Marianne was the most diligent nurse to a most thankful patient.
They stayed a week with Thomas and Eliza before Brandon wanted to be in his own bed. The Doctor urged caution, but he and Marianne got him home with minimal fuss.
Another fortnight had seen much improvement, but Marianne still nursed him day and night.
This morning he awoke first, Brandon knew he was due some relief from his pain, but couldn't abide to wake her.
She sat fast asleep on his armchair which she had moved to his bedside. The tired circles under her eyes upset him, he had never in his life been so utterly helpless. No task could be completed without her or Keat’s assistance.
Her hand was close enough and soon his fingers enveloped it, and with a small jolt, followed by a yawn she awoke.
“I was never asleep!” she cried. “Oh, I am late with your laudanum!"
“There’s no rush my dear” he urged. “I am quite content”
“Spoken like a true soldier” she scolded. “Please don’t be brave for me”
“I am fussed over, all hours of the day, by a most beautiful wife” he replied. “I am sure to be the envy of England”
“Love and duty command me” smiled Marianne, squinting to make sure the exact dose dropped onto the spoon. Balancing the contents like that of a newborn baby, she lifted the vessel to his lips.
Shivering as he felt the immediate effect of the drug he thanked her.
Inspecting the empty spoon she was satisfied. “I shall call Mrs Andrews for breakfast”
“Eat it downstairs Marianne” urged Brandon. “The poor servants don’t need to keep bringing it all up”
“But you must eat as well,” she replied.
“Keats should be here any moment, go and eat, bathe, sleep whatever you wish,” he said.
“Are you sure?” asked Marianne.
He took her hand and kissed it, “Be off with you”
Almost as if it were planned, Marianne met Keats at the door, his hand retreating from the handle.
“Good Morning Sir” she smiled. “You’ve arrived at the opportune moment”
“A good morning to you Miss Marianne” he smiled. “I trust the old man is well?”
“My ears have not yet failed me yet” called Brandon. "Old man"
Marianne smiled as his tease. “I have been sent away to eat, I am afraid you are nurse now”
“You don’t have an apron spare?” joked Keats. “I’d hate to not look the part”
She laughed, “I will search high and low”
“Go and eat my dear” urged Keats. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t move”
Marianne blew a kiss to Brandon, before slipping away.
Keats closed the door behind him. “How are you, Brandon?”
“Alive” he replied. “What news?”
“The name John Willoughby is on every creature's lips from London to Constantinople. We’ve tracked him down to Bath, he’s trapped like a fish in a barrel” replied Keats.
“Have you sent my appeal to the courts?” asked Brandon.
“Yes, though my lawyer warns me of a loophole that could allow Willoughby to sneak away,” said Keats, planting himself on a chair.
“As you are both gentlemen, and the cause of the fray was over a woman, the claim that he will undoubtedly make is that it was an affair of honour. Therefore the courts could simply hand out a fine” replied Keats.
“He planned to kill my wife in front of me in a jealous rage, that is attempted murder” hissed Brandon. “We cannot allow him to slither away on such an empty charge”
“Which is why the trial must take place in Devonshire, not in Bath,” said Keats. “Willoughby chose Bath for his retreat for a good reason, he has influence and friends there. Not like London or the counties where they’d hang him like a dog. We risk losing everything if he manages to hold court there”
“Then you had better find him before he gets the chance” ordered Brandon. “I trust no other with this”
“Christopher I assure you, I will personally drag him out of the city before such a thing happens. But I would be no friend unless I warned you” replied Keats.
“You have my thanks, Henry, if I could do it myself, I would,” said Brandon.
“Promise an old friend that you shall love your angelic wife and just recover, leave the rest to me” smiled Keats.
“I shall never be able to repay you” replied Brandon.
“In the oddest way it has given me something to do” mused Keats. “What with a dear wife buried and a son married I was getting old too fast”
“We shall drink once this is all over” urged Brandon with a smile.
“Why wait?” remarked Keats, patting down his coat and retrieving a small flask.
“It is not yet nine in the morning” cried Brandon.
“I was not aware you had become such a timekeeper or such a nun?” laughed Keats, taking a small swig.
Since my injury, Marianne won’t allow any of my drinking” confessed Brandon.
“Well” whispered Keats. “I am your nurse at the moment, and I prescribe a healthy dose of good strong whiskey”
Brandon laughed taking the flask, “Be so good as to get me some water, I'll need to chase it or she’ll smell it”
“Much obliged,” said Keats, pouring him a glass.
“Oh” sighed Brandon, taking a mouthful. “I’ve missed it”
“My boy brought back a case from Glasgow at Christmas, some of the best I’ve ever had” agreed Keats, graciously taking back his flask.
Brandon quickly threw back the water. “Once I am recovered, be so good as to bring me a bottle?”
“I’ll drink to that” replied Keats, taking a final swig before returning the flask to his coat.
Later that day Marianne was trying to keep something a secret.
Brandon saw a familiar gleam in her eyes and willingly played along as she insisted upon a knock at the bedroom door, he closed his eyes tight.
“No peeking,” she said, a slight songlike excitement to her tone.
He heard some movement of furniture and something heavy placed on the floor. He listened as footsteps retreated with whispered thanks from Marianne.
“Can I open them yet?” he asked.
“No,” said Marianne. “Not until you give me a key?”
“A key to what?” he replied. “Dearest?”
“Come come” she laughed. “A key if you please, and most certainly not for a door”
A small smile appeared, “D” he said.
“An unsurprising choice” she called, “Now you may open”
As Brandon opened his eyes, his ears also welcomed music again. Surprised laughter left his lips as Marianne sat playing a small pianoforte wedged perfectly between furniture.
“You cannot come to the music” she smiled, “But the music can come to you!”
A grateful smile adorned his face, as closing his eyes once more he simply lost himself in the gentle melody.
As Marianne brought the piece to an end she giggled as he applauded her, playing to his game, she rose and gave a bow as if a huge audience stood before her.
“Do you like it?” she asked, sitting on the bed. “It was not a large expense I promise!”
“As if the expense would bother me, what is mine is yours. But shall it be a permanent resident in our bedroom?” he asked.
“No, just for the while, I thought perhaps Elinor would like it? Or even Beth?” suggested Marianne.
“I give you leave to do with it as you wish,” said Brandon. “Though I do quite like the idea of being sung to sleep every night”
“Once your poor shoulder is better, I’ll do more than just sing you to sleep” she replied.
“Well in that case” he smiled, using his good arm to pull her closer.
“No Christopher, you’re arm” cried Marianne, trying to resist him. Eventually succumbing to resting on his chest.
“It gets better by the day” he urged. “You’ll have me back within the month”
Marianne played with the string on his nightshirt. “Let’s not get too ambitious”
“I won’t be confined to my sick bed forever” assured Brandon. “I’ve got many years left”
“I am glad to hear it” she replied, reaching up to kiss him. “Because so do I”