Thea studied Bishop Erwald’s countenance. Why had he employed a cook previously in Lanfranc’s employ since Bishop Lanfranc was a known Norman sympathiser?
‘A cook in Lanfranc’s employ!’ Gytha all but sputtered. ‘Madness!’
Bishop Erwald stammered, ‘The- the new- new cook was sent to us by the p-pope. The apothecary has gone to fetch his bleeding cups.’
At that moment the apothecary, Brother Simon, returned and the atmosphere changed again, attention shifting hopefully to the little monk hurriedly rushing to the king’s side, carrying a satchel. ‘We must make him vomit,’ he said. ‘We must purge him and if he survives this, I shall have to administer an enema.’ Within moments he had given the king salt water to drink, lifted him and held a receptacle for him to vomit into.
Aldgyth rose and peered into the bowl. ‘It is not enough.’ She turned to the apothecary. ‘If you have powder of the honeybee, Apothecary, that might work. I seem to remember that my first husband, the King of Wales, needed it for one of his children by a concubine. Soak it on a sponge with vinegar and make him suck on the mixture. It is a known purge.’
‘We can try. Send for it, my Lord Bishop.’
The bishop reddened and muttered below his breath, clearly embarrassed by his new cook’s mistake. If indeed it was an innocent error, Thea thought suspiciously. He swept past her, hastening out of the chamber as her father vomited again and again, afterwards sinking onto his pillow, shivering despite the chamber’s warmth.
‘What will happen to the crown if he dies?’ Gytha murmured. ‘The hornets will swarm again.’
‘We shall send for Godwin. That is my father’s wish,’ Thea said firmly.
The countess looked gloomy. ‘The Witan may choose another earl since Godwin is not yet a warrior. And, he is in Ireland.’
‘Then, send for him. A dying king’s wish must not be ignored.’
‘I could bleed him to reduce the fever,’ Brother Simon said hopefully. ‘The king might yet live. There is no need to send for his son.’
Aldgyth raised her hand imperiously. ‘Bleeding will weaken him. Wait until we see if the purgative works.’
Harold’s breathing grew even more laboured and shallower. He shivered though the room was close. He sweated when they piled more covers over him. Thea prayed and Gytha pursed her lips and complained that the bishop must be in the orchard collecting bees to powder, he was so long returning to them.
‘Or announcing to the world that the king is dying,’ snapped Aldgyth, who wiped her groaning husband’s brow and held his limpid hand. ‘Which we must hope he is not,’ she added in a worried voice.