CHAPTER 2

The two weeks since Jane's arrival at Ashby Park had passed quickly. Jane had finally become familiar with all the twists and turns of the Castle; at least the part that she inhabited and had firmly marked the study as her territory, having set up files and commandeered a small desk for her use only.

Dawson bothered her infrequently and was spending most of his time being introduced to the right people with Lord Ashby, only occasionally meeting with her to throw his weight around; checking for messages from Boston, signing and authorising deals and directing Jane in matters she already had in hand. Jane humoured him and in return had in the main part been left to her own devices.

Today was the day that Jane thought she had cleared enough work to be able to take that ride she had told both herself and Lady Maura she would, however since she had risen this morning an unforgiving rain had been pounding the roof and stone walls of the house and looked set for the day.

Jane had not had the opportunity to speak with Lady Maura again since her first day here and had tried to be content with only the sight of her through a window or accompanied by Ms Dawson in the hall. Maura seemed to spend any time where she wasn't running the house or entertaining guests, locked up alone in the library, only a few doors away from where Jane sat now. Jane wasn't sure what she was doing in there after dinner every evening but she would hazard a guess that it wasn't wedding planning.

Jane couldn't fully explain what it was she had felt towards Lady Maura during their brief contact but she had told herself it was admiration. Jane had never been impressed by wealth or position, Boston had plenty of its own elite families and she had worked amongst them for five years now without being particularly taken with any of them. However what Jane had felt with Lady Maura was that she had glimpsed the woman beneath the Lady and she was curious to discover more.

Or maybe Jane was looking for a connection where there wasn't one. Jane liked her own company and had always prided herself on being fiercely independent but even she felt lonely in this foreign land.

Jane stood and wandered around the desk once, she had been leant over her work too long without a break and her back was stiff and sore. Jane left the study and took a walk along the hallway, she returned to where she had spoken with Lady Maura that first day and re-traced her steps to the small passage that led outside. Jane opened the heavy wooden door and leant her back against it as she blocked the doorway watching the drumming rain.

The air was fresh and the sound of the rain was loud and rhythmic but was punctured by a small snivelling sound that Jane recognised as a woman's crying. Jane lent her head out around the doorway and caught site of a small figure crouched over on a nearby rock. Jane had never been one to ignore someone in distress however unwise the move may be and quickly hopped out into the rain to approach the girl.

The figure was that of Dolly; Ms Dawson's ladies maid who was huddled half under a ledge and partly sheltered, sobbing into her open hands. Dolly didn't notice Jane until the older woman ducked under the ledge and pushed herself onto the rock beside her.

Dolly looked up; she was clearly startled by Jane's appearance and pitifully set about trying to cover her state of despair, swiping at her tears and pushing her straggles of loosened hair back into place.

"Sorry Ms Rizzoli." Was all she could manage before another small sob racked her small frame.

Jane waited patiently and smiled kindly as Dolly attempted to get her emotions under control, the rain raged on unmoved by the display.

"I... I'm sorry, is there something I could do for you or ... something?" Dolly got out, looking lost.

"No." Jane said simply. "I just thought you might want company."

Dolly looked at Jane and then pressed a tissue to her face, which considering how many times she must have already performed this action and taking into account the amount of rain that was falling on them, even in the semi covered position, was a completely pointless act.

"I shouldn't really..." Dolly began, looking at the ground and fiddling incessantly with the tissue in her hands. "I just, I think I'm home sick Ms. Ms Dawson hasn't been very kind since we got to England, she feels that I'm not good enough to be of assistance to a lady in England and the maids here say I'm no ladies maid as Ms Dawson isn't a real Lady. They find fault in everything I do. I haven't any friends. I long for home but we are so impossibly far away." Dolly's voice broke at the last and she began to sob again.

Jane put a settling hand on Dolly's back. "It will get better Dolly, don't fret so. Ms Dawson's worries are that she is not good enough here, not you and once she gets to London and starts to meet with the English gentlemen I am sure all that will be forgotten."

Dolly peeked out from behind the hands that had been holding her head and gave Jane a hopeful look.

"Really." Jane assured. "And in the meantime I'm here if you need a friend. We Yanks have got to stick together after all." Jane smiled on one side of her mouth.

Dolly smiled gratefully. "Thank you Ms Rizzoli." She sniffled.

