Rose woke doubled over and coughing. Her eyes burned. Someone pushed her back and put a pot of ripe urine under her nose. She gaged and retched, her empty belly cramping.
“Git ye away from her,” bellowed Cook, “ye will kill her for sure.”
Cook swatted at Huard who almost spilled the urine out of the shallow bowl he had in his hands. He walked as fast as he could to the door, tossing the foul liquid, then running to the scullery to get the bowl cleaned.
Rose watched him from her reclining position. She could just raise her head enough to see him, but lay back down when she saw the air in front of her shift and move. She felt the scratch of rough woven fabric under her hands. She shifted and felt grain shift with her.
She closed her eyes, too tired and too weak to watch what happened around her.
“Bea,” yelled Cook.
Rose wondered if Cook could have a normal conversation.
The thin, black-haired woman Rose had seen put the rosemary Rose had picked in the stew pot earlier, brought over a leather mug full of thick, rich, brown soup. More gently than Rose would have thought possible because of her bulk and her one loud volume, Cook helped Rose sit up so she could sip the soup. It had been left to sit. The temperature of the liquid allowed Rose to drink without burning herself. Cook cradled Rose’s shoulders with one beefy arm and held the cup for her with her other hand, moving the cup away if Rose took too much at one time.
“I let ye sleep during the supper,” said Cook, “We was too busy to look after ye until His Lordship had His fill. He was well pleased with the flavors you brought in from the garden. He sent special compliments down to me.” Cook’s cheeks pinked in pleasure.
Bea and the other women Rose had seen cooking earlier stood around her as Cook fed her soup and prattled on about the meal. Each smiled at Rose when she looked at them.
“When we was done, ye still be sleepin’ so I sent the boy to the laundress for her sheep bleach to wake ye up. Good ye stirred. His Lordship’s doctor bleeds ye dry.” Cook took a deep breath.
“Marg,” yelled Cook.
All of the women around Rose jumped. Rose jumped, knocked the mug in Cook’s hand and spilled some broth on her dress.
A blond woman moved forward half a step.
“That be Marg,” said Cook. “Don’t ye tell her, but she be the best pastry cook in these many counties.” Rose thought that Cook meant to whisper, but she was just as loud as always and therefore, Marg heard Cook’s compliment. She smiled.
“Silly woman,” said Cook, “git the girl a pie. She be too skinny. We need to fatten her up. We need her to work for more spices.”
Marg ran to the stone shelves next to the ovens where she took a pie from under some cloths. She ran back to Rose and handed her a pie the size of her fist.
“Small bites,” yelled Cook, as she stood. “I must git me to my rest. The morning comes early.”
Cook headed towards the door.
“The girls will show ye where ye can sleep,” yelled Cook. “Boy, git that mangy dog out of my kitchens.” Huard was no where to be seen.
A black Great Dane had wandered into the kitchen and sat down next to Rose. The big dog had put its chin on Rose’s lap and watched her, its eyebrows dancing on its forehead as it shifted its gaze.
Once Cook left the kitchens, all of the workers relaxed. Some went about the jobs of cleaning up tables and taking utensils into the sculleries to be washed.
Marg and Bea sat down on the grain filled bags next to Rose. Bea scratched the Great Dane behind the ears.
“We let Prince here stay with us until we take our rest,” said Bea. “He walks with us to our pallets at night and keeps the rogues away.”
“Ye can sleep with us,” said Marg. “We be right grateful to ye. Cook ain’t never been this happy. Ye be right welcome here.”
Prince barked low in his throat, as if in agreement.