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' CAN you ride? It's a couple of miles.' 'I can try.' O'Dowd helped Nick up, and he hobbled to where Rowena was patiently waiting. She stood like a rock while Nick fumbled his way into the saddle and over the next part of the journey seemed to do her best to pick her way carefully.

By the time they arrived at the inn, Nick's leg was on fire, and he was only too glad to let O'Dowd take over.

It was decided to rest there a while to allow the injured and sick to recover a little. Basel was twenty miles further on, where the merchants and traders would leave them to go north to Dijon.

The Great Lie by Myrrha Stanford-Smith Lady Caroline came to where Nick was lying on a makeshift pallet in a room on the ground floor.

'Are you in much pain? Will you let me look at it?' 'It is not for you, my lady. O'Dowd has sent for a surgeon...' She gently pulled aside the blanket to find the straw palliasse under his thigh soaked with blood.

She caught her breath, rose and swiftly left the room, to return with her hussif and a servant with bowls and cloths and a steaming kettle. Nick got up on his elbow to object and succumbed to a wave of nausea.

She pushed him back with alarming ease, and set about her preparations, dropping tweezers and needles and silk thread into the hot water and cutting away O'Dowd's rough-and-ready field-dressing. It was stuck and she bathed it away from the gaping edges of the wound.

The cut had gone through the leather of his breeches into the muscle and was still bleeding.

'I fear there may be dirt, Master Talbot. It should be cleansed.' She went to the door to call O'Dowd, who came with a flask of brandy.

He forced a fair amount down Nick's throat, gave the rest to Lady Caroline and grasped the leg firmly between his enormous hands.

Nick gasped at the bite of the spirit in the wound, closed his eyes and set himself to endure as she tweezered and stitched.

What with the brandy and loss of blood, he passed out towards the end and missed most of the argument with the surgeon.

* The Great Lie by Myrrha Stanford-Smith is published by Honno at pounds 8.99 > CONTINUES TOMORROW
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 10, 2012
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