Accustomed as the Hathaways were to emergencies, they managed the situation with brisk efficiency. Cam and Merripen helped Leo into the manor and up the stairs, one on either side of him. Although a bachelor’s house had been built beside the estate for Leo’s use, he had insisted that Merripen and Win live there instead, pointing out that as a fairly recently married couple, they needed the privacy far more than he. When he came to Hampshire, he stayed in one of the guest rooms in the main house.

They formed a fairly harmonious triad, Cam and Merripen and Leo, each with his own area of responsibility. Although Leo was the holder of the estate, he had no objection to sharing authority. Upon returning from France after a two-year absence, Leo had been grateful to see how Cam and Merripen had rebuilt the Ramsay estate in his absence. They had turned the ramshackle property into a thriving and prosperous enterprise, and neither of them had asked for anything in return. And Leo had recognized that he had much to learn from both of them.

Running an estate required far more than lounging in the library with a glass of port, as the aristocrats in novels did. It took extensive knowledge of agriculture, business, animal husbandry, construction, timber production, and land improvement. All that added to the responsibilities of politics and Parliament was more than one man could undertake. Therefore, Merripen and Leo had agreed to share the timber and agricultural concerns, while Cam handled the estate business and investments.

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In medical emergencies, although Merripen was competent in such matters, Cam usually took charge. Having learned the healing arts from his Romany grandmother, Cam was relatively experienced at treating illness and injury. It was better, safer even, to let him do what he could for Leo rather than send for a doctor.

The established practice in modern medicine was for doctors to bleed their patients for every imaginable ailment, despite controversies within the medical community. Statisticians had begun to track case history to prove that bloodletting did no good whatsoever, but the procedure persisted. Sometimes bloodletting was even used to treat hemorrhaging, in accordance with the belief that it was better to do something than nothing at all.

“Amelia,” Cam said as he and Merripen settled Leo into his bed, “we’ll need cans of hot water sent up from the kitchen, and all the toweling you can spare. And Win, perhaps you and Beatrix might take Miss Marks to her room and help her?”

“Oh, no,” Catherine protested, “thank you, but I don’t need assistance. I can wash by myself and—”

Her objections were overridden, however. Win and Beatrix would not relent until they had overseen her bath and helped to wash her hair and change her into a fresh gown. The extra pair of spectacles was found, and Catherine was relieved to have her vision restored. Win insisted on tending Catherine’s hands and applying salve and bandages to her fingers.

Finally Catherine was allowed to go to Leo’s room, while Win and Beatrix went to wait downstairs. She found Amelia, Cam, and Merripen all crowded around the bedside. Leo was shirtless, and heaped with blankets. It shouldn’t have surprised her that he was arguing simultaneously with the three of them.

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“We don’t need his permission,” Merripen said to Cam. “I’ll pour it down his throat if necessary.”

“The hell you will,” Leo growled. “I’ll kill you if you try—”

“No one is going to force you to take it,” Cam interrupted, sounding exasperated. “But you have to explain your reasons, phral, because you’re not making sense.”

“I don’t have to explain. You and Merripen can take that filthy stuff and shove it up your—”

“What is it?” Catherine asked from the doorway. “Is there a problem?”

Amelia came out into the hallway, her face taut with worry and vexation. “Yes, the problem is that my brother is a pigheaded idiot,” she said, loudly enough for Leo to hear. She turned to Catherine and lowered her voice. “Cam and Merripen say the wound isn’t serious, but it could become very bad indeed if they don’t clean it properly. The piece of timber slipped in between the clavicle and the shoulder joint, and there’s no way of knowing how deep it went. They have to irrigate the wound to remove splinters or clothing fibers, or it will fester. In other words, it’s going to be a bloody mess. And Leo refuses to take any laudanum.”

Catherine regarded her with bafflement. “But … he must have something to dull his senses.”

“Yes. But he won’t. He keeps telling Cam to go ahead and treat the wound. As if anyone could do such painstaking work when a man is screaming in agony.”

“I told you I wouldn’t scream,” Leo retorted from the bedroom. “I only do that when Marks starts reciting her poetry.”

Despite her consternation, Catherine almost smiled.

Peering around the doorjamb, she saw that Leo’s coloring was terrible, his sun-browned complexion lightened to an ashy pallor. He was trembling like a wet dog. As his gaze met hers, he looked so defiant and exhausted and miserable that Catherine couldn’t stop herself from asking, “A word with you, my lord, if I may?”

“By all means,” came his sullen reply. “I would so love to have someone else to argue with.”

She entered the room, while Cam and Merripen moved aside. With an apologetic expression, she asked, “If I might have a moment of privacy with Lord Ramsay…?”

Cam gave her a quizzical glance, clearly wondering what influence she thought she could have with Leo. “Do what you can to persuade him to drink that medicine on the bedside table.”

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