Authors: Light of My Heart
© 2004 by Ginny Aiken
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher and copyright owners. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—November 1892
The creaking floorboards on the front porch announced a corpulent visitor.
“Dr. Morgan! Dr. Morgan, lass. Come quick!”
Letitia Morgan opened the door and found Mrs. MacDoughal, Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Forrest’s cook, huffing steamy gasps into the late November air.
The matron patted her chest as she tried to catch her breath. “Lassie, it’s bad, it is. Mrs. Forrest and her unborn bairn dinna fare well.”
Letty flung a wool cape over her shoulders, hefted her medical bag, and turned off the lamps. “Let’s not waste time. I’m ready.”
At the Forrest home, Mrs. MacDoughal puffed up the front steps. “Mrs. Andrews,” she called just inside the door. “Dr. Morgan is here.” To Letty she whispered, “Mrs. Andrews is Mrs. Forrest’s eldest sister, she is.”
Heavy footsteps descended the stairs. “What is
woman doing in my house?” bellowed Mr. Forrest. “I said to fetch a midwife, and a midwife I shall have!”
Dear Lord Jesus, please, not another one
. His wife and child
could die. They needed her. Tipping her chin, Letty said, “Mr. Forrest, your cook tells me your wife is struggling. I’m a doctor. Please let me help.”
If anything, Letty’s plea brought more red into the man’s florid features. “Doctor? Bah! No self-respecting woman calls herself a doctor or plays at being a man. Get out. My wife doesn’t need you. I won’t have you corrupting my family.”
“Will you let your wife labor until she bleeds to death, taking the baby to the grave with her? Set your opinions aside, sir. I can help.”
Mr. Forrest turned and began ascending the stairs.
Desperation stung Letty. “For their sake,
something. Call another physician—a man if you oppose a woman doctor. Don’t let your pride endanger Mrs. Forrest.”
He spun around and glared. “Young lady, my wife wouldn’t want a man to see her in childbirth. We do not tolerate such immorality.” With a wave, he again dismissed her, then said to Mrs. MacDoughal, “Call the midwife.”
“Aye, sir.” The cook nodded but also clasped Letty’s shoulder.
With tears in her eyes, Letty left the Forrest home. Perhaps the midwife would turn the child in time to save its life. Perhaps she would wash her hands before touching Mrs. Forrest. Perhaps she would stanch the flow of blood soon enough.
Letty shivered all the way home. She wondered whether to blame her tremors on the frigid Philadelphia winter or on her fear for Mrs. Forrest and the unborn child. For the past six months, making the most of her modest inheritance, she had struggled to make her clinic succeed. Her only patients were street urchins, children of immigrant families with resources even more meager than hers. The end of her funds lay right around the corner.
A lone carriage sped down the street, heading west toward the sun as the mauve light of dusk faded into sad, frosty gray.
A lamplighter, finished with his nightly duty, ambled down the opposite sidewalk.
With another shiver, Letty ran up her snow-dusted front steps and stumbled over a bundle of humanity seeking refuge on her porch. Another child in need.
“Doc . . . Dr. Morgan . . .”
The boy was so weak Letty realized she would have to carry him inside. Praying none of his wounds was serious, she wrestled the key into the lock and picked him up.
As she settled her patient on the examining table, she murmured words of comfort. She made sure the boy wouldn’t thrash himself off the slender platform, then went around the room and lit the kerosene lamps.
When she returned to her patient’s side, she couldn’t hold back a gasp of horror. The boy’s battered features made it hard to see much beyond swollen eyelids, bloodied nose, and cut lips. The way he hugged his ribs suggested fractures.
Letty cleansed the wounds with a Calendula Mother Tincture lotion. Mercifully, the child lost consciousness as she bound his ribs.
Later she faced facts. She couldn’t keep him here. Since her office took up most of her home, she could only offer shelter for a short time. Still, her conscience wouldn’t let her send him back to the life that had brought him to the clinic in the first place. What should she do with him?
Letty watched over her patient through the long night, changing his dressings and dosing him with the proper remedies to hasten healing. The morning brought no improvement, but since she had no other demand on her time, she focused on the poor mite.
That night, he woke up for brief moments, and she took the opportunity to feed him a bit of rich broth before he slept again. The pattern continued for yet another day, and finally, that next
evening, the youngster stayed awake long enough for her to glean details of his accident.
“What happened?” she asked.
