Sneak Peek Into Stealing Time
Chapter 7 – Timely Discoveries
“Miss Regina,” Margaret interrupted Ronnie’s thoughts. “Are you feeling a mite brighter now that ye’ve had a bit of a rest?”
“A bit better now,” Ronnie said, keeping up the fake English accent.
“If I may be so bold, ma’am reckon I know what you need. Some of Mrs. Baird’s cake. Ain’t nuthin’ better.” Margaret walked over to the tray of food and filled a plate, poured a cup of tea and brought it to Ronnie.
“Oh, thank you Margaret.” Ronnie devoured the second piece of cake. The tea was almost hot enough and did a lot to restore her.
Ronnie ate and thankfully Margaret quietly tidied the room while she continued her ruminations. Did she switch places with Regina like Freaky Friday? Would another hurricane bring her back? That was rather unlikely to happen in London. She eyed Margaret. Was this woman really from 1752? By all outward appearances it would seem so.
As she took the next bite a glint of metal caught her eye. She lifted the white lace of her sleeve and saw rose gold. It was the watch—the one Jeffrey had given her! If she were in Regina’s body how was the watch on her wrist?
Was Regina already wearing it when she … what would you call it … arrived? Looking down at the strange hand she moved the lacy sleeve aside to look at it again hoping Margaret didn’t notice. It was new like the one Jeffrey gave her, and didn’t have the smooth edges of the antique she had seen in London. But it wouldn’t be an antique in this time period. Is that what connected her with Regina?
The shopkeeper said it was from the early nineteenth century, so that didn’t fit. Could she have brought the watch with her? An image of her body lying lifeless on the floor of the lab bathroom hit her. Is that where her body was?
If she could see the back of the watch she would know. Jeffrey’s watch looked completely different with the modern backing and waterproofing. Ronnie didn’t want to draw any attention to herself with Margaret nearby so she continued eating the cake.
The antique she had found was in London and here she was in London. Is that why she was here? She laid back down, head spinning with implications of time travel and being in 1752.
“Miss Ingram, are you feeling a bit out of sorts, you’re looking as pale as a death. Shall I run and fetch the doctor?” Margaret headed towards the door.
“No!” Ronnie was dreading seeing the doctor. “I’m just a bit tired.”
“Well I never! Bless me if they’re not on their way here as we speak.” Margaret went out of the room. Ronnie touched the watch, and turned her wrist over. The clasp was complicated. Before she could figure it out she heard footsteps coming into the room. Pulling the sleeve over the watch she looked up. On first sight of Jack’s tidy figure Ronnie inhaled sharply.
Margaret followed Jack into the room wringing her hands. “Mrs. Ingram, sir? Is she unwell?”
“Catherine is resting comfortably,” Jack said. He headed towards Ronnie.
The doctor opened the black case he had left on the table. He took out a sheet of thick paper and rolled it into a tube.
“Miss Regina. Forgive me, but ’tis vital that I should listen to your innards and make a thorough examination of the rest of you.” His hot foul breath wafted towards her. She turned her head away and breathed through her mouth.
Jack moved to the other side of the bed to give the doctor room and to block her escape. “Regina. You will lay quietly while Dr. Wiggams attends to his duties with you.”
What does it look like I’m doing? Ronnie thought, but kept her expression neutral, not wanting to see the wrath of Jack again.
The doctor brought the rolled-up paper close to Ronnie’s chest. What the heck was this quack going to do, give her a paper cut? He put one end against her chest and the other end to his ear in a makeshift stethoscope.
“Would you be so kind as to make yourself cough, Miss Ingram if you please?” he asked. She coughed. “And now say, ‘menmenmenmenmem.’”
Ronnie felt ridiculous but she did as the doctor said, eyeing Jack. He gave her a dark look.
Dr. Wiggams unrolled the paper and put it back in the case. “Mr. Ingram you have described an injury to her head. Will you show me where this damage appears to manifest itself?” He didn’t even look at her as he spoke.
Jack grabbed her head and twisted her face towards the pillow to expose the lump on the back of her head. Ronnie tried to pull away from his grip but he held her down, not letting her move an inch while the doctor felt the lump and all around the injured area.
“Ouch!” Ronnie yelled. “Stop it. That hurts!” She tried to grab Jack’s arm but he shoved her harder into the pillow.
“Pray be still, Regina!” he said calmly but in a low tone. A don’t-push-your-luck tone.
Jack let go and she gave him an angry look. “That was not necessary. I would have let him look!”
Jack pointed a slender finger at her face. “Madam, you will not speak to me in that tone.” It was the same thing he had said to Catherine in the same hateful way. Ronnie looked away not wanting to further incite his anger.
The doctor dug around in the case again and brought out a white ceramic elongated bowl with a cut out of its middle. He placed a towel on the bed next to Ronnie and sat the strange-looking bowl next to her. She looked at Jack and Margaret, hoping for some clue as to what he was doing. Their expressions didn’t change.
