Authors: Bess McBride
“Typhoid?” he repeated. “How do you know it is typhoid?”
“The doctor came and diagnosed him.”
“My goodness!” Thompson said. “Well, of course we cannot see him. And how is it that you have not succumbed, Mistress Scott?”
I thought fast. Bracken’s story seemed useful.
“I had typhoid as a child. I guess I’m immune.”
“Immune?” the captain repeated in a skeptical tone. “I did not know there was such a thing as immunity from typhoid fever.”
I remained silent.
He turned and looked at the lieutenant, whose cheeks had paled.
“You look peaked, Jonathan. Await me at the boat.”
Lieutenant Jackson wasted no time in trotting back toward the boat. Duncan looked from him to me, and I spoke in my best lady-of-the-manor voice...or what I thought it should sound like.
“The captain will be returning with you, Duncan.”
The old man nodded and sauntered down to the boat to await Captain Thompson.
“If there is nothing else?” I asked.
“But there is, Mistress Scott. I still do not know who you are or where you come from. Your English is odd.”
“I’m from the Colonies, a distant relative of the family.”
“And how long will you be staying with the laird and his aunt?”
“I’m not sure. At least for as long as he is ill.”
“Surely you are not acting as his nursemaid?”
“No, the butler is helping.”
“And there is no other lady in the house?”
“Mrs. Bracken is here.”
“Yes, that is the cook, I believe. But it is not proper for you to be here without another lady present.”
“Well, as I said, I’m a cousin, so I’m family.”
“Yes, as you said.”
I nodded. I wasn’t so sure the captain was worried about the social niceties as he was about finding out who I was.
“Soooo...” I said. “I’d better get back inside.”
Captain Thompson bowed. “Yes, of course. Is there anything I can do for you?”
I had half turned away, hoping he would get the hint, but I turned around again, confusing Robbie, who had started to follow me.
“Do for me?”
“Yes, anything. I can find someone in the village to come help you nurse the laird. I could speak to the doctor to ensure that everything possible is being done. Anything you need.”
I tilted my head, wondering why he was offering.
“No, we’ve actually sent all the staff away for fear of exposure to the fever. The doctor did what he could. He should be coming back soon to check on the laird. Other than that, I don’t know of anything that could be done. But thank you,” I finished with a half smile.
“I will return in a few days’ time to see how you fare, Mistress Scott,” Captain Thompson said with a bow.
“You don’t need to do that,” I said. “We’re fine.”
“Nevertheless, I think I must.”
I shook my head but decided against arguing with him. I wasn’t absolutely sure Highlanders had the right to tell a British officer he couldn’t visit.
“Good day, Mistress Scott.” Captain Thompson bowed again and turned to head for the boat. I watched as the three men climbed in and Duncan rowed them away. I reentered the castle and headed straight for James’ room, Robbie at my heels.
I tapped lightly on the door, not wishing to awaken him. Bracken pulled open the door.
“Is he asleep?” I whispered.
“Nay, mistress. He is awake and awaiting your return.”
I slipped in, and Bracken left. Robbie slipped under the bed.
“There ye be,” James said. “Where did ye go? Did ye rest?”
“No, I ate and then went outside for a walk around the castle.”
“It is a bonnie place. The loch and the hills beyond?”
I sat down in the chair by the bed and nodded. “Yes, it’s very beautiful.” I had some time ago decided not to mention that the castle probably fell into ruins at some point between the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries.
“Bracken tells me that ye have finally agreed to move to a room of yer own. I am pleased. I ken ye will get more sleep on a soft bed than on that sofa.” He nodded toward the sofa in front of the fireplace. The fire was out, but the room seemed comfortably warm in the noon air.
“James,” I said tentatively.
“A British captain and lieutenant came just now. Duncan rowed them over.”
“Are they still here?”
“No, I told them you had typhoid fever. That scared the lieutenant, but the captain didn’t seem as worried. He says he’s coming back in a few days to check on things.”
“Check on things?”
“Well, you, me, I guess. He wanted to know who I was. I said I was a distant relative from the Colonies.”
“I should have thought they would run once they heard I had the typhoid,” James said. “Ye did well to tell them ye were a relative. Ye werena inclined to tell them the truth, were ye? About the time travel? I dinna think that is a good idea.”
“No, no,” I said with a reassuring smile. “I wouldn’t dare. I’m not sure why they have to come back though.”
“I know Captain Thompson. He is a good enough sort. The English presence in Scotland is inescapable, but I am fortunate that I wasna executed. Verra fortunate indeed. Many who survived Culloden were.”
I patted his hand, and he covered my hand with his own.
“I wish that I could help ye with the captain. Did he say what he wanted?”
I shook my head.
“Not really. Just to see you originally, and now to see how you and I are doing.”
James’ eyes narrowed, and he tilted his head and stared at me.
“Dinna tell me the captain is smitten with ye?”
“What?” I sputtered. “No!”
“Well, I was within moments. It is possible.” James smiled, though rather weakly.
“You’re tired,” I said, my cheeks pink as could be. “You need to sleep.”
“Aye,” James said. “I am tired.” I pulled my hand from his and helped him slide back down on his pillow. He grabbed my hand again when I rose to leave.
“Be careful with the English, Maggie. Even a fair man such as Captain Thompson cannot be trusted with yer truth.”
“I know, James. I know. I won’t say a word. Sleep now.”
James kept hold of my hand and closed his eyes. I sat in the chair and waited to hear steady breathing. I left my hand in his and dozed myself.
