I love it when people leave reviews. I especially like it when you guys tell me about the bits you didn't particularly like or something I may have done wrong. What I'm not too keen on though, is when people leave those reviews as a "guest" and don't leave any sort of name. I do like to get in touch with my reviewers from time to time, especially when they leave thought provoking messages, and leaving an anonymous review stops me from doing that. Which kind of sucks.
Anyways I had hoped to have this chapter out a lot sooner, and have the whole story finished before Nanowrimo because I really wanted to take part this year but…oh well, there's always next year! In other news, the end of this story is in sight though it might be a little more drawn out than I imagined since Fredericks gone and injured himself…
Now I have never scolded myself (at least not badly) but I would imagine that its pretty darn painful.
The pain was immense.
The copper kettle had been on the fire for well over an hour when Frederick had finally removed it, and with the metal retaining heat so well, its contents had still been boiling hot when they landed on his arm. He bit his lip to stifle the sounds he wanted to make.
He had burnt his skin numerous times in the past whilst he had been onboard his ships out in the warm Caribbean seas - even, at times, off the coast of Britain - but at those times it had been a minor inconvenience. This was excruciating.
On its way down the kettle had caught him on the middle of the upper section of his arm, spilling the contents down his right arm, hand and, to a lesser extent, the right side of his chest.
Concentrating on the pain and trying not to let it overwhelm him, Frederick started a little when a small pair of hands, holding a wet cloth, came into view. The hands laid the cloth on his arm and Frederick immediately felt himself relax a little as the coolness spread.
The noises around him which had been dim and muffled as he blocked everything out, grew clearer as the moisture seeped through his shirt and onto his bare skin, giving momentary relief from the burning pain.
"Do you have a knife?" he heard a voice ask.
"Here," came a deeper voiced males reply. "This should do."
"Thank you Captain. Captain Wentworth?" the voice spoke to him. "I am going to cut the arm off your shirt so that we can get at your wounds easier. I hope it is not a favourite," she added quietly.
He watched out of the corner of his eye as she dug the knife into the seam where the arm of his shirt was sewn to the body. The thread gave way easily under the sharp metal edge of the small, well used knife.
"I will fetch a surgeon," the male voice - Harville, Frederick remembered - said.
"Stay Captain Harville," a new, but still very familiar voice said firmly. "Mr Elliot, please take my coach and fetch the surgeon, and send James to gather a bucket of water. Here," he heard several objects being moved. "This should suffice."
"I do not think,"
"Now please Mr Elliot." The voice was firm and brokered no argument.
There was more movement and Frederick became aware that at least one person left the room. Moments later the back door banged open and several voices could be heard.
Fredericks arm ached. Even with the woman with the cool cloth tenderly ministering to him, the pain still dominated his being and he had screwed up his eyes to try and block out everything else to try and master it.
Something banged onto the table beside him and he felt the small pair of hands take his right arm and lift it gently. "This will be cold," she warned, before submerging his whole arm in a cold bucket of water. He let out a small gasp. The water had obviously come from an outside water butt and even on a mild day in December, it was cold. It felt great against his skin though, and after several seconds, he let out a sigh as the heat began to leave his arm.
As his skin cooled, the pain lessened and he was able to take in more of the motion around him. The woman with the calm voice and gentle hands was Anne (should he have not known that already?). She stood by his side still, behind him on his right side, the damp cloth in her hand wetting the area of his arm not submerged.
Harville stood by the doorway, his gaze dancing from the kitchen to the small window by the sink, waiting for something or someone. Lady Russell was there as well, directing a finely dressed servant to bank the fire.
"Captain Harville," the Lady said, turning to his old friend. "Do you have a spare blanket? It would do us no good to cool Captain Wentworth down so much that he develops hypothermia." Harville was out of the door as soon as she had finished speaking, returning a few minutes later with a finely woven wool blanket. Lady Russell accepted the blanket from him and draped it around Fredericks shoulders. He was lucid enough by then to offer a quiet thank you.
"How is your arm?" Anne asked.
"Cold," he replied, following his declaration with a shudder that had her securing the blanket more securely around him. Not once did she stop bathing the top of his arm.
"I know but the water will help," she said.
"What happened Frederick?" Harville asked.
Wentworth shook his head. "I am not sure." He glanced about the room noting the table and the kettle, still laying on its side on the floor. The pain in his arm, though muted now, was still clouding his mind and thought, and he struggled to piece together the events prior to the burning water hitting his arm.
"I was…speaking with Mr Elliot about…Lyme." He spoke slowly and quietly, thinking carefully about what had really happened and how to voice it. In truth he was not completely sure what had occurred.
"How did the kettle fall Frederick?" Harville asked.
Frederick lifted his head and met his friends eyes directly. He could see that Harville had already come to his own conclusions.
"I placed it back on its stand after I used it," Frederick said. "I must not have set it back right, or I may have knocked the table as I went to stand." He shook his head. "I do not remember."
"Frederick," Harville said sternly.
"Honestly Harry, I do not."
Harville did not look convinced and stood glaring at his friend. Lady Russell who had been silently watching the exchange found herself speaking to the retired Naval Captain. "Surely you are not suggesting that this was anything but a terrible accident Captain Harville?"
"I voiced no such accusations ma'am, only that I find it strange that Captain Wentworth was injured in this way."
"And you believe Mr Elliot had something to do with it?"
"Again ma'am, I never said such a thing."
As soon as Harville began to speak Frederick felt Anne, who was still standing by this right shoulder, tense. At the same moment the blanket placed round his shoulders slipped and she pulled it back up with her free hand. Before she could remove her hand he reached his own up and captured her fingers with his. He felt her tense even more before, slowly, he felt her relax.
When he turned his attention back to the scene in front of him he was that Lady Russell was frowning.
"To my knowledge Mr Elliot and Captain Wentworth were not acquainted till this morning, what motivation could he have to hurt him?"
"You can not think of one?" Harville asked with a raised eyebrow. The answer was obvious to him.
The arrival of the surgeon with Captain Benwick following immediately on his heels, brought all other conversations to a stop. Benwick had been walking through the small town on several errands when he had happened past the surgeons home and seen the man hastily packing his bags onto a familiar coach. The surgeon had stopped just long enough to explain the situation and offer Benwick a ride back to the Harville residence.
The surgeon, with his prior knowledge of the house and its occupants (both permanent and temporary), immediately had everyone apart from Anne and Captain Harville leave the room.
Lady Russell left with little fuss, telling Anne quietly that she would head back to the inn and wait for news there. With that she slipped out of the back door and into the waiting carriage, her footman following her out. The room suddenly felt empty as Captain Benwick left as well.
Frederick still had a tight hold, with his good hand, to Anne's free one. Her other continued to wet the linen cloth and bathe his injured arm.
The surgeon took his time examining Frederick's arm. He asked questions of both of Frederick and Anne, he ran his fingers over the angry red discolouration and pressed down on the area's that caused him some concern.
"Despite the extensive damage to the skin there does not, as yet, seem to be any loss of movement or circulation. Captain Wentworth appears to have lost some feeling in the limb but I am hopeful that that will return in time. That he is clearly experiencing pain is a good, if not unpleasant, symptom."
"The arm should heal then?" Captain Harville asked. He knew better than anyone how an injury might effect Frederick's future in the Royal Navy.
"It is too early to tell if there will be no damage at all, but given that this is a wet burn, a scald, rather than a dry burn from say a wood fore or candle, I would say that Captain Wentworth should make a near complete recovery, if he is prevented from succumbing to a fever or infection."
He looked across at Anne before speaking directly to Frederick. "Thanks to Miss Elliot's quick thinking I shall say you will do very well. You can see yourself how your arm is now slightly blistered. Had your shirt arm still been attached it probably would have damaged the skin. Yes," he said nodding, "I say you should be very grateful she is here."
"I am," came Frederick's honest reply. He squeezed Anne's hand as he said this. "Very grateful."
His heart buoyed when he felt her grip his hand in return.
"It might be a little uncomfortable Captain Wentworth, but I would like you to keep your arm in the water for a little while longer." He got Frederick's compliance then spoke to Anne.
"I understand you will be leaving Lyme shortly Miss Elliot," he said. "If I teach you how to apply the bandages, will you show Mrs Harville?"
"Of course," she said.
The surgeon then went about pulling rolls of cloth bandage from his bag. Each individually wrapped in its own cotton pouch.
"I find it helps to keep everything clean," the surgeon said when he spotted them watching him. "There always seems to be less infection, less disease that way. On that note I will need you to change these regularly."
