Switching to English, Kev spoke to Leo and the housekeeper. "Rohan has been taken ill… He's at the Romany campsite. My lord, I would suggest that you dispense a footman and driver to Stony Cross Manor to collect Amelia at once. Mrs. Barnstable, send for the doctor. I'll bring Rohan here as soon as I can."
"Sir," the housekeeper asked in bewilderment, "are you referring to Dr. Harrow?"
"No," Kev said instantly. All his instincts warned him to keep Harrow out of this. "In fact, don't let him know what's going on. For the time being, keep this as quiet as possible."
"Yes, sir." Although the housekeeper didn't understand Kev's reasons, she was too well trained to question his authority. "Mr. Rohan seemed perfecdy well earlier this morning," she said. "What could have happened to him?"
"We'll find out." Without waiting for further questions or reactions, Kev gripped the boy's shoulder and steered him toward the doorway. "Let's go."
The vitsa appeared to be a small and prosperous family tribe. They had set up a well-organized camp, with two vardos and some healthy-looking horses and donkeys. The leader of the tribe, whom the boy identified as the rom phuro, was an attractive man with long black hair and warm, dark eyes. Although he was not tall, he was fit and lean, with an air of steady authority. Kev was surprised by the leader's relative youth. The word phuro usually referred to a man of advanced age and wisdom. For a man who appeared to be in his late thirties, it signified that he was an unusually respected leader.
They exchanged cursory greetings, and the rom phuro led Kev to his own vardo. "Is he your friend?" the leader asked with obvious concern.
"My brother." For some reason Kev's comment earned an arrested glance.
"It is good that you're here. It may be your last chance to see him this side of the veil."
Kev was astonished by his own visceral reaction to the comment, the rush of outrage and grief. "He's not going to die," Kev said harshly, quickening his stride and fairly leaping into the vardo.
The interior of the Gypsy caravan was approximately twelve feet long and six feet broad, with the typical stove and metal chimney pipe located to the side of the door. A pair of transverse berths was located at the other end of the vardo, one upper and one lower. Cam Rohan's long body was stretched out on the lower berth, his booted feet dangling over the end. He was twitching and juddering, his head rolling ceaselessly on the pillow.
"Holy hell," Kev said thickly, unable to believe such a change had been wrought in the man in such a short amount of time. The healthy color had been leeched out of Rohan's face until it was as white as paper, and his lips were cracked and gray. He moaned in pain, panting like a dog.
Kev sat on the edge of the berth and put his hand on Rohan's icy forehead. " Cam," he said urgently. " Cam, it's Merripen. Open your eyes. Tell me what happened."
Rohan struggled to control the tremors, to focus his gaze, but it was clearly impossible. He tried to form a word, but all he could produce was an incoherent sound.
Flattening a hand on Rohan's chest, Kev felt a ferocious and irregular heartbeat. He swore, recognizing that no man's heart, no matter how strong, could go on at that manic pace for long.
"He must have eaten some herb without knowing it was harmful," the rom phuro commented, looking troubled.
Kev shook his head. "My brother is very familiar with medicinal plants. He would never make that kind of mistake." Staring down at Rohan's drawn face, Kev felt a mixture of fury and compassion. He wished his own heart could take over the work for his brother's. "Someone poisoned him."
"Tell me what I can do," the tribe leader said quietly.
"First, we need to get rid of as much of the poison as possible."
"His stomach emptied before we brought him into the vardo."
That was good. But for the reaction to be this bad, even after expelling the poison, meant it was a highly toxic substance. The heart beneath Kev's hand seemed ready to burst from Rohan's chest. He would go into convulsions soon. "Something must be done to slow his pulse and ease the tremors," Kev said curtly. "Do you have laudanum?"
"No, but we have raw opium."
"Even better. Bring it quickly."
The rom phuro gave orders to a pair of women who had come to the entrance of the vardo. In less than a minute, they had produced a tiny jar of thick brown paste. It was the dried fluid of the unripened poppy pod. Scraping up some of the paste with the tip of a spoon, Kev tried to feed it to Rohan.
Rohan's teeth clattered violently against the metal, his head jerking until the spoon was dislodged. Doggedly Kev slid his arm beneath Rohan's neck and lifted him upward. " Cam. It's me. I've come to help you. Take this for me. Take it now." He shoved the spoon back into Rohan's mouth and held it there while he choked and shook in Kev's grip. "That's it," Kev murmured, withdrawing the spoon after a moment. He laid a warm hand on his brother's throat, rubbing gently. "Swallow. Yes, phral, that's it."
The opium worked with miraculous speed. Soon the tremors began to subside, and the frantic gasping eased. Kev wasn't aware of holding his breath until he let it out in a relieved sigh. He put his palm over Rohan's heart, feeling the jerking rhythm slow.
"Try giving him some water," the tribe leader suggested, handing a carved wooden cup to Kev. He pressed the edge of the cup against Rohan's lips, and coaxed him to take a sip.