Emma Turner inhaled a deep breath of fresh air, able to identify many of nature’s scents that wafted up to her nose. Herbs, flowers, the dampness of the earth by the stream. . . They were as familiar to her as the very air that she breathed.
The warm summer sun beat down through the leaves of the trees, but Emma found the temperature rather comfortable in the shade. The song of birds and the gentle rustling of leaves were the only sounds to be heard. Waterlow Park was never too crowded on hot, muggy days like this one.
As Emma trod the worn dirt path through the park, she kept a keen eye out for anything of use, to bring home to her father’s apothecary shop. He had given her a list of items that they were short on, though he had stressed several times that there was need to worry if she didn’t find anything.
Nevertheless, Emma continued to wander idly, keeping her eyes and nose sharp. Eventually, she spied a patch of sage just outside the park. She rushed forward, excited to have found something useful. She knew that the sage could be used in a medicine that cured stomach complications; it could even be made into a medicinal tea.
Emma knelt and began to pick the wild sage, first bringing it up to her nose to inhale its fragrant scent. She heard a carriage coming and picked up her pace, knowing that she would be in its way if she remained much longer.
But the creaking noise of the carriage and the clopping of the horses’ hooves stopped abruptly. She stuffed several leaves into the bag which hung over her shoulder before she heard raised voices inside the park. A moment later, a definitive crash and the sound of horses going wild followed.
Someone cried out. Emma jumped to her feet and ran towards the pained sound without another thought. The day was so humid that sweat immediately began to bead on her forehead.
Her eyes took in the scene quickly—a wheel off the front of a carriage, the coachman trying to calm the horses that were whinnying in fright, and a few onlookers in the park beginning to gather. Beside the carriage lay a man on the path, his expression tense with pain. He let out another long cry, his hands balling into fists. Emma let the coachman deal with the horses and carriage and instead rushed toward the man.
As Emma got closer, his injury became obvious. Blood pooled beneath him, staining the grass red. She easily identified that the blood was flowing from his leg.
Emma crouched down beside the man and tried to regain her breath. “May I help you?” The man simply groaned in reply, obviously in too much pain to answer.
Emma reached for the bag slung over her shoulder. Vials clinked inside as she mentally went through the contents and thought of what she could use to help. “I always carry medicinal oils with me for just such a purpose as this.” She grabbed the man’s fist and squeezed. He opened his cold grey eyes and looked at her. “You should let me staunch the bleeding.”
The man nodded and squeezed his eyes shut again. Emma looked closely at his leg, delicately shifting it with her hands so that she could get a better look.
“Sliced open by this piece of iron here,” came a roughly accented voice behind Emma. She glanced over her shoulder to see the coachman gesturing to a rod poking out where the wheel had fallen off.
“We were caught in a raid.” He swiveled his head back and forth and frowned. “The looters have already run off, those dirty rascals.”
More bystanders gathered around, closer to Emma. She turned back towards the man and examined the wound. “It’s your calf,” she said gently. “The muscle is severely injured.”
Emma took a moment to think. It was quite a large gash, and, since they were out in the open, she knew the first thing that she must do. She wiped her hands on her apron, as they were already covered with the man’s blood, and stood to her feet. She met the eyes of several people around her.
“Does anyone have alcohol?” she asked, raising her voice. She was met with several curious stares and silence. “Brandy?” she tried. “This man’s life could be at stake if his wound is not sterilized.”
After a moment, a man stepped forward, obviously against the protests of his wife, and handed Emma a flask. “Brandy,” he explained, remaining close by as Emma quickly dropped to her knees again and screwed open the flask. She lamented the fact that she didn’t have any spare cloth with her, but that didn’t matter. She reached to the hem of her dress and ripped off a large piece of fabric. Astonished whispers sprang up around her.
Emma soaked the scrap of fabric with brandy. “Now,” she said softly to the man, “this is going to sting. A lot.” She grabbed his fist again, and to her surprise his fingers slipped into her grasp. “One . . . two . . . three.” She pressed the cloth against the man’s wound, and he cried out in pain again, squeezing her hand hard.
“I am sorry,” she whispered as she made sure that she thoroughly coated the wound with the brandy. She held the cloth in place and with her other hand, held out the flask behind her, looking over her shoulder to meet the eyes of the man who had lent it to her. “Thank you, sir,” she said.
The man, his eyes wide with wonder, took the flask back from her with a handkerchief. “Thank you, miss,” he replied. He frowned as he eyed the traces of blood on the flask.
Emma allowed herself a small smile before turning back to the injured man. After another minute of making sure that she had cleaned every section of the wound, she tore another long strip of cloth from her dress. She reached into her bag and pulled out some ground turmeric, sprinkling some on the wound. Finally, she wrapped up the injured calf tightly.
Once more, Emma wiped her hands on her already soiled apron. She reached for one more thing inside her bag and produced a bottle with clear liquid inside. She unstopped it and met the eyes of the injured man, who was now watching her. His expression was a little more relaxed than it had been just a few minutes ago.
“Inhale this,” she said, handing him the bottle. “Hold it gently and take deep, even breaths. It should help with the pain.”
The man frowned. “What is it?” he breathed in a ragged voice.
“Just lavender oil; it will do you no harm.”
The man grasped the bottle, though he still looked uncertain, and brought it under his nose. He took in a deep breath and slowly closed his eyes.
“The wound should mend nicely,” Emma explained. “The turmeric will stop the bleeding and aid with the healing process. It will take some time to fully heal, but eventually you should have no trouble walking again.”
The man met her eyes with incredulity. “I am forever grateful to you, my lady.”
Emma looked down, knowing that she didn’t deserve the title of “lady.” “I am simply doing what I can, my lord.”
“Please,” the man said, trying to get up and wincing as he did so. He settled for lying back again. “Let me repay you. As soon as I return home, I can give you a large sum—”
“No,” Emma said quickly. “Please do not even mention it, sir. I did not do this in hope of reward. I simply want to help those who are in need by using the skills which I have learned.”
A look of confusion and something like irritation crossed his face. “Very well, then,” he muttered, gritting his teeth. He handed back the bottle of lavender. Emma stood away as he attempted to raise himself up, grunting with pain as he did so. The coachman rushed over and eased himself under the injured man’s arm as a sort of crutch.
Emma put away her things and stood with them. “Do not try to walk on your leg,” she warned, “or it will take much longer to heal. Rest will help it to mend quicker.”
The injured man nodded as the coachman helped him into the carriage. She looked at the wheel and found that it had already been reattached—the coachman must have done it while she was occupied with treating the man’s leg. Before the door could close on the injured man, he met her eyes and offered her an almost-smile with a faint twitching of his lips.
“Thank you once again,” he said and leaned back into his seat.
Emma curtseyed. She now noticed that it was a rather fine carriage, meaning that the man must be of a much higher status than herself. She felt a blush creep up into her cheeks as she also realized, now that she wasn’t so concerned with his wound, that the man was rather handsome with his tall, strong frame and chestnut brown hair.
“I hope that you get well soon, my lord,” she replied, keeping her eyes trained on the ground.
The door was closed, and a moment later the carriage left. Emma watched it continue down the path and out of the park. People began to disperse, though many eyes remained on her. Emma kept her gaze down and sighed. It seemed as though, no matter how much good she did, people would never cease to treat her as an outcast.
As if to prove her point, a woman walked up to her just as Emma started her journey home. With her fine dress and bonnet, the woman looked to be quite wealthy.
“My dear,” she began in a patronizing tone, “it is not good for a woman to get involved in such things. That man needed a doctor, not your . . . interference.”
Emma didn’t respond. The words wounded her deeply, as they always did. She had no answer. It seemed unfair that she was gifted with a talent for healing, and yet people only appreciated it when they had dire need.
Still, despite that fact, Emma would continue healing others. It was the right thing to do.
“Forgive me, my lady,” Emma said quietly, still not meeting the woman’s eyes. “I cannot simply leave people who need help, and I do not believe any substance that can help people is wrong.”
The woman shook her head. “You and your father must stop in your heathenish ways. Wasn’t God striking down your mother enough to show you that what you are doing is wrong?”
Emma’s eyes stung with tears. She stared at her own hands, still lightly stained with the blood that she hadn’t been able to wipe away. Hadn’t God given people Nature so that they could unlock its wonders? Wouldn’t He approve of healing people with what He had provided, no matter what their gender or social class?
“Excuse me, my lady. I must be on my way.” Emma curtseyed politely and quickly walked out of the park, determined not to converse with anyone else.
Emma tried hard to turn her thoughts away from the woman’s unkindness. Instead, she considered the stranger that she had helped. Though he had obviously been someone with a title, he had treated her with politeness, despite the fact that she was a woman and a healer. He had been nothing but kind and appreciative.
Emma sincerely hoped that his wound would heal as she said it would. She was sure that she had done everything possible, but no matter what she accomplished in these matters, she always felt that she could have done more. Her father told her that she was simply too kind. Emma wasn’t fully confident in her abilities, even though her father always told her that she was incredibly skilled.
As Emma wandered home, the warm summer day began to calm her. She felt much more at ease and hoped that, despite the fact that she didn’t know his name, she might hear of the stranger’s condition and be assured that she had been a help to him.
George Bramer tried to relax as he leaned back into the seat of the carriage and closed his eyes. He wished that the roads here were smoother; he could tell that it had rained recently, for the roads were not usually this bad.
He remembered noticing foreboding clouds in the sky when he had left home to visit his friend Oliver in Somerset only a week ago. The weather there had been wonderful, though hot, but apparently it had been very different here at home. It was almost as though the weather reflected the terrible situation at Grimwood Hall.
As if the roads being muddy hadn’t slowed the journey enough, they were then accosted by three thieves who appeared out of nowhere. George had never heard of a carriage being waylaid this close to his home, and it saddened him to think that this part of the country had become so lawless.
He still remembered the searing agony as the rod sliced into his leg when he had attempted to deter the raiders with his bare fists. As if spurred on by the memory, his leg began to throb. George clenched his teeth against the pain.
George considered how much worse off he’d be now if that girl hadn’t intervened. She had been so kind and gentle, and yet sure and strong. She hadn’t even gone pale at the sight of all the blood. Without her, he’d probably still be bleeding on the ground, waiting for a doctor. By then, the wound might have already been badly infected.
Though the pain had made it nearly impossible to focus on the woman, George remembered her kind and steady look. He wondered how a woman, who looked so beautiful with auburn hair contrasting her green eyes, could also be so skilled—as skilled as a doctor, even. He wished that he could meet her again, but he doubted that event would ever come to pass. He didn’t even know her name.
As the carriage slowed again, and George felt the uneven ground beneath the wheels, his thoughts turned from the mysterious healer to his most pressing worry: his father.
George still remembered the way his blood had run cold when he received the letter in Somerset informing him of his father’s illness. He had ordered his things packed up immediately and left that instant, unable to bear the thought of his father sick and in pain. He longed to know his father’s condition, and he continued to fear that the worst would happen.
George quickly pushed those fears from his mind. It would be useless to imagine anything, until he knew the facts. The letter had said that his father was very ill, but that was all.
Reciting the facts, George calmed himself and tried not to think about the pain in his leg or his father.
As the carriage arrived at Grimwood Hall, George got out immediately. He landed hard on the ground and groaned as a shock of pain went through his leg. Refusing help from the coachman, he limped into the foyer. Deborah, his stepmother, was waiting for him.
“I saw your carriage coming up the drive,” she explained, her voice agitated. “It is good you are here.” Her eyes wandered to his leg, and she frowned. “What happened to your leg, George?”
George waved off her concern. “It is nothing. How is my father?”
Deborah breathed out a sigh mixed with a sob. A tear slid down her cheek. It seemed as though she was barely able to muster up the strength to say: “He is not at all well, George.”
Fear gripped George’s heart again.
“It happened so suddenly; the physician doesn’t know what could have caused it. The man’s name is Doctor Hereford; he’s upstairs with your father.” She paused, as if summoning up the will to continue. “His diagnosis is a very uncommon illness that has no known cure.” She brought a hand to her mouth and sobbed as more tears fell down her face. “Oh George, what shall we do?”
Breathless, George rushed to his father’s chamber, Deborah following close behind him. His heart pounded in his chest. Once again, he told himself not to worry, but joyful memories of his father played through his head. The surprise picnics that his father had planned for him when he was young, which had turned into weekly events. The way he had congratulated George and smiled while he was learning to shoot. Listening to his steady voice read aloud as George sat in his mother’s arms.
