“Might I listen to your chest your Grace?”
Theodore nodded reluctantly as the room fell silent. He rested his head back against the pillows as his body tensed. Mr Dickinson paused, moving the stethoscope around a little and sighed. He sat there for five minutes or so before removing it.
“You will tell me the full truth, do not lie to me for I already understand that my health is declining.”
“It- it is true your Grace, it has been.”
“I know, I can feel it.”
“There is little else to tell you, except the fact that you have a fever, but once that is under control you shall be fine.”
“Is that all you know? Ask Miss McGrath to come back in please and you may go.”
“I shall speak with your Mother.”
“Do what you must.”
Mr Dickinson exited the room, opening the bedroom door and glanced down the corridor to where Mr Howard and Bonnie sat.
“I am leaving now.”
“Might I go back in?”
“Yes of course Miss McGrath.”
Bonnie nodded, entering Theodore’s bedroom where he lay on his side. He was crying. Without saying so much as a word, she sat beside him, placing a hand upon his shoulder, much to her surprise, he placed a hand on top of hers.
“There, there my dear. I think you would do well to rest in bed for the rest of the day, but do not worry, I shall sit with you. Here now, you really are warm. I will fetch a cloth and some cool water.”
She searched for a small basin in the main bathroom and found one in one of the long cupboards. Bonnie filled it half full, grasping a clean cloth. She seated herself by Theodore, placing the basin on the bedside table.
“You might as well just put it onto my head and leave it there.”
“No. I will do it properly. Here now.” She dabbed his brow with care, gently washing down to his neck.
“Oh what a difference that makes, thank you.” He closed his eyes and sighed as a single, silver tear dropped onto his cheekbone. Bonnie wiped it away.
“Don’t apologise, you don’t have to worry about crying in front of me.”
“But I am a man.” He sniffed.
“So, what’s wrong with men crying?”
“It doesn’t feel socially acceptable.” Theodore forced a smile, wiping his eyes and inhaling deeply.
“Do not worry about that. Here, will you take some water? I will adjust your pillows a little for you. There now. Can you manage?” She placed the glass in his grasp.
“Yes, thank you.” With a shaky hand, he sipped at the water until the contents of the glass had gone.
“Would you like another?”
“Yes please, although I am afraid that if I drink too much then..”
“You might be in need of the bathroom?”
“You read my mind. Yes indeed.”
“Do not worry about that. If that is the case, then I shall ring for Mr Howard.”
“I’ll sit outside the room. Shall I fetch a book so that I can read to you?”
“You could tell me another of your stories.”
“Yes of course. Ah, Mr Howard.”
“Hello your Grace and Miss McGrath.”
“Good day. I think I need to use the bathroom.”
“Of course. I shall assist you, although I do not know whether you should be out of bed. Are you able to walk your Grace?”
“I think so, if I go slowly that is.”
“I can help you both, Mr Howard and I can go either side of you and help you to walk. Now then, here is your dressing gown. I’ll help you to put it on.”
Theodore nodded as Bonnie grasped his dressing gown, assisting him to place his arms in and tied it around his middle. He placed his legs over the end of the bed, standing rather shakily, as he placed his arms around their necks.
“Now we shall hold your waist. There now, how does that feel?”
They entered the bathroom.
“Mr Howard. I will wait outside now.”
“Yes of course, I can manage this part.”
Bonnie nodded, closing the bathroom door behind her. Mr Howard assisted Theodore onto the toilet and turned his back for a moment.
“I – I am finished. It sounds like a foolish think to ask, but well, I should really like a bath.”
“Not at all your Grace, I shall run it for you now and I might as well change your bed sheets also.”
“I can do that while you are having your bath.” Came a voice from outside the door.
“Ah, Miss McGrath you do not have to.”
“No I shall.”
“There is a linen cupboard at the end of this corridor with fresh sheets upon the shelves. Place the old ones into the laundry bag and they shall be cleared away by one of the other servants.”
“Yes of course, thank you Mr Howard.”
Mr Howard turned on the taps, allowing the warm water to circulate the bathtub before putting in the plug.
“I-I am finished.” He helped him from the toilet, seating him on the window seat to allow the bath to fill a little more. He sat by him for support, noticing the goose bumps appearing on his neck.
“You are cold, aren’t you?”
“A little, but these days I always am Howard.”
“Well, the bath is ready now. I shall turn off the taps. There.” He assisted Theodore over to the bath tub and removed his dressing gown, helping him to be seated in the bath water. Theodore sighed.
“I feel like a small child again.”
“You cannot help being ill your grace.”
“I suppose not. The bath water is so soothing, thank you Mr Howard.”
“Here now. I shall wash your hair for you and we shall go from there.”
Bonnie adjusted the top sheet under the coverlet, smoothing it carefully and tucking it under on one side. She closed the window she had opened to allow some fresh air to circulate around the room. She looked up as Mr Howard re-entered the room, carrying Theodore. He smiled.
“A fine job you have done there, Miss McGrath.”
He placed Theodore into bed, propping him up with the pillows and drying his damp hair once more with a towel. Mr Howard combed it as the waves started to re-appear.
“I feel very refreshed, I am content. I think I may have a little sleep now.”
“Then, I shall go and leave you in peace.”
“No please, not yet.”
“Your Grace, Miss McGrath has been here for nearly 9 hours.”
“Oh gosh, I am being selfish. Yes, you must go home before it gets dark and rest.”
Bonnie patted his hand, “you too must sleep and try to eat something more if you can. Another cup of broth perhaps?”
“Yes, very well.”
“I will stay with you for another 15 minutes or so until you have finished it and then I shall go.”
“Only if you are sure.”
“Of course I am.”
Howard smiled. “I shall bring some upstairs directly.”
“Thank you. Are you warm enough? Here, let me feel your hands. My God! They are freezing, here have my shawl.”
“No, please you must keep it. You will catch a chill walking home.”
“Where would I fetch another blanket from?”
Theodore did not respond, flopping against his pillows.
“Your Grace? Hello? Your Grace!”
Bonnie shook Theodore’s shoulder gently. “C-can you hear me?” He did not respond. Howard entered the bedroom, gazing at Bonnie’s white face.
“He- he is not responding.”
“Your Grace? Have you some smelling salts Miss McGrath?”
“Yes.” She took them out of her pocket, placing them under his nose. Theodore, gasped, inhaling deeply, his closed eyes flickering. He opened them, sensing their gentle hands upon his arms.
“I-I am sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Bonnie coaxed. “Here, have some water; you shall feel a bit better.”
“Thank you, there is little point, I have no purpose.” He muttered.
“I do not understand. Here, I will close your window fully, there is quite a gale blowing. There’s no wonder that you are now cold.”
“The North wind again.”
“You have mentioned it before.”
“Each day it beckons a little louder. But It does not need me, not yet.”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014