Home > Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8)(14)

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8)(14)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

The window worked on a sliding-panel arrangement but had no sort of latch by which to get a grip on it; the only way of opening it was by inserting the fingertips into a shallow groove at one side and pushing. I was grimly attempting to do this, in spite of the chair’s renewed bucketing, when I heard the duke’s voice choke and stop in the midst of some shouted direction to the chairmen.

“St . . . stop. I . . . can’t . . .” His words trailed off, the chairmen faltered to a halt, and I pressed my face against the suddenly motionless window. The duke was standing in the middle of the street, a fist pressed into his waistcoat, struggling to breathe. His face was deeply flushed, but his lips were tinged with blue.

“Put me down and open this bloody door this instant!” I bellowed through the glass to one of the chairmen, who was glancing back over his shoulder, a look of concern on his face. They did, and I emerged from the chair in an explosion of skirts, stabbing the hatpin down into the placket of my stays as I did so. I might need it yet.

“Bloody sit down,” I said, reaching Pardloe. He shook his head but let me lead him to the chair, where I forced him to sit, my feeling of satisfaction at this reversal of position somewhat tempered by the fear that he might just possibly be about to die.

My first thought—that he was having a heart attack—had vanished the moment I heard him breathe—or try to. The wheezing gasp of someone in the throes of an asthmatic attack was unmistakable, but I seized his wrist and checked his pulse just in case. Hammering but steady, and while he was sweating, it was the normal warm perspiration caused by hot weather rather than the sudden clammy exudation that often accompanied a myocardial infarction.

I touched his fist, still embedded in his midsection.

“Do you have pain here?”

He shook his head, coughed hard, and took his hand away.

“Need . . . pill . . . b . . .” he managed, and I saw that there was a small pocket in the waistcoat that he had been trying to reach into. I put in two fingers and pulled out a small enameled box, which proved to contain a tiny corked vial.

“What—never mind.” I pulled the cork, sniffed, and wheezed myself as the sudden fumes of ammonia shot up my nose.

“No,” I said definitely, putting the cork back in and shoving vial and box into my pocket. “That won’t help. Purse your lips and blow out.” His eyes bulged a bit, but he did it; I could feel the slight movement of air on my own perspiring face.

“Right. Now, relax, don’t gasp for air, just let it come. Blow out, to the count of four. One . . . two . . . three . . . four. In for a count of two, same rhythm . . . yes. Blow out, count of four . . . let it come in, count of two . . . yes, good. Now, don’t worry; you aren’t going to suffocate, you can keep doing that all day.” I smiled encouragingly at him, and he managed to nod. I straightened up and looked round; we were near Locust Street, and Peterman’s ordinary was no more than a block away.

“You,” I said to one of the chairmen, “run to the ordinary and fetch back a jug of strong coffee. He’ll pay for it,” I added, with a flip of the hand toward the duke.

We were beginning to draw a crowd. I kept a wary eye out; we were near enough to Dr. Hebdy’s surgery that he might come out to see the trouble, and the very last thing I needed was that charlatan to materialize, fleam at the ready.

“You have asthma,” I said, returning my attention to the duke. I knelt so that I could see into his face while I monitored his pulse. It was better, noticeably slower, but I thought I could feel the odd condition called “paradoxical pulse,” a phenomenon you sometimes saw in asthmatics, wherein the heart rate speeded up during exhalation and dropped during inhalation. Not that I had been in any doubt. “Did you know that?”

He nodded, still pursing his lips and blowing.

“Yes,” he managed briefly, before breathing in again.

“Do you see a doctor for it?” A nod. “And did he actually recommend sal volatile for it?” I gestured toward the vial in my pocket. He shook his head.

“For fain . . . ting,” he managed. “All I . . . had.”

“Right.” I put a hand under his chin and tilted his head back, examining his pupils, which were quite normal. I could feel the spasm easing, and so could he; his shoulders were beginning to drop, and the blue tinge had faded from his lips. “You don’t want to use it when you’re having an asthma attack; the coughing and tearing will make matters worse by producing phlegm.”

“Whatever are the idle lot of you doing, standing about? Go run and fetch the doctor, lad!” I heard a woman’s sharp voice say in the crowd behind me. I grimaced, and the duke saw it; he raised his brows in question.

“You don’t want that doctor, believe me.” I stood up and faced the crowd, thinking.

“No, we don’t need a doctor, thank you very much,” I said, as charmingly as possible. “He’s just been overtaken by the indigestion—something he ate. He’s quite all right now.”

“He don’t look that good to me, ma’am,” said another voice, doubtful. “I think we best fetch the doctor.”

“Let him die!” came a shout from the back of the gathering crowd. “Fucking lobster!”

An odd sort of shimmer ran through the crowd at this, and I felt a knot of dread form in my stomach. They hadn’t been thinking of him as a British soldier, merely as a spectacle. But now . . .

“I’ll get the doctor, Lady John!” To my horror, Mr. Caulfield, a prominent Tory, had forced his way to the front, being tolerably free with his gold-headed walking stick. “Get away, you lice!”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology