‘I am your doctor’
They were trying to make out she was mad, but a doctor could not be deceived. She clutched his arm, weeping and shaking, and implored him to get her away, to take her to a place of safety.
‘Ran away, she did,’ Bourgaize said, ‘though we told her she was to await your coming. Through the brambles and swamp. And wouldn’t wash herself when we got her back. Like a wild thing, she was – we were hard put to hold her.’
‘A lie,’ she gasped. ‘They would not give me water.’
She saw her reflection in the dressing table mirror: filthy dirty, her dress torn and dishevelled. Behind her the image of Bourgaize gravely shook his head. But surely Dr Falla would know the truth. She dropped to her knees before him.
‘Help me, I beg you. There is no one else who will, no one I can trust.’
He patted her on the head. ‘Do not fret yourself, child. I will help you.’
She tried to stammer out thanks. He turned from her and she watched him rest his black bag on the wash-stand. He opened it, and took out a phial whose shape and colour were familiar. It was the medicine she had been given after her father’s death, the draught which made her sleep and dizzied her mind. She shrank away.
‘No. I will not drink that.’
‘It is for your good,’ Dr Falla said. ‘It will calm your nerves. In the morning you will feel better.’
He believed Bourgaize’s story – believed that her senses were disordered. She got to her feet and backed off.
‘I will not drink it! You cannot make me do so.’
‘My dear, you must do as I tell you. I am your doctor.’