“And he may be right.”

Honoria’s heart stopped beating. Until her mother said, “But not yet.”

Honoria stared at her mother in shock. She could not remember the last time she’d heard her speak with such decisiveness. When Daniel had fled the country, he’d taken a piece of their mother with him. She’d been utterly lost, unable to commit herself to anything or anyone, even her daughter. It was almost as if she could not bring herself to make any decisions, because to do so would mean that she accepted her life as it now was, with her only son gone, possibly forever.

But maybe all she had needed was a reason to wake up. A critical moment.

Maybe she’d needed to be needed.

“Stand back,” Lady Winstead said, pushing up her sleeves.

Honoria stepped aside, trying to ignore the tiny pang of jealousy that flared to life within her. Hadn’t she needed her mother?


She looked at her mother, who was watching her with an expectant expression. “Sorry,” Honoria mumbled, holding out the cloth in her hand. “Do you want this?”

“A clean one, please.”

“Of course.” Honoria rushed to do her mother’s bidding, further depleting Marcus’s supply of underthings.

Her mother took the cloth, then looked at it with a confused expression. “What is . . .”

“It was all I could find,” Honoria explained. “And I thought time was of the essence.”

“It is,” her mother confirmed. She looked up, her eyes meeting Honoria’s with grave directness. “I have seen this before,” she said, her shaky breath the only sign of nerves. “Your father. On his shoulder. It was before you were born.”

“What happened?”

Her mother looked back at Marcus’s leg, narrowing her eyes as she examined the wound. “See if you can shed more light on this.” And then, while Honoria went to the windows to pull the curtains fully open, she said, “I don’t even know how he cut himself. Just that it became horribly infected.” Very softly, she added, “Almost as bad as this.”

“But he was fine,” Honoria said, returning to her mother’s side. This was a story to which she knew the ending. Her father had had two perfectly strong arms until the day he died.

Her mother gave a nod. “We were very lucky. The first doctor wanted to amputate. And I – ” Her voice broke, and it was a moment before she continued. “I would have let him do it. I was so concerned for your father’s life.” She used the clean cloth to dab at Marcus’s leg, trying to get a better look. When she spoke again, her voice was very soft. “I would have done anything they told me to.”

“Why didn’t they take his arm?” Honoria asked quietly.

Her mother let out a short puff of a breath, as if expelling a bad memory. “Your father demanded to see another doctor. He told me that if the second agreed with the first, he would do as they asked. But he was not cutting off his arm because one man told him to.”

“The second one said they didn’t have to?”

Her mother let out a grim chuckle. “No, he said he almost certainly would have to cut it off. But he told your father they could try cleaning the wound first. Really cleaning it.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing,” Honoria said in a rush. “I’ve got quite a bit of the infection out, I think.”

“It’s a good start,” her mother said. “But . . .” She swallowed.

“But what?”

Her mother kept her attention firmly on Marcus’s wound, pressing it lightly with the cloth as she examined. She did not look at Honoria when she said in a very low voice, “The doctor said that if your father wasn’t screaming, we weren’t cleaning it well enough.”

“Do you remember what he did?” Honoria whispered.

Lady Winstead nodded. “Everything,” she said softly.

Honoria waited for more. And then she wished she hadn’t.

Her mother finally looked up. “We’re going to have to tie him down.”

Chapter Ten

It took less than ten minutes to turn Marcus’s bedroom into a makeshift operating theater. Mrs. Wetherby returned with hot water and a supply of clean cloths. Two footmen were instructed to tie Marcus tightly to the bed, which they did, despite the horror that showed clearly on their faces.

Her mother asked for scissors. The sharpest, smallest pair they had. “I need to cut away the dead skin,” she told Honoria, tiny lines of determination forming at the corners of her mouth. “I watched the doctor do it with your father.”

“But did you do it?” Honoria asked.

Her mother looked her in the eye, then turned away. “No.”

“Oh.” Honoria swallowed. There didn’t seem to be anything else that could possibly serve as a reply.

“It’s not difficult as long as one can control one’s nerves,” her mother said. “One doesn’t need to be terribly precise.”

Honoria looked at Marcus, then back at her mother, mouth agape. “Not precise? What do you mean? It’s his leg!”

“I realize that,” her mother replied. “But I promise you, it won’t hurt him if I cut away too much.”

“Not hurt – ”

“Well, of course it will hurt.” Lady Winstead looked down at Marcus with an expression of regret. “That’s why we had to tie him down. But it will do no permanent damage. It’s better to cut away too much than too little. It is absolutely essential that we eliminate all of the infection.”