I know it's been awhile – but I thought I would resurrect this, even after a year I can't get it out of my head!
I recommend re-reading Chapter 1 – I hardly remembered the details so I'm sure no-one else will.
Beth was prepared for a long day. The hospice had at least a dozen men leaving on the mid-morning train and more arriving after lunch. How many more patients were arriving was always a little mystery and to be decided upon by the doctors at the hospital in York.
By eight o'clock that morning, Beth, two of the house footmen and several nurses were waiting outside the Morning Room ward with new beds to replace the damaged ones and piles of fresh bedding. One by one the soldiers that were leaving collected their belongings and moved to wait in the Main Hall for transportation to the train station. Axel was one of the men leaving, Beth wished him well, knowing she would miss someone who was so cheerful. The high spirits in the hall were a contrast to the mood in the ward, the men who were not healthy enough to leave yet seemed quite low.
The group of nurses and Beth gathered at the doorway to receive their instructions, they were right at the foot of Daryl Dixon's bed. Beth thought he looked like he was trying to pretend everyone wasn't there. She hadn't spoken to him since about a week ago, when he found out he had lost his brother. This certainly wasn't the time to ask him how he was.
As she helped make beds, Beth remembered how much the physical exercise had tired her when the hospice first opened. She was much stronger now. One bed that had become free was in the corner of the room, by two windows, this spot was the nicest in the room despite the typically grey summer's day outside.
Beth took a moment to look out at their garden, now looking a little ragged, and the woods which always looked a little wild. Mr Bassett, their gardener had been due to retire but as every man left to fight, he stayed on to keep the gardens as best he could, with the help of boys from the village. If the war ever ended, it would be a pleasure to see the gardens get back to their usual beauty.
Beth's attention was drawn back to the room by the awkward apologies of Mr Moseley, one of their footmen. He was carrying out part one of the damaged beds and had bumped into Private Dixon's bed. Moseley was rubbing his knee and apologising to the scowling patient.
"Mr Moseley, do you need medical help? We have plenty of Doctors around?" Beth's question made the poor, embarrassed footman apologise even more, but eventually he moved off with his burden.
Beth turned to Daryl. "I'm sorry, your bed seems to be in the worst spot in the whole house."
"Don't matter. Hopin' I won't be stayin' here long."
"We're hoping no one has to stay too long, but I'd rather you were comfortable while you are here."
Beth knew she couldn't help with the loss of his brother, but she could make sure he got the rest he needed. She caught the attention of a nurse she knew well. "Nurse Taylor, have the empty beds been allocated yet? Would it be possible to move Private Dixon to the end there?" Beth pointed to the far corner by the windows. "That would clear up some space here and make access better for everyone."
The nurse rushed off to check, while Daryl pushed himself up to survey where he might be moving to. He seemed to approve, when the nurse returned saying that the move was acceptable, he began to get himself out of bed.
"Mr Dixon, you know you need help to move that far. I will fetch a wheelchair, stay there!" Nurse Taylor glared at her patient as she gave her order.
"I hate wheelchairs," Daryl muttered at the nurse's retreating back. He called out to the hallway, "Axel, come give me a hand. I'm moving!"
Beth was worried as Axel came in to help Private Dixon to his feet, but he seemed so relieved to be moving, she was happy to follow. After a couple of steps she heard a grunt of pain and rushed to help. She supported Daryl on the opposite side to Axel, with her arm around his waist she could feel bandages beneath the army issue pyjamas. Beth couldn't help but notice concerned looks from a couple of nurses who were left in the room, but Daryl seemed determined not to stop.
At last they lowered him to the bed, Beth realised how grey Daryl's face had become, he looked as if he may pass out at any moment. Nurse Taylor reappeared with the wheelchair and moved quickly to her patient's bedside. She shooed Axel and Beth away, then tried to help Private Dixon settle into bed.
Beth could hear her scolding him. "You are not a well man, you are here for bedrest, even if you don't like it you must stay put or you will never be well enough to leave."
"I was just walking to the other side of the room..." Daryl protested weakly.
