By Karen Gilleland © 2014
“In “Doc Martin,” Series 4, we met Doc’s first love, Edith, played brilliantly by Lia Williams. I like this description of Edith that Ruth Claudette posted a few years back:
“British actress Lia Williams very impressively makes Edith like the texture of burnt stew; detestable, but that which you can’t take your eyes off for a moment!”
I thought it would be fun to bring Edith back into the mix in my latest short piece of FanFiction, “Dignity and Courage.”
Louisa, in a rose, silk gown she had purchased that afternoon in London, and Martin, in dark suit, walked across the hotel lobby toward the banquet hall. “I’m nervous,” Louisa whispered. “All your doctor friends are here. Should I expect daggers because you stayed in Cornwall?”
“Don’t be silly. Where I practice is nobody else’s business. Besides, I doubt I’ll know many people. I only came because of the tribute to Robert.”
They reached the hall to find it a-buzz with men, many in tails, and women in gowns and jewels. Martin held Louisa’s arm with his left hand and guided her toward an area a little ways from the bar. A sandy haired man approached and reached out to take Martin’s right hand. “Ellingham. Martin, you remember me, Dan Swanson.”
Looking at Louisa, Dan said, “And this is?”
“Louisa, this is a colleague from my days at Imperial, Dan Swanson. Dan, my wife, Louisa.”
“How did you manage to catch the best looking woman in the room, then?” Dan grinned. “Where are you sitting? You’re welcome to join our party – Table 34 in the center of the hall.” He nodded toward the table. Before Martin could reply, Dan said. “Oh, I see Edward Thornton at the bar, and I need to ask him about a policy amendment. Let’s talk later. Table 34.”
Just then Robert Dashwood, in white tie, walked over. “Martin! I thought it was you.” He shook Martin’s hand warmly. “I was flattered when I saw your name on the guest list.” He let go of Martin’s hand and looked at Louisa.
“Louisa, this is Robert Dashwood, our guest of honor. Robert, my wife, Louisa.”
Robert smiled at Louisa and took her hand. “Now I see why Martin passed up London. I’m very happy to meet you, Louisa.”
“Thank you. Congratulations on your new post with the Board of Trustees.”
Robert smiled. “How is your little one? Did you bring him?”
“Yes,” said Louisa. “A nanny is caring for him in the room.”
Robert nodded and turned to Martin, “When I heard you were coming, I asked that you be seated at my table. I hope you don’t mind.”
Martin hesitated, “We would be honored, of course, but it isn’t necessary.”
“Nonsense. I couldn’t pass up this chance to chat with you. I see this crowd every day,” he said, gesturing toward the others in the hall. “Table 1, near the stage. I’ll expect you.” He took Louisa’s hand again, “And you, my dear.” Then he left. Louisa watched him shaking hands and talking with people as he wended his way through the room.
“Would you like a drink,” asked Martin. “I forgot these dinners take forever to get started.”
“Yes, a drink would be lovely.”
At the circular bar, Louisa ordered a white wine, and Martin asked for a glass of water. Several other couples approached, and they exchanged pleasantries. “You’re more popular than you thought,” said Louisa, enjoying the easy rapport between Martin and his acquaintances.
“It’s you they’re interested in. I know now what President Kennedy meant when he took Jackie to Paris. I am the man who accompanied Louisa Ellingham to London, and I have enjoyed it.”
Louisa looked at Martin and laughed. “Martin, you’re quite posh up here.”
“Keep it to yourself,” he whispered.
“I need the loo,” Louisa said.
“Not a bad idea,” and they headed toward the crush of people in the foyer. “I’ll meet you at the entrance,” said Martin as they separated.
Louisa made her way to a stall. A familiar voice floated in the air. “Did you say Ellingham is here?” Edith said, a note of surprise in her voice.
“Yes, and with a dishy date on his arm.”
“I didn’t meet her, but who would have thought Ellingham would turn up with such a stunner?”
“Well, Ellingham’s got that strong, silent thing going for him,” returned Edith.
“Weren’t the two of you an item in Med School?”
“Yes, a long time ago. Can you believe he even wrote me poetry?”
“No, that I cannot picture. Have you been in touch?”