A few moments later a decidedly more bedraggled looking Jane ducked back into the castle having watched Dolly run off in the opposite direction.

A shiver ran through her as she entered the building which was no warmer here than it was outside, Jane held her arms about her to contain any remnant of body heat and as she turned she saw someone standing behind her.

Lady Maura stood in a simple dress with short galoshes over her shoes and with a long hooded cloak which covered her from head to toe and she held a large basket with both arms threaded through it.

"Lady Maura." Jane bowed her head slightly. "You're not considering going out in this?" Jane asked.

Maura looked defiant. "I have something to attend to and I have never let a spot of rain get in my way before Ms Rizzoli. Besides I am a little more prepared than you were I think."

Jane glanced down and realised exactly how she must appear, the words drowned and rat came to mind.

"Excuse me." Maura made to move past Jane and Jane span around after her.

"Do you require any assistance M'lady?" Jane asked Maura's back.

Maura looked over her shoulder before answering. "Well, since you are already soaked through; grab a shawl, we may well be able to use another set of hands."

Jane did as instructed and dashed after Lady Maura with absolutely no idea what she had just volunteered for.

A carriage was already waiting outside for Lady Maura and the footman helped both women get on board. Jane got seated opposite Maura and pushed some errant strands of wet hair back off her face.

"So, where are we going?" She smiled enthusiastically.

Maura almost returned the smile. "To the village, I have received a note from the village Doctor asking that I come urgently, one of the villagers is seriously ill."

Jane looked thoughtful then shrugged. "What can a Lady do about that?" She asked.

Maura looked at Jane as if she was trying to calculate the measure of her then took a towel from her laden basket and threw it to Jane without comment.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The two women travelled the rest of the way in silence, Maura trying unsuccessfully to conceal her obviously mounting impatience and Jane at a complete loss as to what was going on but keen to find out. The carriage came to a stop outside a small ramshackle cottage on the far edge of the village and Jane could make out a small light coming from one room at the front of the house.

Lady Maura was helped out of the carriage by a rather harassed looking man dressed too smartly to be the proprietor of the cottage but not exactly to the usual standard of a gentleman and Jane supposed he must be the village Doctor.

"My Lady." He stooped into a very low bow as he delivered Maura safely from the carriage. "Thank goodness you were at home and could join me, I'm afraid our patient is very ill."

Maura acknowledged him with a nod. "It is a reoccurrence of her old ailment?" she asked.

He was already nodding and leading Maura into the cottage. "Yes, she is complaining of severe pain in the right side of the abdomen and has been vomiting ."

Maura looked serious. "Pain over the right iliac fossa?"

The doctor continued. "The pain extends toward the right breast and up the back of the chest."

Jane cringed as they entered a room that smelled of the sourness of vomit mixed with sweat and was home to a pathetic form huddled on the wooden bed in the centre of the small room, a worried looking man pacing up and down by the side of it with a bowl in his hands. He looked up as they entered and even in his distressed state remembered to bow respectfully to Lady Maura.

"Thank you for coming M'Lady." He said gruffly.

Maura held a hand out and placed it on his arm. "Of course John." She said softly. Maura turned and put her basket down, slipping off her cloak and passing it wordlessly to Jane, who turned to find somewhere to hang it and found a hook on the back of the door.

Lady Maura headed directly to the bed and sat beside the occupant, who lay with her legs drawn up, her face a mask of agony. Maura reached out to stroke her brow tenderly and then lay her palm flat against her forehead, taking the woman's tiny limp wrist up with her other hand and seeking her pulse.

"You have administered opium?" Maura said softly over her shoulder to the hovering doctor.

"Of course." He said quietly.

Maura got up and addressed him. "You can give her a little more and then I will meet with you outside." She said calmly.

The Doctor nodded and went about it.

Jane followed Maura silently out of the room, relieved to briefly escape the heavy atmosphere of a room with a sick bed.

Maura sighed deeply as she entered the main living area and went directly to the fire to boil some water.

"She seems very sick." Jane stated the obvious.

"Indeed." Maura replied. "I have seen her ill before and we were able to make her comfortable and see her through, however the last episode left her in a weakened state and I fear more drastic action may be required this time."

Jane felt like a spare part as Maura busied herself.

"What do you mean?" Jane frowned.

"I think we will have to operate." Maura sighed again.

