The Good Nurse
Darcy crashed through the back doors of Pemberley house. The wind and rain were blowing so hard that Mrs. Reynolds ducked to avoid getting soaked. Elizabeth ran through the back hall towards her husband and stopped just in front of him. He was safe, however his clothes were soaked through and his hair was dripping wet. His eyes looked red and he shivered as he peeled off his overcoat.
"Fitzwilliam!" she exclaimed. "You will catch your death if you do not get out of those wet things!" She placed her hands on his face which was ice cold, then she took his hands in hers and rubbed them trying to warm them. "I was so worried about you!" she reproached.
"I know, my dear. I waited a bit too long and got caught in the storm." He said rather nasally.
She looked sideways at him, worry written all over her face. "Come now...you must get out of those wet clothes and sit by the fire."He dutifully followed her to his dressing chamber, changed his clothes and wrapped himself in a warm robe with a towel around his neck. He came out into the sitting area and plopped down in his chair next to the fire. Elizabeth covered him with a blanket and she took the towel from his shoulders and tousled his hair with it to dry him further. He shivered again, and she reached over to feel his face. He was beginning to thaw out alright, however she could see that the beam he usually had to his manner was simply not there.
"Fitzwilliam, I do so hope you are not becoming ill."
"I believe it is a little too late to hope, Elizabeth." he said, sounding as if he were talking through his nose again. "I am beginning to feel dreadful."
"Oh, dear." she spoke as she tugged on his hands. "Come now, I will tuck you into bed immediately."
He resisted her attempt to nurse him. "Elizabeth, I cannot. I have far too many things to do, than to wile away the day in bed."
"Mr. Darcy!" Elizabeth spoke forcefully. "I shall not allow you to play the martyr. There will be no harm in you resting for the day, and I am sure whatever it is you have to do can wait!"
Darcy looked up at her as a child looking up to his angry parent. "Well...I suppose..." his sentence was cut short by a sudden and forceful sneeze.
"Come to bed this moment!" she had to restrain her anger. She escorted him over to the bed, pulled back the covers and eased his poor, sick body down onto the ticking. She helped him off with his robe and tucked the covers back around him. "There...you are not to move, Fitzwilliam. I shall only be gone for a few minutes." She reached down and caressed his pallid cheek.
"I promise I will stay here," he managed to grin with less enthusiasm than usual. "You are a good nurse."
"Yes I am." she smiled, and quickly left their room to make all the necessary preparations.
Darcy sat up and looked about the room, ensuring that she was gone. When he was positive he was alone, he laid back down onto the pillow with a thud and moaned out loud. "Oh god...I hate being ill!"
Elizabeth quickly found her way to the kitchen. "Mrs. Darcy...how is the master feeling?" Mrs. Reynolds inquired, and the rest of the staff awaited her reply.
"I believe he is feeling quite badly...although he would rather succumb than admit it." Elizabeth said dryly.
Mrs. Reynolds continued, "Yes ma’am. I am afraid the master has never been a very cooperative patient...when he is ill."
"Well...that is good to know, for I shall construct my plan of attack around that knowledge."
The servants all looked around at each other and grinned. The master of Pemberley rarely ever fell ill, but when he did the household lived in dread. He was by far crankier and more demanding when he was uncomfortable, than at any other time. He had a habit of not staying put, and ignoring his physician's good advice to rest.
Darcy stared at the ceiling as he lay in bed. He felt another sneeze coming on and he quickly rolled over, flung open the nightstand drawer and pulled out a handkerchief. His sneeze practically lifted him off the bed and he wiped his nose and rolled back over with a groan and a cough. "Damn.." he mumbled as Elizabeth came back into the room. "What is that?" he demanded as he looked at the jar in her hand.
"Camphor...for your chest," she said quietly.
"Not that!" he yelped. "I shall feel all slimy, and besides I hate the smell."
"Are you always this difficult, Fitzwilliam?" she inquired with a forced politeness.
"I am never difficult."
"Ha," she said as she rolled her eyes in disbelief. Darcy frowned at her, then reached for the handkerchief on the nightstand and sneezed forcefully into it. "Here, let me unbutton your nightshirt a bit and I shall rub this on.""Must you?" he complained as a child would. She glared at him, her mouth pinched up into a tiny pout. "Oh...very well then." She relaxed her facial features and plopped a glob of the medicated smelling grease on his chest. "Ugh..." he moaned as his stuffed nose caught a whiff of the strong smell. She began to rub it onto his chest and under his chin. He started to squirm and at one point even laughed out loud.
