âwhatâs the trouble? I hope I have done nothing toââ
âIt be n-not about âee, maâam.â
Gonetta looked up. âOh, I m-meant no d-disrespect, maâam. I be right sorry âee be leavinâ so soon. I liked âee right off, I did. Happy to maid âee. B-but that be not it. Yâseeâ¦yâseeâ¦â
Her voice became choked with tears and she could not go on. Verity stood back, feeling unbearably oafish, and let her cry, convinced this was sincere anguish and not some calculated deception. She wondered what could have upset the girl so.
When Gonettaâs sobs quieted to gentle tears, Verity said, âTell me, please. Tell me what has upset you so.â
Gonetta looked up, wiped her nose on her sleeve, and hiccoughed. âI canât help it, Miz Osborne,â she said in a trembly voice. âIt be me littlest brother, Davey. He do be real sick and Ma says he be d-dyinâ. He be only just gone on five, yâsee, and always do be such a hellion, begginâ yer pardon, maâam. I canât bear to see him sick and dyinâ. Not little Davey.â
The girlâs sobs tore at Verityâs heart. âWhat is wrong with him, Gonetta?â she asked in a soft voice.
âHe got the putrid sore throat and it just do get worse and worse. We canât get nothinâ down him. And now it be gone to a real bad fever.â
âWhat does the doctor say?â Verity asked. âHas he given Davey any physicks or other preparations to reduce the fever?â
Gonetta gave a plaintive wail. âWe ainât got no doctor just now, maâam. Dr. Trefusis, he had to go to Penzance on some famâly business. So we ainât had nobody to doctor poor Davey.â
âYouâve had no one to help you with Davey? No one at all?â Verity asked, appalled that no local doctor was available. âIs there no village apothecary?â Gonetta shook her head. âWhat about local healers, green women, herbalists?â Gonetta furrowed her brow in puzzlement, as though she did not understand, then shook her head again. Verity sighed.
What should she do? Could she stand by and allow the child to die through sheer ignorance? Verity had some skill with herbs and knew a few remedies that could possibly help the boy.
Yet to remain and help would delay her departure from Pendurgan. Nothing was more important than to get away from this place.
Except that a little boy was perhaps dying.
âWhat have you been doing to care for him?â she asked.
âJust bathinâ him to keep his skin cool, givinâ him tea and honey, when he can swallow it.â
Those things could only make him comfortable. Nothing they were doing would help to break the fever or heal the infected throat.
She began to pace the length of the room. Any sort of delay almost scared her to death. What if she was never able to leave?
Dear God, what should she do?
âI believe I may have something to help him,â she said at last. She could not let the boy die. Gonetta stared at her, wide-eyed. âDo you recall seeing some muslin pouches,â Verity asked, âwhen you unpacked my trunk yesterday?â
âThem little sachets, maâam? I put some in each of the bureau drawers to keep yer things fresh.â
Verity cocked a brow and almost smiled. Sachets, indeed. Some of them positively reeked. She pulled open each drawer and rummaged around until she had located all her herbal pouches.
âDoes Cook keep fresh honey in the larder, Gonetta?â
âAye, she do,â the girl replied with a puzzled look, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy. âWhy?â
âWith this,â Verity said, holding up one of the pouches, âand this one, too, along with a bit of honey, I can make up a syrup that might help your brother.â
âTruly?â Gonetta asked, her eyes large with wonder. ââEe can
Christiaan Hile, Benjamin Halkett