As the coach rattles and bumps along the rutted road towards the emergency case my body is accidentally thrown against the plague doctor’s body.
I glance at his mask to see if he has reacted in any way but he just stares straight ahead.
Finally, I sum up the courage to ask a question.
“What kind of emergency is it, doctor?”
“Leech failure” he says tersely.
“Oh my God!” I exclaim, although I have no idea what it means.
Does he mean that a leech has become unwell?
How can an unwell leech possibly be an emergency?
He seems to read my thoughts.
“The leech has failed in its duty to cure the patient” he explains soberly.
“In what way?” I ask.
“That need not concern you” he says haughtily.
“The science of leech failure is a matter only for those who are learned in medicine, such as myself.”
“Fortunately, however, I have an emergency supply in my bag” he adds confidently.
An emergency supply?
Then I understand.
Leeches, of course!
I stare at him puzzledly.
When I packed his bag he didn’t say anything about including an emergency supply of leeches.
“You did remember to place them in the bag, didn’t you?” he says slyly.
I look at him blankly.
Suddenly it becomes clear.
Oh my God!
He’s sprung a trap on me!
He knows that he didn’t tell me to pack the leeches, and he’s trying to make it seem as if it’s my fault.
“Let’s turn back” I urge him.
“No, it’s too late” he says bitterly.
“We’ll have to treat the patient without leeches.”
“Won’t that be risky?” I venture.
I’m not only in love with a plague doctor!
I’m in love with a plague doctor who isn’t afraid to be a pioneer in the field of medicine!