Sunday, February 01, 2009


"Ah ha!" cried the physician. Grinning with pleasure, he held aloft the shot that had pierced Tilney's side. Lizzie realised that the cry had come from him and not the pale body before her. She grasped Tilney's hand and felt for a pulse at his wrist. It was still there, albeit weak.

"S'il vous plaît tenir encore," the doctor cautioned. Lizzie returned her hands to his shoulders although it seemed unlikely that he could move at all. However, when the surgeon began to sew up the would, Tilney did indeed begin to moan and move. Lizzie leaned down more firmly upon his shoulders and tried to restrain his movements.

The poor seamstress looked quite faint, clearly unaccustomed to such a sight in her little shop. But she held the basin steadily while the physician continued to mutter various oaths and imprecations under his breath as he tried to close the wound. Lizzie cast a glance at the work and blanched to see the terrible gash bound up with dark thread.

The physician, however, seemed quite pleased with his work. He reached into his bag to get a small bottle, which he then poured over the wound. Whatever was in the bottle must have been caustic, for it brought Tilney around with a shout and then a groan as he sank back down to the table.

"It must stay clean," the doctor said in painfully slow English. "Clean." He placed a square of linen over the horrible stitches and then sought her help to wrap bandages around Tilney's waist to hold the square in place. They slipped the roll under his back and Lizzie was too occupied to consider the intimacy of the moment, which was doubtless just as well.

Her thoughts were already as confused as a mending basket in a windstorm. She put all thoughts of propriety and correspondence away from her mind and concentrated on what would help her friend pull through this unfortunate experience. The seamstress smiled kindly and patted Tilney's head with a cloth dampened from the basin.

"Brandy," the physician said. "La fièvre, she always comes after. If he is strong, all will be well." He turned to the seamstress and bad her go get some men from the inn to take Tilney to a room there. Lizzie was grateful for his help.

"I will come back tomorrow," the doctor said, shaking Lizzie's hand. "To see how he goes and to receive my fee, one hopes." He chuckled, grabbed his bag and was out the door.

Lizzie leaned down to kiss Tilney's forehead. Already the heat of fever seemed to embrace it.

"Bennett?" he said weakly. "Is that you?"

Lizzie froze.

No comments: