“I can do it,” Honoria said again, even though her mother had already handed her the scissors. Lady Winstead rose from her chair, and Honoria sat down, taking a deep breath.

“One step at a time,” she said to herself, looking closely at the wound before proceeding. Her mother had shown her how to identify which tissue needed to be cut away. All she needed to do was look at one piece and trim it. And then when that was done, she’d find another.

“Cut as close to the healthy tissue as you can,” her mother said.

Honoria nodded, moving her scissors further up the wound. Gritting her teeth, she cut.

Marcus let out a moan, but he didn’t wake up.

“Well done,” Lady Winstead said softly.

Honoria nodded, blinking back tears. How could such small words make her feel so emotional?

“There was a bit at the bottom I didn’t get to,” her mother said. “I couldn’t see the edges well enough.”

“I see it,” Honoria said grimly. She trimmed some of the dead skin, but the area still felt swollen. Taking the tip of the scissors as she’d seen her mother do, she angled them against him and punctured the tissue, allowing the yellow ooze of the infection to escape. Marcus strained against his bonds, and she whispered an apology, but she did not stop. She took a cloth and pressed hard.

“Water, please.”

Someone handed her a cup of water, and she poured it on the wound, trying so very hard not to hear Marcus moaning with pain. The water was hot, very hot, but her mother swore that it was what had saved her father all those years ago. The heat drew out the infection.

Honoria prayed she was right.

She pressed a cloth against him, soaking up the excess water. Marcus made a strange noise again, although not as wrenching as before. But then he began to shake.

“Oh, my God,” she yelped, yanking the cloth away. “What did I do to him?”

Her mother peered down with a puzzled expression. “He almost looks as if he’s laughing.”

“Can we give him more laudanum?” Mrs. Wetherby asked.

“I don’t think we should,” Honoria said. “I’ve heard of people not waking up when they’ve been given too much.”

“I really think he looks as if he’s laughing,” her mother said again.

“He’s not laughing,” Honoria said flatly. Good heavens, what on earth could he have to laugh about at such a time? She gave her mother a little nudge to back away, and she poured more hot water on Marcus’s leg, working until she was satisfied that she’d cleaned the wound to the best of her ability.

“I think that’s all of it,” Honoria said, sitting back. She took a deep breath. She felt hopelessly tense, every muscle in her body pulled tight. She set down the scissors and tried to stretch out her hands, but they felt like claws.

“What if we poured laudanum directly on the wound?” Mrs. Wetherby asked.

Lady Winstead blinked. “I have no idea.”

“It couldn’t hurt, could it?” Honoria asked. “It’s not likely to irritate his skin if it’s something that can be swallowed. And if it can do something to dull the pain . . .”

“I have it right here,” Mrs. Wetherby said, holding up the small brown bottle.

Honoria took it and pulled out the cork. “Mother?”

“Just a little,” Lady Winstead replied, not looking at all sure of her decision.

Honoria splashed a little laudanum on Marcus’s leg, and he instantly howled with pain.

“Oh, dear,” Mrs. Wetherby moaned. “I’m so sorry. It was my idea.”

“No, no,” Honoria said. “That’s the sherry. It’s how they make it.” Why she knew this she had no idea, but she was fairly certain that the ominously labeled bottle (it said POISON in much bigger letters than LAUDANUM) also contained cinnamon and saffron. She dabbed her finger in and took a little taste.

“Honoria!” her mother exclaimed.

“Oh, my God, it’s hideous,” Honoria said, rubbing her tongue against the roof of her mouth in a fruitless attempt to rid herself of the taste. “But there is definitely sherry in it.”

“I can’t believe you took some of that,” Lady Winstead said. “It’s dangerous.”

“I was just curious. He made such a face when we gave it to him. And it was clearly painful when we poured it on. Besides, it was only a drop.”

Her mother sighed, looking very much aggrieved. “I wish the doctor would arrive.”

“It will still be some time,” Mrs. Wetherby said. “At least an hour, I should think. And that is if he is at home to receive the summons. If he’s out . . .” Her words trailed off.

For several moments no one spoke. The only sound was Marcus’s breathing, strangely shallow and labored. Finally, Honoria was unable to take the silence any longer, and she asked, “What do we do now?” She looked down at Marcus’s leg. It looked raw and open, still bleeding slightly in places. “Should we put a bandage on it?”

“I don’t think so,” her mother said. “We’ll only have to take it off when the doctor arrives.”

“Are you hungry?” Mrs. Wetherby asked.

“No,” Honoria said, except she was. Ravenous. She just didn’t think she could eat.

“Lady Winstead?” Mrs. Wetherby said quietly.

“Perhaps something small,” she murmured, not taking her worried eyes off Marcus.

“A sandwich, perhaps?” Mrs. Wetherby suggested, “or my goodness, breakfast. Neither one of you has had breakfast. I could ask Cook to prepare eggs and bacon.”