By Sally Madison
Sitting in her feather bed, Alexandria stared out the window at the birds re-nesting in the tree that she had fallen from. If only she had been patient and left the birds alone, both she and the birds would be happier for it. Some days the pain was unbearable. No matter how much Alma rubbed with the witch hazel, or how many teas of turmeric, garlic, mustard, rosemary, nutmeg, or parsley she made, even when it was mixed with cherries, blueberries or pumpkin seeds, she hurt. Each time she tried to move, her injured body would remind her of her foolishness.
Alma had just tucked her in again and was about to leave the room, when the sound of horses and a carriage coming up the drive drew their attention. Company was coming. “Alma, please help me change into my pretty pink dressing gown, I’m sure whomever has come to visit will want to speak to me.”
Alma gave a huff, and re-dressed the child. As she was leaving the room again, the doctor entered. Alma started out the door again, when the doctor stopped her. With hands on her hips, Alma explained tersely, “I’ve got work to do. I have to make the slippery elm bark tea, grind the cloves pulp, cook the meals, and tend the garden. I don’t have a minute’s peace.”
“I’ve brought some new spices that will help with Alexandria’s pain. I want you to brew a tea with these, cardamom, ginger, and cayenne from India. You may also want to add a bit of honey to sweeten it.”
Alma took the spices and huffed towards the door, again, but behind the doctor, stood a very young woman. Acknowledging the new-comer, Alma grouched, “About time I got some help around here,” presuming the young woman was a housemaid. Before the proper introductions could be made, Alma was scurrying off to the kitchen.
The doctor introduced Natalia as his assistant. After the examination, the doctor left to discuss the patient with Grandfather. After an awkward silence, Natalia noticed the book of Aesop’s Fables on the side table, and commented, “I see you are studying the Greek fables.”
“This year’s tutor is Greek, so the fables are the easier part of my lessons. We have already studied the Iliad and the Odyssey.”
“Didn’t you just love how Odysseus struggled to get back to his wife? Wasn’t it so romantic?” Natalia smiled sweetly with eyes aloft, remembering the story. Before long the two girls were discussing, giggling, and laughing at their common interest.
They heard the Grandfather’s heavy footsteps coming up the stairs, and with anticipation and trepidation became serious once more. Natalia backed away from the bedside, where she had made herself comfortable. She knew Alexandria’s case and was expecting bad news, while Alexandria was hoping to walk again.
The Grandfather asked Alexandria. “There is a new doctor, in Prague, who may be able to help you. Are you ready to travel?” Alexandria whooped for joy.