Sunday, September 21, 2014

A couple more chapters from Cynthia

I'm skipping a bit here. The 'gang' has gone to Brighton. The events surrounding that trip are, how shall I say it? Under construction.

      1. Alice Needs Help.

Alice and Cynthia spent their first morning in Brighton exploring the city. Cynthia needed a new gown, one that was suitable for a court ball at the Regent’s pavilion. Her few muslins were worn from too much use in the country, and had never been as elegant as she deserved. They surveyed the various stylish mantua makers to see who had the best styles. They settled on Madame Antonia’s where both of them had their measurements taken for gowns. Then, exhausted with their efforts, they looked for refreshments.
The Princess’s Choice Tea1 shop catered to the quality trade. Alice was so clearly quality that the waitress almost fell over herself welcoming her and her genteel companion to a table. The tea was excellent, as were the sweet biscuits. The only sour point in the whole experience were the two sharp pins that scratched the two women as they seated themselves at the table. The waitress apologized and then went back into the kitchen to berate the maid who set the table. Her voice carried into the tea room. The tea made for an elegant interlude on a perfect day.
Neither Alice nor Cynthia noticed the man who followed them back to Lord Wroxham’s town house. By the time they arrived at the house, Alice was feeling tired. She begged Cynthia’s leave to take a nap rather than read with her as had become their habit. Cynthia said, “I hope you are feeling better, but Mrs. Radcliffe can wait until tomorrow.”
At dinner Alice looked hot and flushed. She didn't last to the pudding, and tried to make her excuses. Then when she rose, she stumbled and collapsed. She was hastily rushed to her room where she lay shivering even though she was wrapped in her blankets and comforter. Clearly she was in the grip of a severe fever. The local apothecary was immediately called give his opinion and prescription.
“Lord Wroxham, I'm sorry to say that your sister has an infectious complaint. It could be the scarlet fever.”
James blanched. Infections were a serious threat, not just to his sister, but to everyone in the house. He asked, “What can we do?”
“I'll send a boy around with my best medicine, a crescent saline draught. It sometimes works. You should send for a physician as soon as you can. Meanwhile, keep her isolated2 so that the infection doesn't spread.”
“What are her prospects?”
“It is in the hands of the lord.”
“That bad.”
The apothecary frowned. Then he bowed and excused himself.
Lord Wroxham returned to the drawing room where Freddy and Cynthia were waiting. They could see from his demeanor that it was not good news. Freddy asked, “Will she recover?”
Lord Wroxham poured himself a large brandy. “I don't know. The apothecary wasn't optimistic.”
“Is it infectious?”
“He thinks it could be scarlet fever. Freddy, can you take Miss Morris away so she doesn't catch it?”
“Now?”
“Tomorrow morning should be fine. You can use our townhouse if you want.”
“James,” Freddy said, “I'll see to it. Will you be well?”
“I don't know. Alice is my sister. She's all the family I have left. I must stay.”
Cynthia listened to this exchange with increasing concern. She stood and demanded, “I need to see Alice.”
“What can you do, Miss Morris? It's infectious and I don't want you to get ill as well.”
“I won't. She's my friend too and maybe I can help.”
Lord Wroxham stood firm in his opinion. “No Miss Morris, Cynthia, you cannot stay. It is too dangerous. You will leave early tomorrow with Mr. Alverston. Please go to your room. I'll send Hannah to get you packed.”
Cynthia started to argue, then she seemed to think better of it. She said, “I'm feeling tired, Lord Wroxham. Please send Hannah in the morning.”
“I hope you are not infected.” Cynthia flashed him a smile. By now he knew her well enough to realize she was up to mischief. He thought it likely that she intended to secretly visit Alice despite his orders not to. So he warned her, “Alice's door will be locked. I will have the key. She is not to be disturbed and you are not to risk your health by visiting her.”
Cynthia curtsied, and said, “Yes. My Lord.”
“I mean it Cynthia.”
“I know, James.”
Later that night, after the household was sound asleep, Cynthia crept out of her room. The simple warded lock on Alice's room opened easily to her pick. Cynthia entered and was dismayed with what she found. Alice was bright red, running a high fever and hallucinating. She opened her communicator and called up Chris.
“Chris, you awake?”
“Of course Cynthia. What are you doing about at one in the morning?”
“It's Alice, Miss Wroxham. I think she's dying of scarlet fever.”
“You can lose your ship if you interfere. You know the rules.”
“I'll stay here if I need to. Alice is my friend. Now what should I do? I brought the med-kit.”
“Plug in my diagnostic lead, I'll tell you if there is a chance.”
“Thank you.” She followed his instructions and waited while Chris analyzed the patient.
“Cynthia, I have good news and bad news for you.”
“It's late. I'm tired, just tell me what to do.”
