How to Heal the Marquess
“Easy, Lady Lucy,” Daisy heard her father say behind her. His voice was soft and reassuring but carried a tinge of urgency that she caught onto immediately. “You must not try to sit up.”
Daisy hurried with her tasks of soaking the clothes he had given her in cold water and rushed over to his side. In all her years of serving as her father’s nurse assistant, she had learned to understand what he was trying to communicate to her without him having to say a word.
It was often necessary for him to convey messages to her without saying something that might upset his patients. And, as she looked at Lady Lucy’s waxen, pale face, she knew this was one such instance.
“Here, Father,” she said, gently stepping in front of her father. “I shall put one of these on her forehead and one on her chest.”
The young woman began coughing fiercely as Daisy set about her task, gasping for breath as she tried to speak.
“Doctor Gibson,” she rasped, looking past Daisy at the physician. “Will I be all right?”
Daisy stepped aside to allow her father to approach his patient once more. He gave her a kind smile and stroked her hand gently with his own.
“We will take the best of care of you, Lady Lucy,” he said softly. “Do not fret. You must rest now.”
Daisy wanted to believe in the confidence she knew Lady Lucy heard in her father’s voice. But the look Dr. Gibson and his daughter shared when the young woman closed her eyes was a grim one, and Daisy understood what her father was really saying. There is little more I can do for her, his eyes told her with a heavy sadness. All we can do is wait.
Daisy bit her lip, looking away from her father to glance at the sick woman lying in bed. Sweat glittered on her chin and neck, evidence of the terrible fever that Daisy and her father were attempting to eradicate from her body with the cold compresses. Her cough had subsided for the moment, but there was a horrific rattle in her chest when she breathed.
“Should I send word to the Viscount Marwood?” Daisy asked, keeping her voice low so as not to wake Lady Lucy.
Dr. Gibson looked at the patient, then back at his daughter. Only then did Daisy notice how tired and bloodshot her father’s eyes were. He looked back at Lady Lucy once more, then walked over to his daughter, gently taking her arm and walking her over to the door of Lady Lucy’s sickroom.
“I shall do that presently, dear,” he said, giving his daughter a tired but fond smile. “I would like you to return home now. There is nothing more you can help me with here for Lady Lucy.”
Daisy’s eyes widened. It was grave, indeed, if her father was trying to send her away. In all her years of helping him with patients, he had always tried to ensure she was never present when a patient passed away.
But as she stared at her father, the evidence of his own fatigue and worry was very apparent, and she could not imagine leaving him to tend to the poor young woman alone. At the very least, she could take turns watching over her so that her father could have a nap in a chair.
“No, Father,” Daisy said gently, shaking her head and giving him her best cheery smile. “I cannot leave you now. I am fine. Truly, I am.”
The doctor studied Daisy carefully, as she had been doing him. In truth, she was exhausted, and she felt as though she would fall asleep the moment she put her head on the pillow. But she could see her father was in far worse shape. She could not help wondering when he had last slept.
Despite his exhaustion, he shook his head, stroking her cheek gently.
“Daisy, dear,” he said. “I can see you are tired. Your eyes become almost blue when you are sad or fatigued. You cannot hide it from me, Daughter. Please, go home and get some rest.”
Daisy almost laughed aloud at the irony of her father’s words. He stood looking as though he might collapse at any moment, and yet he was concerned about her. His unwavering devotion to her and her well-being, especially as a widower, was one of many reasons why Daisy loved her father so much. But since her mother was long dead, it was her duty to look after her father, just as he looked after her.
She shook her head, not obtusely, but firmly, lifting her chin with determination. She took the physician’s hand and squeezed it gently.
“Now, Father,” she said, using her best practical voice and words. “You know as well as I do that you cannot perform to your usual standards if you are not well-rested. I am perfectly capable of staying with Lady Lucy overnight to tend to her.” Her father opened his mouth to protest, but Daisy put a gentle finger to his lips. “If she should suddenly worsen beyond what I can handle, I will send word for you at once. Please, trust me to do this so that you can go and get some rest.”
