Leigha walked slowly into Robert’s cabin on the ship, her eyes locked on the sleeping man as she approached the bed and sat down beside him. Picking up the cloth from the basin of cool water, she sponged his feverish face and neck, hoping that the cool water would somehow make him feel better. He looked much worse in the light of day than he had the night before in candlelight. His face was so badly swollen and bruised that he was hardly recognizable. It seemed that wherever Leigha’s eyes traveled about his body, there were white bandages used either to hold together broken bones or to cover the many knife wounds that had been inflicted upon him. She wondered how anyone could have taken such a beating, bear that much pain and still be alive. Wiping swiftly at a tear that had escaped and now traveled down her face, she sniffed then dipped the cloth into the basin, knowing that Robert’s skin must be kept as cool as possible from the fever that raged within him. Her own fears, turmoil, and heartbreak must be kept inside, apart from the duty before her. As the cloth touched his forehead, his eyes fluttered open to focus on Leigha’s face. She held her breath, her eyes joining with his, the cloth left to sit upon his head as neither spoke. Leigha managed a faint smile after a moment and bravely hid the tears that threatened to spill as Robert slowly, painfully, reached out his hand to tenderly touch her.
“Are you really here or am I but dreaming?” he asked in a quivering rasp, his voice but a whisper through his cracked lips. “I have seen the vision of you before me for so long I fear that what I touch now is not real.”
“I am here, Robert,” Leigha answered softly, taking his hand in hers. “I am real.”
“Leigha,” Robert sighed and smiled, closing his eyes as he passed out, the smile remaining on his face despite the pain of his body that had closed him in darkness once again.
“He’s weak, but thanks to you, he’s now finally happy,” Charles said, standing just behind Leigha where she sat gazing sadly down at her husband. Patting her arm and understanding how she felt, he said, “You did well. I will leave you with him now. Just keep sponging him and try to keep his fever down. I’ll be back around dinnertime to relieve you.”
“Father?” Leigha’s soft voice stopped him as he started to leave the room.
“What is it, child?” he asked as he turned back to face her.
“Robert won’t live long like this, will he?” she asked, tears clouding her eyes and choking her words with a sob.
“No, I don’t believe that he will,” Charles answered, placing his hand upon her shoulder to give her a gentle squeeze. Lowering his head for a moment to collect himself, he continued, “It is now just a question of how long we can keep him alive; and of how happy and comfortable we can help to make him feel.”
“That’s my job,” she said, turning back to begin sponging Robert again. “It is the least that I can do for him now.”
“It is the most,” Charles murmured sadly, knowing the sacrifice that Leigha was making as he slowly turned and left the room.
Leigha sat in silence, bathing Robert’s parched body and listening to the wheezing sound of his heavy breathing as he slept on. She could hear the muffled noises of the wharf beyond and wished that she were back in Scotland among the heather of a meadow or being charmed by the songs of the forest about her. The babe kicked within her, startling her from her dreams yet leaving the empty aching of homesickness lying cold within her. She had not often allowed herself to think of Scotland in the past four months. It had not been until recently that she knew for certain that she would ever be allowed to return there. Tending Robert and feeling the life within her roll and move around, she could not help but think of times past and of how happy and beautiful her life had been less than one year before at Clairemont’s Keep. Suddenly, Robert’s breathing started coming in rasps, and he tossed about on the bed, breaking the silence that had hung so peacefully moments before.
“Leigha! Leigha!” he called out, his voice filled with agony as he cried desperately in his delirium. “Where are you? I’m coming for you, I love you!”
“I’m here, Robert, I’m right here,” she said, holding his arms and trying to keep him still. “You mustn’t move about so, you may hurt yourself more. Robert! I am here!”
“Leigha?” he asked, opening his fever-glazed eyes and trying to focus on her face. “You are all right? No one has hurt you?”
“I’m fine, Robert,” she said, smiling as he stilled his panicked movements and lay back to look at her. “Everything will be all right now.”
“I. . . I had a dream,” he spoke slowly, his voice barely above a whisper as she took his hand in hers. “I dreamed that you had been stolen away from me and that you were then taken by pirates to be sold as a slave. In my dream, I searched for you but could not find a trace of where you were. Oh Leigha, I love you so. Please, please don’t ever leave me! Don’t ever leave!”
“Hush now, darling,” she said soothingly, stroking his forehead as she spoke, “Your dream was real, but I am here with you now and safe. I will not leave your side again.”
“There was a child in the dream. Is that real too?”
“Yes, I carry your child, Robert,” she answered him, taking his hand and placing it on her large belly. “See? He kicks and grows stronger every day.”
“Ha! I’m to be a father!” Robert exclaimed then drew his hand back to clutch his chest in pain. “What has happened to me? I hurt so badly!”
“Stephen hired some men to kill you so he could take the amulet. I’m so thankful that they didn’t succeed. We are going to see to it that you stay alive now,” Leigha said as she wetted the cloth and again bathed him with it. “So you be a good patient and try to get some more sleep. I’ll stay here with you, do not worry.”
“I was right then about the amulet, but I have defeated fate for I shall live! I have to now that I have you back and a child is on the way,” his voice drifted off to a murmur as his heavy eyes closed. “I will live, you’ll see Leigha, I will!”
“I pray that you will, Robert,” she said softly, straightening the bedclothes about him. “Now, you must sleep and regain your strength. I’m right here to care for you, I promise.”
Robert slept peacefully while Leigha kept her silent vigil over him. Though he occasionally tossed and turned due to his pain and fever, Leigha knew that her presence beside him helped him more than any medicine ever could. If his body could not heal, then at least she could ease his soul.
Virginia Lee ~ Dagon’s Blood (p. 496 – 498) Kindle Edition