Chris gave her detailed instructions. She injected Alice with the combination of drugs that Chris specified.
“What now?”
“We wait.”
“Will it work?”
“It will, but it won’t be easy on her. Even in the best of cases it will take her a while to recover and you may have to treat complications.”
Cynthia walked back to the door and shut it. She locked herself in. Then she sat in the corner and waited. The time hung heavily on her and she dozed off.
The sun was just barely beginning to peak over the horizon, when she woke with a start. What she had been worrying about crystallized. She called up Chris and asked, “It's not scarlet fever, is it? It's sand fever.”
“Ah,” he replied, “You twigged that didn't you? That was my good news.”
“What the he- he- hell is she doing with sand fever in 1810 on Earth? She'll recover, even if we don't do anything. I know I did. It wasn't fun, but it isn't usually fatal.”
“I didn't want to tell you about this, but there is a Xylub advance party in Brighton.”
“That would sort of spoil my day. I suppose that was your bad news. Do you know more?”
“I picked up their transmissions. It's difficult for me to be more specific while I'm beached in Iceland.”
“You could have warned me.”
“They aren't looking for you. They're-”
“I know what they're doing. Harem slaves from a pre-space world. They tried to infect us at that tea-shop yesterday, didn't they?”
“Yes. Ma'am.”
“Too bad for them then, that I've already had it.”
Alice stirred and sat up, “Cynthia, what are you doing here?”
“I am looking after you.”
“The apothecary said I was infectious. That I must be left alone.”
Cynthia smiled, “I'm sure he did. How do you feel?”
“I ache all over. It's like someone's been pummeling me, or I fell off my horse and it walked on me.”
“That's sand fever for you. It's going to hurt for the next few days. Today will be the worst. You will get better.”
“Cynthia?”
“Yes?”
“Before I sat up, I was listening to you. Who were you talking to?”
“You were hallucinating with the fever.”
“No I wasn't. I was last night, I know because you were here and attached something to me. Then you stung me. You wouldn’t have done that, would you?”
Cynthia stopped talking.
“Cynthia? I wasn't hallucinating, was I?”
“No you weren't. I'm going to sting you again in a few moments. It will make go to sleep. You will feel better when you wake up.”
“Who are the Xylub? You weren't imagining things when you told us about a harem rescue when we first met, were you?”
“The Xylub are an interesting, amoral set of beings.” Her conditioning stopped her from adding, “Great in bed, but utterly untrustworthy. The sort who will make love to you all night on a beach under the stars while promising undying fealty, and then steal off with your money and clothes before the sun rises in the morning.” After a short pause, she said, “No I wasn't making it up; my imagination doesn't hold a candle to the weirdness of reality. When you're better I'll tell you more. First though, you need to sleep.” She pulled out the injector and stung Alice again. Alice quickly drifted off into a sleep so deep that she was barely breathing.
“Chris,” she said, “That blaster you gave me?”
“Yes, Ma'am.”
“It's a toy, isn't it?”
“Yes, Ma'am.”
“Next time I ask for one, I want a real one. You know I'm not trigger-happy.”
“You have used your blaster on every one of the last five times you went planetside, Ma'am.”
“I had to. Darned assassins. I'm going Xylub hunting after Lord Wroxham comes down and chews me out for exposing myself to Alice's 'infectious complaint'.”
“With what?”
“The machete from the survival kit, and, if he has them, one of My Lord's dueling pistols.”
“If you must.”
“We can't have Xylub hunting humans, can we?”
“I suppose not, Ma'am.”
“No we can’t. This is why I have a Letter of Marque.”
They would have continued their discussion but Cynthia heard the key being put in the lock and, more important, two voices on the other side. It was the apothecary and Lord Wroxham. She quickly grabbed the fireplace poker and stood quietly next to the hinges so that she would be behind the door when it opened.
As he opened the lock, Lord Wroxham said, “It is so good of you to come this early Mr. Smith. I'm afraid my sister is still in a bad way.” Lord Wroxham focused his attention on his sister. She seemed, if anything, to be in a far worse condition than last night.
“I warned you that her disease might progress in such a fashion.” He practically rubbed his hands in glee. Sand fever, although almost never fatal, often depressed the vital signs of its victims to where they seemed dead. That's why the Xylub used it for kidnapping. Nearly dead bodies tend not to put up much of a struggle. This practice avoided unnecessary damage to the goods. When Lord Wroxham looked at him, none of his excitement was visible. “I've sent for my good friend Dr. Wesson. He may be able to help.”
“Is there anything we can do?”
“Let me check how she is breathing.” He walked to the bed and listened carefully to Alice's chest. When he straightened and turned to report to Lord Wroxham, he saw Cynthia standing by the door with the poker in her hands at the ready. He responded by shouted, “Oh Crap!3 It's her.” Then he vanished in a shimmer of sparks. Cynthia immediately held her hand to her earring and shouted, “Chris! Silent running, Silent running!”
