Bonnie darted along along the flagstone floor. Something was not right. The atmosphere of the palace seemed so disconcerting, why was there nobody there to greet her? She scurried up the staircase in the most un-lady like fashion, tapping on Theodore’s bedroom door. Mr Howard glanced at her, his expression pained.
“Miss McGrath, you should probably take today off, his Grace is-” Bonnie gasped, pushing past him. Theodore lay on his back, his sweat drenched hair clinging to his temples. He panted in desperation, in attempt to catch a normal breath. Bonnie placed a hand on his forehead.
“My God! What is going on? His fever is worse than ever, has his physician been called?”
“Yes he is on his way.”
Mr Howard stepped forwards. “I will raise his head, it should help slightly. There now.” He felt his hand and shook his head. “It is always the way, scorching forehead, but the rest of his body is cold.”
“Mr Howard, please fetch a basin of lukewarm water, and for goodness sake, raise him up against his pillows! Here, I will help you. Does he have a fresh night shirt? This one is soaked in sweat.”
“Yes of course, I will get both. Oh and fresh sheets also.”
“Thank you.” Bonnie sighed, stroking Theodore’s cheek. “You may be a very stubborn man, but I do believe that I have grown very fond of you. Don’t give up my dear, not yet.” She sniffed.
“My that was quick, I’ll step outside the door.”
“I-I may need assistance Miss McGrath, I’ll need you to help me when I sit him forwards, if-if you do not mind that is.”
“Of course not. He shall be covered and it will be far quicker with two of us.”
Bonnie smiled weakly, relieved to be of help. “I do not mind, I helped my Mother to look after my Father when he was ill, so I have some idea what to do.” They removed his old nightshirt, carefully washing his face as Bonnie dabbed it, wiping away the sleep from his eyes. She grasped the towel. “I will dry his top half, I think we should roll him so we can change his bottom sheet. That’s it, now then, push the clean sheet underneath him and roll him to me please. I am glad now that Mother taught me how to do this. There, we shall roll him to you and I shall sort this side.” Bonnie straightened the sheet, tucking in the sides and placing on a new coverlet, satisfied.
“He looks clean and comfortable now, I’ll brush his hair, it does not look so bad.”
Howard smiled. “I am very impressed.”
“Yes, you would make a fine nurse. He looks far better now that he is properly supported.”
“Yes, I imagine that he is very thirsty. Here now, I shall dampen his lips and that should help a little. Hmm.” Bonnie cleared her dry throat, gazing up on hearing footsteps.
Mr Howard stepped forwards. “Ah Mr Dickinson.”
“Mr Howard.” He nodded in acknowledgement. Bonnie stepped to one side.
“I-I should probably wait outside, shouldn’t I? I’ll be in the small parlour on this floor.”
Bonnie paced into the room, pulling her shawl more tightly around herself. She stood, gazing into the mirror at her pale face and adjusted her wispy hair, re-pinning it into a neater bun. She proceeded to read one of the leather bound books upon the bookshelf, thumbing through the pages without reading so much as a word, blinded by tears.
“Ah Mr Howard?”
“I came quickly to bring you some refreshments. Here now, here is a pot of tea and…”
“Ham, bread and cheese. Thank you, how wonderful. Once I have finished these, am I allowed to return?”
“Yes, yes of course.”
Bonnie poured the tea taking a long sip, it was true, she was very thirsty herself. She finished the first cupful, pouring another. What a relief it was to have something in her growling stomach. Bonnie made a small sandwich, nibbling one corner, keeping a close eye on the clock. Bonnie placed her empty dishes down, placing her head upon the chair arm and closed her eyes.
“Really? What is she still doing here at this time?” Bonnie opened her eyes, stirring in the chair. It was the Queen. Bonnie stood up, curtsying. She swallowed, attempting to smooth the creases in her dress, aware that she must look somewhat dishevelled.
“You-your Grace, please forgive me. I must have fallen asleep. I will return to see his Grace.”
Mr Howard felt Theodore’s brow once more. He closed his eyes, sighing deeply.
“Miss McGrath, he is cool again, his fever has broken.”
Bonnie gasped as she placed a hand to his cheek.
“Oh, thank the Lord! The fever had only a short duration. He must rest now, he will need a great deal of sleep and peace and quiet.”
“How do you know what he needs? You are a reader, that is all.”
“I am his friend.”
“His friend!” Queen Evangeline mocked. “You are a servant, kindly remember your place. You are spending too long in his company and it is time for you to go home. My son does not want you here.” She lied.
“That’s not true!”
“Bon-” Theodore muttered as he stirred in his bed. Bonnie glanced at him as he opened his eyes, sighed and closed them again.
“There now, you are going to be alright, do not worry.”
He opened his eyes once more. “That friendly voice.” He muttered, smiling and attempting to lift his aching arms from the bed. Bonnie took his hand in hers, placing it to her face.
“It is Miss McGrath your Grace, your fever has broken.”
“Would you like a drink of water before you go to sleep again?”
She placed her arm under his head to hold him up, placing a fresh glass of cool water to his lips.
“This is just water, sip it very slowly.” He did so, until he had finished the glassful. Bonnie combed his hair, patting his hand.
“That is much better, it had become all knotted, but now it is smooth. You are lucky to be a man your Grace, my hair has proved to be a complete nightmare all of my life.”
Bonnie looked up, staring at Queen Evangeline, who had backed herself towards the door and stood there looking on at them, before leaving the room with haste.
“Your hair matches your personality then.” Theodore muttered.
“How very naughty of you to say.” Bonnie laughed. “It is a sign that you must be feeling a little better. For today, you have my full permission to say what you like to me.”
Theodore smiled, a tiny tear forming in his cracked bottom lip. Without saying anything, Bonnie reached into her pocket and produced a tiny pot. She opened it, placing some on her index finger and smoothed it onto his top and bottom lip.
“It is a little balm, made from beeswax. Mother and I make it. I hope that it soothes you.”
“Hmm, that is so much better.”
“Would you like some more water?”
“Hmm, thank you.”
“Now then, you must go to sleep again, for you have not rested nearly enough.”
“Please tell me another story.”
“Very well then. Once upon a time there was a little girl with fiery red hair and lots of freckles, who stuck out like a sore thumb.”
“However did you guess?! Anyway, one day when she came home from school there were surprises waiting for her. It was her 10th birthday, the best of all was an easel, for she wanted to become a teacher more than anything. Her Father had crafted it himself. It was upon that easel that she taught her younger brother Andrew how to read and write and it still stands to this day in the corner of the room. Each time I use it, it reminds me of my lovely Dad.”
“That is a thoughtful gift.” Theodore smiled.
“I am sure that you no longer ‘stick out’ as you put it.”
“I am afraid that I do, your Grace. I am freckly and ginger and well, not at all attractive.”
“Ugly? No, not you! Beauty comes from within Bonita, come a little closer.” He tried to reach his arm up, but could not. Bonnie held his hand to her face once more, as he gently ran his fingertips over her face, sensing the natural contours of her bone structure.
“You have large eyes, which I imagine are expressive, a fine nose and well-shaped lips. Your skin is soft and well kept, I think you must be a real beauty.”
Bonnie inhaled. “Thank you.” She whispered. “That means a great deal to me, more than you could ever know.”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014