Story of the Day: Chune's Tears Pt2
I have to return to the doctor this week to see what can be done about my gallstones, or "Chune's Tears". We'll see how nice I am to the doctor should he insist that I give up chocolate again.
Struck by the sight of Martje lying along the ground trembling in the throes of horrific agony, Bilar leapt to her side, endeavouring to remain as composed as knelt to her and rolled back his long sleeves. “Martje, can you hear me? If you can hear me, I need you to lie on your back.” He placed his hands upon her, and glowing as they were with the emerald hue of the Gods’ gift, he helped her onto her back and began his examination. “Good. That’s very good. Can you speak, Martje?”
“Aye,” she aspirated weakly, “but it hurts to talk and all.”
“Talking is a good sign,” he said with perfect calmness. “Can you show me where exactly the pain is?”
Bilar’s heart wrenched to see his friend in such anguish, for though he was the more poised of the two, each of their positions required an even temper and a steadfast character. To see one so determined and dutiful so helpless seemed an injustice he could not forgive. Though he must govern himself while in her presence, an ailment in one so steadfast grieved him excessively. A short sigh as he studied her for any swelling around the area she had indicated, and his self-possession returned. “Now, you may feel a little pain when I press my hand on you, but I will soon have done.”
The warm glow from his hands increased as he pressed his palm to her abdomen, and after the first shock of pain had done with her, Martje began to feel all the ease and serenity that being under Bilar’s care could warrant. She felt easy and indolent, as though the resounding sensations from his hands that was soothing her anguish afforded a pleasant somnolence. All her disquiet and discomfiture soon abated and was replaced by all the reprieve and pleasantness that Bilar attentiveness and concern must evince.
For some minutes, there was no sound other than the gentle and ceaseless hum emanating from Bilar’s hands as he passed them over Martje’s languid form, but the silence was soon broken by Shelbiegh’s sudden cry of, “I swear it weren’t me what gave her the poison!”
Bilar placed his hand on Martje’s forehead to feel for a fever and was happen to have none discovered. “It isn’t poison, Shelbeigh,” he said, smiling at Martje.
Shelbeigh heaved a drawn out sigh. “Aye, Simae. That’s sure a relief, then. Didn’t want anyone to think I’s what killed her.”
“I’m not dying, Shelbeigh,” Martje heatedly insisted. “Sure, you’re lucky you know how to scrub a pan like no one, else I woulda fired you for near leavin’ me here, you bheann hashiff.”
This profuse aspersion seemed undeserved, and Shelbeigh would have retaliated if not for Bilar’s polite entreaty of “Will you gather Martje’s family and tell them to convene at the table? Tell them that Martje was a little unwell and that she’s under my care for the remainder of the afternoon. I’ll bring Martje to the infirmary with me for a little while and I’ll come back to speak to the relatives in a few minutes.”
Shelbeigh would have asked if Martje’s absence meant an afternoon off, but she checked herself and let it pass. Being a acquitted of poisoning her sometimes harsh and officious mistress was one thing, but to be perceived as a dawdle and a slattern was entirely another. She would show everyone her worth and redeem herself in Martje’s eyes by hastening to the armoury where Shayne was certain to be found and relaying the message to him directly. She might even be of further use by running into town and telling their daughter of the present vexation, and after she had told Maggie, she might see what else could be done. She might see what items were new in the window of the haberdashery, or what new hats were bringing down from the millinery shelves, or if there were any more of the rhubarb stalks to be got from the markets, as Martje had used the stock in the larder for His Majesty’s pie. She must avail herself out of doors, for she could be of no use within without having anything to clean or any mistress to assist. She was best off seeing if there might be anything worth having at the bakery that could not be made due to Martje’s present indisposition. There she could bare claims to usefulness and to being more efficient than what the title of scullery maid might imply. With head high, heart sanguine, and spirits aggrandized, Shelbeigh marched all about the capital, glorying in her meretricious strides, thinking that she must only doing right by taking the afternoon air and making her gradual return to the keep where within she seemed only to do wrong.
Once Martje was well enough to be moved, Bilar helped her to stand and brought her to the infirmary. It was a short journey one but one spent in unhappy contemplation, on side all terror and confusion, on the other all vexation and disappointment at the news he must convey and tempers he must excite.
Bilar’s silence and averted eyes as he considered how best to tell Martje of her ailment only expatiated her fears. She reckoned there must be a terrible affliction ready to break upon her. Never had she seen her friend so disconcerted, and his enforced silence only made her anxiousness the worse by its protracted length. Confounded and frightened, Martje said a solemn, “Is it somethin’ terrible?”
“No, Martje,” was his smiling answer. “You’re going to be just fine.”
“Gonna be? Does that mean I ain’t well and all now?”
“You are far better than you were a few minutes ago.”
It was said with a hopeful accent, but it only succeeded in increasing Martje’s horror . She paused and gave him a look of dreadful chariness.
“You have my word, Martje,” he assured her as they came to the entrance of the infirmary. “Merra? Would you be able to bring me the nettle, please?”
There was a bustle at the far end of the infirmary and Merra called out her agreement, but her voice was drowned under Martje’s cry of, “Nettle? Then sure I’m poisoned.”
“No, Martje,” said Bilar, trying not to laugh. “Nettle makes a tonic that is a cure for many things. It’s a cleanser and helps open certain passage ways.”
He continued his lecture, and though Martje heard him, as his voice echoed against the stones of the great hall, it was without any semblance of really listening. She was taken up with her own ideas as to why she was ill and would pronounce them throughout keep in a strident a tone as she could summon.
“Aye, I know Shelbeigh’s done it,” he said with vehement conviction. “She’s been after a day off since I took the last two from her for spillin’ the soup on my apron and in my hair when she tripped over herself. Scalded my arm and all too. I oughta give her the cow’s tail standin’ over her.”
Bilar allowed her to finish her invective, as he had little hope of quieting her tolerably well himself, and once she had shouted about the Shelbiegh’s general ignorance, her illiteracy, her one buck tooth, her unforgivable freckles, her slatternly habits, her underhung maw, her frailty, her want of understanding with regard to men and her lack of knowledge with regard to cookery and various other subjects, the debasement was over and Bilar might then continue.
“You have Chune’s Tears, Martje,” he said gently, helping her to sit in the chair beside the infirmary door.
Martje nearly leapt in astonishment. “Chune’s Tears? That ain’t possible,” waving a hand at him, “Sure, only folk what are old and sittin’ all day get that. I got somethin’ else, and you’re not tellin’ me.”Bilar gave Martje an earnest look. In the five minutes they passed together walking from the kitchen to the infirmary, he had not found a safe and pleasant manner in which to inform Martje of her ailment without beleaguering her. Her pride as Frewyn’s greatest cook should be hurt forever under the terrible truth of her being the plumpest. There were many other cooks and bakers of every stamp throughout the kingdom who were no doubt larger than Martje ever could be, and though she did not eat as much as some of those who prided themselves on being less wholesome might, the nature of the illness and those whom its specifically assailed placed Martje at the very centre of peril. He was sorry that he must be the one to relay such a painful report, but better that he she should receive the speech that must follow from a friend who prized integrity above all else than from a stranger. He would do his utmost to spare her from any further mortification and not say the one word that Martje despised most; she had been humiliated enough in succumbing to illness before one whom she deemed so decidedly below even a humble cook from Tyfferim. He sighed to himself, took his chair from his table in the corner, and sat beside her, considering the most lenient and more favourable approach, but regardless of how he considered and ruminated and contrived, everything would be tormenting.