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Presented by State Library Victoria

The Medicine Thief Pt 1 | A short story

The Medicine Thief

By booklover

The bitter wind whistled teasingly at the townsmen hurrying along in their old rags. It called to its cousins, snow and hail, to transform the warm summer into a devastating winter which then formed the Little Ice Age. Hushed whispers of the sick and the healthy were heard from every cobblestone house, but the wind washed the voices away. But it could not wash the plague away.

“Mother!” a young pauper rushed towards the rickety bed. A frail looking woman trembled underneath the thin layers of blankets they were able to afford. Beads of sweat glistened on the woman’s forehead.
“Elizabeth,” she mumbled to her daughter, “water…”
She closed her eyes, just the brightness of a candle nearly blinded her.
“Yes mother,” Elizabeth replied, her hand on her chest, hoping that her mother would survive the winter and the illness. The small metal jug was placed near the windowsill, the water that was left barely reached the middle of the jug, but she was persistent enough to prevent her self from drinking too much.
Elizabeth poured a little into a cup and slowly helped her mother drink it. It had been like this for days, the young girl supporting her mother with no end, but slowly their supplies were running out.
“Thank you, my sweet,” Mrs Lind barely croaked as she laid down her head on the hard pillow and once again fell into a deep slumber.
The young girl quietly resumed to her reading spot on the other side of the attic. Although it was morning outside, the dark clouds and little sunshine presented itself to be gloomy. Elizabeth shuddered at the wind that was trying to get in through the cracks of the glass. She looked at her poor mother lying in the only bed and thought, there is noon other way. My mother moot han some medicine.
Quietly, she opened the hatch that lead her to the rest of the house.
“Madame, Sir, good morewe to you,” Elizabeth acknowledged politely towards the middle aged couple who were the owners of the house. They nodded and then resumed their daily chores.
She slipped out of the house into the dreary town of London. Cobblestone and wooden houses lined the rough street. Candles were lit in most houses, as the light was reflected onto the street below. The young girl held on to her dirty grey rags tightly and clutched her light brown plaits to her chest.
Her feet scurried along the damp ground, her eyes darted around to navigate her way and her arms tightened around her body to give herself warmth. About a couple of walks later, a brown mahogany sign appeared before her: The Doctor, the only experienced family doctor in town.
Elizabeth’s pale face lit up as she pushed the door and entered the welcoming place. Quickly running to the fire to warm herself, she called for the doctor. A moment later, a short and slightly bald old man waddled into the room.
“You clepe me?” He grumbled, pulling out his medical bag.
“Yes, my mother is in swich pyne! Oh would you please help hir?” She rushed towards the doctor, her brown eyes pleading. The doctor looked at her rags for a moment and smiled, “Seye you have some catel, then I am willing to give you medicine.”
Elizabeth stared at him in disbelief, “Sir, how can you do this? Mother and I have no property of a sort. Aren’t doctors supposed to help people in need?”
The doctor nodded, “yes, but only with catel.” The young girl couldn’t even look at the rude doctor. She hurried all this way for nothing, but she promised herself that she wouldn’t go back empty handed. Politely, she thanked the doctor for his willingness to even speak to a ragged girl and then quietly slipped out onto the streets.
It was still dim outside, but the weather started to ease a little. Elizabeth Lind turned a corner and decided to hide in a hidden alleyway and wait for the doctor to go to his room, for there was no point going back.
The lights on the first floor blew out and the second floor’s candles were lit. It’s time, she thought. She turned around the corner to face the store again, and slowly creeped underneath a window. The lock was left open, like it was meant for her to break in. As quick as a wink, she crawled into the room and slid under a mahogany table. Not a sound was heard. It was as if the furniture and bottles were even on her side, because Elizabeth quickly found the bottle of medicine she was looking for. A small black jar of purple syrup.