Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Twenty-One



"Where is he?"

"He's being taken to his quarters now."

Rather than ask where that might be I followed the Sheriff and the Chancellor as they hurried across the Hall.  His rooms were actually next to his office which I thought rather strange but then again I was not a doctor and up at all hours seeing to emergencies.

A young woman came through a door tying the sash of a robe.  I looked at her and said, "Please tell me you are Dr. Cummins' wife."

"Yes."

"Thank goodness.  We need to get him stripped down so we can see what his injuries are and he'll be less likely to complain if it his wife doing it."  And when I noted how that sounded I blathered, "And naturally you will too.  I mean ..."

A rather nervous hiccup of laughter escaped her and she said, "I know what you mean."

I walked into the doctor's surgery and then stomped my foot in frustration.  "Why does everything in here require a degree in Latin and Greek to read?!"

Then there was a breathless, "Ma'am, Mizz Marta said you'd need this."

I turned to find Alyce completely out of breath but holding a quilted satchel.  I looked at her and said, "Please tell her that she is a blessed woman and that I intend to grow up and be just like her."

The men looked at me like I had taken leave of my senses but Alyce gave a quick smile that faltered when she glanced towards the doctor and then rushed back to what I knew would be Mizz Marta's side.  That was when another woman entered the room.

I looked up and we sized each other up.  She said, "I'm April."

"I'm Leeda.  If you will kindly deal with your brothers before they have palpitations I will deal with the doctor."

"A plan it is.  I like you already."

April rounded on her brothers and I turned to the doctor.  His wife was already washing the cuts and bruises and he was regaining consciousness.  I stepped over and said, "Behave for your wife Sir or you'll have both April and I poking at you."

That stopped him for a moment but when I opened the satchel and he saw what it contained he snapped, "I am fine.  I do not need any quackery."

"Hah.  What is more quackery than that pharmacopoeia of ingredients in your surgery?  I could only read about half of the labels in there ... and most of it is because of someone's hideous handwriting."

"You can read Greek and Latin?"

I rolled my eyes.  "I don't do it for fun and pleasure but yes.  How else am I supposed to tell which medicinal plant belongs to which family?  Now be still or I'll have your wife sit on you."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Save your begging for your wife Sir.  I have a feeling she is going to need to be a long-suffering sort to deal with you.  It is common knowledge that for centuries doctors have made the worst patients."

I was an hour cleaning, salving, and stitching and at the end of it I was nearly as exhausted as the doctor.  I left him in the care of his wife and closed the door to their rooms to give them some much needed privacy.

My hands were shaking as I cleaned things up trying to leave the room's contents as painstakingly neat as I had found them.  A quiet knock and then a head came around the corner.  "Hi.  I'm Nancee.  April asked if you'd come to the ... well it is the sitting room that is that putrid green with all the animal heads on the wall ... when you are finished."

"I'll be there in about two moments."

I closed Miss Marta's satchel and made a note that I needed to replenish the bandages and cleaning cloths in it then headed to what was usually called the Huntsman Room; though the "one that is the putrid green color" described it just as well.

The door was open and I walked in.  "How is he?" the Chancellor demanded upon seeing me.

"Resting at the moment but he is going to be sore for a while.  I see no evidence of concussion or internal injuries but I told his wife the symptoms to look for.  There was another woman there ... older ...?"

April said, "That would be Lorna.  She's Kate's companion."

"Kate?  Oh, you mean the doctor's wife."  I rubbed my forehead.  A glass was pushed into my hand and I looked to up to see the Sheriff.

"It's cider.  You need the sweetening."

"More than likely," I said knowing he meant both for energy and for my nature.  "I'm almost afraid to ask what happened to cause this."

The Sheriff said, "I had decided to walk to the home John was going to when I came upon him being drug off into the bushes by three bad characters.  I startled them and they took a shot at me.  I returned fire.  Winged one, one got away, and one is laid out in the butcher's shed getting sketched for identification purposes before he gets hung at the crossroads."

"Thieves?"

"No, or at least they did not act like most thieves act."

April glared and said, "Had they been thieves, there would have been no need to beat John.  He would have given up his purse without a struggle."

I looked at the Sheriff but his eyes told me to keep any further questions to myself.

April and Nancee both bid me a goodnight after saying it was nice to meet me even under such circumstances, or perhaps because of the circumstances since I had been able to help John.  That's when I noticed how late it was and excused myself to go speak with any staff that remained awake.

"Chancellor, perhaps we can reschedule our meeting."

"Of course Widow.  But do not worry, I will put into motion what we've already spoken of."

"Thank you."  I turned to leave, bidding the remaining people in the room a goodnight with a nod of my head.

I made my way below stairs and as I had suspected there were several staff sitting up waiting for news.  "He'll live," I told them.  "Now you lot need to get some rest.  And Mr. Holman!  What are you doing still up?"

"Actually Widow, I felt better this evening than I have in some time.  And that's even not taking the doctor's tonic."

"About that tonic ..."  I shook my head.  "Never mind.  We are all too tired.  Seriously though, everyone but the ones on night duty need to get some rest.  I'm not sure what the next few days will bring but we all need to be ready for whatever it might be."

They filed out and I walked quietly to Mizz Marta's quarters and stuck my head in.  Alyce was asleep on a cot.  I set the satchel down as silently as I could but something must have awoken Alyce for she sat up quickly.  I put my finger to my lips and then mouthed, "He'll be alright.  How is Mizz Marta?"

"Better ma'am."

Carefully I asked, "Did she have the doctor's tonic?"

"Not today.  Mrs. Kinsey didn't bring it."

Even more carefully I asked, "Mrs. Kinsey is the one that makes the tonic?"

"No ma'am but she is the only one allowed to fetch it but the Doctor has been out most of the day and then ... I'm sure he'll have orders on how to make it up for everyone, especially now it seems to be working."

"Hmmm.  Thank you Alyce.  Now get back to sleep.  Morning is going to come far too quickly I'm afraid."

I turned and was nearly back to the dining hall when a hand covered my mouth in the dark.

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