The dream had been a vivid one; it continued in David's mind even as he slowly found his way to consciousness. He had been in Egypt. He had been ill. He had been afraid el Hamed would abandon him, kick him to the street if he found out, and he would have to beg, and plead, and take the leavings off other men's tables for his food...
Egypt faded, and el Hamed receded, but he was still ill. He clasped his arms over his stomach, pressing his lips together to stifle a moan. Curling himself around, he struck his head on the wall next to his bed--back then, he'd slept on a mat on the floor, and the wall was on the other side--and the impact was enough to partly clear his mind.
He sat bolt upright, arms clapsed over a knot of his roiling, gurgling innards, and made a dash for the door.
He made it to the faintly-lit outside, but where could he go? What should he-- The question was answered for him as a spasm brought him to his knees and he found himself retching into Aunt Evelyn's flowers.
He started shaking when he was done. It was cold at night here, even though it was summer, and the stones of the path dug into his knees while the air chilled his body. He coughed weakly a couple of times, desperate to clean out his mouth but too weak still to stand and go back inside. There was a cup of water near his bed, if only he could get back to it.
A hand landed hard on his shoulder, and he jumped to his feet, weakness forgotten in the surge of fear. He turned to face his assailant, ready to run or fight, but the man blocked his hands before he'd even gotten them all the way in front of his face and grabbed one of his wrists.
"Trying to get somewhere, Master Todros?" he asked. David's shaking had begun again. Of all the people to find him out here, why this third footman and his anger? Always angry, no matter what David had done to please or displease the family. He shook his head numbly. "No silver in your pockets, I hope?"
The suggestion took a few moments to sink in, but when it did, he could hardly contain himself. He yanked out the pocket of his sleeping trousers with his free hand, glaring at him and allowing himself the liberty of a few choice statements in Arabic.
"Then what brings you..." the footman pulled David in slightly and sniffed the air. His mouth twisted in distaste and he pushed him farther away. "You've been in Mr. Emerson's things, have you?"
Another violent shake of the head, which started it aching. "My stomach hurt. I came outside."
"And..." he looked around, appalled. "And you were sick..."
Recognizing the futility, David indicated the approximate area.
"In the lady's borders!" he whooped with laughter once. "You are in trouble this time, boy! Come along," he moved his grasp from David's wrist to nearer his shoulder and turned to pull him along toward the house, taking care to keep the rest of his person as far away as possible. "Go on back to bed now, but I shall be telling the gardener in the morning, and you may be sure word will get back to--"
"Mr. Emerson?" a mild voice asked as the footman pulled David through the door.
David found himself suddenly released, and just as suddenly desperate to go back to bed.
"Mr. Emerson!" the footman said, alarmed. "Sir, I found young Master Todros here on the path before dawn!"
A chill shook David's body as appraising eyes were turned to him. "What were you doing out there, David? And dressed as you are?"
David pulled his sleepshirt closer to his body and was about to answer, but the footman beat him to it. "He was sick, sir," he said with satisfaction. "Right in my lady's begonias."
David watched anxiously to see how that was taken, but his pride would not let him beg for forgivenness with the footman there to hear.
"Sick?" He nodded miserably and once again was taken hold of, more gently this time. "You don't look well. Thank you, Somers." After a few seconds of disbelief, Somers disappeared and Uncle Walter felt his forehead briefly. "I'm not good at this. When Aunt Evelyn wakes up..."
He shivered, and Uncle Walter frowned. "Can't wait that long, can it. All right, my boy, did anyone let you wash up yet?" He shook his head, and was led to a washroom, where he rinsed out his mouth with some gratitude and realized to his horror that there was a smudge on one of his sleeves where he must have wiped his face.
"You seem like you'll keep..." Uncle Walter said, blithely unaware. "Back to bed, then. I'll have someone bring you a basin in case you're sick again--that's the way to do it, by the way, the washroom or a basin--and perhaps a hot water bottle?"
It sounded like heaven. He nodded with all the enthusiasm he could muster. "I'm sorry. I have done a very terrible thing--"
"You--what? What did you do?"
Before Uncle Walter could check his pockets for stolen spoons, he explained. "Aunt Evelyn's flowers..."
Uncle Walter laughed, seeming relieved. "Nonsense. They're just flowers. It can't hurt them, and it'll all wash away in the next rain. Which will probably be in about two hours."
David managed a weak smile at that. It seemed to rain every day here, sometimes more than once. He could not understand where all that water went. "She will be unhappy. I didn't know--I was confused, I thought--" He couldn't say exactly what he'd thought, only that he hadn't been able to think or to remember anything, and that he was amazed he'd managed to get outside in the state he'd been in.
"You thought...?" David shrugged foolishly, and Uncle Walter seemed to accept that as an answer. "People do strange things when they're not well, David. Aunt Evelyn understands it--with four children, this is not the strangest she's seen!--but I will tell her you're sorry. I'm sure she'll be in to see you when she awakens."
The light coming in the windows was stronger now, and David nodded, shame beginning to creep in to his heart. He had awakened Uncle Walter, and alarmed the servants, and made a mess in Aunt Evelyn's garden. He flushed.
"Do you want someone to sit with you?"
"No!" he said, shaking his head vehemently. He'd done enough to draw their attention. "No, I am well now. I will go to bed."
Uncle Walter insisted on walking him there, although David waited until he was gone before changing to a different shirt and returning under the covers. The housekeeper brought up a hot water bottle, which he clutched for dear life while memories of his past life flitted around before his eyes, interspersed with increasingly insensible, illogical dreams. On the whole, it was a great relief when he opened his eyes to find Raddie sitting in a chair beside him, with a book open on his lap.