and myself. I would be delighted if she would call here in the next few days. Will and I are going to have a very quiet day today.”

“Of course.”

“And perhaps we could attempt the celebratory dinner again soon, too?”

Fred gave her a grin. “When you’re well enough, we’ll all go to the Shelbourne again.”

“Yes. Will you stay for some breakfast?”

“Thank you, but no. I simply called to see how you were. It has stopped snowing at last but it’s deep and difficult to walk in so I’d better be on my way to the practice house.”

“Thank you, Fred. Be careful.”

Fred kissed her hand and Will followed him out of the room. A few minutes later Will returned with Florrie, one of their house-parlourmaids, and their breakfast.

Isobel soon finished a bowl of porridge, two triangular slices of toast and marmalade followed by a cup of coffee, and was sitting back satisfied in her chair when she heard her mother’s angry voice in the hall.

“What do you mean, no callers today? Don’t be ridiculous, girl, I’m her mother. Is she still at breakfast?”

Isobel exchanged a weary glance with Will and he swore under his breath as footsteps approached the breakfast room door and it opened.

“Mrs Henderson.” Will got to his feet as her dark-haired mother came in wearing a russet-coloured dress and hat she favoured with a matching cloak.

“What is this nonsense, Isobel?” she demanded, pulling off her black gloves. “The maid said you were receiving no callers today?”

Will closed the door to the hall then held the chair next to Isobel’s as Mrs Henderson sat down.

“I’m afraid we have some bad news,” he said, returning to his seat at the head of the table. “Isobel is losing the baby.”

“Losing..?” Her mother frowned, struggling to grasp Will’s meaning.

“I’m having a miscarriage, Mother,” she said quietly.

Mrs Henderson clapped both her hands to her cheeks. “Oh, Isobel. Oh, why didn’t you tell me at once? Why are you not in bed?”

“We were going to tell you later, Mother, and I wanted some peace and quiet today but not to lie in bed all day.”

“Why did this happen, Will?”

“I’m afraid there is no answer to that,” he replied. “It’s just one of those things.”

“I’m so sorry. I was so looking forward to being a grandmother.”

“Would you like some coffee, Mother?” she asked, changing the subject and gesturing towards the coffee pot.

“No, thank you. As it has stopped snowing, I called to ask if you would like to visit the National Gallery this afternoon as I have never been, but it can wait.”

“Perhaps next week?” she suggested.

“Oh, Isobel,” Mrs Henderson whispered, her voice shaking.

“Don’t cry, Mother, please,” she said, fighting to keep her own voice steady. Or I will start again, she added silently.

Mrs Henderson pulled a handkerchief from a sleeve and dried her eyes. “Would you like me to stay with you?”

“I will be staying with Isobel today,” Will told her. “But if you could stay with Isobel tomorrow, I would be very grateful.”

“Yes, of course. But may I call this evening?”

“Yes, you may.” Will nodded. “Shall I see you out?”

Her mother kissed her cheek before getting up and leaving the room with Will following. He returned a few moments later, kissed the top of her head, and poured them some more coffee.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. The porridge was delicious.”

“Good.”

They settled on the huge reddish-brown leather sofa in the morning room, fell asleep, and didn’t wake until luncheon was announced at one o’clock. After some delicious thick vegetable soup and soda bread, she went upstairs to change the towels in her drawers. She then put on her beautiful black and white velvet coat and joined Will in the garden for some fresh air and to see the snow.

The steps down from the back door and a couple of yards of the path had been dug out but the remainder of the long and narrow garden which ran between the house and the mews was covered with at least five inches of snow. She hadn’t seen so much snow since one severe winter in Co Galway when she and her elder brother, Alfie, her parents and the servants had been snowed in at Ballybeg Glebe House for three extremely long days.

Snow drifts had rendered the roads impassable and being cut off from, not just Ballybeg village, but also from his beloved church, her father’s cruel and vindictive temper intensified. The Reverend Edmund Stevens took his frustration out on, not only his wife and children but also on the servants for the first and last time. As soon as the roads were passable, their cook-housekeeper and house-parlourmaid packed their bags and left. It was almost a month before they were replaced and, having inherited her mother’s lack of culinary skills, the meals the two of them struggled to produce simply served to infuriate him even more.

February 23rd would bring the first anniversary of his death. Were any of his former parishioners mourning him, she wondered because his widow and children most certainly were not. Crouching down on the path, she laid the palm of her right hand on the snow. It had an icy crust which even the warmth of her hand couldn’t melt. Her father’s heart had been frozen through and through and his grave in cold, damp peaty soil near the church door in Ballybeg Churchyard, and now likely covered with a deep blanket of snow, was a fitting resting place for him.

“Whenever there was snow at the Glebe House, my father never allowed Alfie and I to play in it,” she told Will, straightening up and rubbing her hands together. “He wanted his precious garden to always appear pristine. But when it began to snow here, I was already visualising our child playing out here with us – throwing snowballs and building a snowman – things Alfie and I were forbidden to do. How silly of me.”

“Remember what I said, Isobel,” he said, raising her hands to his lips. “If it turns out that we can’t have a child ourselves, we will adopt. We may not have made the child ourselves but we will have a child.”

“But I wanted us to have a child we made. I wanted to have your child, Will.”

“Isobel?” They turned around as Alfie stood at the back door wearing a black woollen overcoat similar to Fred’s and a pale blue scarf wound around his neck. “No, don’t step into the snow, there’s enough room on the path for the three of us.” Closing the door, he came down the steps. “I had lectures this morning and Mother has just told me. Oh, Isobel.” He kissed her cheek before hugging her. “I’m so sorry.”

“Is Mother very upset?” she asked.

“Yes, she is. I’ve persuaded her to go and lie down. I have only one lecture tomorrow and it’s first thing in the morning. Would you like me to call here afterwards and keep you company?”

“Well, I had already asked Mother, but if you could come as well and try and keep the conversation a little upbeat?”

Alfie smiled. “I’ll try my best.”

After her mother called that evening, Isobel and Will retired to bed early. Will examined her again and agreed with her that the rate of bleed was slowing. He kissed her lips then turned down the oil lamp and she fell into a deep sleep with her head resting on his chest.

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Apart from the photograph of The Weir on the River Dodder, which is thought to have been taken in January 1881, there doesn’t seem to be any other photographs taken in Dublin at that time.
Photo credit: Hartmut Feb 27 2018 by NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Winter / National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Photo credit: Weir on the River Dodder Below Orwell Bridge / National Library of Ireland on The Commons No known copyright restrictions
Photo credit: Into The Liffey / National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Picture credit: The South side of Mountjoy Square in the snow of 2010 – Photographed by Bryan Butler – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Kobac using CommonsHelper and used under CC BY 3.0
Picture credit: A Backstreet in the Snow by Walter Osborne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Picture credit: Old Dublin – Marrowbone Lane – Whyte’s Auction House