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Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 4

October 02, 2020 02:47AM
Chapter Four

She had expected him to be waiting for her inside the sweet shop, but there he was, pacing back and forth, obviously impatient for her to arrive. Or perhaps he had come to tell her that he couldn’t stay. Her heart quickened at the sight of his countenance.

“Ah, Miss Burton, there you are. Finally!”

“Am I late, sir? I hope I have not kept you waiting.”

“No, no, not at all! I have simply been anxious to speak to you. Could we walk a bit? I don’t think I can say what must be said in a subdued or civil tone. It would be best if we went somewhere more private.”

“You are frightening me, Sir. But, of course, I will walk with you. Shall we walk through the park?”

He nodded and offered her his arm as they proceeded down the lane. He remained silent until they entered the quiet sanctuary of the park’s gardens, the muscles of his forearm drawn so tight that she could feel them stretched taut beneath his sleeve. When they were out of hearing distance of any other garden visitors, he turned abruptly to her, but said with utmost gentleness and restraint, “Miss Burton, I have analyzed your medication and am deeply sorry to tell you that you must never take another drop of it again. It is a dangerous concoction, given to you by a greedy, irresponsible man.”

Her mouth dropped open, but he continued on. “Now I know that you wish to keep his identity secret, Miss Burton, but you cannot. If he has prescribed it to you, he is surely prescribing it to others. We cannot stand by while innocent people are being weakened and possibly seriously harmed. There may be children involved and it would be more detrimental to their small bodies.”

Anne’s anger at this unbelievable accusation caused her to become defensive. What ridiculous things was he saying? Why was he frightening her so, further turning her world upside down and inside out? Was she not allowed to keep even some of her innocent beliefs about the goodness of human beings? Why was he demonizing this venerated physician? What a terrible mistake she had made in trusting him!”

“I don’t believe you! I can’t imagine what motive you might have to libel such a man? Perhaps he is your rival or has crossed you in some unpleasantness, but you shall not convince me that a man trained to save lives — especially one that has earned himself such an outstanding reputation would knowingly and deliberately hurt me!”

“I know it is a painful thing to ponder, Miss Burton, and perhaps I should have been more tactful in broaching the subject with you, but, forgive me, I have been very anxious about you since I tested the sample in your bottle the very evening you gave it me. I needed to contact you, to warn you, to seize the poison from your lips, but I could not — knowing neither where you lived, nor how to contact you. And I have been going quite mad with rage.”

She swallowed hard, but kept her resentful pose, daring him to continue.

“It is the sad and unfortunate truth that physicians cannot charge enough for their services to earn a decent living. What money there is to be made in the field of medicine comes from the cost of the medications doctors prescribe to their patients. I am ashamed to say that many are forced, by the very nature of this ludicrous system to cheat a bit and prescribe a few more doses of one thing or another. But that is generally not terribly harmful. Some, however, become greedy and lose all sight of what is right and wrong. Miss Burton, the main ingredient in your medication was prescribed regularly by almost every doctor in England some twenty years ago. But then, some ten or twelve years ago, it was discovered to have precisely the opposite effect on the heart than it was intended for. In short, it was proved, in one experiment after another, to weaken the heart rather than strengthen it. The headlines of all medical publications around the country told of its danger and warned physicians against its use. Unfortunately, it can still be purchased because, mixed together with other chemicals, traces of it are still useful in the treatment of some serious diseases in cows and sheep. But I know of no one who still prescribes it to human beings,” he said softly. He knew it was a harsh and ugly thing to say, but he had to make her understand the seriousness of the situation. How he would have liked to take her hand and comfort her, but obviously, he could not. Propriety would not allow it, and she was in no mood to accept it.

She had stood there defiantly the entire time that he was speaking, but now that defiance was crumbling. She was ghostly white, with tears welling in her eyes, her lips pressed tightly together to prevent herself from crying openly.

“I beg you to take yourself to the library, Miss Burton, and to ask for the medical journals published between 1809 and 1811. I am not certain as to when this news was made public, but if you persevere, you will find it. Here,” he said, handing her a piece of paper, “I have written down the name of the substance. It is in Latin and difficult to pronounce, but you will surely recognize it in print. I am sorry to have upset you so, and I shall press you no further, but the material point is that until you have proven to herself that this medication is safe, I beg you not to take another drop of it.”

“And what will you sell me in its place? Something of your own to line your pockets?”

As soon as she had said it, she was painfully sorry. The look on his face said it all, and he turned and walked away without so much as a nod or a parting word.

She watched him leave, her tears flowing freely now in anger and frustration, until he was out of sight— having crossed the road to Crestwood Lane. Only then did she sink onto a nearby bench to weep her heart out.

*****

He was hovered over a small plate of bread and cheese when she approached his table, her eyes now dry, but red and swollen. He raised his head slowly and acknowledged her wordlessly, waiting for her to address him.

“You are not going to make this easy for me, are you?” she whispered.