Jane gave Maura a look of astonishment. "You and the Doc in there are going to operate on that girl?"

Maura smiled. "I hope you're not of a delicate disposition Ms Rizzoli." She challenged.

Jane put her hands on her lips in a defensive pose. "No, I am not squeamish."

At that moment, the doctor joined them, taking a deep breath before speaking to Maura.

"I am afraid it is what we had feared and if we do not act now..." He shook his head and rubbed at his brow.

Maura remained calm. "Do you have everything we will need?" She asked.

He nodded, "Yes of course M'lady, but as you know, neither you nor I have ever completed such a procedure. I have been present at a couple but ..."

"We are all she has."Maura cut in firmly. "We have operated together before and we have been researching this for a little while now, we are not completely without knowledge and experience is just something we will have to gain." Maura said reasonably.

"You are right." The doctor said as he twisted his hands together and Jane noted that he was only a young man and certainly unsure of his capabilities, where lady Maura seemed quietly confident and composed.

"Get your instruments." Maura instructed and turned to Jane. "Ms Rizzoli will assist where she can." Maura nodded in Jane's direction. "You must thoroughly scrub your hands and bring some of the boiled water into the bedroom."

Jane jumped to life and crossed to the small basin of water that Maura had filled. They were really going to do this.

As Maura joined her and began to roll up her sleeves Jane turned to look her in the eyes. "What will happen if you don't do this?" Jane almost whispered.

"If this procedure is not performed; any abscess may burst into the peritoneal cavity which would likely be fatal." Maura stated flatly.

"She'll die?" Jane asked.

"She may well die." Maura confirmed with a nod.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Jane had watched initially with thinly veiled disgust and then quickly with fascination and awe as Maura and the Doctor cut through the abdominal wall of the young woman, who Jane had discovered was called Lydia and had two small children, both of whom had been delivered in part by Lady Maura.

Jane was on hand to wash the wound and to mop up any excess of blood or the pussy liquid that oozed from tissue around what Maura referred to as a gangrenous ulcer, she also was to keep a check on the patient who seemed fortunately unaware of what was going on.

Maura who had been issuing orders since they arrived had been letting the Doctor take the initiative since the operation began and only offering help and advice as he needed it, particularly when he began to panic about not being able to find the appendix. Jane suspected that Maura was giving him the lead to help his confidence; she didn't think Maura was in any way deferring to him out of a lack of expertise.

Maura finally closed up the wound, Jane staring at the swift practised movements her hands made and the long delicate fingers, now spattered with blood.

An hour later and the three of them had the place cleaned up and had cleaned up themselves and the patient was resting comfortably.

Maura spoke with Lydia's husband, she warned him that she may be ill in the night and would need to be given water and kept clean and cool.

"We will call in to see her tomorrow." Maura said warmly.

"Thank you, I can't thank you enough My Lady." He bowed low and turned to the doctor and Jane. "You all." He added. "Doctor, Ms Rizzoli." He shook each of their hands in turn.

The three of them huddled through the low door and out of the cottage into the evening, which had slipped in without Jane realising it. The rain had stopped but as a result of so much rain the air felt fresh and crisp. Jane let out a breath and saw it form in a cloud in front of her.

Maura's carriage was where they had vacated it only a few hours earlier, the coachman huddled on top.

Doctor Philip Rawlinson as Jane had learned he was called took Maura's arm to accompany her the short distance to the carriage, Jane following closely behind.

"Lady Maura, I cannot thank you enough as always for your assistance, I don't know what I ever should do without you." He beamed down at Maura.

Jane thought she recognised in him a kind of love or adoration for Maura and after what she had witnessed tonight Jane could hardly blame him. Maura had been the calming influence, the reassuring voice and the practical advisor and all without arrogance or impatience; she had been the perfect Lady.

As they settled in for the ride home, Jane studied the woman across from her.

"I've never seen anything like that before." Jane said. "You were amazing."

Maura smiled graciously. "English Ladies are expected to be of service to the people who belong to their estate and must be accomplished in many things; languages, music, drawing."

Jane narrowed her eyes at Maura but smiled wholeheartedly "But you Lady Maura are one of a kind." She decided.

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A/N- Hey all, sorry this took a while but it is quite long and I had to do a little research on appendectomies in 1890. Hope you like it, I know this is just the build up but I am having lots of fun planning this one, there is going to be some drama and angst, of course!