"Bedrest, Private Dixon, not strolling around the room. Bedrest." Nurse Taylor was one step away from wagging her finger at him like a schoolteacher. "I'm going to get Doctor Clarkson, maybe he can give you something to ease the pain and help you sleep. That might keep you still..." She muttered as she walked away from him.
Beth was mortified, sure that she was to blame for this. If she hadn't got involved, Daryl wouldn't be in so much pain.
Beth had known Doctor Clarkson as long as she could remember, he had been their family doctor and treated all of her childhood illnesses. She caught up with him later that afternoon. "I wanted to apologise for what happened earlier, when Private Dixon moved beds, that was all my fault."
"I am sure it was not all your fault, he knows he shouldn't be on his feet, he is just a very impatient patient."
"Is he going to get well again?"
"Of course, I cannot discuss patient's history with you, but I will say you don't need to worry. He just needs to give himself time to heal."
Beth gave a little smile of relief.
"You must remember Beth, that these men are patients in a hospice, not guests in your home." Beth blushed furiously as Doctor Clarkson continued. "Your help is appreciated and needed, but the nurses must be allowed to nurse. I think if you are involved they may give way to you, because of your family position, rather than rely on their own medical training. "
"I don't believe people think of my family when they see me. Everyone calls me Beth." She felt quite indignant at the accusation.
"They may say Beth, but they think 'Lady Elizabeth'. They think of you as a higher position than a nurse. " Doctor Clarkson added kindly, "That's just the way things are."
Beth hadn't realised this, she tucked the information away to process later. There was something on her mind and Doctor Clarkson was the person who could help. "But I could train as a nurse, I'm eighteen next week. I could train like Maggie did."
"You could... but you would have to leave here to attend your training course, then you could be posted anywhere. You would have to leave your father. He has lost his wife and his son, would you deprive him of both his daughters too."
"But I want to help..."
"You are helping us here. We would miss you, if you left us." Doctor Clarkson realised he wasn't above emotional blackmail.
"Young men are sacrificing their lives, while I waste mine here, doing no more than handing out letters."
"You do much more than hand out letters. Please think of your Father. How would he feel without you?"
Beth was clearly torn. "I could wait a while. Maybe in the new year?"
"Lady Elizabeth, I really hope this war is over before then."
On the day of her eighteenth birthday, Beth declined the opportunity to take the whole day off from the Hospice, although she promised to leave a little early. She had enjoyed the day, receiving good wishes from hospital staff and patients alike. It was a pleasant, late-summer's day so she decided to walk the long way around the gardens and grounds rather than go straight home.
Her father had insisted that they moved out of Oakwood House and into Oakwood Lodge, when the soldiers had moved in. Lord Greene didn't want his youngest daughter surrounded by injured soldiers day and night, even though her elder sister had moved to London to work in the King George Hospital in Waterloo. After eighteen months at Oakwood Lodge, Beth called the smaller house 'home', she was almost relieved that she and her father were not living alone at Oakwood House, surrounded by memories of her mother and brother.
Although the gardens were not as well kept as they had been before the war, the pathways were still clear. Ahead Beth could see a group of patients taking the air, with two nurses to help out with wheelchairs. One wheelchair was set apart from the others, the patient looking out over the gardens and the edge of their wood which was a little way off. As she got closer Beth realised it was Daryl Dixon, she approached him with a smile. "Good afternoon, it's a lovely day!"
"Aye, it's nice to be out." Daryl squinted up at her through the sunshine. "I'm staying in the chair, doin' as I'm told."
Thinking that every English person could talk about the weather, Beth continued in that vein. "Is the sun not too bright for you?" She touched her forehead, showing that she was thinking about his head wound.
"This is nothing much, just a scratch. My trouble is I took a bullet in my side, then messed myself up tryin' to get back to the trenches."
"You got yourself back, even with a bullet wound?"
"If I'd a' waited for the stretcher bearers I might be there still. They say I'll be right when everything has time to heal."
"That's good. Will you have to go back to the fighting?"
