How to Heal the Marquess

Extended Epilogue

Daisy smiled as she entered the breakfast room of the country manor she had shared with Tobias for the last five years. Her husband sat at the table, but his chair was turned away from his meal. Two toddlers clambered over him, doing their best to work their way into their father’s lap. Benjamin, their four-year-old son, was making the most progress in the task, while Alice, who was only two, was struggling. The nursemaid stood back, wringing her hands.

“Forgive me, milord,” she said nervously. “I thought that, if they saw you or Lady Penwell, they would settle down for their breakfast. Shall I take them so that you may eat your breakfast in peace?”

Daisy hid a giggle behind her hand. Tobias gazed lovingly down at the children and shook his head gently.

“No, Gretta,” he said, glancing at Daisy with a conspiratorial look. “It is quite all right. We will let them eat with us this morning.”

Daisy was puzzled, as the children usually ate with the nursemaid. But she was pleased, as nothing warmed her heart so much as seeing her whole family together.

The nursemaid looked to Daisy, who nodded her agreement.  The nursemaid curtseyed, looking relieved, then excused herself to ready the children’s room for the day.

As soon as Daisy sat down, Benjamin scrambled down from his father’s lap and hurried over to her. He climbed up on her as he had done Tobias and gave her a wet kiss on the cheek.

“Morning, Mama,” he said, beaming up at her.

Daisy giggled again, embracing her son.

“Good morning, young man,” she said, ruffling his hair. “Are you giving Gretta trouble this morning?”

Benjamin instantly pouted. He shook his head and pointed toward his father and sister.

“No,” he said, puffing out his cheeks. “Alice is. Not me.”

Daisy gasped in mock horror, struggling to hide her humor at her son’s serious proclamation. She looked toward her daughter, who was staring at her brother with narrowed eyes.

“No, me,” she said defiantly in her broken toddler speech. “It Benjin.”

Daisy exchanged a glance with her husband. They kept their composure for as long as they could. Then, they both burst out laughing.

“All right, little ones,” Tobias said as he gestured for a maid to bring the children small bowls of porridge. “If you eat breakfast with your mother and me, will you promise to behave for the rest of the day?”

Both children donned solemn expressions and nodded so fiercely that Daisy wondered it didn’t hurt their necks.

“I promise,” Benjamin said, every bit as serious as his expression indicated.

“Promise,” Alice said, throwing her hands up in the air.

Daisy and her husband laughed together again.

As the children’s bowls were brought out, two more maids appeared. One was carrying a long block, and the other held a narrow, wooden seat, at the front of which was a small tray. After positioning them beside their respective parents, the maids took the children and set them up with their meals.

As they began eating, Daisy looked at her husband with a fond, inquisitive smile.

“I do enjoy sharing meals with the children,” she said. “But what made you decide to have them with us this morning?”

Tobias paused with his fork halfway to his lips. His eyes were wide, and he looked around with wide eyes.

“Well, they were already giving Gretta such trouble,” he said, too casually.

Daisy raised her eyebrows at Tobias suspiciously.

“Oh?” she asked, staring at him intently.

Though he tried to keep a straight face, a sly smirk eventually broke out on Tobias’s lips.

“And I thought it might add to the joyous spirit of the day if the children helped me to deliver the news.

Daisy’s raised brows furrowed.

“News?” she asked, bemused. “Dear Tobias, are you with child?”

Her husband laughed so hard and loudly that it temporarily startled Alice. She dribbled porridge down her chin as she puffed out her cheeks and glared at her father indignantly.

“Shh,” she said, spitting more of the food onto the tray and putting her hands over her ears. “Too owwwd.”

Tobias held up his hands in surrender to his daughter.

“Forgive me, sweetheart,” he said to the offended toddler. Then, he turned back to Daisy. “Not yet, darling. We shall have to keep trying on that score. But first, I have a surprise for you.”

Daisy had to cover her mouth with her napkin before she, too, burst into loud laughter. When her daughter returned to her porridge, and she had composed herself, she dabbed at her eyes and looked at Tobias, who was also struggling to get himself under control.

“Well, I am sure that whatever the surprise is, it will be just as wonderful,” she said at last, winking at her husband.

Tobias grinned, at last putting a forkful of food in his mouth.

“As soon as we have finished breakfast, we shall take a short ride toward the village.”

Daisy nodded.

“Very well,” she said, gesturing to the children, who were both wearing more of their meal than they had eaten. “It appears that these two are already almost done.”

Tobias looked at Alice and Benjamin and laughed.

