A Sudden Flash of Understanding.
Sophia had a sudden flash of understanding, but said nothing.
Robert was in love with this woman!
He was in love with Selena, her sister. He had been in love with her before he had even entered her room; even before he had come into the house. This was the woman he had been in love with before he went away!
'Unattainable, and trouble'; the words he had used to describe a woman he had fallen in love with, began to make sense to her now. Selena had been the reason he had never been able to return. But how…?
He interrupted her thoughts, and he sounded much calmer now and even more gentle.
“I’ll get you to put those pillows back behind her, please, and we will try some more water and possibly other fluids.”
After he had seen the pillows replaced, he looked at Sophia closely. “Thank you for your patience when faced with what I needed to do.” She seemed to have been crying herself. “You are too tired to be effective here. You will need to learn to trust others at some stage. Perhaps even a brutally insensitive man like me who takes such liberties with beautiful young women.” He pulled Selena’s nightdress down lower on her legs and brought the coverlet back over her.
“She is my responsibility now and so is all of the trouble that I am sure I will cause by having done this. I think it might be quite different than running a ship, but I shall soon learn. I must thank you for being here for at least the last two days to give Nurse a rest, or the burden would almost entirely have fallen on her, and she is getting too old for this kind of thing.” He walked over and unlocked the door. Fortunately, no one had tried to enter that room while he had been examining his patient, for that was how he regarded her.
“I see you have a cot put up for you over there. I suggest you get yourself onto it and try to rest, or take yourself off to your room. My old room. I shall stay here for a while and get a few things organized while I think my way through all of this. Do not worry, I shall not leave her alone while you sleep. We may take comfort from the fact that her condition is not as dire as was originally feared, though I would like to see her regain consciousness before I might relax as I would like.”
Sophia could see that he was much more than relieved himself, having learned that.
“I am also going to bring in Mr. Rogers. He will be at Greenwich by now with some of my injured crew.”
“Rogers?” She remembered that he had mentioned that name more than once.
“My ship’s surgeon. I mentioned him. A practical man. Saved my life at least three times, along with the lives of most of the men on my ship, and I returned the favor too, for him, once. He does not know how lucky he was that I did not kill him.” She smiled weakly.
“I’ll get a message sent off to him immediately. I have more faith in that man than in all of the Harley street quacks, or Jessops of this world.” He pulled the bell sash.
“We should see she gets water every half hour or so and can try her on some soup. But I shall see to that.
“Later, if you do not object to my company, we can get one of the maids to sit with her while we have dinner together with the children, and talk. I have been away ten years and feel like a stranger here now. Then you shall go off to bed and get a good night’s sleep, and I shall stay here. Most of the household seems to be exhausted or dead on its feet from one cause or another. It is a good job I arrived when I did or the whole house would have been moped to death and mourning forever.” He said nothing of that other disturbing possibility still lurking there; that she might not live. “There is no need of it. You can replace me when you wake, if you are up to it.”
“Thank you, sir. I am grateful for your help and your knowledge at this moment. I was shocked by what you did, but I can see now that it was necessary to ignore my…” He interrupted and picked up her thought.
“…Your justifiably offended sensibilities, and outraged protestations? Though there were not as many of them as I had expected. They were understandable, but out of place in the circumstances. Not knowing what you need to know, killed too many of my men before I met Mr. Rogers.”
“I am sorry, but I have never seen a man, not even a physician, attend medically to a woman in such an open way and without any concern for her modesty, but I think I now understand.” He smiled.
“Offended you, did I? Of course I did. Had she been awake I would have paid more attention to those things, were it required, and I would have been much more circumspect. We had no time for such damaging false modesty on board ship. There was no room for it there. Nor here.” She was looking at a far different man than the one she had first met.
“I was shocked at first, but now I am over it. It was wrong of me. I know that now.”
“Thank you. But I am neither a proper physician nor very book-wise on the matter, though I did read quite widely from Rogers’ extensive collection. What I know is from practical experience and ministering to both men and women at times of great need, much as Galen did, with the Roman Gladiators. But not nearly so well as my ship’s surgeon.” She looked into his face, gratitude shining from her eyes.
“Now that you have examined her, can you tell me, honestly, what you think?”
He chose his words carefully. It would not do to let her see the great relief that he felt, or the reason behind it. Nor his remaining concerns.
“I am much more optimistic than I initially felt. However, like you, I believe she should have shown more consciousness by now. My first impression, is that she does not seem to be at death’s door, though she may have done earlier when she was first injured, so Jessop may not be entirely at fault, and possibly should be thanked for allowing her to get this far.” He took a deep breath, able to feel relief for the first time since he had entered the house.
“Her breathing is normal. Given water and nourishment, she should improve. I can see nothing that might hinder her, but I know so little as to be as dangerous as Jessop, in my own way. I am also not sure what internal injuries she may have, though I could feel no swellings or tenderness, and there was no bruising. That is why I will send for Mr. Rogers. I could see no obvious problems with her neck or head so, hopefully, that is not what is stopping this, but I do not know what else to think.
“The blood that she was getting rid of, was only from her mouth the way you described it. She may have bitten her own tongue when she was restless earlier, or she loosened a tooth in the accident. I could not see enough to know. The blood you saw was not from her lungs. That, is usually more frothy as it is breathed up. I have seen it often enough. Too often. They do not survive long after that.”
She saw him close his eyes, as though to try and dispel that memory.
“I doubt that anyone here would pull her around enough to cause that kind of damage at this late stage.”
“I shall say nothing of what you did here, sir.”
“Thank you, Sophia. But it does not matter. I have a broad back. Tomorrow, we can let the girls in for a while. Maybe earlier. Perhaps after dinner this evening, or before. It can do no harm either way, and may help them, as well as their mother.”