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Author's Chapter Notes:

Thanks for your reviews, Pauline & Kathryn.  They're much appreciated. :-D

Two weeks later, Jo was busy in the study when she heard a knock on the door. Getting up to answer it, she was considerably surprised to see the person on the doorstep.

“Elisaveta! How on earth did you get here? Come on in! Why are you here?” Jo pulled her friend inside, along with her maid and children. Shutting the door against the driving rain, she helped them to remove their wraps and took them into the lounge. Once they were sitting down, Jo repeated her questions.

“I’m sorry to turn up unannounced like this, but we had nowhere else to go,” Elisaveta said as she held the baby on her lap.

“You’re more than welcome to stay with us. We’ll fit you in, somehow. What happened?”

“We had to flee Belsornia. It’s been a long journey to get here.”

“Well, you’re safe, now. I’ll go and make a pot of tea and then you can tell me all about it.” Jo rose and went off towards the kitchen.

When she returned to the lounge, she found them all clustered around Elisaveta who was lying on the sofa.

“What’s happened?”

“Her Highness has fainted. We can’t bring her round,” Alette said in French. Jo responded in the same language.

“I’ll ring for Jem to come.” She fled the room and snatched up the telephone. Dialling the Round House, she hoped that Jem was home. It was answered on the third ring.

“Jem? Thank goodness! You need to come quick!”

“Jo? What’s happened? Are you all right?” Jem was suddenly anxious. He hadn’t seen Jo for a few days and her voice sounded as if something was badly wrong.

“It’s not me, it’s Elisaveta! Please, come quickly.” She put the receiver down on him and ran back to the lounge. Elisaveta was still unconscious and the children were crowding around trying to wake her. Unheeding of her own discomfort, Jo tried to persuade them to move away and let her have some air. She was worried about her friend, and was relieved when she heard the sound of a car on the drive. Hauling herself to her feet, she ran to the door and opened it to admit her brother-in-law. Jo’s breath was becoming shallow at the unexpected exertion. Jem heard it as soon as he entered and he grabbed her arm before she could go off again.

“Stop, Jo! You know you shouldn’t be running about, especially at the present. You'll be collapsing if you aren’t careful. Just stand still and get your breath back.” Jo opened her mouth to answer, but he was quicker. “I don’t want to know. Get your breathing back under control first.” Jo obeyed. When Jem was satisfied, he spoke again. “What’s happened?”

“It’s Elisaveta. She arrived on my doorstep with Alette and the children about half an hour ago. She’s fainted and still hasn’t come back round.”

“Where is she?”

“In the lounge.” Jem led the way through and took the situation in at a glance.

“Alette, please bring the children away and give them something to eat in the kitchen. Jo, show them where it is and then come back through. I’m sure Alette will be able to manage.” Between them, Jo and Alette led the children away to the kitchen and Jem knelt down next to Elisaveta.

When Jo returned, Elisaveta was just coming round. Jem glanced up and indicated that Jo should sit down. She did so, reluctantly. When Jem was satisfied that Elisaveta was fully conscious again, he spoke.

“Jo, I need you to go and ring Frieda and ask her if she has room for Alette and the children. Then go and get your guest room ready. Elisaveta must stay here for the time being.” Jo stood up and left the room to do Jem’s bidding. “How old is the baby, Elisaveta?”

“Six months.”

“Are you still feeding her yourself?” Elisaveta nodded. “Then she must stay here, but the others will have to go to Frieda for now. There isn’t the room here and you need to rest.” Jo returned as he said this.

“Frieda’s on her way, Jem. I also rang Madge and she’s sending Andreas over with a cot for the baby.”

“Well done, Jo. We’ll wait till he’s put the cot in the guest room and then Elisaveta can go straight to bed. Come and sit with her while I go and make some calls myself.” Jem stood and Jo came across the room to take his place by the sofa. He noted that she was still slightly breathless, but said nothing for now, resolving to deal with her once he had sorted Elisaveta and her family.

Once he was at the telephone, Jem rang Miss Annersley at the school and made her aware of the situation.

“Would you like me to keep all the girls for the time being?” she asked.

“The twins and Daisy, yes. Send Robin home, though. Jo will need some help as the baby is only six months old. I’m sending the other children and Alette to Frieda’s for the time being. They can come and visit each day for a short time, but Elisaveta isn’t up to dealing with anything more at the moment.”

“I’ll speak to the girls and send Robin home. Daisy may object to being left out of things, though.”

