“We should do some blood letting,” he said grimly.
“Why?” I asked.
“It is the only thing that will help.” The white haired doctor lifted Nathaniel’s eyelids, one at a time, noting with a grunt the jaundice, a sickly yellow where white should be. He wearily sat back down in the worn wooden chair I had placed by the bedside.
“But how will it help?” I had not seen blood letting benefit anyone. Not ever.
“Madame, leave this sort of thing to the professionals. You should not have to worry yourself with the why’s and wherefore’s…”
He reached into his valise and pulled out a brass encased fleam. The blade clicked open with a fling of the wrist. He held it at the ready.
“I need a bowl.”
“Bring me a bowl!” he said sharply as he dug into Nathaniel’s forearm. “I don’t have all day. There are other patients to see.” He clamped a hand over the oozing blood then looked over at me expectantly.
Nathaniel groaned and shifted.
“Please be quick or this will stain….” he warned.
I shook off the shock and grabbed the basin off of the dresser, the one used for washing up. I felt numb.
“Thank you.” He said it deliberately in mock gratitude. “Now I need some fresh linen and clean water.”
I stood watching the blood flow down the arm in a weak rivulet, forming a deep scarlet pool in the creamy porcelain bowl below.
“Now?” the doctor prompted.
I left to grab the required items, placing the wash pitcher with the clean water on the floor next to him, then handing over a few strips of clean linen. He put down the fleam and took the linen, draping it over his dark brown pants leg.
“Just a few minutes more…”
Eventually he took a strip of linen and wrapped it tightly about the wound. Blood quickly oozed through as he wrapped another strip around that one.
“Come.” He motioned me over. “Apply pressure here.” I placed my hand over the indicated spot as he tied the bandage tightly. “He is a free bleeder, as most people in this situation are. It will take time for the oozing to stop. If it bleeds further, apply more pressure until it stops.”
I kept my hand on the bandage, holding tight.
The doctor quickly washed the blade and then his hands using the pitcher and bloody wash basin. Standing up, he dried them both on the towel on the dresser.
“I will see myself out, Madame…?”
“Brierly. Madame Brierly.” I sat down in the chair he had vacated. “I am his wife,” I added by way of explanation.
“I gathered,” he said dryly. He looked at me pityingly. “I will be back tomorrow to check on you both.” With that, he nodded his head and left. I heard the door close softly behind him.
I moved my hand from the bandage and watched as the red spot on the white bandage widened. I clamped my hand back over it quickly, holding tighter this time.
It felt as if I was holding on for dear life, holding on to a dream long past. Hope was oozing away beneath my fingers…
But there was no other choice.
Or was there?
I relaxed my grip, then let go. Blood soaked the bandage, then dripped to the floor.