The following morning, Dr. MacDougall returned. He examined James and turned to Bracken and me.
“I dinna ken what kind of nursing ye are doing, Mistress Scott, but ye must continue. His fever is down, and he looks much better.” The doctor stared at me curiously. “Are ye using some special herbs or medicines?”
I shook my head, throwing a look toward Bracken and James.
“No, nothing special,” I said with a shrug.
“It is her gentle touch which heals me, Doctor,” James said with a wink in my direction. I blushed.
“I heard some rumor in the village that ye are tending to the young lass, Morna Anderson, with a special tablet of some sort. I didna ken she had typhoid, but she describes the symptoms she had as such.”
I locked my hands behind me and threw a hasty look at James, who tried to push himself up in bed, his expression now serious.
“Nay, I can vouch that Mistress Scott hasna been handing out potions and such, Dr. MacDougall. The young lass has been directed to come to the house for naethin more than a tablet of flour. As ye ken, there is no medicine to cure the typhoid. Mistress Scott gave me some of the tablets, and I too believed that I was being cured by them. Ye see the good it has done me!”
“Tablets of flour,” Dr. MacDougall repeated with a skeptical twist of his bushy white eyebrows.
“Aye,” James said, daring the doctor to argue.
“Well, I dinna think flour will cure typhoid, but I suppose it can do no harm. Let the girl take the tablets if she believes they are helping.”
I nodded and unclenched my aching fingers.
The doctor left, and I slipped into the chair at James’ bedside. Bracken left the room to get James some more broth for lunch.
“I dinna wish to frighten ye, my dear, but giving out potions and such reckons of witchcraft. I think we must bring the girl back to the castle, if only to keep her silent. She can sleep in the stables for now. They are warm enough, probably warmer than her own home.”
“Witchcraft?” I whispered. “Oh, I thought we were worried about the time travel.”
“Traveling through time would be seen as witchcraft, Maggie. People are burned alive for less. I didna wish to say such sooner, as I didna want to scare ye.”
I gasped and slumped in the chair.
“Oh, James, what am I going to do?”
“Naethin for now. The doctor seemed fair content with my explanation. Dinna worry.”
“Don’t worry?” I murmured. “That’s easy to say. You’re not the one handing out
or traveling through time.”
“I will protect ye, Maggie.”
I looked at James, still as weak as a kitten, and I wondered how he was going to manage to protect me.
“Dinna look at me with doubt in yer eyes, Maggie. I
protect ye. If naethin else, I can give ye my name, and none will harm ye.”
“What?” I squeaked. “Give me your name. Do you mean...”
“Aye, if it comes to that, aye!”
“Oh, James, that seems rather extreme,” I murmured, looking away from his face.
He reached for my hand and tugged, forcing me to look at him.
“I ken such a proposal from a man as disease ridden as me must be repugnant, and I wouldna suggest such a thing except to protect ye, Maggie.”
I could see the hurt in his blue eyes.
“Oh, James, no, I’m sorry. I wasn’t even thinking about your illness. I wasn’t. It’s just that...”
I didn’t know what to say.
“I can’t think about anything like that right now.”
“Dinna fash yerself about it, Maggie. It was only an offer to protect ye.”
“I’ll be all right, James. Really, I will.” I actually didn’t believe my own words, but what could I say? If I had ever wondered whether to stay in the eighteenth century for a while or go, the doctor convinced me I needed to skedaddle. I wondered that Beth wasn’t frightened. But then again, she was married to a man she loved, and she had a child on the way. And she hadn’t been handing out
“Aye, of course,” James said. He let go of my hand and closed his eyes. I had the distinct impression he wanted me to leave, and I rose and slipped out of the room.
That evening when Morna came to get her pill, Bracken told her she needed to stay in the barn until she was well if she wanted to come back to work. He provided her with blankets, cups, plates and food. I gave the girl her pill but said nothing.
When I returned to James’ room, Bracken stopped me at the door.
“His lairdship is resting and asked that ye take yer supper and get some rest yerself. He asked me to take his medicine to him.”
My eyes widened as I stared at the closed door behind Bracken. Was I fired? Dismissed? What had happened?
I gave Bracken James’ pill without a word and turned to head for my own room. I washed up and slipped into one of the nightgowns Beth had sent me. Crawling into bed, I lay there wishing for a television or something to entertain me. I thought about many things, but I did my best to avoid thoughts of James.
I fell asleep eventually, but was awakened by an urgent knocking on my door. I opened my eyes to darkness.
“Hello?” I called out.
The door opened, and Bracken entered, a candle lighting the distress on his face.
“The master has taken a turn for the worse, Mistress Scott. Please come.”
I scrambled out of bed, ignoring my nightgown, and ran past Bracken and into James’ room. James tossed and turned in bed, throwing his head from side to side, clutching at his stomach. He moaned pitifully, and my heart went out to him. What had happened? I thought he’d been on the mend. Weren’t the pills working?
“James, James,” I whispered, putting a hand to his feverish brow. “Are you in pain?”
But James didn’t respond. He only moaned, and I turned to Bracken.
“Get me a wet cloth and a cup of clean water,” I barked. Bracken returned with the cup and the cool cloth, and I wiped James’ forehead with it. I noticed that the fire was lit, and I directed Bracken to put it out. James didn’t need any more heat.
“There you go, sweetie,” I said softly as I bathed James’ forehead and neck. “There you go.” I opened his nightshirt and ran the cloth down his chest.