He said nothing, but gave her a gentle smile.

“My I join you,” she asked.

“Yes, but only if it is understood that it is my turn to pay for lunch.”

“Do you call that lunch?”

“Well, as you know, I have no private patients to sell my concoctions to. It seems you see things the way my father does, Miss Burton. He does not approve of my interest in research either.”

“I do not know enough to approve or disapprove…nor is it my place to do so. I do approve of you, however,” she said blushing to the roots of her hair, “ and for reasons I cannot explain, I trust you implicitly. Please forgive my earlier outburst. It was I who came to you with a favor, and I know you have no other agenda than to help me.”

He reached for her hand and pressed it.

“I was shocked and hurt — disenchanted with the world like a little child. I have led such a painfully restricted life because of my health, and the thought that some stranger had the power to keep me so, overwhelmed me. I will throw all those bottles out immediately and follow your advice whatever it may be.”

He gave her hand another little squeeze and said, “Good. I am glad of it. But do not throw out the evidence. Bring the bottles to me, and I shall call the charlatan to task for what he is done.”

“But…”

“No buts, Miss Burton. I cannot allow this man to continue putting his patients at risk — nor do you want it on your conscience. I promise you that I shall find a way to do it without involving you in any way.”

“But he will know where these bottles came from, and then…”

“You just said that you trusted me implicitly, Miss Burton. Now you must prove it.”

She nodded and squeezed the fingers that still remained wrapped around hers. “There is something I would like you to explain to me though. If this substance is so harmful, why have I gotten somewhat stronger over the years? I was much more frail and prone to illness as a young girl?”

“I cannot say for certain,” said Fennimore. “Has the dose increased over the years? Are you taking more now than you did as a child?”

“No, it has always been one teaspoon, mornings and evenings,” she replied.

“Then perhaps its harmful effects were lessened as you grew to adulthood. After all, the effect would be proportional to the dose and the size of the patient. At least he did not increase the dose…Had he sent you sugar water and continued cheating your family of their money, I would not be half so angry. But he cared nothing for your safety or well being.”

“So what you are saying is that Dr. Cotswold knowingly kept me in a weakened state so that my family would keep paying him for his medications,” she said softly. “How cruel of him! What if I would have succumbed to the effects of his medication? Would he ever have been found out?”

“I’m sorry to say that I doubt it. Your death would have been naturally accepted after a lifetime of illness. People would have been saddened by the news, of course, but not surprised. No one would have thought to delve deeper into the cause of your death, and he, this Cotswold, would have gone unpunished.”

Anne closed her eyes for a moment as if to escape this painful reality. She had left home wishing to live in the real world with all its pleasures and problems, knowing full well that there was cruelty, greed and ugliness to be encountered in it. But she had never thought that it would touch her so personally. She mourned the loss of her innocence. Yet obviously, one could not hide from evil. It sought you out even in the manicured gardens of Rosings Park, and fooled the young and old alike. She had no doubt that her mother was a pawn in all this. However self-serving and egotistical she was, her mother would not physically harm her.

She opened her eyes to find the face that had captured her heart smiling back at her. What would she do if she didn’t have him to depend on? Returning his smile, she said, “So how do we begin, Dr. Fennimore. What will you prescribe to help my condition? Is there still hope?”

“A great deal of hope, indeed!” he replied enthusiastically. “Your body, though compromised for so many years has proved amazingly strong and resilient. It is really quite extraordinary that you have the stamina that you do, Miss Burton. Therefore, we shall give your body the opportunity to heal itself and do nothing at all but aid it in its work. I shall prescribe nutritious food and moderate exercise that we shall build on, week by week. I wish to monitor your progress, if you will allow me, and to make recommendations as the need arises. I believe that once this poison is out of your system, you shall see a significant change in how you feel. Now, I don’t want you to think that I can cure you of the problem altogether,” he warned. “Though I have never examined you, I imagine you were born with some small heart defect, or perhaps you had a childhood disease that damaged your heart. Perhaps your mother could shed some light on that subject.”

“Perhaps she could. But I will not ask her for some time yet. You must allow me to continue with my plans, Dr. Fennimore. I have relented on Cotswold’s identity, but that is as far as I am prepared to go. And I expect you to keep all my confidences — medical and otherwise.”

“You have my word! Now, can we set up a schedule of appointments for you? Shall we say, once a week? I shall not accept any payment from you, and do not even think of arguing with me,” he said holding up his hand to prevent her, “but we will need to hire a woman to be present at all your examinations and I will ask you to pay her directly. Unless, of course, you would like to ask Mrs. Darcy to accompany you when you come.”

“Oh, I could never ask her to do that! She has a small child and is very much involved in the needs of all her family.”

“Of course, I understand. I just thought you might feel more comfortable with her present.”

“Indeed I would, but I cannot ask it. I am seeing her again tomorrow. Perhaps I shall ask if she can come for the first appointment. Does Wednesday morning suit you? At eleven, perhaps?”

