he first thing that Elizabeth noticed about the man were the enormous white tufts of hair which stuck out from his ears.

"There we are, I knew you'd come around. How are we?"

She was confused. She was in her bed at home, but why was Dr. Thistlewaite here? He shone a light in here eyes and she suddenly remembered what had happened. Like water, all of her anxieties came rushing back to her.

"What if Father's legs get shot off?!" she screamed. Her mother and Olivia appeared in the doorway.

"Now, now, now, calm down, child. Your father is perfectly fine."

"What about his legs?"

She saw her mother gasp and turn to Olivia, who was shaking her head. This convinced Elizabeth that she was right and that something had happened to her father.

"I can assure you, young lady, that your father and all his limbs are perfectly healthy. Now you must trust me, I am a doctor. If I tell you father is fine, well then, by Jingo, your father is fine. Now then, I want you to drink this."

Before she could protest, the old doctor had expertly poured a thick sweet medicine down her throat. It didn't taste very good, but it felt heavy and warm in her stomach.

"This is going to help you sleep. Everything is going to be fine. Your father is fine. You get a little rest, and when you wake up it will be Christmas. All right?"

He ushered the two women into the hall.

"Is she going to be all right?"

"She'll be fine. She seems to be suffering from nervous exhaustion. This war is taking quite a toll on the little ones, let me tell you."

Olivia fretted, "It was the market. It was that soldier in the market. I shouldn't have brung her."

"Now, now, now, nothing of the sort. You can't lock the child in a closet for the next three years. She will adjust in time. You need to try and maintain her normal habits and schedule. Mrs. Porchester, has there been any news of your husband?"

"No. I'm afraid not."

"First off, I am terribly sorry to hear that and I apologize for probing into a delicate subject. Should there be any bad news in the next few days, you need to shield the child from it until I am consulted. She's going to be perfectly fine, but her condi tion in the next few days is to be considered delicate. Now then, I've given her something to help her sleep."

He handed the heavy, amber bottle to Olivia.

"Give her two teaspoonfuls at bedtime, or if she should become agitated. She should sleep for the rest of the day and wake up this evening, just as good as new. Now if you need anything at all, you telephone me. Merry Christmas, ladies. And Mrs. Porcheste r, I hope you get word from Edward soon."

1995 Hyperbole Studios Inc.