Children of One Family
by Pam

Part Seven

SPECIAL DISCLAIMER: Dr. Dwight Enys is the creation of Winston Graham--author
of the Poldark saga--whom I hope would take this character's guest appearance
here as a tribute rather than an affront. This section contains spoilers
from Graham's novel "The Black Moon." Previous disclaimers still apply.

*****

PART SEVEN

 

"Archie, this is Dr. Dwight Enys--he's come to examine you."

Archie automatically opened his mouth to protest, then, meeting his sister's
intractable blue gaze, surrendered without firing a single broadside. His
own eyes flicked to the man at Margaret's side and he barely concealed a
start of surprise. Dr. Dwight Enys looked like someone recovering from an
illness, and a serious illness at that. Archie estimated him to be perhaps
in his late-thirties, with dark hair greying at the temples and a thin,
serious face. Good Lord, how did one deal with a doctor who looked as though
he ought to be in the care of a physician himself?

Unexpectedly meeting Enys's dark eyes, Archie had the uneasy feeling that the
older man had gauged his thoughts and was somewhat amused by them. Flushing
slightly, he remembered his manners. "You are kind to come, sir--though I
assure you, my case is by no means desperate."

"That is good to hear, Mr. Kennedy," Enys returned gravely. "But you will
not object, I trust, to a brief examination to determine that your recovery
is proceeding as it should?"

His tone was gentle but inexorable. Reluctantly, Archie nodded, concealing
his irritation at the faint air of satisfaction emanating from his sister.
"How is Robin?" he asked her.

"Oh, quite recovered this morning," she replied. "His appetite has returned,
and Dr. Enys assures me the cough is nothing more than the symptom of a
slight cold, for which he had prescribed a mixture." She smiled at the
doctor. "I was almost embarrassed to have sent for you with regard to so mild
a complaint, sir . . . until I remembered my brother might benefit from your
expertise as well. I shall leave you to it, then," she added and suited the
action to the word.

Trapped. Archie darted an apprehensive glance at Enys, who merely smiled.
"Would you prefer to be examined in your bedroom, Mr. Kennedy?

*****

"Turn your head this way, and say 'Ah,' please."

"Ah," Archie repeated obediently and kept his mouth open as Dr. Enys
depressed his tongue with the bowl of a spoon and peered at his throat.

So far, the examination had been quite painless. Enys had begun simply by
asking him questions to which Archie, after a moment's hesitation, had given
honest answers. There was something about this quiet Cornishman that seemed
to inspire trust. Yes, he was feeling much improved. No, he had not
suffered from a sore throat after the first night. No, he had not developed
a cough or a fever; the cold had settled in his head, for the most part.
Yes, the symptoms had abated fairly quickly--Enys had assured him that they
usually did with proper rest and nourishment, then taken Archie's pulse, and
asked to examine his throat.

"No redness or swelling." The doctor removed the spoon so Archie could close
his mouth. "You do indeed appear to be making a satisfactory recovery, Mr.
Kennedy."

Archie smiled. "I've been very well cared for since my arrival--though it was
a trifle embarrassing to have succumbed so quickly. I was perfectly fit when
I came ashore."

"That is not uncommon," Enys informed him. "Aboard ship you live with one
group of people and over time you build up some resistance to whatever
ailments you may have among you. Once ashore, however, you encounter new
people--and new infections."

That made sense, Archie reflected. There did seem to be more illnesses
running rampant through the ship's crew when the Indy was in port than there
were when she was at sea. Encounters with victualling and supply ships also
tended to spread coughs and colds among the men.

"You might even have been exposed before you left the ship," Enys continued,
"and simply taken a few days to develop symptoms."

Archie considered the matter. "I suppose that's possible, with over three
hundred people aboard Indefatigable."

"Indefatigable?" The doctor's dark eyes sharpened. "Sir Edward Pellew's
frigate?"

"Yes," Archie confirmed. "Do you know it?"

Enys nodded slowly. "Indeed I do, Mr. Kennedy." He paused, studying the
younger man for a moment before continuing. "Two years ago, I was a naval
surgeon about the Travail. She was part of Pellew's squadron, but she was
wrecked off the French coast in a gale, during an engagement with a French
frigate. Only a handful of us survived, and we were quickly captured. I was
a prisoner in France for more than a year."

"So was I." Archie startled himself with the admission. "In France--and
later, in Spain." A wry smile. "I was . . . a very bad prisoner. I kept
trying to escape, so the Frogs eventually gave me to the Dons."

"That must have been very difficult." Enys's tone was sympathetic. "At
Quimper, where I was being held, there was so much fever and scrofula among
the prisoners that I felt it my duty as a physician to remain where I was."
His own smile was slightly crooked. "Even after the opportunity for escape
presented itself!"

