Another month passed by with more tension between Shae and her husband. The conversations on the weekends were even shorter and more awkward, leaving Shae a bit saddened by the loss of camaraderie. During the day, there were visits from friends and family. Shae enjoyed the company, with the exception of those from Neva Langley and Beatrice Matheson. For a couple of weeks, the snow grew too deep for anyone to get in or out of the Matheson farm, including Mr. Matheson. Shae didn’t know whether to be grateful or disappointed. However, Lucy certainly missed her father.
It was the beginning of February now, and the snows had melted enough for travel to be possible. Maybe they would have a visitor. She even relished a visit from Aunt Martha, but doubted it would happen because of Aunt Martha’s fear of catching an illness because of the weather. It was breakfast time, and Shae had already finished her meal when she wondered about Lucy. She usually beat Shae downstairs in the morning.
Concerned, she made her way to the nursery. It was dark and silent. She called Lucy from the doorway. A weak voice made its way to her.
“Shae…. I’m so very tired.”
She rushed over to the bed. Lucy felt so cold and clammy. She needed to see her. Hurriedly, Shae opened all of the curtains, and lit every lamp in the room. Lucy lay there, breathing shallow. Her skin was very pale and her lips blue. Shae didn’t dare risk exciting her, so she kept her face as blank as she could. Kissing her forehead, Shae asked if she would like anything to eat.
“No, thank you.”
“How about some tea? That will warm you up.”
Lucy nodded her head. Shae smiled down at her.
“I’ll go get Mrs. Klein to fetch it.”
Once downstairs, she rushed about trying to find the housekeeper. She found her in the kitchen. Mrs. Klein smiled at Shae as she entered, but her smile disappeared at the look on Shae’s face.
“What is it, ma’am?”
“It’s Lucy. Have someone fetch the doctor, and Mr. Matheson. She’s blue and can hardly breath. I’m certain it is her heart. Stay calm and quiet as can be. I don’t want her to get worked up.”
Mrs. Klein replied in the affirmative and briskly walked out of the room. Shae turned to the cook.
“Mrs. Harris, can you send up some tea up to the nursery, as well as something on the tray that Lucy can’t resist eating that has some sort of nourishment?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the cook agreed solemnly. “She can’t resist toast with sugar and cinnamon, especially if I cut off the crusts and cut them into little hearts. I’ll send someone up as soon as it’s done.”
Shae swallowed, and agreed to it. Then she made her way back to Lucy, who was lying very still on her bed. If it weren’t for her pained breathing, Shae wouldn’t have been sure if she were still alive. Lucy had her eyes closed, so Shae retrieved a chair from Lucy’s desk, and sat it beside the bed. Lucy opened her eyes, but closed them again as if pained by the light.
“Would you like me to shut the curtains?”
Shae went to do so, also putting out most of the lamps, except for the one near the bed, which she dimmed.
“You’re very welcome. Mrs. Harrison is bringing up some tea for you very soon.”
Lucy smiled weakly at her, and closed her eyes again.
“Would you like me to go?”
“No,” she replied, her eyes still closed. “Read.”
There were two books on her nightstand. A book of fairytales and the new children’s book entitled “Little Women”.
“Which book, Lucy?”
Shae was through the first chapter when Mrs. Klein came in with the tea. They propped Lucy up with a few pillows. She drank a few sips of tea, and a bite of the toast, which she smiled at.
“Tell Mrs. Harrison, thank you.”
“Certainly, dear heart,” as she left.
Lucy laid back on the pillow, and sighed. Shae fed her another two bites of toast and a few more sips of honeyed tea, before Lucy gently refused more. Shae dimmed the lamp even more, and then just sat by her side, waiting for the doctor and Mr. Matheson to arrive.
Nearly two hours later, the doctor knocked on the doorframe as he came into the room.
“I’m Dr. Alkire. How long has she been like this?”
“She woke like this. Last night she seemed fine, although she did go to bed without complaint.”