He smiled, and it was then settled. Anne sat back and expelled a slow even breath. Never in her life had she felt so at peace. The Tilson sisters were caring for her at home, and now this beautiful, wonderful man was making her health his responsibility. Alone in this large city, she had found friendship, compassion and…dare she even voice the feeling? She must be deceiving herself! Perhaps after living such an isolated life she imagined any kindness to be affection. Yet she could not help it. She thought she heard, and felt, and saw evidence of it.

Anne shook her head and chastised herself for her foolishness. She was surely misinterpreting his kindness and getting herself all worked up over nothing. She would have to take herself in hand before she made a complete and utter fool of herself.

*****

Elizabeth had been perusing a book in the stacks when she saw Anne enter the large, imposing room that housed the biographies, autobiographies and history books. She smiled, her expressive brows raised in recognition and anticipation, but Anne ignored her and walked to the other side of the room. There she sat down at one of the tables and poured over a book she had brought in with her. Elizabeth understood. Anne wished no one to believe that their meeting had been planned, and she waited patiently for her to make the next move.

After some minutes, Anne left the table and wandered about the stacks, stopping to take out a book here and there and examine it. She finally came to stand just a few feet from Elizabeth.

“Oh, that is an excellent book you are holding, Madam. I hope you are not offended by my forwardness, but I did enjoy it so and cannot refrain from recommending it to everyone I meet,” said she.

Elizabeth turned to smile at her. “I am not at all offended. Please tell me, did you find the writing flowing and easy?”

With that casual opening the two of them drifted to a corner of the room to talk quietly, hoping that anyone observing them would think they had just struck up an informal association.

After several minutes of whispered questions and answers about the family, Anne suggested that they leave separately and meet at the park. All was arranged, and Elizabeth went to the front desk to check out her book.

When they were comfortably settled by the park fountain, with children and their nannies, elderly ladies and young sweethearts all about them, they were finally able to talk freely. An hour went by rather quickly.

“But I still cannot understand why you feel that Fitzwilliam’s help would be harmful to your cause, dear Anne.”

“My goal is to live independently, Elizabeth, and that requires money. I may very well lose Rosings, and for that I am prepared, but the funds my father left me would suffice for a comfortable life. My mother makes me dependent on her by controlling those funds, and she has everyone convinced that it is for my own good --- as I am obviously too frail to manage on my own,” Anne said sarcastically. “Mama has great influence and many people to do her bidding in a dispute between us. I fear she will use anything and everyone to her advantage. My only hope is to prove that I am strong, and clever, and perfectly capable of handling my own affairs. And Fitzwilliam, my dear, well-meaning cousin, would only contradict that by his involvement. You know him well enough to know that he would not hear of me living with strangers in a less than fashionable part of town, that he would wish to fight Mama on my behalf and that he would ruin everything with his good intentions. Please believe me, Elizabeth, this is the only way. And as it is my future that is at stake, it must be my decision.”

“But how will I ever keep such a secret from him? How will I keep an even countenance when we speak of you? And what will he say and feel when he finally finds out?”

“He need not find out at all. Once my year of self-determination is up, I will come to him for a recommendation of legal council, and he will have the honor of standing beside me during the ordeal. But for now, he must not interfere in any way, and the only way to assure that he does not, is to keep this from him. I know I am asking a great deal of you, Elizabeth, and that Fitzwillim may be angry when he first finds out. But I will assure him that I gave you no choice. Indeed, your loyalty to me will be a credit to you. He will see that in time.”

“I wish I could be convinced of it, Anne, but you need not fear; I will not betray your trust. Tell me now how else I can be of service to you. Cannot we meet informally like this from time to time so that I can be assured of your safety? It would be very hard to be left to wonder if you are well? And besides, you will wish to know about Edward’s progress and adorable little antics.”

“There is nothing that would please me more, but I do not think it advisable. I cannot risk contacting you, and I certainly will not tell you where I am living. I know I can trust you not to follow me.”

“No, I never would. I might lead one of her Ladyship’s spies directly to you. But if we fix a time and place, we could have the pleasure of each other’s company and gain some piece of mind. I will know that you are well, and you will have a way of communicating with the family without anyone else finding out.”

“I don’t know. There may be a way, but I shall have to think about it. In the meantime, I have a little plan. If you can come to Dr. Fennimore’s next Wednesday at eleven o’clock, I shall meet you there. You shall enter from Crestwood Lane as we did before, and I shall take the servants’ entrance from Bentley Street. That way, we can meet without being observed together. Can you come? We can then see how the arrangement works out and take it from there?”

“Of course, I shall come. Happily, we plan to stay in town as long as Georgiana has parties to attend. Once the season is over however, we will certainly return to Pemberley. Fitzwilliam complains that his son does not know his own home. Till then, I am at your disposal, dear Anne.”
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Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 4

Gaby A.October 02, 2020 02:47AM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 4

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