Edward opened his eyes, sensing Lucinda’s clammy body next to him. With great care, he lit a candle, holding it closer to her face. He swallowed, noticing the large dewdrops of cold sweat upon her brow. She muttered something which he did not fully understand.
“What were you saying my dear, I didn’t quite catch it?” There came no reply.
“Lucinda?!” she shook her, but still, she did not stir.
“Lucinda, can you open your eyes for me? Please try!”
Nothing. He took her shoulder and shook her. At last she opened her vacant eyes, with a pained expression upon her face.
“Lucinda? Here, take some water. I shall prop you up a little with the pillows, I’ll just place this large one behind your back. I’m going to wake Johnson and ask him to fetch a doctor. Please try to drink this.” She took a few sips from the water glass.
“Yes? Oh thank heavens!”
“Do you think that it is something serious?”
“No! Well, um I always think it wise to take precaution, you never know, especially at this time of year. Are you warm enough?”
“Good. I’ll be back in a matter of minutes.”
Edward pulled on his dressing gown, darting down the staircase to the servant quarters. He eyed all the individual rooms. Which one was it? With great anxiety, he knocked on Mr Johnson’s door.
“One moment.” Came the reply, as the lock clicked open.
“Sir, is everything quite alright?”
“It isn’t I fear. Johnson, it’s Lucinda. She’s not well, I feel that she needs a doctor.”
“Leave it to me sir, I’ll call him directly. No, wait I’ll go and get him myself.”
“I would be most grateful, I’d go only, I feel that I must stay with her.”
“Absolutely. What are her symptoms?”
“She has come over as weak all of a sudden, I found it very difficult to wake her just then. I fear that the dinner party was all too much for her. She has a high temperature also.This is my doing, please fetch him.”
“You mustn’t blame yourself sir.”
“Thank you Johnson.”
Johnson nodded and finished dressing, before darting downstairs, while Edward returned to Lucinda’s side.
“He has gone, but we have an hour to wait now my love. Shall I open this window?”
“Don’t tell the children.”
“I shan’t tonight.”
“No, I meant, if it is something serious, let them carry on believing that all is well, just for a little while longer until we’ve decided what to do.”
“As you wish. But let’s not think in such a way, not until your illness has been confirmed anyhow.”
“Alright. Could I have another drink of water? Only, my arms feel like lead and I don’t think I could lift them.”
“Of course. I shall hold the glass for you.”
“Oh Edward! Please don’t cry!”
“It was but a speck of dust.”
“I fear that the children are going to have to be sent away after all, they’re so young Edward! Too young for that. If it is something contagious, then I won’t have my children becoming ill! I do believe that it will give Annabella great pleasure!”
“Great pleasure? No I don’t think so.”
“Oh Edward, we shouldn’t have slept in the same bed last night, you may get unwell too my darling!”
“Shh, don’t worry. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. As for me, I’m fairly strong. I think I’ll take my chances.”
“No! I wont allow it. If the children are to be sent away and you are not ill, then you should go with them.”
Edward shook his head. “In sickness and in health. I must stay.”
“Lucinda, Johnson has returned with Doctor Smythe. We shall leave the room now.”
“No Edward! Johnson must, but you should stay in the bedroom, especially if you are adamant about not going away with the children. Are you absolutely sure?”
“I’m as certain as I have ever been and even more so. I will remain here at your side.”
“Then please, stay.”
To be continued…