The doctor, bleary-eyed, studied his daughter for a moment longer, clearly wary. But after a moment, he drew in a deep breath and expelled a heavy sigh.
“Very well,” he said reluctantly. “You may stay with her tonight. But I shall be back before first light tomorrow morning.”
“Father, you can trust me with Lady Lucy,” she said.
The doctor’s reddened eyes widened. He took both of his daughter’s hands in his and nodded.
“Of course, I can, dear,” he said. “You are excellent with all my patients. My only concern is Lady Lucy’s health taking the worst possible turn suddenly and you being here all alone until word reaches me.”
Daisy smiled again, pulling her father close and embracing him.
“I appreciate your concern, Father,” she said. “But everything will be fine. I understand what is at stake and what could happen, and I can assure you that I will take the best of care of Lady Lucy so that no such thing will happen.”
Daisy held her breath as her father studied her face with scrutiny. She could see he was debating whether he really should allow her to stay with the young woman by herself. But then, he yawned and reflexively rubbed his eyes. He blushed just a little, embarrassed at having so blatantly displayed his fatigue.
At long last, he nodded.
“Very well, my dear,” he said, glancing back at Lady Lucy. “I shall look her over once more, and then I will go on home.”
Daisy smiled, pleased her father had decided to go and rest. She was also glad he felt he could trust her to watch the young woman overnight, even though he had been so reluctant to agree. She stepped aside, waiting patiently for her father to complete his brief examination. Verbally, he noted her fever had diminished, if only marginally, and that she seemed to be resting comfortably for the moment. When he was satisfied Daisy would handle things overnight, he kissed her on the forehead and bade her farewell.
Once he had gone, Daisy took the liberty of refreshing the water in the bowl sitting beside Lady Lucy on the nightstand. She also fetched some clean clothes in anticipation of changing them several times throughout the night.
Once that was done, she looked at the nearby bookcase. She looked over the titles lining the shelves, chewing her lip thoughtfully. It was very rude to help herself to something to which she had not been invited, especially when in the home of nobility. Rather than take a chance of upsetting the family, she turned to step away from the books.
“You may read any of those you like, Miss Gibson,” Lady Lucy said, her voice hoarse but alert.
Daisy jumped, surprised the woman was awake. She hurried over to her side, noting that her fever had gone down considerably.
“How are you feeling?” Daisy asked.
Lady Lucy began coughing, but the fit did not last long. She looked at Daisy and gave her a weak smile.
“I feel as bad as that sounded, I am afraid,” she said. Then, she glanced back over at the bookcase. “If you wish to read during the night while you sit with me, you are welcome to any of the books over there.”
Daisy smiled, gently squeezing the young woman’s shoulder before dabbing at her face with another damp cloth.
“Thank you, my lady,” she said. “I may do just that. Do you need anything?”
Lady Lucy shook her head slowly, already drifting back to sleep.
“I will just sleep a while longer,” she said, her words trailing off as sleep took her.
Daisy waited until the young woman’s labored breathing became slow and steady, indicating she was sleeping deeply. Then, she went back over to the bookcase she had been admiring moments before and selected a book at random. It was a title and author she did not recognize, but she enjoyed reading, so it did not matter to her. She carried the book back over to Lady Lucy’s bedside, where she settled into the chair for the night.
As she hoped, Lady Lucy slept soundly, waking only twice throughout the night. The first time, her fever had taken a terrible spike, but Daisy was able to bring it down on her own, without calling for help or sending for her father.
The second time was to ask Daisy for a sip of water, which Daisy happily gave her. The rest of the night was quiet and, though Daisy paid little attention to the book in front of her, the parts she did read were interesting, and they helped her pass the time.
The next several nights passed in much the same way. After her first night tending to Lady Lucy, her father decided she was capable of watching over her, and he allowed her to continue to do so. To her father’s delight, the young woman grew stronger and healthier every day. At last, one week after Daisy had first stayed with Lady Lucy, the doctor gave the patient another full examination. Daisy waited outside while he did the exam, but she reentered the room when he was finished, as she wanted to hear what he had to say to Lady Lucy.