George couldn’t imagine all that kindness and goodness gone from the world; not yet at least, and not like this. He wasn’t sure that he could live without his father.
George arrived at his father’s chamber and walked in slowly. Dr. Hereford, a short, bald man, looked up and held a finger to his lips. George tiptoed into the dim chamber and heard deep, rattling breaths coming from his father’s sleeping form.
George carefully stood at his father’s bedside and despaired at the sight that awaited him. His father’s skin was pale, and even his rest seemed uneasy, as his eyes were tightly closed, and his body shifted constantly. George didn’t understand how his father could have been perfectly well a week ago and was now withering away right before his eyes.
“Dr. Hereford,” George said in a whisper, “is there anything that can be done for him? Anything at all? No matter the cost or the effort, I will do it.” He knew what his stepmother had said, but he wanted to hear it from the doctor’s own lips.
The man shook his head sadly and quietly collected his tools. “There is nothing to be done, my lord. There is no remedy for this kind of illness.”
George stared at his father and tried to keep the tears at bay. His heart sank to his toes. He couldn’t believe the words. He couldn’t believe that all was lost.
Dr. Hereford finished packing up his things. “I will be in the village if you need any further assistance. Keep him comfortable and do not let him move from the bed. I have already urged the duchess to allow the duke to eat only broths and soup and instructed that he be given lots of water to drink. And he needs lots of rest, so let him sleep.”
“Thank you,” George said, and the duchess escorted the doctor out. George sat by his father’s bedside and held his head in his hands.
“Please, Father, get well. I cannot let you go yet.” George looked up, and something inside of him clicked. He was resolute now. He would not let this happen. He had to take action. If doctors could not help his father, he had to figure out something else.
Dr. Hereford had mentioned that Deborah had spoken to Mrs. Whitley, the cook. George trusted Mrs. Whitley; she had been kind and caring to him, almost like a second mother, while he was growing up. She had never been anything but kind to him and his whole family.
George left his father’s bedroom and called the cook into the study. She arrived promptly, wearing her apron, her cheeks stained with tears.
“The duchess has spoken with you already, I hear.” George said, straining to keep his voice steady.
“Yes, my lord,” Mrs. Whitley replied with a tremble in her voice. “I have already ordered the correct foods for Lord Bramer to eat. Only soups and broths, they said. If there’s anything more I can do, my lord, please let me know.”
“There is something,” said George, tapping his fingers on his desk. “I have heard you speak of an apothecary that you visit, and how the owner has suggested many remedies that helped heal you and your family.”
She nodded vigorously. “Oh yes, my lord, they work every time! Even when I had fever and chills, Mr. Turner gave me some medicine that made it go away in two days!”
George nodded. He didn’t usually believe in the miraculous, but it seemed that only a miracle was going to save his father now. “Would you go there today, Mrs. Whitley, and see if this Mr. Turner will help my father?”
Her eyes lit up. “I will go immediately!” She glanced over at a clock. “He will be closing his shop very soon, my lord.”
“Then I will send you in one of carriages.” She immediately began to protest, but George put up a hand. “Please, Mrs. Whitley, we have no time to waste. The carriage will be prepared in a moment.”
She nodded. “I’ll convince Mr. Turner to help, no matter what it takes!”
“Tell him I will pay him handsomely, especially if he comes immediately, even at this late hour.” He offered her a grim smile. “Thank you, Mrs. Whitley. Godspeed.”
With that, she was off. George sighed, pressing his head into his palm. Already a headache was starting up, and his leg was beginning to throb again.
Whatever it took, he was not going to let his father go without a fight.
“Darling, have you moved the valerian root?” Robert Turner asked his daughter.
Emma spied the object on the counter. “You are standing right in front of it, Father,” she said with a laugh.
Robert sighed dramatically. “Dear me, I really am growing old, aren’t I?”
Emma wrapped her arms around him in an embrace and looked into his weary brown eyes. “You will never be old, Father; not to me.” She kissed his cheek, and he smiled warmly at her before continuing to organize the various ingredients in the shop.