“Please tell me what happened to you Miss Ingram. You must start from just before the accident that has befallen you,” Doctor Wiggams said.
“I don't remember anything,” she said in her best fake English accent. “The only thing I remember is when he,” she pointed at Jack, “picked me up and carried me in here.”
The doctor said, “Mr. Ingram, may I ask your permission to bleed Miss Ingram? I consider it of the utmost importance to return her humors to balance.”
“Bleed me?” Ronnie said. So the doctor had a dry sense of humor. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all.
“Most certainly Doctor Wiggams, indeed you have my permission,” Jack said.
Ronnie looked from one man to the other hoping to spot the twinkle of the eye or a smirk giving away the joke. She looked at the strange bowl next to her.
“Oh no you’re not!” She scooted to the far side of the bed away from the doctor trying to make a break for the door. “Oh no!”
Jack blocked her escape and gave her a look of pure evil.
“Madam, pray forgive me, but I cannot cure you of your malady if you do not allow me to do so,” Doctor Wiggams said. Before she could get up from the bed Jack grabbed her arms and pushed her back against the pillow.
“Regina, what devilry has got into you? I insist that you will obey me at once!” Jack grabbed her upper arms and held her firmly on the bed. “I have had enough of this wicked behavior. You will be punished if you do not make yourself still.”
Ronnie had no doubt that he would hurt her, in fact he already was doing so. His face, so close to hers, flushed red with anger.
On the table near the bed the doctor was arranging his rusty blood-stained instruments. He approached and cleared his throat. Jack let go of her arms and took a step back.
“You’re not going to use those on me are you?” Ronnie asked.
“Madam, I will use what is appropriate in my professional opinion. Pray permit me to help you, Miss Ingram.” The doctor pushed up her sleeve, uncovering the watch.
“What in God’s name is this?” Jack said touching the watch face.
Ronnie jerked her arm away. “It’s a watch!” Ronnie covered it protectively with her hand because she knew the watch might be her only way to get back home.
“Regina! I demand to know from whom did you get this bracelet!” Jack yelled.
Heat rose in her cheeks. Regina must not have had it for very long, if at all, if Jack didn’t know about it. In a violent grab, he jerked her out of the bed, making her stand in front of him.
“From where did this pretty trinket come, Regina?” he said.
Afraid he might hit her again she answered him without thinking, “Jeffrey gave it to me.” And immediately regretted it.
“Geoffrey? Who, pray is Geoffrey?” Jack asked, his face taking the hue of the coverlet.
Ronnie scrambled for an answer and came up empty.
“I am at a loss to understand you, Regina, indeed I am! You have the sheer impudence to tell me that a man whom I do not know is giving you gifts without my consent?” He tried to grab her arm again but Ronnie took a step backwards and bumped into a table. He took advantage of the distraction and raised his hand to slap her across the face again.
“Jack!” A man’s voice interrupted his motion.
Margaret pushed the man, trying to get him out of the room. “Mr. Stohl, sir, I cannot allow you to enter Miss Regina’s bedchamber.”
“Mathias, good of you to stop by cousin,” Jack said. He stepped away from Ronnie and lowered his hands.
“Please help me,” Ronnie said, thankful for the interruption. “He has already hit me once.”
Margaret stepped away from Mathias, looking nervous. “Miss Ingram, are you sure it is acceptable for Mr. Stohl to be in here?”
“Yes, yes, please let him in,” Ronnie said not sure who he was, but maybe he could keep Jack from hitting her again.
The man walked towards them. “Robert informed me upon my return zat Fräulein Regina has been in an accident,” he said with a slight accent. German maybe?
“Good to have your assistance,” Jack welcomed him. “Indeed I am at my wits’ end with my wayward sister. Doctor Wiggams, this is Catherine’s cousin, Mathias Stohl from Prussia. He is staying with us for a few months as he establishes his business connections.”
While the men said their hellos, Ronnie sighed in relief at Mathias’s arrival. For the moment he had defused Jack’s anger. He was a good foot taller than Ronnie, or rather Regina, with broad shoulders. He wore a black suit and white silk stockings that outlined his meaty calves. The man was stunning with big dark eyes and full lips.
“Since you are here, perhaps you would be good enough to assist me with my sister,” Jack said.
“I am your servant, dear cousin.” Mathias gave her a serious look. “Fräulein Regina, please be so good as to forgive my intrusion. I heard the commotion and was worried about you.”
“How very kind of you, Mathias,” Ronnie said, keeping up the fake English accent.
There was something very unusual about Mathias. Ronnie couldn’t quite put her finger on it but it was almost as if he were hypnotizing her. Could it be his good looks? Surely not, he was very attractive but Ronnie was twenty-seven years old and not the sucker she used to be for a pretty face. Correction, twenty-eight years old. Today was her birthday. The dinner with Jeffrey seemed like an eternity ago.