“Your ladyship,” he was saying as Daisy entered the room, his voice full of wonder. “I must say that you have made quite the miraculous recovery. You were but steps away from death when we first met. But now, I believe you will gradually recover completely and fully.”
Lady Lucy, who was sitting on the edge of her bed, her cheeks full of the color they had lacked days earlier, smiled brightly.
“I have the two of you to thank for that, Dr. Gibson,” she said, turning to Daisy. “Without your care, I would surely be dead. I am forever in your debt.”
Daisy beamed, approaching the bed and embracing the patient, her pride and relief overwhelming her.
“We were happy to help you, Lady Lucy,” she said. “It is wonderful that know that you will be back to yourself very soon.”
After giving more orders for Lady Lucy to continue resting as much as possible and gradually begin going for walks in the garden for fresh air and exercise, Daisy and her father left. They were thanked profusely and paid handsomely as they departed, as Lady Lucy’s family was emotional and relieved at the miracle of Lady Lucy’s improvement. As Daisy and her father continued to receive praise, Daisy fully understood the true reward for her father’s services. She realized then that she wanted nothing more than to be just like her father and help tend to the sick.
Tobias Peyton dismounted from his beautiful, strong black mare, which he had affectionately named Onyx, stroking her thick black mane affectionately and kissing the quivering muscles on her neck.
She loved their afternoon rides just as much as her master did, and she always protested when they came to an end. Her master dismounting was her indication it was time to return to the stables of the Penwell country manor, and she stomped both of her front hooves.
Tobias laughed, giving the mare another gentle pat.
“I know, my girl,” he said, cupping a hand beneath her chin and looking at her fondly. “We will ride again soon.”
After another moment of gentle coaxing, Onyx, at last, allowed Tobias to lead her to the stables, which he did rather reluctantly. Even though he knew they would, indeed, ride again soon, he always hated the part of the day when he retired her until their next adventure. All his horses made wonderful company, and he had taken part in the training of them all. But he had to admit, if only to himself, that Onyx was his favorite.
When, at last, they reached the stables, Tobias bid the mare a warm farewell, offering her a special treat as the stable hand led her away to brush her and get her ready to sleep for the night. He also made sure to give his other four horses brief pats and greetings, his heart swelling with pride and affection at the excitement the animals felt at seeing him. There was no way to know for sure, as he could not read a horse’s mind. But Tobias believed with his whole heart that the horses loved him just as much as he loved them.
Invigorated by another lovely afternoon of riding, Tobias returned to the manor humming softly to himself. He was already planning his next ride, which, if he were lucky, and he tended to all his paperwork the following morning, would be the very next afternoon. He opened the back door to the country manor, changing his hum to a whistle as he closed the door behind him. He was so lost in his daydreaming that bumping into his mother startled him.
“Oh,” he gasped, looking down at the Dowager Marchioness of Penwell sheepishly. “Forgive me, Mother. I was not paying attention to where I was going.”
She looked up at him, giving him a doting smile. He glanced down at her hands, in which she was clasping a letter.
“Darling,” she said. “This just came today while you were out.”
Tobias became curious as he took the letter. He did not need to ask who the letter was from, as he immediately recognized the seal on the envelope. He smiled again, tearing open the letter immediately, prepared to share its contents with his mother.
“It has been some time since I heard from Grandfather,” Tobias began. “I should have written to him sooner. I do hope all is well.”
Tobias’s hopes were dashed before he had even finished reading his grandfather’s letter. It was a brief correspondence, clearly designed to get straight to the point of the matter. And that matter was the duke’s request for Tobias to return to London as soon as he received the letter because there were important things he wished to discuss with Tobias. Tobias’s stomach twisted into knots as he reread the letter, his heart sinking.
“What is it, darling?” the dowager marchioness asked.
Tobias sighed, waving the letter with disheartened frustration.
“Grandfather wants to see me in London,” he said.
His mother tilted her head and frowned.
“Does he say why?” she asked.
He handed the letter to the dowager marchioness, letting her read it for herself while he collected his thoughts. Though the Duke of Berbrook had not said so expressly, his letter seemed to be asking Tobias to return to London permanently. Indeed, if that were not the case, the duke would have requested that he merely visit for a roughly specified amount of time. But what reason could his grandfather have for making such a request?