Emma didn’t need to read the labels that showed where to put the various items; she knew their places by heart. She had been working alongside her father for ten years, and before that she had spent much time in the shop reading and learning. Her mother would bring her here when she was young and teach her about the different medicines.
Just as Emma thought about her mother, her eye caught a stray purple flower that lay on the table in front of her. Emma knew the plant it belonged to immediately: hyssop, her mother’s favorite. Her mother had always claimed that she loved the color of the flowers, not to mention that the plant was good for all kinds of remedies.
Emma picked up the flower and placed it gently in the pocket of her apron. Somehow, it made her feel closer to her mother, though she was five years gone.
Emma and her father continued to work side by side in companionable silence, making sure that everything was in its proper place and preparing to close the apothecary for the day.
Just as Robert pulled out his key, someone came bursting through the door of the shop like a hurricane. Emma jumped in surprise.
“Mr. Turner, thank goodness you’re still here!”
Emma calmed her wildly thumping heart when she saw it was only Mrs. Carol Whitley, one of their frequent customers.
“We are just about to close, Mrs. Whitley,” Robert said, still brandishing the key to the shop. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“I’ve just come from Grimwood Hall. The duke is very ill; it came on so suddenly! His son has just returned from a brief trip and sent me to see if there’s anything you can do. He said that he can pay you handsomely for coming at so inconvenient an hour.”
She wrung her hands in front of her. “The duke is a good man, Mr. Turner. The doctor that came said that he can’t help but seeing as you have helped me so many times, I thought you may have an answer. If anyone can help the duke, it’s you.”
“Certainly,” Robert said without hesitation. “We will see if we can help your employer.” He nodded at Emma. She took the cue and immediately started gathering up basic remedies that could be useful for a variety of illnesses.
Mrs. Whitley let out a great sigh of relief. “Thank you so much, Mr. Turner. Lord Bramer sent me in his carriage so we can return quickly.”
“Very good. Give us just one moment to lock up the shop.” He turned to Emma. “Is everything in order?”
Emma took one last look around. “Yes, Father.” She hefted the heavy bag of remedies over her shoulder.
“Very good. Let us go. It sounds as though we have no time to waste.”
Emma followed Mrs. Whitley out of the shop, and Robert locked the door behind them. A carriage waited right outside, and Emma felt rather like a fine lady for a moment as the coachman handed her inside.
As they started off, Emma immediately noticed that it was a much smoother and faster ride than any carriage she had ever been in. She considered that Lord Bramer’s son must be very desperate if he was willing to allow servants and people of her status to travel in his carriage.
“I am so glad that you are coming,” Mrs. Whitley said. “I thought of you as soon as the duke became ill, but I didn’t want to come to you immediately, in case it offended the duchess. But young Lord Bramer is a fine man; he is so devoted to his father that he will do anything for him.”
“We are honored that you would come to us for such a matter,” Robert said humbly. “You have always been very kind; it is only fitting that we should return the favor.”
“It is you that have been kind to me. You have given me the best medicinal advice throughout the years, and there is not one thing you’ve suggested that has not worked.”
Robert began to fidget, a sure sign that he was unsure how to accept Mrs. Whitley’s high praise.
“I do hope that we can help the duke,” Emma said. She wondered if the remedies she had brought would be enough.
Mrs. Whitley offered a kind smile. “I know you will do the best you can, Emma. You always do.”
The estate was only a few minutes away. Emma could not help but be awed by the grandeur of the grounds and the house itself. However, she tried not to let it distract her, as they exited the carriage and were led into the foyer by Mrs. Whitley. A man and a woman were waiting there, and Emma was shocked to see that the man, presumably Lord Bramer, looked very familiar.
The man’s face reflected her feelings as his eyes widened in shock. Though he should have been the one to greet them, he was silent, his mouth slightly open, as if he didn’t know what to say.
The woman frowned and looked between them. “Do you know each other already?”
“Deborah, this is the girl I told you about,” he said with a disbelieving chuckle. “The one who helped me with my leg earlier today.”
Deborah seemed to size Emma up, no doubt taking in the torn and dirty hem of her dress. Emma took a step back self-consciously. She felt her cheeks burn. She had wanted to see the stranger again, but not quite like this.