She was too late. Her earrings were now just pearl earrings, and the communicator was just a diary. The Xylub had released a neutrino pulse and fried her communications. She sat at the foot of Alice's bed and wept.
Lord Wroxham sat next to her and tried to comfort her. She cried on his shoulder, which he found both disquieting and oddly interesting. He also found himself feeling relieved that he wasn't wearing his best jacket. “What is it Miss Morris?”
“I'm stranded, alone.”
“What happened?”
“Those bl- bloody Xylub. They pulsed the planet as they left. I'm stuck on this damned primitive backwater.” She resumed weeping.
“What is happening with Alice, will she live?”
Cynthia looked up at him. Then she seemed to pull her emotions back into control. Her tears stopped. She said, “I'm sorry. This emotional display is just not seemly.”
“Cynthia, there are times you need to cry.”
“No there aren't. I don't know what's come over me.”
He gave her a hug. “It will be fine. I don't mind you crying on my shoulder. This isn't my best jacket anyway.”
She ignored him. Indeed, she pushed him away and said, “You must be worried about your sister. She's fine. I gave her a sedative before you came in. Her disease hurts like he- he- had-,” she paused, “is extremely painful so it's best if she's asleep.”
“What's a sedative?”
“A drug that makes you sleep. She'll wake up this afternoon. She'll still be sore for a few days, but the worst will be over. You don't need to send Freddy away.”
“How do you know?”
“She has sand fever.”
“Never heard of it.”
“I'd be shocked if you had. It's not from Earth. The only reason I'm not lying half-dead upstairs is I've already had it.”
“Oh, and these, what was it, xub? What was that about?”
“Xylub. One of the less pleasant species out there. They can pass as human if they try, but are bad news all around. I'm sorry you had the pleasure of meeting one of them.”
“What was he doing here?”
“They are masters of se- se-, the things husbands and wives do. It was selecting young females for its harem.”
“It?”
Cynthia took a deep breath, then tried to explain. “The Xylub have a complex set of genders. At least four. So 'he' isn't really appropriate.”
“Four genders? Wonder how they do it. Sounds like life there is interesting.”
“It's not. They're also amoral, thieving and treacherous. I ha- had more than one mission there. They were the only times I was ever truly scared.”
“Are you scared now?”
“Worried. I'm alone, without any warning if they come again.”
“But not scared?”
“No.” She gave his hand a squeeze. “Really, I'm not.”
Lord Wroxham quietly asked her, “Cynthia? I know you have been chatting all the time with your friend Chris. Is that really gone?”
“Yes, and I don't know if they took him out too.” She started to cry then controlled herself.
“Is there any other way you can talk to him? I'm a fairly wealthy man, and if it's just a matter of money.”
Cynthia smiled at him, and then hugged him. Again it was a surprisingly pleasant experience for both of them. “Thank you, There is, but you can't buy what I need. A hundred, maybe even as little as fifty years from now, we could easily do it. But not now and not here.”
He released her and asked, “Try me. What do you need?”
“Power. Ten kilowatts of power, and it has to be electric power.”
“A what of what?”
“More energy than London burns in a month all put together in one place at one time.”
“Is that all?”
“A mile or so of copper wire, some thin copper sheets and plate glass, insulators, a galena crystal or iron filings. We can just go down to the local shop and buy them. Can't we?”
“No, but I can get them made if it would help you.”
She squeezed his hand, then hugged him once more. “James, you're very generous. I wish you could help me.”
“Are you sure?”
“I suppose if I filled your hall with galvanic piles, then maybe.”
“It could be arranged. I have some friends in the Royal Academy who would love to try.”
Cynthia pulled herself closer to Lord Wroxham's reassuring warmth. “I suppose, next you'll tell me that we could just hire a ship to visit Iceland and find Chris that way.”
“I wasn't, but only because I didn't know he was in Iceland. When would you like to go? It might be cheaper than all those piles. Less messy too.”
Cynthia began to recover her normal spirits, which meant that it was just as well that Hannah knocked gently on the door frame to attract their attention. She was very well trained and would never comment on her master and mistress's behavior. Nonetheless, she was scandalized to see Lord Wroxham and Miss Morris sitting so closely together on Miss Wroxham's bed. It was decidedly unseemly and confirmed her opinion that Miss Morris was an altogether too forward young lady. She coughed her disapproval then said, “If Miss Morris is to leave with Mr. Alverston this morning, her clothes need to be packed now. I'd be very glad to get started.”