“I suppose they are,” he said. He quickly ate a few more bites of his meal, then rose. “I shall have Gretta clean up the children and get tidied up myself. Finish at your leisure, my dear, and then meet us back down here when you are ready to leave.”

Daisy shrugged, now more curious about the surprise than she was hungry. She, too, stood and left the table.

“I will be back down shortly,” she said.

Within the hour, she and her family were in the carriage and pulling away from their country manor. They lived several hours away from London, but the village situated a mere half an hour from their home provided most of the things they needed, making trips to London few and far between. Daisy expected the carriage to continue for the entire thirty minutes. So, when it rolled to a stop at a quaint but beautiful little building, no more than fifteen minutes away from their home, she was puzzled.

“What’s this?” she asked, gazing curiously out of the window as Tobias exited the carriage and began helping her and the children out of the coach. “Have you already decided to expand your horse breeding venture out here?”

Tobias stared at her for a moment before chuckling softly.

“You still never fail to remind me of how sweet and pure your heart is, darling,” he said with a soft smirk.

Daisy furrowed her brow.

“What do you mean?” she asked, confused. But instead of answering her, her husband turned quickly on his heels, carrying little Alice in his arms and closely followed by Benjamin.

“Come and see,” Tobias said, not glancing back at his wife.

“Tum tee,” Alice said, refusing to look back as her father.

Benjamin, however, did turn around. He stopped walking long enough to make a big gesture with his tiny arm and smile.

“Yeah, Mama, come see,” he said before rejoining his father and sister in their march toward the mysterious building.

Only once they reached the door to the little place did Tobias turn to face her. He grinned, cupping Daisy’s face in his hands.

“Close your eyes,” he said, kissing her nose. “And keep them closed until I say otherwise.”

Daisy giggled, wondering what her husband was up to. But she nodded, kissing his palm before squeezing her eyes tight.

“Very well,” she said. “They are closed.”

She heard nothing but her son’s muffled giggling for a moment before the sound of rattling keys filled the air. Another moment later, Tobias took her by the arm and began leading her slowly forward.

She knew when they passed the threshold of the building because a bell sounded above them. Tobias tugged her to a stop just inside the door, putting his hands on her shoulders.

“Are you ready?” he asked, the excitement apparent in his voice.

Daisy nodded eagerly, feeding off her husband’s glee. Then, finally, she felt Tobias step aside and release her arm.

“Open your eyes, my darling,” he announced loudly enough for his voice to carry throughout the room.

Daisy opened her eyes and immediately gasped and squealed with delight. The little shop was brightly lit, with colorful paintings lining the walls. But it was not the cheerful atmosphere or the pictures that had Daisy filled with bliss. Lining the walls and behind the glass, the counter ranged every herb and oil she had ever seen in her life and many more she had not. She placed her hands on her chest as she walked closer to the nearest shelf, eyeing the items stacked upon it with loving nostalgia. Then, she slowly turned to face her husband and children, who were looking at her expectantly.

“Is this. . .?” she began, gesturing with her hands as her speech failed her.

“Yours?” Tobias finished, nodding so vigorously she expected to hear his neck pop as he held out a set of keys. “Yes, my love. This is your apothecary shop.”

Daisy’s breath came out in a squeal as she took the keys from Tobias. She looked at him, as confused and bewildered as she was delighted and thrilled.

“I do not understand,” she said. “How?”

Tobias grinned again.

“I have just closed the biggest deal I have ever made concerning the horse breeding business,” he said. “The advance was handsome and only a fraction of what I will make by the year’s end. This was the very first thing I thought to do with that money . . . because you deserve it.”

Daisy jumped into her laughing husband’s arms, holding him tightly as he spun her around and around. When he put her down, she pulled away from him, still in disbelief.

“But all these supplies,” she said, breathless. “However, did you get them all?”

“I had a little something to do with that, my dear,” said a familiar voice.

Daisy whirled toward the sound, toward the door of what she now guessed must be the shop’s stockroom. There stood Uncle Ambrose, his rosy cheeks rounded by the smile on his lips.

“Uncle,” she said, running behind the counter to hug him. “You helped Tobias to do all this?”

“Of course, my dear,” her uncle said, kissing both her cheeks. “It is far from a secret that you have long wished to have something to do with practicing medicine. And you were always such a gifted apprentice that I could hardly pass up the opportunity to give back to you a little of what you have given to me.”

Daisy’s eyes stung with tears. She covered her mouth with her hands just in time to stifle another shriek. She glanced around the shop, larger than it appeared from the outside, and looked between the two men in wonder.

“But how did you learn of this place?” she asked. “None of us know this part of the country very well.”

