The Steward of Hanbury
A/N: Perhaps I'm a little late to the Cranford fandom but after recently watching the series and being more than moved by the storyline regarding Mr Carter and his tragic end, I have finally decided to embark upon writing an AU story. It will be very much focused on Mr Carter and his relationship with Miss Galindo though the residents of Cranford and Hanbury Court will of course play their roles. Characterisations will mostly be based on those from the series, in particular, Mr Carter (Philip Glenister) and Miss Galindo (Emma Fielding).
The world and characters of Cranford belong to Elizabeth Gaskell and the BBC; what is given here are merely my own paltry imaginings.
Chapter One - Uncertainty
'Is he all right?'
Dr Harrison looked up from his grim work, his hands covered in blood. He glanced at Miss Smith who was nearest the patient and she removed the gag from Mr Carter's mouth.
'He is very pale but he still breathes.'
'Thank you, Miss Smith,' he replied and turned his attention to Dr Marshland. 'Once I have finished stitching up the wound, Jack, you and I will have to move him into the sitting room.'
'Are you sure that is wise, Frank? He has lost a lot of blood and I doubt moving that leg of his will be good for him.'
'There is a fireplace there; we must keep him warm if he is to make it through the night,' said Dr Harrison, though inwardly he thought that even a night was sheer optimism at best. He had of course fixed Jem Hearne's arm but that had not required an amputation on this scale.
'What about Lady Ludlow?'
He barely suppressed a curse, remembering at the last moment that a lady was present. He had quite forgotten that Lady Ludlow and Miss Galindo were in the other room.
'I am afraid that she will have to wait before Mr Carter can return to Hanbury Court. He is in no state to be taken out of this house as yet.'
Half an hour later, his work was done. He looked upon his patient's face and was unable to discern anything in that pale countenance which might convince him that all would be well. Only time would tell.
'Would you like me to inform her ladyship and Miss Galindo of the situation, Dr Harrison?' asked Miss Smith.
He nodded gratefully. 'Thank you, Miss Smith.'
Lady Ludlow required little urging to be persuaded that Dr Harrison was right. Miss Galindo had watched her ladyship as Miss Smith informed them of the situation and was surprised at how easily she had taken to the young doctor's advice. She was well-acquainted with her often unyielding character but at this moment, there was none of that stubbornness in her expression, only relief and perhaps a little guilt.
As for Miss Galindo, she hardly knew what she felt. That terrible quarter of an hour in which Mr Carter had weakly dictated his last will and testament to her now seemed years ago. She had chided him a little in what she had hoped was a slightly jesting tone, a reminder of the conversations they had shared in his office. She knew now that had probably been inappropriate but it had been the only way in which to combat the grief – yes, grief – which threatened to rise overwhelmingly within her.
And then there was that look he had given her as she held his hand in hers…
She started out of her reverie, remembering that she was no longer in Dr Harrison's sitting room but seated across Lady Ludlow in her coach as they made their way to Hanbury Court.
Composing herself quickly, she murmured, 'Yes, my lady?'
Her ladyship appeared a little discomfited as if uncertain whether or not to continue. At length, she said, her gaze fixed on the passing greenery outside, 'I know very well that Mr Carter's current misfortune can be said to be a direct consequence of my recent actions. He would not have been present at the accident had I taken his advice.'
'My lady,' started Miss Galindo, her voice sympathetic. She was silenced by a gently raised hand.
'Pray do not endeavour to persuade me otherwise, Laurentia, for I have quite made up my mind. Therefore I must make amends when he is returned to Hanbury; that is what I am quite resolved upon doing. I will make certain that Mr Carter will have nothing but the best to aid him in his recovery.' Lady Ludlow's eyes turned to her companion at this and added in a gentle tone: 'Would I have your assistance in this matter?'
Laurentia Galindo smiled. 'Most certainly, Lady Ludlow.'