It had gotten worse overnight. Yesterday he had been tired, today he shivered and burned. Acrid sweat slicked his neck and thighs, stung his face. Each heartbeat pained his head, and coughing made that worse as it ripped at his throat. Kit could not stop coughing though.
Geoff and Nick were kind, enough. They put their blankets where he could reach them, (their soft blankets,so much better than Kit's.) They brought the water pitcher with its dipper too. The water was cold and stale. It hurt his chest to swallow.They said they would bring him food, but maybe they would forget, Kit thought. He hoped they would forget, thinking of food made him tired. Their brash voices hurt him. His skin was raw.
Finally the door shut. They had gone, leaving behind Kit, and a swirl of dust, caught golden in the light from the window. He stared straight up, breathing carefully. If he were at home, even now, Mother would drag the settle to the fireside, tuck him up there, with blankets and his books. She would talk to him as she went about her day, she would press her cool hands to his face. And now the tears spilled over his hot cheeks, ran down to soak his ears. Stupid! He knuckled them away.
It was only when the door opened, that he knew he had been asleep.
“Mr Marlowe-- how do you?”
Kit gasped, scrambled to sit up in bed. His nightshirt was dirty, the fire was out, the room smelled of sickness. The sleek blond head, the elegant boots had no place here.
“Your pardon, I--”
“They said you were ill. I have brought some things to help mend you.”
And Kit saw now that Thomas had a leather bag slung across his shoulder. And oh it was fine soft kid, it would be as easy to work as silk, how father would smile to work such leather. They could eat for a month on the price of it. The number 10 bodkin it would be, and never an awl to touch it... The room swam, black at the edges-- narrowed and narrowed, as if he were looking through a knot-hole. From some far away place he heard himself gag.
“Easy there-- head on your knees, that's the way. Rest a little now.” Strong hands folded him forward, warm against the bones of his back. He felt the bed dip as Thomas sat on the edge.
“Try this--” This was not the fine spun goblet Thomas used for wine, this was a smaller item, heavy glass, round in his hand. He could not see into the shadowed cup, but he could feel that the contents were viscous. Kit sipped, ready for the bitter medicine. His mouth flooded with delight, complex and new. He felt his cracked lips burn.
“Oh-- That's good. What is it?”
“Honey, and the juice of an orange. Have a little more. My mother used to make it, when I had a cough. imagine my surprise to find it for sale at the city gate. I thought she invented it just for me.” Thomas gave a wry smile and Kit felt himself grin in return.
His throat gave a dry twitch, and the cough came again. He brought both hands to muffle it, and his eyes burned with tears. Thomas thumped him helpfully on the back.
He coughed until he gagged, and he drew the air in hard past the clench of it.
With terrible slowness, the tightness eased. He could breathe. Thomas had taken his hand away, but Kit could still feel the weight of it, how it had been, warm and heavy. He kept his eyes down for the space of four long breaths. When he looked up Thomas was close by, and still smiling.
“Now, I have one other small thing to cheer you. I know you are a serious scholar, and perhaps to grand already for such foolishness--”
Kit shook his head. “I like foolishness well.”
“Well then-- close your eyes. No don't look yet. Now, now you can look. Which hand do you choose?”
The blond dusted fists were folded loose, backs up. Whatever was within was small and fragile. Kit paused a moment to savor the indecision. Thomas waited. There was a thin white scar across the back of the left hand. That was the one Kit chose.
“Ah-- you get the hare. And I the dog.”
The little hare was cunningly wrought, with tiny black eyes, and even a suggestion of fur. It must have been drawn on with a pin Kit thought.
“Start with the ears--” Thomas said. “I always did.”