Porcelain (Part 15)

She knew that she did not have time to wait for another long-distance consultation with Dr. Martin via letter.  Instead, she needed to determine for herself if she could use Olivia’s new passion for sour drinks against her in a way that would allow the administration of the sepia treatment.  She felt that the milk used in the solution was certainly to make the cuttlefish ink digestible by the human body.  Also, the several dilutions that were required would allow the coloring of the ink to be lost, a useful sensory trick as few people were likely to consume any kind of a black or grey liquid.  What however, was the purpose of the sugar?  As the eldest in her family she possessed the few written records of her own mother’s homeopathic remedies; however, as sepia had never been used, it contained no useful information for that kind of treatment.  It did mention several uses of sugar as an agent to mask taste and never made note of any detrimental effects on the remedies themselves.  If it was used in this case, just to add sweetness, would removing it and replacing it with vinegar cause any adverse reaction with the ink?  That was an unanswerable query; however, she decided that the risk needed to be taken if there was any hope for Olivia to recover back to her former self.    Resolutely, she determined to watch for the very first opportunity to attempt it.

1880s doll

1880s doll

Several days went by and no moment offered itself, the time spent playing with Claudia as much as her energy allowed.  In an atypical moment of reckless spending she had purchased a very fine doll for her granddaughter, one that Claudia seemed to adore and spent long hours play-acting with for her grandmother’s benefit.  That at least only consumed her attention.  The young girl also had just discovered marbles, and although it hurt her to do so, she played often with Claudia in the dirt beside the back door.  It was just after one of these games, as she walked back into the kitchen dusting off her dress, that the moment unexpectedly came.

Olivia was sitting in a chair she had moved near to the cooking stove, bent over at the waist and with her head in her hands.  She was moaning softly.

“What is it daughter?”  The question was met with only more moaning, although Olivia now sat up and clutched at her stomach.  “What is wrong with you?”

“My belly, it hurts so badly,” her daughter replied before returning to a low chorus of moans.

“Are you going to be sick?”

“I don’t know, how can I know? I haven’t yet.  It just hurts, clenching and turning.”

It had to be now.  “Perhaps some milk will help, it will sooth your stomach.”

“You know I don’t like milk.”

“Well, you may not, however it can help you in this case.”

“I won’t drink it, I’ll just stay sick instead.”

Tapping her lip, Olivia’s mother thought the moment would come soon enough, and she needed some time anyway.  “Come on then, if you’re going to be miserable, you can at least do it in your own room.  No need for Claudia to see you in such a state.”  Her daughter offered faint but consistent resistance as she was guided along to her bedroom and spat in her mother’s face when she pushed her down onto the bed.  Wiping it away, the old woman turned and swiftly shut the door.

Claudia had come in by the time she was back in the kitchen, and with no time to find the young girl a diversion, she set about making the solution with her grand-daughter as a spectator.  Claudia could speak well enough to ask what she was doing.

“I’m making medicine my dear, very important medicine,” she replied as she took the first small portion of the dried ink, added it to some milk and shook it up in a jar.


“For your mother.” The old woman continued on as she answered, adding small amounts of ink to just a little bit more milk, shaking each iteration as she went along.  She had a few doubts in the early going, as the solution stayed an unpleasant grey, however as she neared the end of the ink supply, it had turned back to almost completely white.  Adding just a little more milk, and with her granddaughter now silently watching with fascinated wide blue eyes, she finished and realized that this part at least had been successful.   The timing of the rest would now be critical and she went to check on Olivia.

Finding her curled up in bed and still moaning, she softly suggested the milk again and received the same reply as had been previously given.  Knowing that she needed to stretch the limits of what might be considered decent behavior, Olivia’s mother reached down, claiming to just be feeling, and pushed in on her daughter’s stomach.  This elicited a sharp yelp, followed by a hard slap on her arm.  Exiting the room without a word,  the old woman retuned to the kitchen, said a silent prayer of hope, and stirred some vinegar into her ink and milk solution.   Five minutes later, and with her granddaughter still silently watching from the same chair her mother had been sitting in not long before, she poured it into a cup and walked back to Olivia’s bedroom.

…to be continued

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