"Will you hold still?" she demanded.
"I cannot...it is torture," he winced and snickered.
"Fitzwilliam...you are behaving like a child!"
"Elizabeth...you are treating me like one!" he coughed and sputtered.
"I am only trying to nurse you properly...would you rather I called the physician? I am sure he would have some awful concoction to pour down your throat!"
"Your point is well taken," he conceded. She finished rubbing in the camphor and he had to admit that it did make him feel somewhat better, even if he only admitted it silently to himself.
He settled back down and breathed a little easier. "There now...you shall be able to rest easier. Mrs. Reynolds should be coming up with your broth soon, then I shall sit here quietly and watch over you while you try to sleep."
"Sleep? It is the middle of the day...I cannot sleep, Elizabeth. Please ring down for Stevens to bring up the pile of correspondence on the study desk. I shall be perfectly fine to read them and give my reply."
He glanced over at her when his demands were finished, and again he saw the tiny little pout set in her stoic features. He looked back up at the ceiling and groaned, "...very well, I shall try to..." he reached up rub in forehead, "...sleep."
She reached down and pushed the hair from his forehead and felt for any tell tale signs of fever. She smiled at him and nodded her approval of his relinquishment of his own wishes.
"I do believe you are enjoying this?" he huffed. "Are you not afraid you will catch whatever this is that I have?"
She shook her head and made a move to tease him, "No...and even if I did, I shall certainly behave much better than you."
He groaned in disbelief, but smiled at the warmth of her touch upon his face. Her hand did feel soft and gentle, and quite comforting. "Well, since you will not let me read my correspondence, will you go to the library and select a good book to read?"
"I shall do at least that, however I shall read it to you, my dear."
He nodded timidly and she stood up to leave, "I shall not be gone long. Do you promise to stay in bed, Fitzwilliam?"
He nodded his head in confirmation and Elizabeth pulled the covers higher on him and departed from the room. When he was satisfied that she had left, he threw the covers off of himself and rolled over to the edge of the bed. He coughed a few times then swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. His head began to spin a little and he took a deep breath, stood up and began walking cross the room to the servant's bell. After he had taken a few steps he realized that his head was pounding and his balance was all off. For the moment he could not decide whether to keep going or to lunge back for the bed.
The door to the bedchamber opened and Mrs. Reynolds entered with the tray of tea and broth. "Mr. Darcy, sir! You should not be out of bed!" She quickly set down the tray and went to help him.
"Mrs. Reynolds, I am quite alright...I need to ring down for Mr. Stevens..." he stammered.
Elizabeth suddenly entered the bedchamber and gasped at seeing him out of his bed. "Fitzwilliam! You promised!" she said as she ran over to him. He groaned at seeing her back so quickly. "What on earth possessed you to get out of bed?"
He looked at her a moment then stammered again, "I had to..." he tried in desperation to think of a good excuse, "...to use the chamber pot."
For a moment she looked as if she was willing to believe his story. "I suppo
He grimaced and acknowledge defeat as he let out a gigantic sneeze. Elizabeth led him back to bed.
"Here now...drink some of this tea." She brought the cup up to his lips and he downed some of the tea without much of a fuss. She picked up the bowl of broth and stirred it with the spoon.
"What is it?" he inquired as his stomach let out a growl.
"Plain ox-tail broth." She smiled.
Darcy raised an eyebrow, "Is that it? Plain?"
"Yes, your constitution will fare much better if you take clear liquids."
"Elizabeth, there is nothing wrong with my constitution," he bellowed. "I was hoping for something with a little meat and potatoes in it...and perhaps a slice of pie to top it off."
She shook her head and made a slight tisking noise with her tongue. He moaned and laid his head back down on the pillow and stared at the ceiling thinking of his misfortune.
"I shall waste away to nothing at this rate. I can see it now...the undertaker will come for me and there will be nothing left. They shall have to locate me by following the smell of camphor."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, "You should have been an actor, Fitzwilliam...here, eat this, you will feel better." She held out the spoon and he took a bite. After he had eaten his fill, she put the bowl back down onto the tray, and covered him again. She picked up the book she had gotten out of the library and began to read. His eyes began to droop as she lulled him to sleep with her soft voice, and before she knew it he had drifted off into a sound sleep. She stood up, felt his forehead again and when she was satisfied that he was resting comfortably, she left the room with the tray.