Freddy walked into the hall behind Hannah and she respectfully withdrew to give him room at the door. “James, I spent the night thinking. I'm no poltroon. Alice would never forgive me when she recovered if I fled while she lay at death's door. Why don't we just put Miss Morris in a local lodging for safety while Alice is ill?”
Realizing how much he was breaching good decorum, and much to Cynthia's displeasure, Lord Wroxham rose, and said, “Hannah, Freddy, Miss Morris will be staying here. Miss Wroxham is not infectious and will recover.”
Freddy replied, “She looks dashed ill, almost dead lying there. What did Mr. Smith say?”
Cynthia answered him, “Nothing. Da- da-. That idiot. It's not scarlet fever. I've sedated her. She's in a deep sleep. I'm sure she won't mind if you want to listen to her breathing or take her pulse.”
“So you're now Dr. Morris too? Who ever heard of a female doctor? James, we need to find a real doctor for Alice.”
Cynthia erupted in anger, “My basic training at the Academy makes me more qualified than any of your blasted quacks, and all I have is general first aid. I wouldn't trust one of your bloody doctors to tell the time of day. They have no idea of what causes disease, barely understand the circulation of blood and their idea of medicines will kill you.” Freddy jumped back from her onslaught and Lord Wroxham, seeing her passioned explosion, looked at her in a new light. She wasn't just a bit of fluff. Cynthia stopped herself, took a deep breath and then said, “I'm sorry for that outburst. My temper is too short. It's just that I've been up all night with Alice and”
Lord Wroxham continued for her, “Cynthia had some terrible news. A bereavement in her family. It arrived by express this morning. Hannah, would you take her to her room?”
“Sir.”
Cynthia gave him a defiant glance and was about to object when he said, “Cynthia, Freddy and I will watch Alice. We'll tell you if anything happens, and I won't let anyone quack my sister. It really would be best for you and for Alice if you rested.”
Cynthia was still asleep late in the afternoon when a gentle knocking on her door woke her. She asked, “Who is it?”
Alice quietly opened the door and said, “Can I come in? I’ve brought a copy of Miss Edgeworth’s ‘Belinda’. I thought we could read it together. We missed yesterday’s reading.”
“It would make a welcome change from all those Gothic romances. I think we’ve had enough excitement for a long while.”
“Me too.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Sore.”
“I’m pleased you’re walking. It took me two days to be able to walk when I had it.”
“You've had this disease?”
“Years ago. Nasty though. I still remember the pain.”
Later in the afternoon, Hannah interrupted their reading when it was time to dress for dinner. She was bursting with the news that had spread through the servant’s grapevine. “Miss Morris, Miss Wroxham, have you heard?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“I guess not. You being asleep and all. That tea shop, the Princess’s Choice. It’s gone!”
Alice said, “What do you mean gone?”
“It’s like the whole building just vanished. And that Dr. Wesson, he was treating Mrs. Robertson for her hysteria. She was just getting to her crisis when he up and vanished. Her maid says it was like he turned into a bunch of sparks.”
Cynthia asked, “Any news about Mr. Smith, the apothecary?”
“No, he’s missing too. Could it be a French plot?”
Alice gave Cynthia a hard stare, then said, “Is there something you should tell me about this?”
Cynthia smiled, shrugged and said, “It's nothing to do with me, unfortunately.”


Later that night, Hannah was helping Cynthia prepare for bed by brushing her hair. She would brush it out, then dust in a small amount of powder and brush that out. It kept the critters at bay.
She was quiet, but finally had to ask, “Miss Morris?”
“Yes, Hannah.”
“Miss Wroxham told me what you said to her. About those things. Is that true?”
“Unfortunately, it is. They shouldn't be here, not now.”
Hannah sniffed. “You stopped them, didn't you?”
“I didn't do much. He left before I could even brain him with the poker.”
The next few words were difficult for Hannah. “Miss Morris, are you aware that I haven't always approved of you?”
“You didn't?”
“Thank you for saying that, but I'm sure you are. I wish to apologize. I've known Miss Wroxham since she was a little girl, she's almost my daughter.”
“I could tell, Hannah. It didn't surprise me. I like her too.”
“I guess I was a little jealous of your friendship. Thank you for helping her.”








      1. Dr. Cynthia.

Young gentlewoman after young gentlewoman came down with the mysterious fever. The local apothecaries and doctors were helpless in preventing its spread. Even the Prince was considering leaving Brighton, and that would bring the season to an abrupt and premature end. Eventually news of Miss Morris's miraculous cure of Miss Wroxham spread via the servant's gossip to one of the stricken mothers.
Lady Westerly had her footman knock at the Wroxham's while her carriage waited outside. While she waited for the door, she recounted how much she disapproved of Lord Wroxham. He had always overlooked her dear Mary, no matter how much she had put her in his way. Now it seemed that she might not have another chance. The Wroxham's doorman admitted her.
