Chapter 12 - The Knowledge of April: The Danger
After talking a bit more about the details and enthusing together over the story, they decided they had enough discoveries for one day and put the journal away. April knew she would read some more that evening and then could show parts of it to Peter as he wished. It was a little after 1:00 and time to start heading back to the house and then on to get Elisa from school. As Peter helped her up from the blanket she noticed his hands felt really warm. He swayed a bit and then steadied. He brushed aside her concern, saying it was just from being in the warmth of the sun for so long.
The walked slowly back to the house mostly in silence, so much had happened in this one day. As they crossed the bridge over the stream, Peter stumbled a little. April was starting to worry. Peter didn't stumble, ever. A few feet from the gardens he turned to her, his eyes glassy, and his face pale. He swayed against her and they fell to the ground. She screamed. She had broken his fall and thankfully he had not hit his head. She felt bruised but not injured. Peter wasn't conscious at all. She began calling for help. Not able to move him by herself, she felt so helpless. Seconds later her mother, father, and Elisa came running out of the house. She was confused but decided to ask questions later.
"Daddy, please help him," she pleaded.
"I've got him sweetheart," her father said as he lifted Peter and with long strides went quickly to the house. Her mother was already there opening the doors and giving orders.
"Manfred, put him on the couch. Elisa, fill up the teapot. April, bring in the picnic basket and blanket."
Following April out to get the basket, she asked what they had done that day, had he eaten something strange, been injured in some way? April was confused trying to think and then it dawned on her. The grove!
"Mom, we were at the grove most of the morning. The thick brush and thorny bushes at top, Peter's hand got scraped by them."
Miranda's face went pale, "Poisoned! April, get your grandmother's journal. Put the teapot on the stove, get out my mortar and pestle and box of herbs. Have your father take Elisa over to Sophie's and then find his whittling knife. We have to act very quickly."
Then to herself as April ran to do her bidding, "Do I still have the chokeberry plants? Yes, there they are!" Running through the garden she stopped and pulled up a plant with purple berries and ran into the house.
In the house, Miranda grabbed the diary off the table and to April's surprise her mother turned directly to a recipe for an herbal poison remedy. Miranda expertly started to fix the paste. April's father came back in after seeing to Elisa and gave April the whittling knife. April followed her mother's instructions for sterilizing the knife while her father went to sit with Peter. April didn't want to ask what the knife was for. She didn't want to know. She was glad her mother had a plan because she was so scared she could hardly breathe.
When all was ready, she ran into the living area where Peter was still unconscious on the couch. As she reached him he moaned and called her name. She was beside him in an instant on her knees smoothing the hair off his forehead. Murmuring things like, "I'm here my love," in his ear, oblivious to the watching eyes of her father. He was burning with fever and his scratched hand was red and angry looking. There were purple streaks up his forearm and he was starting to tremble. Her mom had said he was poisoned. This was all her fault. But, she pulled herself out of despair to listen to her mother.
"We must reopen the scrapes and make sure this paste goes deep into the wounds. It is the only thing that will neutralize the poison in his system. The thorns on those bushes are long and chances are they went deep."
April said, "It seemed to really hurt him when it happened. I didn't see any puncture wounds though, but he wouldn't let me tend it at the time."
"Manfred, he is coming in and out of consciousness. You are going to have to hold him down. April, get something for him to bite down on, this is going to hurt. Also, pull those rags and bandages closer. Ready now?"
The next twenty minutes were the worst of April's life. More so than when her grandmother died. Seeing Peter writhing in pain as the small scalpel-like knife cut the red and inflamed flesh on the back of his hand was terrible. It seemed her mother had to cut so many places and it was April's job to press in the paste as hard as she could. It was excruciating to have cause him more pain. Finally, it was finished. It had not been easy for any of them. Her father was sweating from having to hold him still, her mother's hands were shaking slightly, and she felt faint. Miranda with surprisingly practiced hand took his pulse and timed his breathing. She seemed pleased with the results. All they could do now was wait. Her father went out to get some air and her mother cleaned up. She sat on the floor near his head and leaned against the couch. She put her head in her hands and cried.
Peter started to stir and April roused herself. Smoothing his brow she whispered. "It's okay Peter, you are going to be all right."
His eyelids fluttered for moment and he moaned and then slipped back into unconsciousness again. Miranda came in to make sure his hand was off the couch and palm up to let the cuts drain better. She changed the dressings and seemed pleased with the progress. She had April hold his arm still while she applied more of the chokeberry paste. He didn't stir.
"Mom, is he going to be all right?" April asked with fear in her voice.
"I believe so April. Did your grandmother never tell you that those thorn bushes in the grove were poisonous?"
April shook her head, "No. She told me I would be lost if I tried to go through. If I had known there was poison I would have warned him. I still feel so responsible. How did you happen to have the chokeberries in the garden? How did you know exactly what to do? And, how did Father come to be here?"
"Why, I have always had the plants, ever since you started going to the grove, just in case something like this were to happen. I almost tore them out last season, but decided as long as the grove was there they might be needed."
Her mother took a deep breath, "I trained as a nurse under Dr. Brown when I was young, before I married your father. After we married, I only nursed you and your father. And, there was a half holiday at the mill today. Some pieces of equipment had broken. Your father picked up Elisa early then headed home. I am so glad he was here."
Peter started to come to, "Wh...what happened? April? Where am I?"
"Peter! It was the thorns in the grove, the scrapes on your hand, they were poisonous, we had to...I'm so sorry."
"Slow down," he said groggily. "Can I have some water and did I see your father here? I think I am going to need his help..."
Mr. Treed helped Peter to the lavatory and her mother ordered Peter to drink more water than he wanted in order to flush any remaining poison out of his system. April filled him in on the details of what had happened.
"Amazing," he said, more lucid now. "Good thing I didn't try to go rushing through there. Those scratches were really superficial, I imagine the poison would act a lot faster if someone were pierced by the thorns many times. There really must be something dangerous beyond that area."
Peter grew more alert as the evening went on and was able to eat some broth for supper. April had to feed it to him which surprisingly she enjoyed. He started to get frustrated at his weakness, especially when he couldn't walk or even sit up. How embarrassed he was to have to ask her father for help.
As Mr. Treed settled him back on the couch after one such trip, he made a comment. "You have been injured before."
"Yes. Many times in fact," Peter replied. "The most memorable was during the one-on-one contest with the Telmarine King. Although older and slower than me, he was strong and had more experience with a sword. He dislocated my shoulder and I got some pretty bad cuts."
"I could tell. You were mostly unconscious, but you took the pain well. I've seen full grown men do much worse."
"Thank you sir. It felt like someone was cutting off my hand."
Miranda had come in and was taking his pulse again. April was hovering close by.
"Regardless of whatever pain there was, thank you all, you saved my life and I am eternally grateful."
"I'm just glad we were able to help," said Miranda graciously.
April asked Peter if he wanted to sleep. He said no. She offered to read to him from the journal. She looked at her father for permission. He nodded and told her wait until Elisa went to sleep. She kissed him on the cheek and then kissed Peter on the forehead and went up to settle Elisa for the night.
"Thank you again sir," said Peter. "I know what you did could not have been easy."
Mr. Treed smiled ruefully, "No, but usually the things worth doing aren't easy."