“But I know the country very well,” said another voice. “And with all my free time, it was easy to find this little cottage and spend some time fixing it up to make it suitable for an apothecary’s shop.”

Daisy was running toward her father before she even saw his face. He opened his arms, catching her before she fell into him.

“Father,” she said, burying her face in his shoulder as she sobbed with joy. “Do you mean you have retired at last?”

Dr. Gibson looked at his daughter and nodded.

“I have,” he said. “Henry is now running the practice. I go in from time to time just to mull over any difficult cases with him. And I work two days a week with Ambrose at his shop.”

Daisy felt ready to swoon with all the joy and delight she felt. She stood speechless, vainly wiping tears of pure happiness from her cheeks. At last, she smiled at the three men and rounded them all up, along with the children, into a big embrace.

“No woman was ever as fortunate as I,” she said. “Oh, how I love you all!”

Tobias looked intently at Daisy, glancing around pointedly.

“What will your shop be called?” he asked.

Daisy only had to think for a moment. It was a name she had dreamt up in childhood, during one of the countless times she played doctor with her dolls.

“Dr. Daisy: Apothecary,” she said without hesitation.

The immediate silence made Daisy instantly flush. She glanced first at her husband and then her father, trying to read their expressions. She hoped they did not feel her choice was too bold.

“I think it’s perfect,” her father said, looking at her with great pride. “I believe you have earned such a name.”

Tobias studied her face for another moment. Then, his boyish grin returned, and he kissed his wife exuberantly on her head.

“I think you deserve a name that shows the world who you truly are, my love,” he said sweetly.

By the end of the day, Daisy and her beloved family had her shop ready to open for business the following morning. By the end of the week, she had garnered almost twenty customers. And by the end of the following week, she had forged an agreement with the residents of the nearby village, where she would come and offer her services as a physician to the sick and injured whenever she was needed.

At the start of the third week, she was greeted by a dozen customers lined up and waiting for her to open her shop. She gasped in delighted surprise, blushing with pride as they addressed her as Dr. Daisy. She hurried to unlock the door and let them inside, inviting them to browse her selections while she prepared for the day’s business. They kept her first hours of the day very busy, and as the last customer finally exited the shop, she sat on her stool behind the counter for a rest before starting to make a fresh batch of elixirs. She was thrilled with her success, but she was stunned at how fast the business had become steady. How could so many people outside the village know about her shop so soon?

Her answer came just as she was putting some large bottles of lavender-infused water on the shelves. She heard the familiar bell ring at the door, and she turned to greet her new customer. But when she saw who was entering, she abandoned her work and raced to the door.

“How has business been lately, Daisy?” Bertram asked, giving her a wide, charming grin.

Daisy briefly embraced him before stepping back and motioning at the shelves proudly with her hand.

“Business is positively splendid,” she said, practically singing. “It has been better than any new shop could expect, and since my first week too. It is as if word is spreading throughout London faster than my customers can return.”

Bertram nodded, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“Perhaps that’s because it is,” he said, winking at her.

Daisy gasped as everything began to make sense.

“Have you. . . Did you. . .?”

“Know enough about your shop to begin telling people before it even opened?” he finished for her. “Yes. Your father, uncle, and Tobias spoke to me and asked if I would be willing to share the news of your new shop’s opening. Naturally, I happily agreed, and I spoke to some of my closest friends about you. But I did not stop there. I have since told everyone I encounter, whether it be at parties, meetings, or just in passing on the street. I know of your skill and passion from experience, and testimonies given from experience guarantee the most business.”

Daisy felt the heat from what was quickly becoming a permanent flush to her cheeks. She threw her arms around him, too emotional to speak for several moments.

“You are such a kind man,” she said at last as the duke moved to put his arm around her waist. “I am indebted to you for the success of my lifelong dream.”

The duke shook his head, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“No, my dear,” he said softly. “I owe you my life. Telling everyone in London who will listen that the young woman who brought me back from death’s door has just opened a shop and that she can work miracles with the sick seems a mere token compared to what you did for me. I believe in you, Daisy. And I think all of London should, too.”

Daisy clapped her hands and laughed.

“At this rate, I might need a second shop,” she said breathlessly.

The duke winked again.

“Come and speak to me first if you think you might,” he said. “I am sure we can work out something.”

Just then, the door dinged again. Daisy and Bertram turned to see Tobias walking in carrying a basket and a bottle of champagne.

“Grandfather, hello,” Tobias said cheerfully, closing the distance and clapping the duke on the back. “I hope I am not interrupting anything.”

Bertram exchanged a look with Daisy, giving her a small wink.

“I was just discussing some business with London’s best doctor,” he said fondly.

Daisy giggled.

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