Robert cleared his throat. “My lord, we were informed that your father is very ill. If you would be so kind, I would like to examine him immediately.”
“Of course,” the man said with a shake of his head. “Forgive me. I am Lord Bramer, and this is my stepmother, the Duchess of Grimwood. You must be Mr. Turner.”
Robert bowed. “Yes, my lord, and this is my daughter, Emma.”
Emma curtseyed. George inclined his head toward her but did not smile. “A pleasure to be properly introduced, Miss Turner. Now, I will take you both to my father.”
Emma and Robert were led up a grand staircase and into a dark room. A man was lying on the bed, his chest rising and falling with deep, rattling breaths.
Robert’s face became grim as he approached the bedside. “I will need some light, my lord.” he said.
“Of course,” replied George. A candle was brought and placed at the duke’s bedside.
Emma was now able to see that the duke’s skin was very pale, and there was a sheen of a sweat over his face. He didn’t seem to be sleeping easily: he was mumbling and his body fidgeted constantly.
Robert hummed and reached out to put a hand on the duke’s forehead. He pulled it away with a frown. “It is strange. His physical symptoms suggest some kind of infection, but he has no temperature.” He glanced over at Emma. “What do you think?”
Emma didn’t dare touch the duke, but she trusted her father’s judgment. It was a rather unusual case, especially considering the lack of fever. “It is rather odd; I do not think I have seen anything like it.”
“I have some ideas of remedies that may help him,” her father said, “but I will need to observe him further, in order to better prescribe any medicine. I must know the cause of this condition.” He met Lord Bramer’s eyes. “I was told that the doctor could shine no light on what caused this?”
Lord Bramer shook his head. “No. He was utterly perplexed.” He took a step closer. “Please, Mr. Turner, I will do anything to save my father. We can try any remedy you recommend. Perhaps you can visit my father daily to see to his condition and be better able to diagnose him?”
Emma saw a troubled look come across her father’s expression. She knew, before he even spoke, that he was thinking about the shop. He had many other people around the village to help, and, as much as he might want to, he could not devote all his time to this one patient.
“I would very much like to help, my lord, but I fear that daily visits would be quite difficult—”
Emma interrupted. “Perhaps, Father, I may see to the duke myself? That is, if Lord Bramer does not mind a woman healing his father.” She looked into Lord Bramer’s eyes. He frowned and seemed troubled, but only for a moment. The duchess looked as if she wanted to say something, but Lord Bramer spoke first.
“As I said, I will do anything. If that is what you can offer, Mr. Turner, I will take it.”
“Emma is a far better healer than I am, anyway. Your father is in good hands, my lord.”
George sighed. “Well then, the best will do.”
“It is settled, then.” Robert whispered to Emma softly, “Are you sure about this, Emma? Coming here every day? The household may not be very kind to you.”
Emma took her father’s arm. “You have taught me that we must help others, no matter the cost to ourselves. Besides, Lord Bramer has been very kind so far. Few people would let a woman tend to a man of the duke’s status.”
“What is your guess as to the nature of the illness so far?” Lord Bramer asked, interrupting their hushed conversation.
Emma looked at Robert, but he inclined his head to indicate that she should answer.
“Well,” Emma began, “it will take a day or two to determine the cause, but for now I will treat it as an infection.” She looked up at Lord Bramer. “Has he had any recent injuries?”
Lord Bramer looked at the duchess. A crease appeared between her eyebrows as she thought. “Not that I know of,” she confessed.
“Then it is not an infection from a wound, most likely,” determined Emma. “Only a very obvious wound would be able to cause this.” She sighed. “Forgive me, my lord, but there is no immediate answer. We must wait, and I will do everything I can to save your father.”
Lord Bramer nodded slowly. “Very well, then, we will wait.”
George lay in bed, unable to sleep.
He always tried not to actively worry, but ever since his mother had died when he was a boy, fear had grown inside him like a disease. As much as he relied on facts and evidence, the unpredictability of life had fed his imagination. He couldn’t help but picture his father dying of this illness and leaving him alone. He wasn’t sure that he could endure another loss like that.
