Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 4 - Harald, page 1 of 2)

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The infirmary was to the east of the abbey and separated from the other monastic buildings by a lawn. Harald Gascoigne followed the black-robed monk up a flight of stairs into a room lined with beds. Injury and sickness always depressed him, particularly when a member of his family was involved.

'Your son has been taken to the dispensary,' the monk said. 'Brother Arnold is in Dorchester and Sister Alice has been called. She is a most loving and caring lady, skilled in the art of healing.'

Harald smelt the tang of medicinal herbs and saw vapours issuing from behind a door.

'Sister Alice is the new matron of the almshouse,' the monk continued. 'She came as soon as she heard about the nature of the injuries.'

Nature of the injuries! Harald shuddered. He'd hoped it wasn't serious but they'd called in someone special. He entered a room and saw William lying on a padded table. The boy's head was swathed in bandages and his arm strapped to a wooden splint. A woman in a nun's habit bent over him. He expected someone in middle age. When she looked up he saw she was younger than himself.

'Sir Harald, thank you for coming.'

He couldn't imagine doing otherwise.

'Your son has had a bad fall and is suffering from concussion.'

Her voice was that of a well-educated woman.

'I have examined his pupils and there is no sign of dilation. Nor is there any discharge from the ears. There appears to be no fracture of the skull but we must remain vigilant.'

She started to roll back the bandages.

'His scalp is badly cut and will need immediate stitching.'

Harald saw bare bone and thanked God for people like Sister Alice. In an emergency like this he was totally useless. His father and brother wallowed in blood and gore. They'd made him physically sick with stories about eyes protruding from heads and blood squirting from severed limbs. The thought of William taking up arms and joining them in France was horrifying. His ambition was for his son to attend university and become a priest or lawyer.

'I am using a suture of my own preparation.'

She took a pair of tweezers and removed a needle and thread from a pot of steaming liquid. Harald looked the other way. His son was unconscious so he wasn't in pain. That was a consolation. But what if he remained in a coma? Such things happened following a blow to the head. Sister Alice said there was no sign of a fractured skull. That didn't mean there wasn't one. Liquids could be building up inside. What would they do then? Harald doubted if there was anyone in all of Dorset who had the skill to pierce the skull and release the pressure.

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