“Is Lord Wroxham available?”
“I will see. Ma'am. If you would come this way.” He escorted her to front parlor and then passed the word to his superiors.
A few minutes later, Lord Wroxham arrived. “Lady Westerly. What brings you to my humble abode?”
Since his 'humble abode' was fashionably painted and furnished in the first stare, she understood the satire in his message.
“My Lord Wroxham, is it true that your sister had this awful fever?”
“It is. She has recovered. Indeed, I believe that she and her friend Miss Morris are planning to go sea bathing this afternoon. To help their constitutions.”
“I find a little sea-bathing to be so bracing.” She hesitated, then bluntly came to the point. “I was told by my maid that Miss Morris cured your sister. Could she see my daughter?”
“I'll see if she is willing.” He bowed and gracefully left the room. Alice and Cynthia were enjoying the remains of their breakfast in the back parlor. Freddy, exhausted from a late and expensive night of whist at the Prince Regent's still slept. Alice was the first to notice her brother and his distraction, “James? What is it?”
He hesitated, then said, “Miss Morris, I'm afraid the news of your cure has spread.”
“So?”
“I have Lady Westerly waiting for you in the front parlor. She would like you to see her daughter.”
“If it's really the sand fever, there isn't much I can do. She'll eventually get better, or she won't.”
Alice broke in, “You cured me, didn't you?”
“The medicines I gave you sped your healing, but as long as you didn't get quacked by one of the local doctors, you would have healed by yourself. I know I did.”
“So could you see her? Consider it as a favor.”
“Mother of one of your amours?”
“God forbid, Mary Westerly was, is one of the most insipid young ladies of my acquaintance.”
Alice countered him, “No she's not. I like Mary.”
“She is.”
“Is not.”
“Maybe she's not trying to impress you as a matrimonial candidate.”
“If so she’s doing an excellent job of it.”
Alice added, “Maybe she's not interested in you, but has to show willing for her mother.”
“In any case, God preserve me from marrying her.”
Alice replied, “While it may come as a shock to you, My Lord, I'm sure she has the same prayer.”
While they argued Cynthia thought. She stopped them by saying, “The problem seems simple to me. The right thing for me to do is nothing. How do I cure her by doing nothing?”
“Sugar pills?”
“What did you give me when I was ill?”
“Willow bark tea. With a little ginger.”
“That's the thing. Let's go beard this dragon in our den.”
Lady Westerly was relieved to hear more than one person approach the parlor. Lord Wroxham entered, followed closely by Alice and Cynthia. He bowed and said, “You know my sister Alice. May I present our guest, Miss Cynthia Morris.”
Cynthia stepped forward and curtsied, “Lady Westerly, I am delighted to meet you.”
Lady Westerly came right to the point, “Can you do anything about my daughter?”
“Maybe. It depends why she's ill.”
“I was told you cured Miss Wroxham. Did you?”
“I helped nurse her through a difficult stage of the disease. If your daughter has sand fever, I'd be happy to help.”
“Sand fever?”
“A disease from the West Indies, where I was before I returned to England.”
“Miss Morris, you are awfully fair for someone who spent much time in the Indies.”
“Did I say Indies? How forgetful of me. It's an Eskimo disease, from my time in Nova Scotia.”
“Whatever were you doing there?”
“My late father was trying to find the Northwest Passage. I'm sorry to say he didn't, and I was sent to live with the head of his family Lord Petersborough after he disappeared in a blizzard and my mother died of frostbite. My mother and I thought he was eaten by a polar bear.”
“Old Lord Petersborough? I find that hard to believe.”
“He found me too active for his comfort and recommended me to Lord Wroxham. So here I am.”
“That's quite a tale, young lady.” Lady Westerly turned to Lord Wroxham. She gave him an icy stare and said, “I presume you believe her?” He gave Cynthia a teasing smile, which caused her to hold her breath, but replied, “Absolutely, and I checked her references.”
Alice added, “Lady Westerly, if you would give us time to prepare, I'm sure both Cynthia and I would be happy to accompany you to see your daughter.”
“My carriage is waiting outside.”
Cynthia was quick on the uptake, and said “I'm sorry, Lady Westerly, I didn't realize you were so worried. I apologize for my persiflage. Alice, if you're coming with me, let's go.” Then she strode out towards the main door. Alice and Lady Westerly followed.
Lady Westerly led the way once they arrived at her townhouse. When they finally arrived at her daughter's room she gave Cynthia an anxious look and said, “I do hope you can help. I'm at my wit's end about her.”
“If it's what Miss Wroxham had, I'll be able to. Otherwise, I'm not sure.”
They opened the door and found Miss Westerly lying on the bed with the local surgeon preparing to bleed her. Cynthia shouted, “What are you doing to her?”
