Lucinda raced in a flurry into the bedroom. “Edward? Edward my dear! Oh Lord what is the matter with him? Oh what have I done? I shouldn’t have left him, not for one moment. How irresponsible I have been. I am to blame for this!”
“Ma’am, do not worry, I am going to fetch Doctor Smythe directly.”
“No wait, I’ll go Johnson. It is not far and I shall run all the way Ma’am”
“Yes- yes thank you Miss Douglas, please go now.”
Bessie nodded, returning to her room and pulling on her boots. Indeed she ran as fast as her legs could carry her, along the darkened streets and into the town. Number 62, where was it? She caught sight of it and banged on the front door with the flat of her hand.
“Doctor? Doctor Smythe! Please answer your front door sir!” She placed an ear to the door.
“Hello, can I help you?”
“It-I- Hello, I am the Ashdown’s Governess. The Master has taken ill. I came to fetch you, but you must hurry. He was soaked in the rain and caught a dreadful cold. I fear it is something worse! We can barely wake him, he is so cold and-”
“Heavens, I will be 2 minutes, you did the right thing. How is Mrs Ashdown?”
“A little shocked I imagine. I am aware that she is still not so well herself.”
He dressed, grabbing his leather doctor’s bag.
“Here, we shall take the horse and cart, we shall save time.”
“Will it take long to strap up the horse?”
“A matter of minutes. Here, climb in, can you manage?”
“Yes.” Bessie did so, smoothing her dress underneath her.
“There. Now tell me, have you been working for the Ashdowns for long?”
“No, just over a week, yet I feel like I have been there a lifetime.”
Mr Johnson stood, now dressed, holding a candle in the porch.
“We came as quickly as we could. How is he Johnson?”
“Come in the both of you, Miss Douglas, you are to go back to bed in case you catch something. Mrs Ashdown sends her thanks, I dare say that she will come and see you in the morning, she is with her husband now.”
“Well done my dear, I think that you may have saved the Master’s life.”
“Good night Miss Douglas.”
Johnson re entered the bedroom, closing the door behind him. Bessie did not return to her bedchamber, but pressed an ear to the door.
“It is strange. The fever seems to have gone to his head, quite literally, yet his body is very cold. Here Mrs Ashdown, feel for yourself, hold his hand in yours.”
“He is as cold as a corpse!”
“Precisely. We will need more blankets. I think the only way to cure him is to draw the fever down from his head.”
“By keeping his body warm and head cool. He will need plenty of rest and peace and quiet which will enable him to sleep well.”
“What about the Children? I’ll take my chances, I’m not leaving his side!”
“I recommend that they are sent away for a little while. The last thing you want is for your children to become unwell also.”
“I cannot do that! Where would they go?”
“Do you have family or friends whom they might lodge with for a while?”
Bessie stepped into the room. “Mrs Ashdown, if the children are to be sent away, then there is little point in me being here. I have a friend who lives in Surrey. Might I stay with her and take the twins with me? Please consider my offer. Your children and I know each other fairly well now. We could go for a week or two while you stay here and look after Mr Ashdown.”
“With all due respect, I do not know your family Miss Douglas and neither do my children.”
“Very well, it was only an idea. Ma’am, you will not like me saying this, but as you are not well yourself, wouldn’t it be sensible for you to go away too.”
“No! Edward needs care, Doctor Smythe cannot be here all the time, he has other patients to care for. I need to remain here and help to look after my husband. What a thing to suggest! You really are quite out of line!”
To be continued….