11,041 vagabonds plus:
He took her hand. It was quiet there in her room and in the street below. He could hear the clock upon the wall and he could feel the same rhythm in her pulse as she rested her head upon the pillow.
"You must stop sending for me", he said, just above a whisper.
"I'm not to summon you when I'm ill?" she replied without response. She closed her eyes, and he let go. He went to the window, hands clasped behind, the warm sun soothing his weathered face, eyes closed briefly. He looked below. Two scrawny dogs lay under a vegetable carriage, and he saw the proprietor exit a shop and kick them away, heads bowed and scurrying away, never looking back, their sites set on a vagabond squatting before them, smiling and offering crumbs of some sort.
"You must get out of here. I know of no other elixir". He turned to her and saw her eyes flooded with tears, her cheeks no longer pale.
"There is this affair", he began in an enthusiastic tone, "soon, within a few weeks, a gathering at Willow Manor". He turned back to the window. "Perhaps you know of a gentleman then that.."
She rose slightly and tried to hide her reddening eyes.
"I know of no one", she thought out loud, voice hollow.
He walked over, a towering unexpected shadow to her, and smiled. Even in dim light, he noticed her black eyes shined, and those full rose pink lips parted slightly. He took both her hands soft in his, turning two small palms up, and she looked up at him as he examined them close like any physician would. She shivered, then felt peculiarly warm and loved. He'd catch her looking into his eyes, clumsily bowing as he gathered his medicine bag, bowing again without speaking, and part. In the days following she would send the house boy to fetch the good doctor again and again, and she would ask him as he squinted sideways into the whites of her eyes what color of gown she might wear, and when he placed his palm on her cool forehead she'd casually inquire about what foot to set forward first upon entering a room crowded with kind strangers.
art: Sick Woman (1665)
by Jan Steen
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