The marchioness handed the letter back to her son, looking up at him inquisitively.
“What is wrong, dear?” she asked. “Perhaps, your grandfather just misses your company.”
Tobias took a deep breath, shaking his head.
“My intuition tells me it is not so simple, Mother,” he said.
The dowager marchioness thought for a moment before nodding.
“Well, what shall we do?” she asked.
Tobias exhaled sharply, running a hand through his hair.
“We must arrange to leave for London first thing tomorrow morning,” he said.
His mother nodded, smiling sweetly at her son.
“I shall tell the staff to begin making preparations, Tobias,” she said, standing on her toes to kiss his cheek. “I am sure there is no cause for concern.”
Tobias bit his lip.
“I hope you are right, Mother,” he said, the tightening knots in his stomach reminding him of how certain he was to the contrary.
As the dowager marchioness went to summon the servants and set them about their tasks, Tobias went back out to the stables to give orders of his own to the stable hands and say farewell to his horses.
He prayed he would return to them soon; he could not imagine going more than a few weeks without going for a ride. He could not bear the idea of being away from his beloved Onyx for long periods of time, and he knew she would be rather upset, as well.
For that reason, he allowed himself to think that his mother was right and that his grandfather simply wished to spend some time with them, and they would be returning home in a month or so. Still, as he went to bed that evening, he could not help noticing the knots of dread had returned to his stomach. He did his best to ignore them and sleep, as they had a very long journey ahead of them to return to London.
Four days later, Tobias and his mother drew in deep breaths in unison as Berbrook Manor sprawled out before them. The winding driveway was lined with large but not well-kempt shrubs, and Tobias noticed that some of the statues appeared to have cracks in them.
He supposed his grandfather had not had time to tend to the upkeep of such things. It was not bad enough to be unsightly, but it was something Tobias made a mental note of.
The manor, apart from some slightly faded drapes hanging in the windows at the top story, looked to be its old, magnificent self. There was not a single blemish in its brick structure, and the windows were freshly paned, crystal clear, and revealed, on the lower levels of the house, dark-colored but fresh curtains in each one.
As they drew closer to the house, Tobias noticed that it did not appear as if his grandfather had spent much time in the drawing-room, which he could see clearly through the window. He supposed that was not too strange, yet it struck Tobias as odd for a reason he could not explain.
The tall, skinny butler waited for them outside the front door, no doubt having heard the carriage approaching before it stopped in front of the manor.
Tobias helped his mother from the carriage, and greetings were exchanged. Then, the butler led Tobias and his mother to the main dining hall, where the duke sat at the head of the table, with servants bringing out various dishes all around him.
The dining room furniture was exactly as Tobias remembered, even down to the perfect shine on each mahogany piece. Red and purple banners hung down the walls, lined roughly behind each seat at the long, oak dining table.
The silver candlesticks were placed throughout the room were all lit, giving the room the familiar warm, welcoming feel Tobias had known in his youth. The servants had even filled several crystal vases with fresh, bright flowers, likely for the arrival of Tobias and the dowager marchioness.
Tobias forgot his earlier misgivings about his grandfather’s request to return to town when the elder duke rose, smiling brightly at Tobias and his mother.
“Tobias, Ophelia,” he said, his cheery voice echoing off the dark-brown walls of the room. “It is so good to see you.”
Tobias was first to greet his grandfather, shaking his hand heartily before the duke pulled him into a tight embrace.
“Hello, Grandfather,” he said, reveling in the affection he felt for the man. “It is wonderful to see you, too.”
The duke patted Tobias on the back, then stepped aside to take the dowager marchioness’s hands in his, pulling her close enough to kiss her on the cheek. She smiled sweetly at him.
“It has been ages, Bertram,” she said. “How have you been faring?”
The duke smiled fondly, though briefly, at the dowager marchioness. It was genuine, but Tobias noticed his eyes seemed to hold a secret, albeit just briefly.
