Captain Wentworth was visiting at Uppercross, and Anne must have seen him, but an accident occurred to prevent it…
Mary was feeling well enough for a walk to the great house, on a bright October morning; and Anne was looking forward to her enjoyment of the sweets of the season, the leaves gaining in golden colour in the autumn sunshine, and the coolness in the air that was so pleasing to her spirits. They had just put on their bonnets, and were setting forth, when not ten yards from the cottage door they were met by a hallooing noise, and saw the gardener and his boy moving rapidly in their direction, while carrying something between them.
“What is it?” asked Anne quickly.
“Oh, ma’am, it is the boy – Master Charles, he fell out of the apple-tree, and I’m a-fearing his head is broke!”
Mary, a few steps behind Anne, heard this clearly enough, saw her son a limp bundle in the men’s arms, and started to scream. She twirled and tottered, tearing her hair, until she would surely have fallen, had Anne not grasped her at once.
“Parker,” she said in as firm a tone as she could manage, “will you carry Master Charles up to the nursery, lay him on the bed and find Jemima. Can you do this yourself?”
“And Wilkens, you must run as fast as you can for the apothecary. You know Mr. Robinson’s house in the village? Go there, and if he is not in, ask them where he is, run where they tell you, and bring him here.”
The boy departed at a run that promised a speedy return with the apothecary. Anne could only manage to stand and keep Mary from falling, but her extremely loud screams brought a cluster of servants from the house, all frightened and exclaiming.
“Miss, what is it? Is Missus dead?”
“Certainly not. She is only having one of her hysterical turns. Be calm yourselves, and she will recover shortly. Mrs. Graves, is Jemima upstairs with little Charles?” she asked the housekeeper, who assented. “Then, will you please help me get Mrs. Musgrove into the house, and fetch her smelling-spirits. Does any one know where her husband has gone?”
A boy eagerly volunteered that he had gone shooting early, but had mentioned the direction. Anne sent the boy running after Charles, with a caution to tell him the news gently; and after settling Mary on her sofa with her vinegar-dispenser, and some soothing words, she stepped into the nursery.
Here she found a distressing scene of chaos. Little Charles lay unconscious upon his bed, still in his clothes and dusty boots, bleeding from cuts and bruises; and Jemima stood by, wringing her hands helplessly, while two younger housemaids were in noisy tears. Anne looked closely at the boy, saw that although pale and senseless, he was breathing regularly, though shallowly. She began the task of quieting the servants, giving orders in a firm voice, knowing that nothing would calm them so much as being told what to do. “We must wash these cuts, and stanch the bleeding. Sally, will you go and get a basin of water at once, and Betsy, cut up some soft, clean rags, if there are none at hand.”
Anne noticed two-year-old Walter standing by the bed, staring at his older brother, and pulling his foot. “Ake up, Chars, ake up!” he implored. “Why Chars sweeping?”
Jemima broke into a howling sob at this. Anne did not judge her to be likely to be of much use, and spoke her name loudly, to get her attention.
“Jemima! Pull yourself together. I am sure there is no great cause for alarm. Little Charles is breathing, you see, and his colour is returning. I believe he will come to himself, soon, but we must not have little Walter here. Take him out, to the nursery. Calm yourself, and him.”
“Y-yes’m,” Jemima hiccoughed, and yanked the unwilling child away by his hand.
Anne sighed with relief when she was out of the room, and turned her attention back to the poor hurt boy. The maids returned quickly with water and rags, and were quiet enough to be of some use, so Anne enlisted their help in the washing of the boy’s face and hands. The water revived him, so that she had the infinite satisfaction of seeing his eyelashes flutter, and then he opened his eyes.
She spoke to him softly, and cooled his forehead with the water. He said a few words, enough to show her that his head was not affected, and then she was able to recollect, and to think of telling the maids to send notice to the Great House. She could not leave little Charles’s side to see how Mary was, but there was no sound of her hysterics, and Anne conjectured that the housekeeper was able to manage her.
“Where does it hurt most, my dear?” she asked.
“My – my shoulder, here,” the child answered, and tried to sit up.
“No, no, lie still, and you will do very well, depend upon it. You may have to stay in bed for awhile, but I will tell you stories.”
“Will you, Aunt Anne? You tell the best stories. Only, oh! My back hurts now – right here. It hurts awfully.” He began to cry feebly.
Anne felt a pang, but kept her voice cheery, and talked of how the apothecary would soon make it better.
She heard running feet, but it was not the apothecary, it was not her brother in law, but the two Musgrove sisters, frightened and questioning.
“Oh! He is hurt! Oh! How dreadful he looks! Will he die? Is he dead?”
“Mamma is coming, but she is taking the carriage, so we ran on ahead to see the worst. Oh! Little Charles, if you are not dead, speak to me!”