He examined Frederick's arm again and concurred with his first assessment. "A small amount of blistering," he said, looking closely. "But nothing too bad. You should take care not to burst them," he told Frederick directly. "There is nothing worse than peeling bandages off skin and taking half of the surface skin with you because the two have become joined."
Anne felt Frederick wince and ran her other hand over the back of his neck to calm him and felt him relax. In response he gave her hand encased in his own, a gentle squeeze before running his thumb over her knuckles.
"Do you remember - Harville?"
"Where you got cocky and allowed that youth to get within inches of gutting you?"
"Your memory of the event differs from mine my friend but yes. Do you also remember the trouble Matthews gave me when I would not follow his orders and take time to heal? I continually opened the wound and in the heat it would dry, stiff and stuck to the bandage. He would pull it off at the end of each night, no regard to my wellbeing."
"You did continually disregard his advice. He probably did it to try and teach you a lesson."
"Yes," said Frederick, flexing his hand in the cold water. "it taught me to have his assistant be the one to change the dressing."
"I hope you are more willing to listen to me," the surgeon said.
"I am willing to do anything you say Sir. So long as I can remove my arm from this ice hole."
The surgeon confirmed with Harville that the event had happened nearly twenty minutes previous and that Frederick had had his hand in the bucket of water only a minute or two after, the older man looked at Anne and asked her to fetch a dry cloth or towel.
Anne reluctantly let go of Frederick (and after a small tug he let go of her) to go and do as she was asked, and returned a moment later with a dry towel.
The surgeon opened his mouth to speak just as the front door slammed open and they all heard Margaret calling through to them. She appeared at the door to the kitchen a moment later looking harried.
"I met Lady Russell on the way and she told me what had happened. Are you well Frederick?"
"A little sore," he admitted as she came to stand by his side, laying an arm on his uninjured shoulder.
"I knew that buying that kettle was a bad idea," she said, removing her coat and shawl with Harville's assistance. "What did I tell you," she ranted on at her husband. "I wanted to go for the smaller one, but no, you thought that monstrosity would suit us better. Well, it will be on you if Frederick suffers because of this."
In her haste Margaret missed the glances traded by her husband and Frederick, and how Anne's gaze instantly dropped to the floor. She took her things from her husband and threw them over a nearby chair.
"Sir," she said, greeting the surgeon. "How is he?"
"Mrs Harville," the surgeon replied in greeting. "I believe my patient, from the way he has been acting, will make a full recovery. You have impeccable timing though as I was just about to show Miss Elliot how to apply the bandages and allow her to show you. But now that you are here I can show you as well."
"Of course," Margaret said, coming close.
"Captain, if you would remove your arm from the water please."
Margaret hissed in sympathy when she saw Frederick's arm as he withdrew it from the water. It was clearly visible where the hot water had hit his skin, leaving angry red blotches.
"Miss Elliot if you would dry the Captains arm please. Carefully. Pat the skin rather than rub."
The surgeon relinquished his place in front of Frederick to her and Harville brought across another chair that she could sit on. Anne held out her hands, the towel draped between them and accepted his arm.
"Mrs Harville," the surgeon continued. "If you could help me prepare this bandage."
Though displaying a calm exterior Anne was in turmoil. The story Frederick had concocted when he had been able to speak, seemed wildly fabricated to her. She knew him and he was not clumsy. Add to that the presence of Mr Elliot and his whole attitude towards the incident - his lack of any great feeling at all - had her convinced that he was in some way involved. And she blamed herself.
Fredericks skin was cold beneath hers and as soon as he was dry she could not help but take his hand in her own two to try and warm it up.
"Are you in nay pain?" she asked as she watched him.
"It stings a little," he admitted. "But I have some very competent carers so I expect even that pain to disappear before long."
"You will not be wanting any opium then?" the surgeon asked.
Frederick shuddered. Anne, thinking he was cold, reached up and tucked the blanket more firmly around him.
"I have never had a good experience with opium. It makes me see things that are not there and talk incessantly about anything and everything. I did not like it one bit."
He kept to himself the waking nightmares that had shown his family and friends in various stages of disease, poverty and death. It had been one of the many times he had dreamt of Anne whilst at sea. Usually his dreams had been happy and it was only when he woke that the sadness and longing invaded, but the dreams he had experienced under the influence of the poppy had been heart breaking from the outset. He shuddered again. He would have to be in absolute agony to ever consider taking it again.
"How about some whiskey?" Harville asked.
"I could give my consent to some whiskey," the surgeon said with a smile.