“I am thrilled to see the two of you, Ophelia,” he said to her before looking back to Tobias. “Let us enjoy lunch, for you and I have important matters to discuss afterward.”
Tobias’s stomach knotted once more as his grandfather spoke. Though the remark seemed casual and innocent enough, it was clear that whatever was on the duke’s mind was serious.
“Of course, Grandfather,” he said, giving the duke his best smile. But despite the light, cheery conversation throughout the meal, Tobias could not help worrying and wondering about the real reason for his grandfather summoning them to his home.
After the meal, the dowager marchioness excused herself for a walk in the gardens. Tobias had briefly taken note of the gardens as they arrived, and he had seen that it appeared to be filled primarily with roses of all sizes and colors. As he and his grandfather made their way to the duke’s study, he could smell the roses through the study’s open window. He had forgotten how beautiful the gardens of Berbrook Manor were, but he was surprised to find that his grandfather had replaced the lilies and daisies and gardenias with nothing but roses.
“Roses have a more pleasing scent to me,” the duke said, making Tobias realize he had been staring curiously out the window at the section of the garden visible to him.
Tobias nodded affirmatively.
“They do, indeed,” he said.
The duke gestured for Tobias to sit while he poured them each a snifter of brandy. He offered Tobias a cigar, which he declined. Then, he brought his grandson his drink, sitting on the sofa opposite Tobias. Tobias smiled nervously at him, the knots tightening further still in his stomach as he saw the stern look on the duke’s face.
“My boy,” he said, sipping his drink before setting it aside. “I wish to get straight to it. There is no need for two men to exchange an idle conversation when something important to discuss.”
Tobias nodded in agreement, drinking heavily from his glass. Whatever his grandfather was about to say, he felt sure that he would need every bit of that drink.
“Very well, Grandfather,” he said. “I am ready and willing to listen.”
The duke nodded, smiling faintly.
“The time has come for you to take up your responsibilities as the future heir to the duchy,” he said. “I called you here so that we can begin making the preparations necessary to transition everything smoothly to your reign.”
Tobias choked on the fresh sip of his drink he had taken.
“What?” he asked dumbly.
The duke continued as though Tobias had said and done nothing.
“I will be hosting a dinner ball in two days,” he said. “It will be the perfect opportunity for you to get acquainted with my business associates, as well as the unwed young women of the ton.”
Tobias’s head was spinning, and he doubted it was from the liquor he had so quickly swallowed. It was overwhelming enough that his grandfather was speaking about T0bias becoming a duke. But he could tell, without anything further being said, that his grandfather was hinting at marriage for Tobias.
“What is it, Grandfather?” Tobias asked, scrambling to find some way to change the subject. “Are you ill?”
The duke stared at his grandson, but he did not answer the question.
“I wish to see you fully prepared to inherit the duchy when the time comes, Tobias,” he said. “And there is no better time to do precisely that than the present.”
Tobias nodded, searching his grandfather’s face for anything to indicate where such sudden insistence on such a heavy matter had come from. But there was nothing but the same stern expression to tell Tobias he had no choice in the matter.
“Yes, Grandfather,” he said nonchalantly, though he was already trying to think of ways around the situation in which he was rapidly finding himself. “As you wish.”
Daisy smiled up at the beautiful, cloudless sky as the carriage took her and her father to Bond Street. The doctor sat across from her, reading over some notes of his as they traveled, and Daisy was content to sit in the comfortable silence and enjoy the marvels of a new day. She could see birds flying close to the coach, seeming as curious and intrigued by the people and the moving carriages as she was by them. She could also smell the fresh, blooming flowers that littered the roadside everywhere, right up until they reached the heart of downtown London.
“I have always admired your love and zest for life, my dear,” her father said, so suddenly that he made her start.
Daisy looked at him with a bemused smile.
“It is a love you taught me, Father,” she said. “You taught me to love and appreciate life through all your devoted efforts to save the lives of your patients.”
The doctor blushed, smiling warmly at his daughter.
“Your mother would be so proud of you, Daisy,” he said.