He looked up at his visitors and said, “Dr. Weston believes her humors are out of balance and recommended a thorough bleeding.”
“Well stop it right now. That is completely the wrong thing for Miss Westerly.”
He asked, “Lady Westerly, what is your opinion?”
“I've asked Miss Morris to come and give her opinion. She is uniquely experienced in this disease.”
“Oh. She is, is she?”
“Yes I am. How many of your other patients have the illness?”
“All the one's I've bled.”
“How thoroughly do you wash your fleem?”
“Well,” he paused, “I always wipe it off between patients, and I usually sharpen it.”
“Did it ever occur to you that you might be spreading the disease?”
“No. I'm just adjusting their humors. It will cure them.”
Cynthia appeared to turn her gaze heaven-ward while she prayed for strength. In fact she was cursing the surgeon, his morals, manners, and general understanding of human biology. Unfortunately her conditioning was interfering with her speech. While this undoubtedly deprived her companions of a much expanded and colorful vocabulary, it left a much better impression than her words would have. Eventually she controlled herself and said, “Mr. I'm sorry I didn't catch your name.”
“Mr. Davis. I'm a fully qualified surgeon, and not just a barber-surgeon. I'll have you know that.”
“Yes, yes, Mr. Davis, I understand that you're qualified, and you're not happy that a young woman is telling you what to do. Tough. This disease, like many, is spread by blood. When you don't properly clean your instruments you will harm your patients.”
“What would you have me do?”
“At least boil the knife between patients, and don't handle the blade with your fingers.”
“Maybe I'll try that, then maybe I won't. It sounds like magic to me. Are you going to let me get on with it?”
“No. Please let me examine Miss Westerly before you hack her up.” Cynthia forced her way past the man and started to look at Mary. It didn't take long for her to make a diagnosis. “That is sand fever. Her pulse and responsiveness are exactly right.”
Mary stirred in response to Cynthia's prodding. “Who are you?”
“I don't think we've met, but I'm one of Miss Wroxham's friends. Miss Morris.”
“Oh. I hurt.”
“I'm not surprised. It is going to hurt worse soon. Alice, did you bring that recipe?”
“The one with the willow bark?”
“Yes.”
Mr. Davis exploded, “Not that old wives' tale about using willow bark for fever and pain! Now get out of my way young lady and let me bleed the patient.”
Lady Westerly stopped him. “Mr Davis, you bled my daughter yesterday and she's worse today. Why do you think it will work?”
“It's what we do to treat fevers. Balance the humors in the body. They are out of balance, and your daughter has too much blood so it is important to bleed her. If she were jaundiced, we'd try to remove the bile.”
“When did she last eat?”
Lady Westerly answered, “The day before yesterday.”
“Since she hasn't eaten for two days, how did she get more blood?”
Mr. Davis didn't have an answer for this. Lady Westerly continued, “I'd like to try Miss Morris's approach. It can't hurt. If Mary isn't better tomorrow you can bleed her then.”
Cynthia inspected Mary's arms while this conversation was underway. She found where Mary had been bled the day before, and called attention to it. “Mr. Davis, is this where you bled Miss Westerly yesterday?”
“Yes.”
“See how it is red, inflamed?”
“It usually does that as a part of the healing. Why?”
“That's from the filth on your knife. Lady Westerly, I'll need some hot salt water for a poultice, a fomentation to draw it out before it can harm your daughter.”
Mr. Davis assembled every tiny bit of his dignity, drew himself to his full height and announced, “I will not stay here and watch this amateur endanger your daughter's health, Lady Westerly. I will return this afternoon, and I hope by then you will have seen the error of your ways.” He bowed and left the room. A footman escorted him out and shut the door behind him.
Cynthia smiled, “Well, that's that. Alice, would you give the prescription to Lady Westerly. The willow bark is the most important part, and the ginger helps make it potable.”
Lady Westerly stared intensely at Cynthia, before she said, “I hope you are correct, young lady.”
“Other than being butchered on her arm, your daughter is already on the mend.”
It was an hour after the midday nuncheon when both Mr. Davis and his associate Dr. Joyce paid a visit to the Westerly residence. Mr. Davis brought his friend to help argue with this recalcitrant woman and get her to see sense. If he didn't bleed Miss Westerly there was no telling what would happen to her.
What did happen to her was exactly what Cynthia expected. She was sitting up in bed, having consumed a pint of the willow tea. Her fever was down, her spirits were high and she was listening intently as her friend Alice was reading from a Gothic romance. Cynthia was in another room explaining to Lady Westerly how she expected Mary to progress over the next few days. “She may occasionally relapse into a fever, but the willow tea will help with that.”
“I'll make sure we have a supply ready.”