"Ma’am," Mrs. Reynolds called out. "Dr. Graves heard that Mr. Darcy was not well and came to check on him."
Elizabeth saw the Doctor come around the corner behind Mrs. Reynolds, "Dr. Graves, thank you very much for coming."
"It is no trouble at all, Mrs. Darcy...how is the patient?" he chuckled.
"I have never witnessed a worse patient in my life." she smiled. "He is sleeping comfortably, however."
"Good, good." The Doctor nodded. "I am sure with your careful nursing, he will be feeling better in no time."
Elizabeth explained Darcy's symptoms to the physician, and the good doctor concurred that he was in no danger. All that was needed was bed rest for a day or two. The doctor pulled out a bottle of liquid from his bag and instructed Elizabeth to give a teaspoon to the patient before he went to bed for the night.
Elizabeth ate a bit of luncheon and then went back upstairs to check on Darcy. She quietly entered the bedchamber and tiptoed over to the bed. She smiled as she saw her husband asleep on his stomach, his hand under the pillow. Every once in a while he would let out a faint moan and sniffle, and she giggled a little at the sight. He looked like a child lying peacefully in his bed, and she could not help but wonder if she was staring at the appearance of what their children might look like.
Darcy woke himself up with a snort and cough. He rolled over and opened his eyes to see his wife sitting in the chair and smiling. "How are you feeling my dear?" she inquired.
Darcy moaned and held his head, "Like I have been run over by a chaise and four."
"Well, dear. I shall help you to sit up." She did just that and reached behind her for a glass of fresh juice. "Drink this, love." He did as she instructed, and for the first time that day tasted something agreeable. "Now, lay back down and I will rub in some more of the camphor." Darcy whimpered, but did as his nurse demanded.
Elizabeth kept a watchful eye on her patient the rest of the day. That evening she fed him more of the broth, with a few carrots and celery in it for substance and continued to read to him from the book. The chambermaids made up the bed in the adjacent room for Elizabeth to sleep in that night. Mrs. Reynolds scurried into Darcy's bedchamber with the bottle of liquid the doctor had left.
"Fitzwilliam, the doctor left instructions that I was to give you this before you went to bed for the night."
Darcy sat up and looked at the brown liquid and gulped. "What is that?"
Elizabeth shrugged and poured some of it onto the spoon and held it out towards him.
"Ugh...it looks like squashed bug juice mixed with eye of newt!" he whined. "No doubt he had some old crone whip it up in a caldron down by the river."
Elizabeth laughed at him, "you read too many fantasy books, my love.here take it down now."
Darcy made a face and swallowed it, "That is completely vile! You take great delight in torturing me."
Elizabeth sat down on the edge of the bed and pushed him back down onto the pillow. She caressed his face and gave him a loving and concerned smile, "Oh Fitzwilliam, I love you so...even if you are the worst patient I have ever nursed."
He reached up and held her hand in his, "You are a good nurse my dear...even if you are trying to poison me."
The next day Darcy awoke feeling about the same, and he received the same treatment from his wife and servants throughout the day. However, by the end of the evening he began to feel some life return to his body. The day after he awoke and was feeling quite well. Elizabeth was satisfied with his recovery and allowed him to call his man and dress, and go to his study to tend to his long overdue correspondence.
He was happily writing away when his wife entered the study. "My love..." he said as he stood up and walked to her. He wrapped his arms about her, "You were very good to put up with my bad temper while I was ill. I admit, I am not a very good patient, and I would rather that you had taken the brown liquid...but I thank you, Elizabeth my sweet nurse."
She looked up at him and smiled and he bent down to place a kiss on her forehead. She felt cold and clammy, and he looked at her with concern. She reached her hand up to her nose and let out a loud sneeze. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed as if speaking through her nose.
Darcy brushed back the hair from her face with a gentle hand and led her to the door and upstairs to the bedchamber. After she had changed into her nightgown, he pointed to the bed, pulled down the covers and helped her in. She moaned a little and let out another resounding sneeze. He stood over her, worry evident on his brow and she looked up at him with sad eyes. He smiled and tenderly said, "I shall nurse you back to health, my love." He walked over and opened the bed chamber door, "Mrs. Reynolds!" he yelled, but with a sly smile. "Do bring that brown liquid and the camphor up to our bedchambers, straight away!"
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