“Do you need my help, Tom?” Angelina finally inquired, after seeing the poor teenager visibly clenching his teeth one time too many at a particularly difficult negotiation.
Don’t you…worry, Miss,” he panted hoarsely after righting himself. “I’m fine. The house is just a-around the corner, anyway.” He gave her a weak smile.
That smile decided Angelina. Without uttering another word, she quietly slipped under the stranger’s other arm and snaked her hand around his shoulder, taking some of the strain off Tommy’s back.
“Whatever are you doin’, Miss Mercy?” he asked incredulously, looking at his employer’s improper nearness to a young man’s body. Such things were just not done! “I can’t let you ruin yer reputation like this!”
“Oh stuff it for the moment Tommy,” Angelina sighed anxiously. “He needs to get inside as soon as possible and by itself, your pace is too slow. With me helping you, we can get home much sooner. And what price a hollow reputation when a man’s life is at stake?
“And now, stop talking. I’m losing … my breath,” she grinned at him before tightening her hold on the man between them. They continued on in companionable silence till the welcoming gates of Brooklyn Grange opened under their touch.
Mrs. Belmont was all astonishment for the whole of a minute, her mouth hanging open – in a manner she would indubitably refute for the rest of her dignified days – with shock on finding an unconscious young man being carried into her kitchen with a severe gash on his head. But she soon recovered her presence of mind and had the group take the man to the living room and lay him down on the large old-fashioned couch, after pushing it as near as possible to the fire.
Then she went into her ‘brigadier’ mode.
“Bring a bowl of warm water here Miss Mercy, and some clean rags from the supply closet,” she barked without turning around. “Then you put the kettle to boil on the fire, and be sure to drop the tea leaves and four spoonfuls of sugar in it… I want a strong brew. Mix in a tablespoonful of the emergency whisky, and bring my box of herbs here so that I can show you what else to add.
“Tommy, run upstairs and get the extra blankets and pillows from the spare room. Get some more coals from the cellar afterwards and put it on the fire, then place three bricks on the flames to heat up. And hurry up while you are about it.”
All this while she was massaging the poor man’s pulse points and taking off his soggy clothes, to Angelina’s blushing embarrassment. To hide her mortification, Angelina turned her face away and ran around to do the tasks allotted to her, concentrating especially hard on the preparation of the medicinal tea until Tommy had returned with the warm clothes and she was assured of the stranger being properly covered up again. Her hands might have trembled, but she worked on steadily. Within a quarter of an hour, the stranger’s wound had been cleaned and bandaged, hot bricks placed at strategic points of his body and a strengthening tea firmly coaxed down his throat. His color was already returning, though he had yet to regain his consciousness.
Mrs. Belmont finally took in the drooping girl at her side. “You must go to your room and have a bit of rest for now, Miss Mercy,” she said gently, handing her a cup of tea of her own. Angelina opened her mouth to protest, but the older lady shut her up with a stern glance. She explained further, “You had also been running around in the cold without your coat for some time, and I don’t want you falling sick on me at this point. You did a fine job in rescuing this gent, and I’m sure that He who sees everything will reward you for your diligence someday. But for now, you must get out of these cold clothes and warm yourself up.
“He will be there when you wake up, I promise you,” she added, a wry smile twisting her lips. There was no way this lad was going away anytime soon.
“Alright Susie dear,” Angelina yawned surreptitiously behind her fingers, the exhaustion taking over her body now that the adrenaline had drained away from her veins. “I’ll just check on the animals before I go upstairs, and maybe do some mending – we will need more linen than ever now after all…”