“Tell her that she can come to us for the weekend if she likes. Jo is used to Daisy and her boisterous ways, but I don’t want Elisaveta upset by them, however well-meaning.”

“That’s understandable. I’ll ask Daisy which she’d prefer and let Madge know to expect her if she decides to join you there.” She rang off and Jem quickly rang his wife to inform her that Daisy may be joining them for the weekend.

Just as he had finished his calls, a knock came at the door. He went to answer it and admitted Andreas with the cot. He was directed up to the guest room and quickly had it set up next to the bed, within easy reach for the occupant. Jem thanked him and then returned to the lounge.

“Let’s get you upstairs and into bed, Elisaveta. Once you’re settled, the children and Alette can come up, briefly.”

“Where are they going?”

“They’ll stay with Frieda for now. She has room for them and they’ll only be in the village. They can visit for a short while every day until you’re fully fit again.” He swung her up into his arms and carried her upstairs to Jo’s pretty guest room. Jo followed to help and between them, Elisaveta was soon between the sheets. Jem sent Jo down to fetch the children and Alette.

“You can have ten minutes with them, then they must come back downstairs to wait for Frieda. You’re exhausted and you need to rest properly. I’ll come back in the morning.” Jem left her as her children and Alette entered the room, telling them to stay no more than ten minutes. He arrived downstairs just as Jo answered the door to Frieda.

Once Frieda had left with Alette and the children, Jem turned to Jo.

“Go and sit down while I make us a drink.” He disappeared to the kitchen, returning shortly afterwards with a pot of tea and a sandwich for Jo.

“I’m not hungry, Jem.”

“You need to eat, Jo. I’m not leaving until you’ve finished that sandwich and then you’re going to bed. You’re still not breathing properly and it’s been a stressful morning for you.”

“But, Jem, I need to wait for everyone to get home so I can warn them to be quiet.”

“There’s only Robin coming home. I rang Hilda and she’s agreed to keep the twins at school and Daisy is most likely coming to the Round House. Elisaveta needs to be kept quiet for now. She’s exhausted and won’t be moving from that bed for a week at least. You’ll need help to look after Elisaveta and the baby, and Robin is sensible and quiet, unlike Daisy. The twins are too young to be much help.”

“I still need to wait for Robin to get back.”

“I’ll wait for her. I don’t need to be at the Sanatorium until this evening, so I can just as easily leave from here.” Outwitted by her brother-in-law’s logic, Jo meekly ate her sandwich in silence. She was beginning to feel rather tired, though she was loath to admit it. When she’d cleared her plate, Jem took it from her. He said nothing, but gave her a hand upstairs and saw her into bed. He peeped in to see Elisaveta and the baby both sound asleep.

Jem was listening to the radio in the lounge when he heard the front door. Robin slipped inside and quietly pushed it closed. Jem went to greet her.

“Hello, Jem. Where is everyone?”

“Hello Robin. How are you? Jo, Elisaveta and the baby are all in bed. Jo’s had a hectic morning so I want her to rest all afternoon. She can get up for dinner, but I need you to make sure she eats it all.”

“I’ll do my best. What about Elisaveta?”

“Elisaveta must stay where she is for the time being. She’s exhausted and needs to rest for at least the next week. If the baby is awake, bring her away by all means. I need you to help Jo look after them both.”

“I can manage that. Will you be coming to check on her as well?”

“Yes. I’ll call in every day. Frieda has the other children and will bring them up to see her each day. They won’t be able to spend long with her, though. I also want to see how Jo is coping. If you think it seems to be getting too much for her, I want you to tell me.”

“I will do. She might not tell me, though.”

“I know, but you can be on the look-out for any signs and let me know when I come over.”

“What about school on Monday?”

“I’ll send Madge over to help on Monday. You need to have a break as well and I’d rather you didn’t fall behind with your schoolwork.” Jem rose from his chair. “I need to get off, now. I’m due at the Sanatorium. I’ll have a quick look upstairs first, and then I’ll leave you to it.”

When Jem poked his head back into the lounge ten minutes later, Robin had settled down to her preparation. She lifted her head when she heard the door open.

“Jo’s awake, now. I’ve told her to stay where she is until dinner, if you want to go up and see her. Elisaveta is still sleeping, but the baby was rousing slightly, so you need to keep an ear open for her.”

“I’ll make a pot of tea and sit with Jo for a while. It’ll be easier to hear her then.”

“Only wake Elisaveta if the baby’s hungry. The rest of it, you’ll have to do yourselves.” Robin nodded and Jem went to put on his coat, before setting off to the Sanatorium.

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