“And she'll feel very achy. Almost as if someone had beaten her with a cudgel.”
“Sounds horrible.”
“It is. Have her exercise gently at first, overdoing it will leave her in pain. I'm much more worried about that inflammation from where she was hacked up. So keep up with the fomentations.”
The surgeon and the doctor were introduced and the four of them proceeded to Mary's room. One look at the patient convinced them that she was improving. Mr. Davis said, with a smug look, “You see, Lady Westerly, that bleeding I performed on your daughter yesterday has cured her.”
Cynthia clenched her fists, but bit her tongue. Some levels of arrogant ignorance were unassailable.


When Alice and Cynthia returned home in the late afternoon, Freddy was finally awake. Alice noticed something was wrong with him and asked, “Freddy, what is it?”
“Nothing.”
“Nothing? You didn't drink too much again last night, did you? You look like you did that time in London.”
“No I didn't drink too much.” He paused, “Alice.”
“Yes?”
“I'm going to have to rusticate.”
“What?”
“I lost more last night than I can afford. All of this quarter's allowance and next quarter’s. Then some.”
“Oh.”
“Lord White has my vowels. M'father will pay them, but he'll insist that I stay with the family in the country.”
Alice stifled a sob, “Your father doesn't approve of me, does he?”
“He doesn't approve of anyone in the ton. Thinks you're all flighty, unsuitable. Said I'd soon be run off my feet if I went to London.”
Cynthia listened to this melancholy discussion with growing anger. “Mr. Alverston, how much did you drop?”
“Two-thousand, five hundred, three and eight.”
“I'm sure Lord Wroxham would loan you that.”
“I have my pride. I won't put the bite on James.”
“Then there is one option left. Are you invited to return to the tables?”
“Oh yes, they said I was welcome back tonight. As long as I wanted to try to recover. They said it was just bad beginner's luck.”
“Take me with you.”
Alice shot out, “Cynthia!”
“Alice, I’m not going dancing with him or anything silly like that. It can't have been a fair game if he lost that much. I've knocked my way around more than a few card sharps.”
Freddy replied, “It must have been, Lord White, the Prince and Lord Grey where at the table. All honorable men.”
“Freddy, honorable men do not gull-catch. How often have you gambled before?”
“Other than chicken-stakes whist at college?”
“Yes, only high-stakes gambling.”
“That was my first time.”
“Let tonight be your last.”


That evening, Freddy and Cynthia slipped out and found their way to the Pavilion. Freddy led her to the back room where the prince and his cronies were engaged in private pursuits. Lord White effusively greeted them, “Back for a rematch, Mr. Alverston?”
“Yes.” he replied. His grim visage hid his internal qualms.
“And I see you've brought a pretty eyeful with you. What is your name miss?”
“Miss Morris. Miss Cynthia Morris. If I'm backing my friend, I thought it best to watch the game.”
“Do you have the blunt?”
Cynthia pulled a roll of banknotes from her reticule. “I think these will do, don't you?”
Freddy hurriedly whispered in her ear, “Miss Morris! No! That must be all your money.”
She replied in an equally furtive way, “Don't worry, they're counterfeit. No point in risking real money with these card sharps.”
Freddy blanched, but joined the table with the two Lords and the Prince. The Prince surveyed his partners and noticing Cynthia, said, “I say, Mr. Alverston, if you would be my partner then I could watch your elegant companion from across the table.”
“If you wish, your highness.”
“I'm not known as 'the man' for nothing.” As he was fat, blotchy and his obvious corset creaked as he breathed, Cynthia was not favorably impressed with 'the man'. The decided ‘odor of nobility’ that was barely masked by primrose and lavender water didn’t help.
The play began, and as before, Lord White seemed to have uncanny luck while Freddy could barely hold his own. Cynthia tapped him on the shoulder, “Mr. Alverston, would you let me play in your place?”
Lord White started to object, when the Prince overruled him. “I always enjoy playing with the fair company.” Cynthia kept her thoughts of “I'm sure you do, and given your health, I'll bet playing is about all you can do.” to herself. Instead, she gracefully replaced Freddy at the table, and said, “Now we should have some amusement.”
She may have enjoyed it, but Lord White and Lord Grey did not. Their uncanny luck vanished with her play. An hour later she rose and curtsied before saying, as she handed Lord White a few bills, “I believe this covers Mr. Alverston's vowels.”
Still in shock, he nodded.
“Does it?”
“Yes.” He produced them, then tore them in two.
“Thank you.” She turned to Freddy and handing him a small bundle of notes said, “Mr. Alverston, please take these with you. It's a small profit. I strongly suggest you invest it in entertaining Miss Wroxham. She was most distressed by your plight, and that may help to make amends. Please do not gamble again. I may not be able to rescue you next time.”