"So you were ransomed, or exchanged--instead?"

"Oh, no. I was finally persuaded to see sense and accept the opportunity
granted to me--by a very stubborn friend."

"Ah," said Archie knowingly. "I take your meaning, sir. I have--a rather
stubborn friend myself."

"Did he aid in your last escape?"

Archie colored. "I'm afraid none of my attempts were successful, doctor." It
was still a little mortifying to admit that, even though Enys's eyes held no
scorn for his failures. "My friend was a prisoner too, but he accomplished a
daring rescue while in captivity, and many of us helped. To make a very long
story short, the Dons set us all at liberty."

"I am pleased that you were finally granted what you had sought for so long.
Have you experienced any lasting ill-effects from your internment? I fear
some of my fellow escapees suffered damage to their health as a result of
their time in prison."

Including Enys, Archie suspected, eying him afresh. A year's incarceration
in a French prison might well account for the man's greying hair and too-thin
build. During the course of their conversation, Archie had revised his
estimate of the doctor's age downward, from late- to early-thirties. And
when Enys smiled, he looked no more than a handful of years older than Archie
himself. "No, sir. I . . . have experienced my share of nightmares and bad
memories, both of which I have endeavored to put behind me. But, physically,
I *have* been fortunate and have ailed very little, since my release." He
attempted a slight smile. "Perhaps being moved about from prison to prison
prevented me from contracting anything mortal."

"Perhaps," Enys conceded. "Or you may simply be blessed with a strong
constitution. Nonetheless, I should like to conclude this examination by
listening to your breathing. Will you oblige me by taking off your shirt?"

Archie hesitated . . . but if anyone was likely to understand, surely it
would be this man. Biting his lip, he seated himself on the divan as the
doctor indicated, removed his waistcoat and shirt . . . and waited for Enys's
response to the scars on his back.

There was a brief pause, then Enys's voice, level and uninflected, spoke from
behind him, telling him to take deep, slow breaths. He then proceeded to
sound Archie's chest, his hands cool but not unpleasantly so, his touch as
light and careful as it had been throughout the examination.

"Excellent," the doctor reported, straightening up. "No sign of phthisis, or
even congestion. You should have no further trouble, Mr. Kennedy, though I
recommend that you rest when you feel fatigued and avoid overexertion and
overheating during what remains of your recovery.

"On another subject," Archie tensed, knowing all too well where this was
leading but Enys spoke with the utmost gentleness, "do your scars still pain
you?"

"N-no," Archie admitted.

"No stiffness, or pulling?" The doctor's hands moved lightly along Archie's
back. "If so, I can prescribe a salve to help ease the tension and stretch
the scar tissue."

"They have not troubled me much--not after they healed."

"And they healed well," Enys observed. "You were fortunate. These were a
legacy of your time in prison?"

Most of them, Archie thought, but he did not need to mention older wounds to
Dr. Enys. He nodded. "A fellow prisoner helped me keep them clean. And there
was a doctor present, in *that* place."

"That is . . . oddly reassuring. Conditions were so poor at Quimper--I am
relieved to hear that not all prisons were created equal. You may put your
shirt back on now."

Archie obeyed, but paused with his buttons halfway done-up to study the
physician. "Dr. Enys, you did not seem surprised . . . by my scars. Did
you--already know of them?"

Enys's dark eyes met his without prevarication. "Yes," he said simply.

*****

*****

After dressing himself, Archie went downstairs. He found Margaret in the
parlor, sitting in her usual chair and knitting away on Robin's cap. She
looked up as he entered. "All is well? I just saw Dr. Enys off--he seemed
pleased enough."

"He pronounced me nearly recovered," Archie began cautiously.

"I am glad. It was a pity that your first few days in Cornwall had to be
spent indoors. Now you are well again and the weather has improved, you can
see more of the countryside and perhaps meet some of our closest neighbors,
although I fear dinner this afternoon will be enough to try the patience of a
saint--"

"Margaret," Archie broke in levelly. "Dr. Enys saw my scars."

She grew very still. "Indeed."

"Saw them--and was not surprised by them. And when I asked, he admitted that
he had already known of their presence."

She met his gaze unflinchingly, but her voice, when she spoke, was very soft.
"I saw them--your first night here, when you were in the bath."

Archie rubbed a hand over his face. "Then, in God's name, if you wanted to
know about them, why did you not *ask* me?"

Margaret's mouth lifted in a rueful half-smile. "Oh, my dear, I must have
thought of doing so a thousand times! Only . . . it never seemed the right
moment--and I did not know *how* to broach what must surely be a painful
subject for you." She looked down at her hands, now lying in her lap and
uncharacteristically idle. "It was not *imperative* that you speak to me,
but I did wonder if you might feel the better for speaking to *someone*,
especially one who had suffered as you had."

