“We shall address the matter when it comes due. Until then,” Mr. Gardiner regarded Darcy calmly. “Sir, you do not know us, but you have, of necessity, invited us into your home. I thank you. We will endevor not to be an imposition.”
At that moment a disturbance at the door heralded the arrival of the apocathery, a middle aged gentleman smelling slightly of overheated horse, balding, short sighted, with pebble glasses perched on the end of his nose.
Mr. Cannonby bowed to the room in general, three times, before taking off his glasses and rubbing them with a corner of his kerchief and addressing Darcy.
“Here I am, sir. How may I serve you?”
“This young lady took a serious fall while walking in the garden. . .,” began Darcy.
“Oh, dear, that is bad. It is well known that the frailer sex should not engage in vigorous exercise. I can only hope it will not be necessary to send for a surgeon.”
Darcy glanced toward Miss Bennet, preparing to give her the reassuring information that Mr. Cannonby was a bit of a pessimist and not to be taken seriously but saw that although her lips were clamped tight, her eyes danced with laughter.
“Oh, dear, sir,” she said, her voice trembling from surpresssed laughter and not fear, “do you tell me there is a risk I might have to have my hand cut off.”
“Indeed, miss, that is a possiblity.”
“Oh, you have the most amazing diagnostic ability,” said Miss Bennet, “since you have not yet examined me and I injured my ankle.”
For the first time in Darcy’s experience Mr. Cannonby was struck mute. In general the man was known to given dire predictions for everyone’s health who came under his management. Therefore, he could be calm when the person died, saying he predicted it from the start and unimpressed when they recovered, since it proved he was a skilled practitioner of the medical arts.
Miss Bennet, however, had punctured his conceit with one statement.
Turning to her aunt Miss Bennet continued.
“I have no fear that I shall lose my leg, Aunt, since you assure me the bones are not broken.”
“Indeed, they are all sound.”
“Then all I need is rest,” said Miss Bennet, “and I can gain that just as easily at the Inn as anywhere.”
“Oh, do not assume. What can appear to be a minor injury can fester and putrifiy before your eyes. You cannot take risks with your health,” said Mr. Cannonby, who had not yet turned to face the injured person. “Once a fever settles in your lungs. . .”
At this point Mr. Gardner winced and turned to Mr. Darcy.
“With all due respect to your family apocathery, Mr. Darcy, do you keep a farrier attending to your stable?”
“A farrier?” cried Mr. Cannonby.
“Yes, I do,” said Darcy. “A good, reliable man who served my father’s horses before mine.”
Georgiana met Elizabeth’s eyes and the two young women began to giggle. Mr. Cannonby continued to pontificate and complain for several mintues – still without examining the patient - but was ignored. Darcy was a little shocked at the comment by Mr. Gardiner but, given Miss Bennet’s habit of humorous remarks, her uncle’s light manner should not have come as a surprise.
“It is my experience that physicans and apocathery’s can say that the loss of a human life is God’s will, but a Farrier, caring for expensive, delicate animals on behalf of demanding masters, must answer if the horses suffer irrepratble harm. Therefore they have better medical sense and have gained a good understanding of how muscles and joints work. They have much experience in treating those pulls and strains to which horses are vicitim. I would like to consult your man on behalf of my niece.”
“If you wish,” said Darcy, and nodded to Mrs Reynolds, whose answering nod to a footman sent a message to the stable.
Highly affronted, Mr. Cannonby stalked about the room, muttering and fluttering his hands but still did not approach Miss Bennet.
A Mr. Mason responded to the message. The best of all attendants of the Pemberley stable, Mason, a grizzled grandfather, stoop shouldered with large knotted hands, entered the Parlor for the first time in his fifty years of serving the Darcy family with a mere nod of the head to the master of the house.
“Yee sen’ for me, sir,” said Mason, holding his flat cap between his hands.
“It seemed best,” said Darcy, and differed with a bow to Mr. Gardiner.
“We have a delicate, well bred filly who took a sad fall and I fear has wrenched her fetlock,” said Mr. Gardiner with a straight face.
Georgiana began giggling again. Mrs. Gardiner sent her a fond, understanding look and crossed the room to take her niece’s hand.
Seeing the direction of their laughter Mr. Mason turned and came to kneel at Miss Bennet’s side, keeping his own face composed although his eyes did sparkle with humor.
“I’ll try not to hurt ‘ee, lass,” he said.
“And I will try not to kick and bite,” said she, with a smile, “although I cannot promise.”
Chuckling to himself the old man gently palpated her damaged limb, making a more comprehensive exam of each joint and muscle than her aunt and Mrs. Reynolds had dared for fear of causing Lizzy pain.
Miss Bennet bit her lip and tightened her grip on her aunt’s hand but did not cry out.
“Tha’s a good brave girl,” crooned Mason, setting off another round of laughter, so similar were his words to a horseman’s soothing words to a fractious horse.
Mason was not offended. At last he rose and addressed those in the room.
“Aye, sir, she’s wreched her foreleg good and proper. Tha’s brusing in the ligament and strain in the muscle. Ye can feel the heat building and the joints are no’ yet swolle’ as tha will be. First ye must cool the muscle. Then politices tha’ speed the bruise out. Heat and massage does th’ healing ta begin in a few days. She’ll do well but t’will take time.”
“I’d sooner trust your politices than Mr. Cannonby’s mixtures,” said Mr. Gardiner, in a soft voice and tucked a Guinea in the man’s hand.
“Thank ‘ee, sir.”
“If you need more laudinum and proper medicines, instead of country cures, let me know, Mrs. Reynolds.” Mr. Cannonby sniffed and stalked from the room, pausing the bow three times before he departed. “Send for me when her lungs putrify.”
When he was gone Mrs. Reynolds began issuing orders to a cluster of maids, then she came to join Mr Darcy and the Gardiners.
“Mr. Darcy, I need your permission to remove a signifcant portion of ice from the ice house.”
“We shall do without sorbets quite willingingly for the rest of the summer if it supports Miss Bennet’s recovery,” declaired Darcy.
Mrs. Reynolds curtseyed and nodded to the waiting maids, who left the room.
“Now it is settled you are staying, Miss Bennet. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner,” said Georgiana. “I shall consult with Mrs. Reynolds which rooms would be best. Shall you take tea while you wait?”
“Thank you,” said Mrs. Gardiner.
“Yes, Indeed, I am most sorry to be putting you out,” said Miss Bennet.
“Oh, it is nothing,” said Georgiana. “If you had not arrived I would have spent yet another morning painting the view from my window.”
Miss Bennet’s gaze moved over Georgiana’s costume. There was nothing judgmental or superior in her look, instead she smiled. Seeing the direction of her gaze Georgiana flushed and ran her hand over the faded fabric.
“I was not expecting guests today,” she whispered, all animation at the prospect of guests vanishing.
Miss Bennet was quick to set her at ease.
“Oh, I see your father is as strict with you as mine was with me. When I was studying painting he would command me to put on the oldest of my garb lest I ruin my clothing completely.”
“You were not expecting guests,” added Mrs. Gardiner. “One dresses for comfort in one’s own house. It is to your credit that you rushed downstairs to assist us before changing your dress.”