Daisy nodded, her smile fading. She knew nothing of her mother, as the physician’s wife had passed shortly after she was born. But her father spoke of her often, and with such love and affection, Daisy knew her mother had been a wonderful woman. Daisy herself was named after her mother’s favorite flower, and, just as the thought recurred to her, they passed a beautiful row of daisy plants.
“I wonder how she would feel about me serving as your nurse,” she mused, more to herself than to her father.
The physician chuckled.
“That is precisely the reason she would be so proud of you,” he said. “She always did her best to help me, but her heart was so soft, she often could not tend to my sicklier patients without crying.”
Daisy nodded thoughtfully. She fully understood her late mother’s plight. She herself often struggled to control her emotions, especially once her father gave her a look that told her the patient would not survive. It was harder still when the sick or injured person was a child. But she had learned she could do the patients more pleasing if she turned her sadness into compassion and devoted herself as much as her father did to giving them the best care she possibly could.
“I cannot imagine anything in the world more fulfilling than what it is that we do, though,” she said.
Dr. Gibson nodded.
“I could not agree more, my dear,” he said.
When the carriage came to a stop on Bond Street, the doctor helped Daisy alight. She smoothed out the front of her plain blue dress and prepared to follow her father, but she saw him digging in his coin purse.
“Here, my dear,” he said, after another moment of digging. “I want you to have this.”
Daisy took the money from her father, feeling confused. He always gave her a small allowance for assisting him, but he had already done so that month. Plus, this was considerably more than he usually gave her.
“What is this for, Father?” she asked. “Do you need me to fetch you something while you shop for supplies?”
The doctor chuckled, giving her an affectionate smile.
“No, my dear,” he said. “I have been saving this for some time. I want you to spend some time shopping for a new dress today. You have more than earned it, and a young lady your age should be able to have nice things at least occasionally.” He paused and winked fondly. “Especially a young lady as wonderful as my daughter.”
Daisy looked at the money in her hands in surprise. It had been ages since she had bought a new dress. She was always so busy helping her father tend to the sick, and the dresses she did have always stayed well-mended, and they were plenty sufficient for the work she did with him. But as she stood with the money in her hands, she realized how much she would love to spend a little time shopping.
“Oh, Father,” she gushed, hugging her father tightly. “You are too good to me.”
The physician laughed at his daughter’s delight, returning her embrace.
“It is the other way around, my dear,” he said. “Now, go. Enjoy yourself and choose anything that pleases you. I shall be ready to go in about an hour. We shall meet back here when you have finished your shopping.”
Daisy released her father, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“An hour, it shall be,” she said.
Daisy and her father parted ways, and she wandered along the sidewalk, marveling at all the shops along Bond Street. It truly had been a long time since she had been shopping, and she realized she had forgotten many of the shop names. She could smell the aroma of sweet treats wafting from a nearby bakery, as well as perfume from a large store.
She continued along until she found the shop she sought: a linen draper. She practically skipped inside the door like a young girl, breathing in the scent of crisp, new fabric as the door closed behind her.
After checking the time on the tall clock standing behind the seamstress’s counter, Daisy set about her search for a new dress with great enthusiasm. She was mesmerized by all the rich and vibrant colors surrounding her. Saturated hues, both dark and light, and pale pastels hung and lay around her, and for a moment, she was breathless. And the many different trimmings the shop offered were nothing less than exquisite.
She did, indeed, wish very much to have a dress made. But she was uncertain as to whether she would have the time to return for the required fittings. Perhaps, instead, she had better choose one of the dresses that were premade. She could have the seamstress do a quick fitting right then and have some trimming of her choosing added to it. Then, she could return the following week to retrieve it while she and her father were in town.
Pleased with her decision, she continued to browse the shop. Time passed quickly as she mulled over the choices before her. At last, she decided on one in a deep red, which was her favorite color. She selected some simple lace trim and, as the seamstress did the quick fitting, she explained she wanted the lace around the high neck of the dress, as well as around the hem. The kind seamstress nodded with understanding, promising that the dress would be ready by the time Daisy returned for it.
A short time later, Daisy was dressed in her clothes again, daydreaming about the brand-new dress she would have in just a few days. She was so lost in thought, and she almost did not see the young woman walking hand in hand with a small child step out in front of her as she made her way to the door.