“Mathias, we were just discussing Regina’s treatment. Doctor Wiggams believes my sister is in need of a bloodletting. Perhaps you can step in and help her see sense,” Jack said. “She has always been somewhat taken with you.”
The doctor snorted and glanced at the two men.
Mathias ignored the doctor and returned Ronnie’s gaze with a winning smile. A jolt of electricity coursed through her veins. He was in his mid-twenties and blessed with an overload of charisma. She smiled back, not wanting to trust him, but he had already wormed his way in with the bold move to stop Jack from hitting her. Would he protect her again?
“Mr. Ingram, Mr. Ingram, if you please, sir! I have other patients who are in need of my services. I must bleed Miss Ingram so I can be on my way,” the doctor said.
“Regina, you must do as you are told and sit on the bed and let Mathias remove the bracelet so the doctor can do his work,” Jack said. His tone was civil and a whole lot nicer than it had been before Mathias arrived.
Jack came up close to Mathias and whispered something. Ronnie strained to hear him, but couldn’t make out the words. She sat down hard on the bed. There was no way she was giving up the watch. It was the only connection to her world.
“If you please, Fräulein Regina. Pray allow me to assist you mit your bracelet.” Mathias pulled up a chair and sat in front of her. He was being very careful with her, sitting back in the chair giving her space. “May I see zis curious bracelet?”
Ronnie looked at Jack and put her hand over the watch protectively. “No!”
He smiled at her. “Come, come my dear girl. Your brother desires for you to remove zee bracelet. If you do not do so the pretty zing will be soiled from the bloodletting.”
She shook her head.
“Jack will have the bracelet come what may. Would you allow me to remove it? Or do you want to do so?” he said while glancing back at Jack.
“I don’t see why anyone needs to remove it. It’s not Jack’s. It is mine.” She felt like a small child defending her toys.
“Enough!” Jack bellowed. “Remove the wretched thing from her arm, Mathias. If I take it off her, by God it will not involve any discussion.”
“Jack, calm yourself. There is no need to raise your voice. She will comply. Will you not, Fräulein Regina?”
“Can’t the doctor use the other arm?” she asked, hoping there was some way to keep the watch on. It was a link to her life, and maybe her only way back. There had to be a way to keep it.
She turned her wrist over and tried to undo the clasp herself, hoping that she would be able to keep the watch if she could shove it down her bodice or something. With her thumbnail she pulled on the clasp and it opened, but the safety lock was fastened and she struggled with it for a minute. Mathias patiently sat and watched her. Glancing up at him after a minute, she found him smiling at her yet he stayed still in the chair.
Finally, Jack said, “Mathias, take the accursed thing off her now. The doctor has other patients to attend.”
Mathias waited for her to make the first move. Jack took a step towards her. She held her arm out to Mathias.
“Are you sure, Fräulein Regina?” Mathias said.
“It is better than the alternative. Please give it to me when you take it off,” she said.
Mathias reached out, pulling her arm to rest on his oversized knee. His pants were pulled taught across his leg and showed the bulge of his thigh muscles. Big hands worked deftly at the delicate clasp and he had it off in seconds. Before she could reach for it Jack snatched it from Mathias and put it in his pocket.
“Give that to me!” Ronnie said standing up and brushing past Mathias.
Mathias grabbed her shoulders from behind and said, “Fräulein Regina, be so good as to let Herr Viggams finish his treatment. Please, fräulein, it is in your own best interest.” He turned her around to the bed before pushing her gently down. He seemed enormously tall from her sitting position.
“Regina Elizabeth Ingram, I command you to allow Dr. Wiggams to complete his medical ministrations.” Jack shook his finger in her face while trying to be calm.
Mathias put himself between Jack and Ronnie. “I have utter confidence that Fräulein Regina will be an obedient patient. Vill you not? Fräulein Regina,” he said in a softer tone, and then whispered, “Please sit still, for if you resist, I believe zat Jack vill not be so gentle with you.”
She met his steely look, wanting to listen to him, but the stakes were very high for her as well. The watch was still in Jack’s pocket, only a few steps away. She took a deep breath, hardening her expression.
He mouthed “Please,” again and she melted. He was right, she wasn’t going to get out of this with Jack fuming a few feet away. At least Mathias was there to intervene. He seemed to have a calming effect on Jack.
Ronnie eyed Jack. How was she going to get the watch back? He gave her an angry look and she turned her attention to Mathias who smiled at her and patted her hand.
“Do let Viggams assist you mit your humors,” Mathias said.
She wanted to jump up and grab the watch out of Jack’s pocket, but that would get her nowhere. Instead she tried to tamp down the anger and let these men get their way, for now.