"You know about Dr. Enys's imprisonment, then?"

"He's been our family physician for the last five years. He attended me when
Robin was born. And it was a nine days' wonder in the county when Captain
Poldark brought him back from France. I thought--if anyone would understand
what you had endured, it would be he." Another sad smile. "And if he
appeared satisfied with your health, then there would be--no need for me to
trouble you, with questions you would rather not answer."

Archie swallowed, throat thick and eyes stinging. Honesty for honesty. His
sister deserved that much, at least. "They were," he began tentatively,
coughed to clear his throat, and continued, "they were terrible years--the
ones I spent in prison. I cannot pretend otherwise. At times, especially
towards the end, I--I thought I should go mad . . . with loneliness, despair
. . . and rage." He mustered a tight little smile. "I was *very* angry. At
myself for getting caught, at the circumstances which led to my capture, even
at Spain for joining forces with France, because once I came so close to
freedom . . . " His voice choked to a stop.

"Archie--" Margaret's eyes were brimming but she still met his gaze steadily.
He grasped her outstretched hand like a drowning man, sat down at the
ottoman by her feet.

After a few minutes, he was able to resume. "Being angry was probably what
made me so determined to escape. It might have been more prudent to stay
where I was, but I just . . . couldn't. As I told Dr. Enys--I was a very bad
prisoner.

"I was not whipped until after my third escape attempt. By then, I believe
they wished to make an example of me."

Her hand tightened on his. "Oh, my dear."

"Two dozen lashes. It could have been worse--I've *seen* worse in the Navy.
And at least there was a doctor, and another prisoner who knew what to do for
me, after. As soon as I was healed, I began thinking of escape again.
Incorrigible, I suppose." He tried for another smile, which failed utterly
when he saw the damp tracks of tears on her cheeks. "I'm sorry! I do not
wish to distress you further, I'll stop now--"

"Only if *you* wish to," she broke in fiercely. "You *lived* this,
Archie--all I need do is listen! Stop if you cannot bear to speak of this
any longer, but do not harbor fears on my account!"

He brushed his lips against the hand he was holding and--somehow--found the
strength to continue. "After the fourth attempt, they put me in irons and
sent me to El Ferrol, alone. Don Massaredo was not the worst of my gaolers .
. . but he had by far the worst punishment for prisoners who tried to escape.
An oubliette, a hole in the earth . . . there was--no room to stand up or
lie down. When my fifth attempt failed, I was placed in it, for a month."

He felt her stiffen beside him. "And you say he was not the *worst* of your
gaolers?"

"He wasn't," Archie reiterated. "According to his own lights, he was
not--without honor. And I do know, now, that he took no pleasure from my
punishment."

"How magnanimous of him." Margaret's voice was cold enough to freeze an
entire Spanish orange grove.

Archie squeezed her hand again. Her anger on his behalf touched him more than
he could say but the instinct to spare her further pain was still strong in
him. "Not long after I was taken from the oubliette, Horatio came. And my
luck began to change. Less than three months later, we were free.

"It's over, Margaret--over and done with, and has been for the last year.
And sometimes, when I feel the sun on my face and hear the wind in the
rigging, I can almost believe it was nothing more than a bad dream that went
on a bit too long. Of course," he added with a smile that was more a
grimace, "I still have no great fondness for small, enclosed spaces."

Margaret reached up to touch his face. "Oh, love--I wish you had not had to
endure so much. It was well over a year, you see, before we learned you
might have survived as a prisoner. According to Alice, our father was
preparing to make inquiries as to your whereabouts and see whether you could
be ransomed or exchanged."

"Truly? I had not thought Milord cared one way or the other." In spite of
his better intentions, Archie could not quite keep the bitterness from his
tone.

His sister gave him a wry, commiserating glance. "I cannot blame you for
thinking that. But I see no reason to doubt Alice's word on this. I have no
idea how far Milord progressed--but it was not long before your own letter
arrived, informing us that you had been released." She took his other hand
in hers. "I cannot tell you how glad I was to hear of it--and gladder still
that you have come to visit now. Even if . . . it could not be under better
circumstances."

There it was. The first crack in her own armor. "Margaret," Archie began.

"Hush!" She leaned forward to brush a light kiss across his brow. "Dear
Archie, I promise we *will* speak again. But we must leave for Tresilian
Manor in an hour's time, and I fancy," she added with a trace of her usual
ironic humor, "we shall both need all our strength for the ordeal which lies
ahead!"

 

END PART SEVEN