“Yes, what are you planning to do?”
“I believe the Prince wanted to show me his etchings. I have heard that he has exquisite taste. I shall return later.”
She watched as the prince took the deck of cards from the table and put it in his pocket. Then she followed him off to one of the galleries where he displayed his art collection.
When he returned home Freddy found Alice and her brother in the parlor. He joyfully exclaimed that Cynthia had rescued him and he even had a small profit. “Alice, I thought we could go to the theater tomorrow.”
Lord Wroxham frowned, “Where is Miss Morris?”
“The prince wanted to show her his etchings.”
“What!”
“She accompanied him to the gallery.”
“And you let her go with him?”
“Yes, was I wrong?”
“Very. Now if you'll excuse me, I must rescue my ward. I only hope I'm not too late.”
Lord Wroxham wasn't too late, but when he forced his way to a room in the far recesses of the pavilion, he found a distressing sight. The Prince and Cynthia were playing cards for clothing. She had one glove in play, while the Prince was down to his corset. As Lord Wroxham pushed the door open he heard, “Your Highness, I think we've played enough, I'd much rather you left your corset on.”
“Then I'll play you for a forfeit.”
“No, I really must be getting home. My guardian will be worried.”
Lord Wroxham coughed, and they both looked at him. He bowed, “Your Highness.”
“Lord Wroxham,” Cynthia gushed, “I'm so glad you are here. I need a witness.”
“A witness?”
She turned to the Prince and said, “Next time you play strip piquet, please don't use a marked deck.”
“A marked deck?”
“How do you think we came to this, my first glove is still in play against your corset?”
“Oh.”
“I'm glad you weren't aware of it, sir. Who gave you the deck?”
“Lord White usually supplies me. I always do very well when we gamble together.”
“I might reconsider playing with him, your highness. Now if you'll excuse me, my guardian probably has some choice words for me.” She rose, curtsied to the Prince and then to Lord Wroxham, “Don't you?”
He glowered at her, but said, “On the way home, you wayward piece of baggage.” Then he too bowed to the prince and they left.


On the way home he was about to tell Cynthia how much she upset him, when she smiled at him and said, “Thank you for rescuing me. The prince kept proposing various forfeits instead of his corset, and as they were all obscenely biological it was more than a little difficult. He just wouldn’t take no for an answer. I couldn't think how to end the game with any degree of politeness or respect. I was about to just leave.”
“You shouldn't have gone unaccompanied with him to see his etchings.”
“No I shouldn't have. You're right. I thought I could handle him. He didn't even get close to an improper act.”
“It's more your reputation, dear Miss Cynthia, that you have to worry about. People will think you're fast.”
“I am fast, but I'm not easy.”
“You know what I mean, and you must think of Alice's reputation as well. She cannot associate with a woman of poor repute.”
She smiled at him again, which put him off his stride. “I'm sorry James. It's just I find it so hard to decline a challenge. By the way, would you like this?” She handed him one of the Prince's fobs. “I don't think this is part of the crown jewels.”
“Where did you get that?”
“From a certain distinguished gentleman's vest.”
“The Prince’s?”
“Of course, whose else? If he makes a fuss, just show it to him. I'm sure our evening didn't go the way he planned, and he'd soon like to forget it.”
“I doubt you'll be invited to dance at the Pavilion again.”
Cynthia sighed, “Oh dear. To miss such a hot, overcrowded and not just noisy, but noisome event. I shall forever be heartbroken.”
“It means social ostracism.”
She stopped in the middle of the pavement and turned to face Lord Wroxham. “James, please listen to me. The Prince was gambling with a marked deck. I know it. He knows I know it. We won't hear anything about tonight, because he won't want that rumor spread. It's not something 'the man' should do, is it?”
“You're sure?”
“He isn't the first monarch I've crossed paths with.”
“I suppose you’ve been familiar with many Princes?”
“James,” Cynthia flashed him a smile, “I’d have played differently with a handsome young man like you.”
Lord Wroxham's annoyance with her made him miss her point. “Cynthia, I'm serious about this. You must behave with the decorum expected of a young lady of breeding.”
“James, I'll do my best to conduct myself as you see fit. Mark my words, there will be no repercussions from this, and we'll be invited to the next ball. You'll see.”
1This was a cheeky choice of a name, since the Prince of Wales did not like his wife, and Brighton was his town.
2Lest this sound like a modern idea, consider Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Palmer's very evident and sensible fear of an infection in 'Sense and Sensibility' when Marianne is ill. The concept of infection was understood, but not the mechanism.
3Translators note. Again. He shouted 'ubut xialen shosha' in the Xylub coastal dialect. Unfortunately this translates as “The gods are against me and I'm knee deep in their excrement.” “Oh Crap” is a reasonably idiomatic translation.