Story of the Day: Chune's Tears Pt 3
Bilar judged it best to say what must be said and smooth away evils as they should arise. He took Martje’s hand and said in a quiet tone, “Martje, there is something we need to discuss.”
Her eyes flared in horror. “Am I dyin’?” she whimpered.
“No, Martje. I’ve sat you here because there is something I as a cleric have been meaning to speak to you about for some time.”
He made an insufferable pause, and over the horrific silence, Merra suddenly fluttered over with the vile of nettle, said her cheerful hellos, and then flittered away to her corner of the infirmary where she was rolling bandages and preparing salves for the new recruits. A few had trickled in with cuts and scrapes, but with Rautu as a commander, there would be a shattered bone or a missing limb ere long. She sat quietly and did her work while Bilar took courage and began again.
“This is an extract made from the blue stinging nettle,” said he, showing the vile to Martje. “It can be ingested in various ways. It can be boiled as a tea, mixed into oats-- any way in which you feel most comfortable taking sixty drops of it a day, you have my consent. But you must take it, Martje.”
The mention of oats, vile and wretched as they were to Martje, had almost betrayed his meaning. He should never have suggested something so wholesome and tasteless unless there were something truly amiss with her, and she was beset by her own terrors of knowing what must happen at last. She would not refute Bilar’s advice, however; she took the vile with a cautious but submissive look and said, “Does it taste terrible?”
Bilar thought for a moment.“It isn’t the pleasantest taste,” he decided, “but it certainly isn’t the worst.”
She inspected the vile with a desperate gaze. “Then, I really do have Chune’s Tears and all?” she said tearfully.
Here was a pang: he closed his eyes momentarily, his features wincing, and Bilar dreaded saying his somber “I’m afraid so,” though he knew it must be said.
Looking first at the vile and then about her, Martje was engrossed in confusion. “But how? How can I have it?”
Bilar gave her a conscious look. “Do you really not know, Martje?” he said softly.
She did know, though she refused to own it. She knew that she could not continue as she had done all this time without some repercussion to prevail her. She had only hoped that it should not be so soon. Chune’s Tears only happened to those whose only pursuits were sitting at a table finely attired, eating Livanon cookery, playing cards until the somnolence that rich foods could warrant should overcome them, and then rouse to the scents of fried meats and well oiled olives only to delight in growing plump on languid cares and indolent pursuits. Impossible that she should have such a condition, she who was forever running about the kitchen, eating small meals and never resting until the late hours of the evening, but even as she debated this, she could not remember how many times that morning she had eaten or what, besides the biscuits, she had eaten last. “Aye, I know it,” she whispered with a quivering lip. She lowered her head and allowing the tears to fall freely while there was only Bilar by to witness them.
Uneasiness and awkwardness rushed on Bilar, and he looked to Merra’s quarter of the infirmary to make certain that she had not seen Martje’s sorrows: his wife was employed with dividing the ribwort stems from the leaves and had not heard Martje’s quiet sobs. He turned back toward Martje, who was sniveling and staring at the vile, and placed his hand on her back. “Chune’s Tears is common in older women, Martje.”
“But I ain’t that old,” she cried.
“I know, but some women regardless of their health are predisposed to have them and must take care.”
“But my Ma don’t got ‘em.”
Bilar tried to be considerate, but when he compared Martje to her mother, he must confess that Calleen, though elderly, was in better health of the two. “You may follow your father’s side of the family,” he said, hoping she would realize his evasions as a means to salvage her feelings. “Some women must be more prudent of their health than others.”
They exchanged a sagacious glance.
“This could have been prevented some time ago, Martje, but I think you know that as well.”
She sniffed. “Aye,” was her woeful reply.
“I’m giving you a strict diet to follow, but if you follow it well, you will be able to stop taking the nettle within a year.”
“A year?” she rejoined.
“I was able to stop the pain, Martje, long enough for the stone that was obstructing the pathway to pass, but if you want to cure yourself and you don’t want me to operate, you must follow my instructions.”
The notion of an operation frightened her enough to resign her remonstrances, and with a defeated countenance, she stared at the vile and said, “What else do I gotta do besides take this here?”
Bilar inhaled, and here was the blow at last. “You must refrain from eating butter, meat, eggs, chocolate, poultry, bread, oil-preserved vegetables, baked goods, jams, sugar, cheese and milk.”
Aghast and confounded, she gaped at Bilar in artless alarm. “But- but that’s everythin’.”
“It isn’t everything, Martje. You may eat fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.”
His cheerfulness was contemptuous to her. Of course he should make such a restricting diet. He never ate meat or eggs or dairy or anything else with the smallest amount of taste. He was trying to impose his own habits upon her. What nonsense to think that a cook and a cleric could share the same diet. “Sure,” she scoffed, “might as well tell me to eat chicken feed.”
“Oh, and no corn either.”
It was almost unbearable to her- nay, it was unbearable. How could anyone be expected to suffer such an immoveable regime? There was no possible room for flavour or enjoyment whatsoever. The sadness of her state had caused her to throw her hands up and wail to the Gods. She prayed for them to cure her, or if they would not, to kill her silently in her sleep, for to live under such retraction should be worse than death. To take her from the world now when life had been so abundant and felicitous should be a blessing and a kindness that she as a faithful servant to the king and kingdom deserved. It was an end of all pleasure, of all happiness, all goodness. Her peace was destroyed forever, and she should never be in charity with Bilar or herself or the Gods or the world ever again if no alternative to her healing was not offered at once.