“Last summer, down in Cornwall. I was conducting research at the hospital in Truro. We shared a hotel room in Exeter when I gave my keynote address at the conference.”
“Shared a room? Sounds cozy. When did you meet Louisa?”
“When she was six months’ pregnant. She had been living in London but scuttled back to Cornwall to have the baby.”
“Ellingham’s — allegedly.”
“No! And she was pregnant when you were seeing him? You’re the devil, Edith.” The two women giggled.
“Let’s go back,” said Edith. “I heard a rumor that Robert plans to create a task force to set research direction, and I’d like to be in on the ground floor.”
Louisa came out of the stall. She let the warm water flow over her hands to quiet the shaking. She dried her hands, applied powder under her eyes to cover the tear stains, took a deep breath and walked out of the room. As she neared the ballroom, she stopped. Edith and her friend stood talking to Martin. Louisa straightened her shoulders and walked up to the trio.
“Louisa Glasson, isn’t it?” Edith said.
“Louisa Ellingham. Martin and I are married,” Louisa said, walking over to stand beside him.
“My,” Edith said, twisting her head around to give Martin a wide-eyed look, “Ellingham never ceases to amaze,”
“Yes,” murmured Martin.
“Your delivery went well, I believe,” she said to Louisa, “and now you have a son. Congratulations.” Turning toward Martin again, Edith said, “Bea and I are at Table 47 if you care to join us.”
“No, Robert invited us to share his table,” said Martin.
“Really?” Edith said, eyebrow arched, inviting an answer. Martin merely shrugged.
“Let’s go in, Bea.” Edith gave her hair a curt toss and hooked arms with Bea as they walked into the room.
“Louisa, dinner will be starting soon. We should join Robert at his table.” When Martin reached to take her arm, Louisa stiffened. “You’re shaking. And your pulse is racing,” said Martin, taking her wrist. “What’s the matter?”
“You and Edith. You wrote her poetry? You spent the night together last summer?
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“I overheard Edith in the loo.”
“Really? I will advise MI5 to stop wasting money on surveillance equipment and just place agents in a loo.”
“Not funny, Martin.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why you’re upset.”
Just then chimes sounded, and staff members began steering people toward the tables. A wave of people coming through the door forced Martin and Louisa to move forward. They reached Table 1, where eight others were already seated.
“There you are,” said Robert, standing up. “Louisa, would you mind if Martin sat beside me? I have a few thoughts I’d like to discuss with my top pupil. You’ll be next to my wife, Charlotte.”
Charlotte Dashwood smiled as Louisa sat down. “I’ve met Martin, of course, Louisa. I understand you have a son. I’d love to hear about him and your life in Cornwall.”
Louisa felt her shoulders relax as she began talking about James Henry and village life in Portwenn. She listened to Charlotte on the difficulties faced by a surgeon’s wife. Occasionally Louisa glanced at Martin, deep in discussion with Robert.
“Complicated bypasses can take twelve hours,” Charlotte was saying. “I am glad Robert is stepping away. He’ll still be available on occasion, of course; but as a Board member, he will have different responsibilities and, I hope, regular hours. We may find time to be a family again.”
Dinner service complete, chimes sounded and the program began. Louisa’s eyes rested on her hands in her lap, the words flittering by her. At last Robert was introduced and began speaking. Robert was winding up his talk when Louisa straightened up in the chair.
“ . . . I’m touched that so many of you came tonight to wish me well – especially my distinguished colleague, Martin Ellingham.” Robert gestured toward the table. “I was his tutor, but Martin taught me about handling adversity with dignity and making decisions with courage . . . ”
Louisa joined in the applause. Martin leaned toward her, felt her wrist and whispered, “Your heart rate is back to normal.”
“Yes, but after the party, I’d like to hear about what happened between you and Edith in Exeter.” Louisa gave Martin a sidewise glance. “I’d also like to know what you and Robert were discussing so intently.”
“All right. In the meantime, rest assured,” his eyes met hers, “nothing happened between Edith and me in Exeter or anywhere else last summer.”
“And the poetry?”
“Please! I was a student. Don’t expect me to write or recite poetry. My dignity and courage aren’t up to it.”
— THE END —
“Doc Martin” is owned by Buffalo Pictures.