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Saturday, August 20, 2011

FICTION FRIDAY: One More Time, Chapter 18B

I'll bet you didn't know today was Friday, did you? Friday was busier than normal, so the post got postponed...

Sarah crossed the courtyard toward the cooking area to prepare the mid-day meal, and Dorcas stopped her. “Sarah, do you think Tamara is ill? She looks thinner. Her color doesn’t look normal to me. Come to think of it, you look thinner, too, and your eyes look tired. Would you like for me to call a physician?”

Sarah glanced at her daughter, who had had another bout with fevers just the evening previous. “I’m tired, Madam, but not ill. Tamara had a fever last night, but it has gone down this morning. She has had several fevers, perhaps once a week. They come and go. I don’t have money for a physician, and I wonder if a physician might be inclined to bleed her. See how pale and thin she is? She has no extra blood, as you can imagine. She is so small, bleeding her might be fatal.”

“I know a wise and good physician here by the name of Nicolas.” Dorcas turned her gaze from Tamara to look into Sarah’s eyes. “I don’t think he uses bloodletting to cure his patients. You are invaluable to me, Sarah, and so your health is important. Even if I weren’t fond of Tamara, I wouldn’t want her to suffer ill health, because it also affects your own. I’ll send for Nicolas immediately. Perhaps he will be able to come after our mid-day meal.”

“Thank you so much, Madam, you are too gracious.”

“Drivel! It only makes good sense to take good care of good servants. If you don’t take care of them, they get sick or die.” Dorcas grinned, “Or worse, some wealthy man hires them away from you.”

Sarah felt her stomach tighten. “But I don’t think he’d be able to tell what is wrong with her since she doesn’t have a fever now.”

“Please, listen to my counsel. Tamara won’t be hurt by this physician, and she might be helped. We must give her this chance.” Dorcas’s voice sounded too firm to argue further.

“Very well, Madam, and thank you.”

Dorcas sent one of the stable slaves after Nicolas, and Sarah walked to the cooking area to prepare the meal. Despite Dorcas’ recommendation of Nicolas, Sarah still worried he could do more harm to Tamara than help, and she fretted over it for the next two hours while she prepared, served, and cleaned up after the meal.

It was nearly time to prepare the evening meal before Nicolas arrived. Dorcas brought him to the courtyard where Tamara played. Sarah wiped her hands on a rag and joined them. After talking to Tamara for a few minutes, smiling and joking with her to put her at ease, he asked if he could listen to her heart.

“Okay.” Tamara tilted her head on one side. “But where is your steffiesoap?”

It was Nicolas’s turn to tilt his head. “What is a ‘steffiesoap?’”

“You know, the thing you put in your ears and on my chest to listen to my heart.”

Nicolas shrugged and grinned as he glanced at Sarah, but she repeated the shrug. No way was she going to explain a stethoscope to him. “Well, apparently I forgot to bring one today. I hope that’s all right with you.” He smiled at Tamara.

“I was hoping you’d let me listen to my heart, too, but I don’t know how to do that without a steffiesoap.” She sounded disappointed. “I guess it’s all right, but how will you hear my heart?”

“Have you ever sat on your Mama’s lap with your ear on her chest? Do you remember hearing her heart beat? That is how I’ll listen to your heart. I can listen to you breathe that way, too, if you’re very quiet.” He leaned over and placed his ear to Tamara’s chest and listened.

“Her heart and breathing are both a little rapid, but not alarmingly so,” he informed Sarah and Dorcas. “How often does she have these fevers? And does she have other symptoms when the fevers happen?”

“I get freezy, and I shake, and I feel all tired.” Tamara looked up at the physician.

“I guess she thinks she can describe her own symptoms, sir. And she described them well. She has the fevers about once a week.” Sarah knelt beside her daughter. I’m not about to tell this stranger—and Dorcas—that Tamara’s “shaking” is a bit more than mere chills. Next thing you know, Dorcas could be sending for an exorcist.

Nicolas stood. “Unless you have anything to add to Tamara’s description, I can’t tell what is causing the fevers. If I understand, Dorcas, no one else here has had the same thing? Sometimes fevers make the rounds of everyone in the sick one’s vicinity.”

Dorcas shook her head. “No, no one else has complained of fevers in our household.”

Nicolas frowned. “I don’t like how pale she is nor those dark circles under her eyes. It might be helpful if you’d call me next time she has one of these fevers. Otherwise, I’ve no ideas for a cure for her right now.”

Sarah nodded, but made no promises. At least he didn’t suggest bleeding her would be the fix needed, or toad eyes or lizard tongues or whatever passed for aspirin in these times.

As though reading her mind, Nicolas gave Sarah a few pieces of bark. “This is willow bark. Usually it will help bring a fever down. It won’t cure her, but it should help. There is a willow stand beside the river on the mainland, and I can always get some more. The leaves will also work, in case you might want to get some for yourself. I’ve found the bark keeps longer, but fresh leaves might be more palatable. She can chew them. You can also make a tea from the bark or leaves. Other than this, I don’t have any other suggestions.”

“Thank you.” Tamara patted the physician’s arm.

“Yes, thank you.” Sarah lifted Tamara to her arms.

“Please send for me if you need me again. Dorcas paid for this time, but Tamara’s recurrent fevers intrigue me. I will not ask for more compensation.” Nicolas made his farewells, giving Tamara an extra smile and a squeeze of her hand.

Sarah breathed a quiet sigh of relief as he left but still felt a little disappointed. What else could I expect, given the time period we’re in? But it was more than just disappointing in the modern time. Even modern times did’t have all the answers.
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