“Yes, Lucy feeling good is a very different creature than Lucy like this, I know. Fiesty thing, really. I think her determination to live has saved her life more than once.”
He got out an instrument to listen to her heart. And then her breathing.
“Hmm,” was all he said.
He sat looking at her sadly. Shae waited him out, anxious to hear his opinion. He motioned her to follow him out into the hallway.
“Well, she isn’t ill with any sickness. It is her weak heart. This is the worst I’ve seen her in years, if not ever. When her father gets back, tell him that I need to talk to him. Which, by the way, I was supposed to relay a message to you. Mr. Canton, your butler, I believe, said to tell you that your husband was sent on a work trip out-of-town just yesterday. Mr. Canton has went to himself to fetch Mr. Matheson. Send someone to get me, as soon as he arrives.”
“Alright,” Shae agreed. “Is there anything I should do?”
“Keep her eating and drinking whatever she can. Keep the lights low, and curtains closed. I’ll be back tomorrow sometime in the afternoon to check up.”
Shae nodded. The doctor looked at her solemnly.
“And above all things, keep her calm.”
“Certainly. Thank you, Dr. Alkire.”
He bowed, and left. Shae wiped away a couple of tears, went in, and then prayed beside Lucy’s bed.
The next day, Lucy didn’t seem to be any better. She had drank very little and eaten even less. It deepened Shae’s fears. The doctor came in the afternoon and was equally concerned. In the hallway, he again asked Shae to make sure that she send someone to let him know when her husband arrived. She promised him that she would. However, as she was agreeing, she heard her husband’s voice downstairs, along with that of Mr. McClure’s.
“He is here, Dr. Alkire.”
“Thank God,” he replied, as Matheson came bounding up the stairs, two at a time.
“How is she, Doctor?”
“Not good…” the doctor replied grabbing ahold of Matheson’s elbow to talk to him in the hallway.
They talked in hushed tones, as Mr. McClure, who had came along with her husband, silently made his way up the stairs. Gone was his usual devil-may-care manner.
“It isn’t good for the fairy princess, is it?” he asked Shae.
“No, it isn’t,” was all that Shae was able to manage.
She watched as her husband paled at whatever the doctor was telling him about Lucy. He nodded, and then made his way into see his daughter. The doctor walked up to Shae and McClure. He smiled sadly, but kindly at Shae, and nodded to McClure.
“I’ll be back again tomorrow,” Dr. Alkire informed her, “Please tell your husband.”
He made his way out the door, as her husband made his way out of the room.
“She’s asking for you, Wife. She wants you to read to her some more of that book you’ve been reading her.”
He paused, as he had started down the stairs without even asking after how she was doing. That stung a bit.
“The doctor said to tell you that he’d be back tomorrow to check on Lucy.”
The men headed down the stairs, while Shae dutifully went to read to Lucy some more.
“Well, that was poorly done,” McClure said to his friend.
They were seated in the study, and having tea. At least McClure was having tea. Rand looked pale and fraught with worry.
“You didn’t even ask after your wife, to see how she was doing. You barely even looked at her. If you had, you would have noticed the weariness on her face. Instead, you came down her to wallow in self-pity.”
“Self-pity! Blast you, McClure. I just got told that my daughter probably won’t make it through this time. Her heart is too weak.”
McClure clunked his tea cup down on the saucer. He was silent for a minute.
“God,” he said, like a prayer. “God.”
Then after more minutes of heavy silence, he apologized.
“I’m truly sorry, Rand. I would have waited to say something about your treatment of Shae, if I would have known.”
“Why must you say anything anyway?”
“Because you have a treasure on your arm everywhere you go, and you barely notice. Do you want her to become ill as well? I doubt the woman has slept since Lucy’s spell started.”
Matheson only sighed into his hands.
“Must things always be this way? So,” Matheson paused. “So, dour? First, Claire, and now Lucy.”
McClure didn’t have an answer, so he remained silent, even as his friend made his way upstairs to help Shae. Sometimes God’s purpose seemed elusive.