“Now, Louisa, now Henrietta, I do not believe his life is in danger. You see he is awake, and he has spoken, so pray do not be alarmed. Will you be so good as to look in on Mary, and tell me how she is? She was hysterical before, but I hope she is better now. You may tell her that little Charles is sensible; that will hearten her.”
Charles Musgrove now hurried in and Anne was glad to see that he appeared to be in control of himself, though anxious.
Anne endeavored to speak hopefully, though she privately had the gravest fears for the child’s back. “Do not fear,” she told Charles, “he is in a way to do well, I hope and trust. You see he is awake.”
“Are you all right, my boy?” he asked in a low, feeling tone, putting his hand on the boy’s head, and little Charles answered feebly, “Yes, papa, though it does hurt.”
“Brave little lad!” he was saying, when Louisa and Henrietta ran back in.
“Oh! Anne, we can’t do anything with Mary. She is quite in one of her hysteric states. Not screaming, but saying she is sure to die, you know, and her breath is coming like this,” and Louisa puffed in imitation.
“Charles, you are the best – the only one to manage her,” said Anne, “and do not worry about leaving little Charles, I will sit with him, and the apothecary will be here at any moment.”
“Thank you, my dear Anne,” he said, gratitude in his tone, and he went into the next room, his sisters on his heels.
Mr. Robinson was soon with them, with his little bag of instruments, and he commended Anne on what she had done, in washing the boy, and keeping him still.
Examining the patient, he said, “The collar-bone is dislocated, but that can soon be put right. I will perform a reduction. Can you be brave, sir? Your aunt will hold your head, while I settle you – can you do that, Miss Anne?”
Anne nodded and held little Charles securely, while the apothecary quickly and skillfully manipulated the bone back into its socket. The boy whimpered but did not cry out, and Mr. Robinson was satisfied. “There! That is very well, and I shall tell your father you were a brave little man. The back, however,” he murmured to Anne, “I cannot readily discern how serious it may be.”
Charles returned into the room, and watched soberly as the apothecary continued to rub and to feel the boy’s back. Little Charles closed his eyes tightly and tried manfully not to cry, as Anne held his hand.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Mr. Robinson in a low tone, “the pain in the spine concerns me, but it will take some days to reveal the extent of injury. It may not be much; it may be mere bruising. I do not feel any broken bones, and you see he can move his limbs.”
“Yes, that is a good thing,” breathed Anne, and “thank God!” exclaimed Charles, feelingly.
“It is best to go on as you have been doing,” said the apothecary. “A complete recumbent position for the lad, let him lie flat, with some gentle rubbing with liniments, not to commence until the third morning. He may not sit up, so do your best to keep him amused in bed, without activity. Go about your ordinary business, only mind the child, and keep him still. Can you do this?”
“Anne can do anything,” cried Charles, “she has such presence of mind, always the best person to have about, on an emergency.”
“I can see that,” Mr. Robinson praised, with an approving smile, “Yes, with Miss Anne in charge, I have no doubt but that he will have proper, intelligent care, and therefore I have no compunction about leaving. I will visit tomorrow, and we may hope for the best.”
The family were able to eat dinner in reasonable comfort, with only Mary keeping to her room, and the housekeeper spelling Anne long enough for her to have her meal. The Miss Musgroves, after a cursory amount of attention to the subject of little Charles, were all taken up with talking about Captain Wentworth, whom they had just seen for the first time, and who was engaged to dine with them on the morrow.
“He is so handsome,” Louisa said, “and tells such tales of life at sea! But now we will have a tale of our own, won’t we, Henrietta. We will tell Captain Wentworth what a heroine Anne has been. Fancy your being able to manage every thing!”
“Oh, I don’t think Captain Wentworth would be interested in that, Louisa,” said Henrietta. “Children’s accidents make dull stories, and he does not know Anne.”
“Well, but I don’t know how Anne could do it,” argued Louisa. “I turn sick at the very thought of an accident or injury. I believe I am courageous in my way, and ever so much more than Mary, but I do turn perfectly ill at the sight of such things.”
“Oh! Nothing is so bad as an accident,” Henrietta agreed. “I hope I never see another, I should have to go straight out of the room.”
“And to think Anne actually touched him and bathed him!” Louisa exclaimed. “I could never, though he is my nephew. But perhaps Anne has not our feelings. She is very strong-minded.”
“Little Charles is my nephew too,” she said mildly, “but I did nothing really; or you would have done the same, if you had been on the scene, at the first.”
“I don’t think I should like to be strong-minded,” Louisa said thoughtfully, “the men do not like it you know.”
“But perhaps we will be, when we are Anne’s age.”
“Mary is older than us, and she isn’t strong-minded a bit. Only look at her!”
“I am sure Mary would be less susceptible to hysterics, if she were not often ill,” Anne reminded them, a little reprovingly.
“Yes, I daresay; but I am sure I am not equal to seeing an accident, nor Henrietta neither.”
“Anne is equal to any thing,” said Charles, with certainty.