What a terrible thing disease was. It was not something that he could simply take up arms and fight against. It was terrible and destructive, and George felt completely helpless against it.
With much effort, George tried to turn his thoughts away from his father. He instead thought about the girl, Miss Turner. She was proof that once again, life had thrown something else unexpected at him. He did not believe in fate, but he could not deny that it was a very big coincidence that they had been brought together again. Perhaps it meant something? Possibly, the fact that he had met her twice in one day, against all the odds, was a good omen for what was to come.
George shook the thoughts out of his mind. He was starting to get carried away.
When dawn broke, George decided to begin his day, knowing that he would get no more rest. He got out of bed and winced as his feet touched the ground. His left leg was still sore, and he knew the bandage needed to be changed. Once he was dressed and his leg taken care of, George quietly crept through the house to his father’s room. He entered without knocking, assuming that he’d be asleep, but to his surprise his father lifted his head as George entered.
“You are awake,” George stated, closing the door softly behind him. He blinked, trying to adjust his eyes to the darkness of the room.
The duke coughed. “It is good to see you, my son.” Another coughing fit. George winced at the forcefulness of it; it sounded painful. “But why are you back from your trip so soon?”
George walked softly to his father’s bedside and sat down in a chair waiting there. “Because of you, of course. Deborah wrote to me to tell me of the news, and I came immediately.”
“I am sorry for taking you from your trip.” His body heaved with more coughing. “I know that you were looking forward to it.”
“Please, try not to speak, Father. I can see that it is hurting you. Besides, it is all right. I would much rather be sure that you are healthy. I can visit Oliver again once you are back on your feet.”
The duke shook his head. “I do not know what happened,” he said.
“Father—” George tried to interrupt, not wanting him to talk, but the duke continued speaking.
“One day I was well, and then the next day I felt like this.”
“You will be all right. I will make sure of it.” He paused and reached out to take his father’s hand. “I have found you an excellent physician; the best, I am told.”
The duke squeezed George’s hand with a feeble grip. “I worry not for my condition, George, but only for you.”
George sighed. He recalled how, just before he had left for Somerset, his father had spoken to him about settling down. Though the duke was rarely ever angry, it was one of those moments where he had been firm with George.
“We are both growing older, George, and there is no denying it,” he had said. “I will not be around forever. What will you do when I’m gone?”
“Do not speak like that, Father,” George had replied, terrified at the thought of losing him. “You still have many years left.”
“My health is not the point. I know you rely on me, and as a father it warms my heart. But you are a grown man now, my son, and I wonder what may become of you once I am no longer here. You say that you are not ready, but I really think that you need to find a young lady to marry and start a family of your own.”
George had never been impressed by the ladies that he met at various balls and parties. He had never felt that he needed anyone but his father and his friend Oliver.
His father’s violent coughing fit pulled George from his thoughts. He stared at their joined hands. After the coughing subsided, he spoke again. “Please do not worry about me. I will leave you to rest, Father, but I will be back soon with the physician.”
The duke nodded, seeming not to have the stamina to do anything else. George’s heart was saddened by his father’s pain. He left his father’s chamber and tried not to let his tears fall. Instead, he went to the library, intent on trying to distract himself with a book, but as soon as he entered the room the butler announced Miss Turner’s arrival.
George stood and noticed that the girl had a steaming cup of tea in her hands. He frowned, wondering what on earth she was doing with it, but tried to soften his expression as he greeted her. “Good morning, Miss Turner.”
She curtseyed. “Good morning, my lord. May I inquire about your leg?”
George realized that he was leaning heavily on his right side and tried to correct his posture, though it caused him pain. “It is rather sore, but it has already started to heal. I believe I have you to thank for that, miss.”
“I am only glad that I was there to help.” She glanced down at her hands. “I have brought a herbal tea that I hope might ease your father’s pain.”
George could not help but be skeptical. Wasn’t it a cook’s job to make the tea? “I have never heard of a tea being a miraculous cure,” he confessed.
“Herbs are simple,” she replied, “but they can be very powerful when used in the right way. I have seen it time and again. Nature has a cure for everything.”
George sighed, wondering if he really had done the right thing by having this woman tend to his father. “I hope you are right.”
He led Miss Turner to his father’s chamber. When they entered, George saw that his father had already fallen asleep. Miss Turner set the tea beside the duke’s bed and reached out to touch his forehead. The duke stirred and blinked open his eyes. Miss Turner drew her hand away, looking a little sheepish.
However, the duke smiled at Miss Turner and then found George’s eyes. “Is this my physician, George?” he asked with amusement.
“It is, Father. Mrs. Whitley has vouched that Miss Turner and her father are very skilled healers.”
“As your son already said, my name is Emma Turner, my lord,” the young woman said softly. “I will do everything that I can to help you.”
The duke nodded as well as he could. “It is very good to meet you, Miss Turner. I thank you for the pains you must be taking to treat me.”
“It is no trouble at all,” said Miss Turner with a smile. She reached for the teacup. “Now, I have brought a tea, which I hope will help you. If you will allow me, I can assist you in sitting up so you may drink it. It should help you feel better.”
With a small smile lifting his moustache the duke replied, “I cannot argue with that.” He grunted as Miss Turner reached an arm around his shoulders to shift him into a more upright position. She held out the teacup, and he took it with trembling hands. Miss Turner wrapped her hands around his and helped bring it to his mouth.
George watched in awe. Though she was obviously reverent and polite, she did not show signs of nervousness around the duke. The role of caretaker seemed to be one that suited her.
“This tea tastes familiar,” said the duke after he took a sip, “and it is quite good!”
“It is dandelion, my lord,” Miss Turner replied. “When brewed, the flower can help strengthen the body from the effects of disease.”
“I did not know that those small flowers could do so much,” George commented, still skeptical. “It seems rather fantastic.”
Miss Turner did not turn to reply as she continued to help the duke drink the tea. “There are all sorts of amazing remedies provided by nature; one must only know where to look.”
He remembered how she had treated him in the park; she had been so sure and gentle, just as she was now. There was no hint of deception anywhere within her, and she was obviously intelligent, as well.
Perhaps she was right. Maybe there really was more to herbal medicine than he had ever considered? He had always found the practice rather more spiritual than pragmatic, but if it could save his father, then perhaps he would become a believer.
“I think it is ridiculous,” Deborah had said last night after Miss Turner had left. “I have never seen herbal medicine cure anything; it seems a rather heathen practice, anyway. You are making a mistake, George.”
And yet, conventional means had done absolutely nothing to help his father. At this moment at least, drinking hot tea with Miss Turner to assist him, the duke had looked more comfortable than he had since George had arrived home.
He watched Miss Turner as she laughed at something his father said. He had barely had time earlier to look at her thoroughly when the pain in his leg had been so terrible, but now he could see Miss Turner’s beauty and grace. She carried herself upright like someone of noble birth, allowing her long auburn hair to flow freely down her back to her waist. Yet her head was often bowed in humility, her green eyes cast downward. He wondered if she felt less confident than she appeared.
The duke began to ask Miss Turner questions about the medicines which she carried in her bag. George observed that she was someone who could put anyone at ease. She was beautiful, too, with a face and figure that would turn any man’s head. And yet rather than being vain, she was nothing but kind.
George shook his head. He was likely making too many judgments prematurely. But he certainly hoped that Miss Turner was as good as her father had claimed.
Once the tea was gone, Miss Turner helped her patient lie down again. “You must rest, my lord,” she said. “That is the most important thing. Continue drinking this tea throughout the day. I have left some with Mrs. Whitley.”
“I will make sure of it,” said George. “I certainly hope that it helps improve his condition.”
“I believe it will.” After asking the duke a few questions and remaining by his side a little longer, Emma rose and met George’s eyes. “I should be going, my lord, unless you need anything else.”
“No,” he replied. “You have already been a great help. Thank you, Miss Turner, for being so gracious with my father.”
She smiled and cast her eyes downward humbly. “I will be back tomorrow, my lord.”
George escorted her out. After she had left, Deborah came into the foyer and followed his gaze. “This is pointless, George,” she said. “Your father needs a real doctor.”
“She is a trained physician; her father says her skill exceeds even his. Besides, we hired Doctor Hereford, and he could do nothing.”
“Very well, then,” Deborah sighed, “and on your head be it.”
My Book will is Now Live on Amazon!