"Might all be over by the time I'm fit, but at least I'll be able to work again."
"What work did you do before the war?" Beth hoped she wasn't being too inquisitive, but she was interested in the stories of the servicemen, feeling their lives were very different to hers.
"I was down the pit when I was younger, but then I got work in the gardens of the local estate, helped the gamekeepers out too and the drivers. Anything's better than mining."
Mining work wasn't something Beth knew enough to talk about, instead she asked, "Which estate?"
"Wragby? You know it?"
"Lord Farnham's estate. My father knows him. What happened there was so sad."
Beth hesitated to pass on such news, not knowing how well Daryl knew the family. "Lord Farnham lost his sons in the fighting," she said quietly.
"All three of 'em!"
"Poor old sod..."
Although surprised by his choice of words, Beth thought Daryl was sincerely sympathetic. She added, "Lord Farnham has had to give up the estate, there was no one to inherit. The whole place has been sold off in bits and pieces."
"That's bad news for Wragby Village, means I won't be getting my job back, along with a load of others." Dixon looked embarrassed as soon as he spoke. "Sorry, I didn't mean it like that, I am sorry for the family, I just didn't know 'em... Was a loader for the youngest lad once, but that's it. The boy was a good shot." He added, awkwardly.
"That would have been Teddy Farnham, he was a friend of my brother's and known as an excellent shot. He always made sure he had the very best loader."
Daryl gave a wry smile at the compliment.
"There will be lots of jobs around after the War is over, we have to rebuild." Beth sounded confident.
"Doubt it." Daryl replied bluntly. "No one's gonna have any money, the War's costing the government a fortune and there's gonna be a lot of men needing jobs. Anyway, we got to win first."
"We will," Beth was certain. "Daddy says things are looking up since the American troops reached the Front."
"Hope he's right," Daryl admitted. "I'd rather go back down the pit, than back to the trenches."
"Lady Elizabeth, were you not supposed to be leaving early today? Don't you have to celebrate?" Nurse Taylor interrupted the conversation, surprising Beth.
"You celebratin'?" Daryl asked.
"Lady Elizabeth turned eighteen today."
Beth shrugged, embarrassed at the Nurse Taylor's words because they made her the centre of attention. Other nurses and some patients wished her happy returns, while Private Dixon gave a strained smile and nodded.
"So what are you doing to celebrate?" Nurse Taylor pressed further.
Remembering her sister's lavish party for her eighteenth birthday, Beth hesitated. She wasn't doing anything so exciting and she wouldn't really want to, but admitting that to the little audience listening in was a little embarrassing. "I am cooking dinner for my Father and myself."
"You're cookin'?" Daryl Dixon sounded amazed.
"Well, I will have help. Daisy used to assist in the kitchen's here but now she is our cook at the Lodge. She has been teaching me."
One of the other men bluntly asked, "Why don't you just let her cook?"
Beth hesitated, she wasn't sure which patient had spoken, and they had sounded quite scornful. "I want to learn." Beth blushed, "My mother encouraged me to learn."
There was an awkward silence as Beth had to take a breath to gather her composure. The nurses began to move some of the patients away, some wandered away under their own steam and by the time Beth felt ready to speak, it was just her and Daryl Dixon again.
"Mother knew that people thought we were spoiled, still she wanted us to know how to take care of ourselves." Beth said, quietly.
"I always thought that in rich families the children were brought up by nannies."
"We did have a Nanny, but mother took care of us too. In a house that size it would be impossible for one person to look after three children. Especially as we all enjoyed 'hide and seek'. As Lady of Oakwood, mother had a lot of work to do." Beth realised that work for Private Dixon would mean something different than it did to her Mother. "Not physical work, but time consuming. It's difficult to keep everyone happy... but she did."
"You miss her?"
Beth glanced at Daryl, who was looking up at her as if he was a little mystified. Her only answer was a nod. The wave of emotion at the thought of her Mother and that she wouldn't see her on her Birthday, threatened to overwhelm her.
"You'll find room for her inside, that's what you said to me." The soldier spoke quietly, looking down at his knees.