“Oh,” she said, smiling sweetly as she glanced at the woman. “Pardon me.”
The woman returned her smile.
“No, please, forgive me,” she said. “You may not remember me, but I could not let you leave the shop without saying hello.”
Daisy blinked, studying the woman’s face for a moment. Then, a flash of recognition crossed her mind.
“Lady Lucy?” she asked.
The woman giggled and nodded.
“I was,” she said. “I am now the Viscountess of Valensdale. And this,” she said, stooping down and picking up the small girl, holding her in her arms, “is my daughter, Rose.”
Daisy gasped, gently embracing Lady Valensdale and waving to the toddler.
“Hello, little Rose,” she said. Then, she looked at the young woman again. “It is so wonderful to see you.”
Lady Valensdale enthusiastically resumed the embrace. Even little Rose reached out with a tiny arm and patted Daisy on the back, making her laugh. When at last the two of them pulled away, the viscountess was looking at Daisy fondly.
“I have not forgotten what you did for me all those years ago,” she said. “I have since hoped for another opportunity to thank you. If not for you, I would have never lived to meet my husband or bear my sweet Rose here. The gratitude I have felt for you every day since I recovered is profound, and I am so glad to have this chance to tell you so.”
Daisy’s eyes filled with tears of joy. She looked at the smiling faces of the young woman who had nearly died of influenza and her sweet young daughter, and her heart filled with great pride. She was far too humble to take credit for something she knew would have never been possible if not for her father’s tutelage, but she was thrilled to see that someone who had been so close to death now had a rich, happy life because of the care she had helped to give.
“Oh, Lady Valensdale,” she said, smiling brightly at the viscountess and her daughter. “It was truly our pleasure. It is so good to see you doing so well.”
The viscountess looked at Daisy fondly.
“Please,” she said. “Call me Lucy. I owe you my life, after all, and I do hope we might become friends.”
Daisy’s heart pounded in her chest. It was a rarity among people of the gentry ever to consider befriending a physician and his child. But she nodded eagerly, her smile widening.
“I would like that very much, Lucy,” she said. “And, please, call me Daisy.”
“Dai-dee,” little Rose said, looking at Daisy thoughtfully.
The two women laughed.
A few minutes later, Daisy bid Lucy and little Rose farewell, leaving the shop and reaching the carriage just as her father was checking his pocket watch.
“There you are,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “I trust your shopping kept you quite busy.”
Daisy nodded, grinning as her father helped her into the coach. On the short trip home, she told him all about her encounter with Lucy and her daughter and about the kind words the viscountess had said to her. The doctor listened, his own face brightening a bit as his daughter spoke.
“It is a good thing that we do for people,” he said. “I am so glad to hear Lady Lucy is faring well.”
Daisy nodded in agreement. Her father asked her about her dress, and she told him about the rich red colored one and how she would collect it when they next returned to town. She thought he looked as though he was having trouble staying awake as the coach turned into their small driveway, but she dismissed it as him simply being tired from their errands.
When they were once again inside their little townhouse, however, Daisy caught him rubbing his face. Now she could see it clearly, without the bright sunlight shining right on it, it seemed to sag, and he appeared not very well-groomed. When he caught her staring at him, he smiled sheepishly, but it was overshadowed by the dark circles and puffiness she could see very prominently beneath his eyes.
“Father,” she asked, her earlier excitement gone, replaced by concern and worry. “Are you feeling all right?”
The physician’s eyes widened as though surprised by his daughter’s question. But then, he gave her a wide, bright smile.
“Of course, darling,” he said, kissing her quickly on the cheek. “I am perfectly fine.”
Daisy nodded, giving her father a small smile in return. She wanted to believe him, and perhaps she would have. However, as he excused himself to his study and turned away from her, she was certain she saw his cheery expression fall.
She bade him a good afternoon and a ‘see-you-at-dinner,’ then went up to her room to look at some of the notes she had made about potions. But she could not concentrate on her research, despite her love for the work. She knew without a doubt that something was bothering her father. Surely, he had not fallen ill himself. Had he?
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