“Isobel, I need ice. As much as you can get. We have to get this fever down.”
Elsie gripped Richard’s arm. “Am I going to lose him?”
Richard looked at his friend. “If I can’t get the fever down, then, yes. I’m sorry, Elsie.”
Covering her mouth to stop the sob, Elsie shook her head and clasped Charles’ hand to her chest. “You listen to me, Charles Carson. You can’t leave me. I love you and you promised.”
Richard listened as she slipped off into the Gaelic, her thoughts a jumbled mass of confession, regret, fear, and love. He wasn’t even sure Elsie realized that she was no longer speaking in a language Charles could understand. She was doing anything in her power to will Charles to stay with her, and it made him so very grateful to see her fighting and strong. He knew that Elsie and Charles had grown closer, Charles had said as much the last time they talked. He also knew that Charles now knew everything that Elsie had gone through, though Charles hadn’t told him any details – the man would never break Elsie’s confidence even if he’d been asked to. And Richard certainly hadn’t asked. He knew all he needed to, the rest was for Charles alone to know.
“Richard.” Isobel whispered as she came back into the room.
“I’ve called the house and they’ll bring all the ice we have.”
Richard nodded. “Then help me get him ready.”
Elsie looked up at her friend. “What are you going to do?”
“I need any spare linens or towels you have. I’m going to put ice around him to see if we can’t break the fever.”
“Wouldn’t a cool bath work?” Elsie asked, worried that the ice would be too much.
“Not as fast as it needs to. Besides, the three of us aren’t strong enough to get him there. If he could help, it would be different, but he’s not capable of that right now.” Richard squeezed Elsie’s shoulder. “I promise I’ll be careful.”
Elsie nodded, turning her attention back to Charles. “The extra linens are in the cupboard at the end of the hall.”
Isobel hurried to gather what she could. Her thoughts turning to the anguish that would fill this cottage should Charles not making it through. Elsie had finally gotten back a big part of her fire and strength, but Isobel didn’t know if she was strong enough to survive losing the one man that had rescued her and loved her back to herself.
Arms now full of everything she could carry, she turned and made her way back to the bedroom, realizing as she passed the guest room, that it was now just that – a guest room. None of Elsie’s things were there anymore, telling Isobel that her friend had moved fully and permanently into her husband’s room. And it made her even more certain that Charles’ death would tear Elsie apart.
Richard looked up when he heard Isobel enter the room. “Elsie, can you help us roll Charles so that we can put these under him? We’ll put as many as we can to keep the bed as dry as is possible.”
Elsie nodded as she stood up then bent forward, lifting Charles’ head so that she could wrap her arms around his shoulders. Together they worked to maneuver her mountain of a man until they had as many blankets, linens, and towels under him as they could. She closed her eyes at the heaviness of his head pressed down against her breast, his hot skin nearly burning her own. Bowing her head, she pressed a kiss to his hair. “Please, Charlie,” she whispered before letting him rest back against the pillows.
“I hear a knock. That will be the ice.” Isobel whispered and hurried from the room.
No one had been more surprised than Joseph Molesley himself when he’d offered to bring the ice to the Carson cottage. He’d been passing by when the driver had been fussing about with trying to put it in the motor and had asked what was going on. Since he had a truck, he had more room to put the crates, and suddenly he’d been offering to help.
Now, here he was, downstairs in the kitchen of the Carson home, making tea and watching his wife as she made sandwiches. “Thank you, Love, for coming to help.”
Phyllis smiled at up her husband. “You’re a good man, Joseph, and you make wonderful tea. Your sandwiches,” she shrugged.
“I know.” He smiled gently at her then sighed. “Do you think they’ll eat anything?”
“I don’t know. I know that they need to, especially Mrs. Carson, but it will be the doctor or his wife that eats before she does. She’s so very worried.”
“Do you think,” he started, pausing to ponder if he should go ahead with the thought, but his wife knew what he hadn’t said.
“I do.” Phyllis answered the unfinished question. “I think she’s always loved him. They were both just too afraid.”
“Like me.” Joseph whispered.
“Like the both of us, Love. Now,” she placed the last sandwich on the plate. “Everything is done. I’ll help you carry this up to them.”
Richard wiped away the moisture from Charles’ forehead, relief filling him when he felt the cooler skin. The fever had finally broke, and without having to make as big of a mess as they’d feared. Extra towels had mopped up the melted ice as quickly as they could to keep from completely soaking the mattress, but he knew that once Charles was coherent enough, they would have to move him to the bed in the guest room.
Elsie heard Charles moan then murmur something and stood up to lean over and kiss his brow. “Yes, Darling. That’s it, wake up and let me see those wonderful dark eyes.”
Charles blinked blearily up at Elsie, his eyes a bit glassy and unfocused. “Elsie?”
“Oh Charlie. I was so afraid,” she whispered, tears rolling unchecked down her cheeks.
“Lass,” he tried then coughed and began to shake.
“We need to move him and get him into some dry, warm pajamas.”
Elsie nodded and hurried to the dresser, pulling out a clean pair of Charles’ bedclothes. Turning around, she closed her eyes, saying a silent thank you before opening her eyes and rushing back to the bed. “Charlie, I need you to sit up. Can you do that for me?”
Charles nodded, groaning then falling back against his pillows. “Did,” he coughed again. “Did I fall?” he managed to ask.
“No, Charles, you didn’t fall. You ache because you have the flu, a very bad case of it.” Richard told him, helping Elsie to get Charles all the way upright. “Now, I’m going to change your pajama shirt. Why don’t you rest your head against Elsie, alright?”
Elsie hurriedly unbuttoned the shirt, then pulled her husband forward. “I’ll have to get a towel for your head. Your hair is soaked,” she whispered as she caressed the mussed curls. “You’ve more curls on your head than I do, Charlie,” she whispered, smiling when he grunted.
Isobel turned when she heard a knock at the bedroom door. Opening it, she smiled at the couple standing on the other side. “Why don’t you take it back downstairs? We’ll be down shortly.” She smiled. “The fever’s broke.”
Phyllis smiled and nodded. “We’ll keep the tea warm. And that’s wonderful.”
Joseph nodded his agreement. “Will he be alright now?”
“He should be. We’ll just pray for no setbacks.”