"That's easier to say than do." Beth admitted.
"Yeah, but you'll be alright girl. Go on. Go home, enjoy your big day."
Beth managed to show a smile as she left. "I'll try."
Beth was not sure of the politics, but people were beginning to believe the end of the war was in sight. "It will be over by Christmas," an injured Officer promised her. Beth was hopeful, but she remembered hearing that the war would be over by Christmas in 1914, to hear it said again in 1918 didn't inspire confidence.
The world had been at war since she was fourteen, it was hard to imagine that it would soon be over. She walked around Oakwood House, trying to imagine her and her father being the only occupants of the huge house. At Oakwood Lodge the only staff they had were Daisy in the kitchen and Thomas Barrow, her father's valet, he had returned injured from the fighting and was glad to become their butler and footman whenever required. A housemaid from Oakwood House came down daily to keep the lodge clean and tidy, but Beth and Lord Greene spent a lot of time at the hospice, so no further staff were needed. While at Oakwood House, Lord Greene ate with the Officers and Beth with the nursing staff, they did take care to have a few evening meals together to catch up, no matter how busy life was with their recovering guests.
Beth wasn't sure if her elder sister, Maggie would return to Oakwood House when the war was finally over. Despite the hard work at the hospital, Beth believed Maggie was enjoying her freedom. Being Lady Margaret had not suited her nature, and London was much more exciting than Yorkshire. Beth spoke to her occasionally on the telephone, Maggie mentioned a gentleman called Mr Glenn Rhee quite often, it seemed he added to London's attractions.
Beth believed that the day the Great War ended would be a day she would never forget. She wasn't sure how she felt, she wasn't even sure how she should feel. It was wrong to be happy, too much had been lost to celebrate winning. Feeling relieved that the war was over seemed to diminish what had happened. Beth didn't want to be sad, she knew her mother would want her to be positive and look forward, but so much was uncertain. During the summer Beth had been sure that the end of the War would mean everything would get back to normal, but as the end seemed more likely, she began to realise the world could not be 'normal' again.
She remembered Private Dixon saying that men would return from the fighting needing jobs, but there would be none because the country had no money to employ anyone. Everything in the new world seemed so uncertain.
The night before Armistice Day, she and her father had dinner together and they had tried to plan ahead. They would be returning to Oakwood House, but the house need to be decorated first. They had problems with some areas of the roof leaking and several windows needed replacing. For the first time in her life, Beth heard her father worry about money. He had plans to reduce the number of house staff, which was sensible as there was less of a family now.
"Mr Hovarth can certainly serve the two of us with Mr Moseley. Mr Barrow can stay as my Valet, and if necessary help if we have a larger dinner."
Beth wondered how Thomas would react to serving at table again, but it sounded as if he was lucky to have a job. "Will you replace Patricia and Otis?"
Patricia had been her mother's Lady's Maid, who had left when her husband Otis had been killed in the war. Before he had gone to fight, Otis had been their Gamekeeper and along with the gardener Mr Basset had kept the gardens and grounds in order.
When Beth had heard about Daryl Dixon's previous work she thought he might be able to take Otis's place in the household. Otis had been there as long as Beth had been alive, his formal title was Gamekeeper, but as hunting wasn't a great interest of her Father's, Otis had become involved in many areas of the estate. He had been a jack of all trades and could be found in the gardens, stables or garages, and he helped out with smaller maintenance issues in the house. Her father wanted to employ ex-service men from the local area. The fact that Daryl had worked at the old Wragby Estate, which had now been entirely sold off by a good friend the family, was also in his favour.
Beth knew it was not her place to be replacing staff, so she did not mention the vacancy to Private Dixon, but she suggested him to her father, and on Armistice Day, Lord Greene decided he needed to look to the future.
So do you think Daryl might get the job?
I know it's been an age since I wrote the first chapter, but I have got a couple more chapters ready, so I'd be interested in anyone's thought on this.
FanOTheFang on Twitter and Tumblr ~ 1st May 2016