Posted on 2010-10-31
Frank Churchill entered his uncle's study, though it would be closer to the truth to call it an impromptu pharmacy. His wife's illness had led Mr Churchill to pursue a deeper knowledge of all things medical. He was unparalleled in the field of herbal medicine and the making of draughts from herbs in all of Suffolk. It had even come to the point that the local doctor would tell his patients what remedy they needed and advise them to go to Mr Churchill for the actual tincture.
Now, Frank observed his uncle unpacking his travelling bag. The elder man's movements were slow and weary. He looked tired, not only from the recent stress they had been under but as if he had somehow tired of the world. He took a dark brown glass jar out of the bag and looked at it as if he was unsure of what to do with it now.
"You are not to blame, you know," said Frank. With a few steps he was by his uncle's side and took the jar out of the other man's hand. "You tried everything in your power. She was quite delusional at the end and in constant fear. She is better off now that she has left this mortal plane behind her."
Mr Churchill did not look at him.
"Don't get me wrong," Frank continued and carelessly put the jar on a shelf. "I miss her, too, but I keep reminding myself that, at least, she won't suffer anymore. Her suffering is over."
Mr Churchill flinched as if Frank's words had scalded him.
"No, no, I don't mean it like that! You didn't make her suffer here. You eased her suffering with your herbal mixtures, too. It's just …" Frank trailed off helplessly.
"Frank," said Mr Churchill. His voice was calm. "I will be fine. Don't worry. It may take a while but I will be fine."
"Really." Mr Churchill looked at the young man. A faint smile was playing around his mouth. "Now, don't you have some fair maiden at whose feet you have to prostrate yourself and beg for forgiveness?"
"Yes, well, I would stay here if you need me."
"That girl is important to you, isn't she?"
"The most important."
"Then you should go to her right away and clear the matter up." Mr Churchill led his young charge to the door. "After all, you still want to marry her if I'm not mistaken?"
"Yes." Frank stood now uneasily in the opened door. "But will you really be fine without me for a while?"
"I have servants to take care of me, I have my work to distract me - I still have to make that ointment for Mrs Danby's leg - why shouldn't I be fine?"
After many to and fros of this kind, Frank finally left to prepare for his journey. When the door closed, Mr Churchill breathed a sigh of relief. Taking the jar Frank had placed on a shelf into his hand again, he looked at the label and said, "Hyoscyamus niger doesn't belong on the shelf with the Achillea Millefolium. It goes on the shelf with the other members of the Solanaceae order." And saying thus, deposited the jar on a higher shelf.
"So, that's how you killed me," said someone behind him.
Mr Churchill didn't even turn around. "I already told you. I didn't kill you."
"Well, it was your tincture that made me have all those hallucinations."
"It was an honest mistake!" protested Mr Churchill. "I really didn't know I had put Henbane in it."
"So you keep saying."
Mr Churchill finally turned around and looked at the ghost of his wife. "Are we going to have this discussion every time you appear? I mean, you are dead. I can't undo this, much as I'd like to."
"Excuse me that my demise is of such importance to me," said the ghost snappishly.
"Please answer me truthfully. Will you haunt me to the end of my days and we'll have the exact same conversation every day?"
The apparition nodded. "Yes, indeed."
"Hm," said Mr Churchill as he thought about that. "It's not much different from when you were alive."
"You'll be accustomed to it in no time," agreed his wife's ghost.The End