69. The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp

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Find me where ye echo lays
Lose ye bodies in the maze
See the lord and all the mouths he feeds
Let it roll among the weeds
Let it roll


'I'm so sorry,' I say to George's mother, attempting to be heard above the baby's screaming as I rock her, trying to soothe her.

It's five in the morning. It's just getting light and the baby has cried all night. Maybe not quite all night, but it feels it. George managed to settle her at first and she slept for a couple of hours, but since then I've been up and down to her several times. I've been pacing with her for at least an hour and a half now. Pacing the cold kitchen, in my nightie and bare feet, in hope of keeping her from waking the rest of the house. It's pointless, though. Her cries seem to reverberate around the bungalow. No one will have slept a wink.

Louise smiles at me, tiredly. 'She has quite a pair of lungs on her, doesn't she?' She leans round me to see the baby's face, bright red and screwed up. 'Aww, what's the matter, little love?' she says to her. 'What's all this fuss for?'

The baby must be exhausted by now, but no matter what I do, I can't stop her crying. George can. George has a talent for it, but he also seems to have a talent for being able to sleep soundly while his daughter screams the house down.

'I don't know what's wrong with her,' I say, irritated. 'She hasn't stopped crying for over an hour, non-stop. I've checked all the obvious things.'

Louise purses her mouth. 'Well, give her to me a moment, let's see if I can do anything.' She smiles and holds her arms out for the baby. 'Maybe she's coming down with something?'

I glance down at the baby in my arms, horrified that the thought she might be ill hadn't occurred to me. 'Do you think so?' I ask Louise, weakly.

'Or she could have a touch of colic perhaps.'

Louise lifts her out of my arms and takes her through the hall and into the living room. She sits down in an armchair with her, while I hover in the doorway, feeling like a spare part. Just outside the lounge, in the hallway, are two suitcases.

'Are you leaving?' I ask.

Louise glances up and follows my eyeline to the bags in the hall. 'Oh, I just packed them now so we wouldn't have to do it tomorrow,' she replies. 'I've kept out the things we'll need. I've been awake for a while, what with this little bundle of trouble.'

George's parents have been staying with us for the past week. I was dreading them coming to visit at first, but now I'm dreading them leaving, or George's mother leaving, at least.

Before she arrived, I was clueless. Frighteningly clueless. I thought this kind of thing was meant to come to you naturally, instinctively, but I wasn't even feeding her correctly. It hurt to do it and it was making me so sore. I don't think the baby was getting enough milk either. It was distressing both of us. Louise showed me how to hold her so she was at a different angle, so it was easier. It didn't feel as bad for me and the baby seemed a lot more satisfied with it too. I still feel a bit delicate, but it's helped enormously.

'Whatever's the matter, little love?' Louise coos to the baby. 'Poor little thing, shush now, poor baba.'

She expertly cradles the baby, swaying her gently and miraculously, her cries die down into soft whimpers and whines. Everyone talks to the baby like this, in sweet, cute baby talk. They just slip into it easily, but I can't bring myself to do it. I speak to her like she's a mini-adult, like she understands every word. Maybe that's why she won't stop crying when I hold her. Maybe I talk to her in the wrong way? With the wrong tone of voice?

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