Gentlemen. This is the way it is and must be.
When Abby had gone, Robert turned to his visitors. “Did you encounter any trouble on your way here, William?”
“None. It was as pleasant a drive in the country as I ever had, but I took your cautions to heart, and came ready for trouble. I left my pistols in the carriage. I gather you were not so lucky, sir.”
“No. On my way up here I was attacked. I killed two of them, I know that, but three got away, though two of them were wounded. And early this morning as I was strolling around the house in the dark, I was shot at, but I dealt with that too. It will not happen again.” He did not explain further.
“Knowing your interest in guns and such things, William, I’ll show you the gun room, where you can occupy yourself until Gerry is finished, or you can wander the house or gardens. I also have a mission for you if you want to take it on, but that will be in another day or so. You can come back from Greenwich once you see Mr. Rogers safely back there, and I will tell you the details. I will get you to take my place and meet with the villain who tried to kill me, though you will deal kindly with him where I didn’t, and he will see that you get to meet my Uncle Matthew, the real villain of the peace, and tell him the way it will be for him from this time forward. I know you can put the fear of death into him; my uncle, as you did for me often enough.”
After they had seen William settled contentedly to explore the armory, he and Mister Rogers mounted the stairs. He knocked and walked in. He knew they would be expected.
Both Nurse and Sophia were present, with Selena awake and sketching.” She closed her book as they entered. They were all smiling at him, and his disheveled appearance. He had obviously just left the children.
Robert walked over to her and took her hand without hesitation. “I hope you are feeling better, my dear. You are looking improved each time I lay eyes on you.”
“So do you. I am improving all the time now, thanks to you, Charles, and the care I am getting, but I see you have brought us a visitor.”
“Yes. I told you I would. Please allow me to introduce Mr. Rogers. Doctor Rogers. Robert mentioned him often in his letters and swore by him as the best surgeon he had ever encountered.” Rogers shuffled his feet and cleared his throat in the background to let him know not to lay it on so thick. “He sent him up to us. Doctor Rogers, this is Lady Penfield.”
“Ma’am.” He inclined his head to her as she looked him over.
“I take it you are the ship’s surgeon from my brother-in-law’s ship, sir?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I am.”
“Is Robert well? Did he come up with you?”
“No Ma’am, he could not break away.”
“And you are here to examine me and make sure that nothing was overlooked?” He nodded.
“I don’t think it was. I feel comfortable now, except for my leg, and when I need to extend myself to reach for anything.” He smiled.
“I would like to confirm what his lordship has told me, if you can tolerate another sawbones about you, Ma’am. But only if you feel comfortable with it and will allow me.”
Robert introduced him to the two other women in the room.
“Mister Rogers. This is Lady Penfield’s sister, Sophia, and this is our Nurse. She brought me and my brother into the world.”
“Ladies.” He briefly acknowledged both of them, and then turned back to the invalid. “And may I examine you, Ma’am? I am aware that it is asking a great deal of you to let a stranger into your world, as you do not know me at all.” He smiled at her.
“Yes, Mister Rogers, you may examine me. If Charles’s brother swears by you and your skill, and I have no doubt it was called upon often enough from what I heard of naval engagements and their aftermath, I will need no other testimonials.”
He dragged a small table across to the bed and placed his bag upon it. He paused and looked at both of the other women.
“I shall need the help of only one person, and I think that should be you, Nurse, so I am going to ask you two to leave us, please.” He looked over to Robert and Miss Sophia.
He was now in an environment he knew well. He had taken charge, as he was capable of doing, even in the presence of an overbearing Admiral whom he had once physically put out of his operating room.
“… and to see that we are not disturbed.” He turned to Nurse. The other two were banished from his mind.
“Nurse, if I may address you that way, I will need several things please.” He told her what he would need. She had been impressed with him as soon as he had walked into the room, but then Robert had filled her in on his abilities, even looking after women. Her husband had told her some of that. She watched as he sat by her mistress on the bed and began to converse with her, setting her at her ease. Jessop had never been able to do that in the ten years her mistress had known him.
Robert took Sophia’s arm. “Come, Sophia. Once he gets started he will not even notice us, and we would only be in the way. We are definitely not needed here.”
“Charles?” Selena halted his progress.
He turned. “Yes, my love?” His eyes, as he looked at her, were an open book to at least two people in the room, one of whom was surprised; the other, still slightly concerned by that dangerous familiarity.
“Thank you.” She looked at him from head to toe. “I see you have been with the children. I could hear their laughter all morning, and you are looking worn. But I do so admire that feather in your hair.” He had forgotten about that. “I would like to sketch you that way I think. I shall burn you into my memory. You look mischievous.”
He smiled at her. “But I am mischievous, Selena. It fits my personality, as you well know.” Mister Rogers looked quickly up at Robert, beginning to understand more than he could say, but kept his thoughts to himself.
Selena looked strangely at him too. “I like the change in you, Charles. Far less serious than you used to be in some ways, but more serious in others. But then a shock such as the one we both had will do that to you I suppose. I think, that I feel comfortable with Mr. Rogers already, he has that same steady air of assurance that you always have. Shall I see you as soon as Mr. Rogers finishes with me?” She knew better than to ask that question or to expect a reply. He would be unable to stay away.
“Sooner, if I had my way.”
As Mr. Rogers and Mr. Trevithick drove away from the estate, some hours later, they exchanged their views of what they had seen. “Who was that man back there, Gerry? He was not the man we knew even just a few days ago.”
“No, he is not, is he, but he looked as though he fitted in.”
“He did on the deck of that ship too. I never thought to see a man change so much. How did that come about do you think?” His companion was not about to say what was on his mind just yet. He urged the horses along. “A woman. It’s a deep game he’s playing here. That last ship we had.”
“You mean The Selena?”
“Yes. That’s her name too. The woman I was brought in to see. She’s his dead brother’s wife. Selena was the same name he shouted—that we all shouted—when he boarded an enemy ship and threw himself into the middle of it all. Now I know why. It was for her. She never left his thoughts. She was the woman in those drawings he had. I saw them once.”
“Sounds like a lot of trouble to me. I thought he’d be itching to be back at sea, except...”
“Not him. The sea has lost him to those three girls. You saw that for yourself. But it especially lost him to that woman back there. He resigned. I heard it this morning just before we left Greenwich. I never thought he’d do that. I think I’ll resign too. It’s time I settled down and became a proper country doctor and began to treat pimples and deliver babies. I’ll have one to deliver in about seven months. Hers, and I’ll be back here in a week or two. There was a young lady I met for a moment there, and that we had lunch with. I would like to meet her again.” His friend made an impolite comment about that.
“Miss Sophia. You too? Another one gone mad.” He paused for a moment. “Howsomever, if you would like an assistant to hold anyone down as you pull a tooth, set a bone, or stitch ’em up, I volunteer. I won’t go back to sea I won’t, not without either you or him. I also wouldn’t mind meeting that lass that waited on us again, just as you were took by that other young woman that had lunch with us. I could get to like this area and this life. More peaceful than the sea.”
However, he had other things to do first that his Captain had charged him with. When he got back to Penfield the following morning, he would meet with a difficult uncle, and have a deep and meaningful conversation with him about his bleak prospects in this part of the world, and how to ensure that he would have a future, after he had tried to do what he had to his nephew.