Young Patrick O’Toole’s angular chin tipped up with pride. “T’weren’t nothing wrong, it weren’t.”
“I didn’t think you’d done anything wrong,” she murmured, smoothing the black, glossy curls from his forehead. “I just want to know how you were hurt.”
Sky blue eyes studied her. He shrugged. “I work for my keep,” he said. “I . . . help the fine gents wi’ the horses they leave on the streets while they do fancy business, I do. Someone’s got to watch ’em, don’t’cha think?”
She nodded, her stomach knotting at the picture the lad drew. She didn’t comment, however, letting him tell his tale.
“This red devil of a beast got the best of me, he did,” Patrick continued. “I was arrangin’ for a job wi’ his owner, and the demon spooked. Took ’is partner wi’ him, prancin’ and rearin’ and knockin’ me down. Lost me pennies, too, I did.”
Letty shuddered. He’d actually come through the event in surprisingly good shape. A ten-year-old boy’s frame was no match for a horse’s hooves.
Her determination strengthened. Patrick O’Toole’s days on the streets of Philadelphia had ended. She would make sure of that.
After much coaxing, he agreed to speak with a deaconess from Letty’s church. After Sunday’s service, she brought the grandmotherly woman to the clinic and made the introductions.
“Mrs. Woolsey is especially fond of smart, enterprising young men,” she said, noting with satisfaction the compassion on the older woman’s face.
“I most certainly am,” the deaconess said, “and I’ve an empty room at home that needs an occupant.”
Patrick narrowed his eyes but didn’t speak.
“And Mr. Woolsey’s stables are in a shambles,” the older
woman added. “We would be much obliged if you’d agree to work for us as soon as you’re well enough.”
Patrick gaped. “You . . . you really mean that?”
Mrs. Woolsey laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “I most certainly do. We miss our son now that he has a family of his own, and that perfectly good room needs a growing lad.” A sage smile curved her lips. “I’m also known as a fair cook, and you look as though you might appreciate my efforts. Chocolate cakes are my specialty.”
A look of longing warmed the blue eyes, but the pride Letty had earlier noted tipped Patrick’s chin. “I’m a man of my word, I am,” he said, “an’ I’m hopin’ you are, too. I won’t be takin’ no charity, I won’t, so that stable job had best be real.”
Letty averted her face to conceal her smile.
“The Lord Jesus is my constant witness,” Mrs. Woolsey replied. “I won’t dishonor Him with untruths. We need your help and want your company. We’ve a great deal of love to share. Please come home with me.”
At her plea, tears welled in Patrick’s eyes and his bravado melted. The gentle lady took one final look at the child and gathered him into her plump embrace.
Letty thanked the Lord for the excellent resolution to her patient’s dilemma, but her own dilemma didn’t show signs of resolving anytime soon. She still had no patients.
Despite that lack, Letty clung to the feelings of goodwill the unfolding holiday season ushered in. At least she did until the creaking of her front steps and the huffing on the porch broadcast Mrs. MacDoughal’s return four days after Letty’s failed visit to the Forrest home.
Swathed in black bombazine, the cook wore a veiled hat on her graying copper curls. Through the fine black net, Letty saw swollen and tear-washed eyes. The worst had happened.
“Aye, lass, both.”
Around the knot in her throat, Letty said, “I’ll only be a moment.” As she changed into proper clothing, tears of rage scalded her eyes, but she dismissed them as futile and hurried back to Mrs. McDoughal. “Shall we go?”
Heavyhearted, Letty entered the Forrest home. She doffed her cape and handed it to the maid by the door. In the stifling, flower-scented parlor, she waited her turn to express sympathy. “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Andrews,” she murmured to the sister, then turned to the widower. As she extended her hand, the outrage on his face froze her in place.
“You!” he roared. “How dare you set foot in my home? I sent you packing once already, and I still don’t hold with your notions. A woman is a woman. If God had meant women to doctor, he would have made them men.”
Letty cringed at the venom in his voice. She tried offering condolences, but he raged on.
“Indecent, a woman doctoring. What’s wrong, spinster? Can’t find a man to make you a proper lady? Mrs. Forrest was a lady. You should try being more like her.”
Letty bit her tongue. The man who had turned Mrs. Forrest into such a “proper lady” had probably hastened her death. Turning away, she caught sight of two tots with red-rimmed eyes, huddled in the corner of a navy velvet settee. Had their father been less obstinate, they might have been spared their loss.