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  • Writer's pictureMarlene Bierworth

Sneak Peek - Chapter 1 - A Nurse for Daniel

We are having a party today at Historical Romance Readers where all fans of this series congregate. I offered them chapter one - A FREE READ - so I thought I'd share it with you as well. The book goes live on July 23, 2020. (But is up for pre-order) Click the picture to check it out.

Chapter 1

May of 1868

Gwendolyn received the notice to report to the headmaster’s office the next day, promptly at one o’clock. Any fatigue she’d felt prior to the note fell by the wayside. She’d tossed all night long, anticipating her assignment, and at the first light of day, began a tedious toilet routine to ensure her appearance was worthy of the high-calling of her new status. Cleanliness was next to godliness, or so her teachers had instructed in a no-nonsense manner. Gwendolyn had taken it to heart and displayed an immaculate stature at all times, which put her in good stead with the director of nurses.

Five days ago, she’d completed the necessary schooling at the Harrow School of Nursing in Maryland and received her hard-earned diploma. She was not at the top in her class – which continued to irritate her – but her final mark landed somewhere in the respectable middle of graduates. She’d just have to live with it. Success obtaining perfection in home management had come easy, but there was so much more to consider when it came to caring for the sick and working in the growing world of medicine. Gwendolyn’s competitive nature had not served her well with the band of dedicated women, but that was a personal problem. She’d grown close to her fellow students over the three months of classes, and her heart cried a little more each time one of them headed off, eager to begin their grand, new, future posting, while she remained waiting for Constance Harrow’s summons. The directive did not bring the relief for which she’d hoped, but terror. What if the woman put her in some remote town of hillbilly heathens? She chided herself that she should be grateful for the opportunity, not only to nurse within the community but to reach them for Christ. The waiting brought out the worst of Gwendolyn’s character, but it would soon be over.

She strolled through the reception area where the ceremony had taken place, feeling small beneath the high, U-shaped ceilings and carved, wooden beams. No one from her family had attended the spring graduation service to cheer her on to her new vocation. She’d hadn’t expected Father to make the trip from nearby Baltimore, for no one quite measured up to his strict standards, and leaving his successful tailor’s business in the city, even for one day, just to see his grown daughter receive a degree in nursing when she should be home entertaining suitors, would not have entered his mind. Gwendolyn had held onto the hope that Mother would have made an effort, but it appeared she’d used the event to remind the disillusioned woman-child of her anger at her desire for independence and plans to strike out on her own.

The morning dragged on, but it was better waiting there than at home, where hostility hung in the air like a thick curtain announcing the end of the production that was her childhood. Gwendolyn checked the hands on the grandfather clock in the downstairs lobby every ten minutes. She stood diligently by when the long hand crept toward the twelve, and the shorter one pointed to the number one. Gwendolyn ran her palms nervously down the folds of her dress and pushed a rebellious strand of flaxen hair behind her ear.

At the door to the office, Gwendolyn cast her eyes heavenward, placing her future in His cable hands.

A curt voice answered her knock and Gwendolyn turned the knob and walked in. “Good afternoon, Ms. Harrow.”

“And to you, my dear. Sit down. I have good news.”

Gwendolyn parked on the edge of a cushioned chair, straight across from the woman who would start her on the next adventure in life.

“Thank you for your patience in the selection process. I attempt to place each nurse in an environment that I think best fits her temperament.”

Gwendolyn nodded politely but hid any sign of a smile. The administrator considered this final stage serious business and would take it as a personal insult if a graduate should make light of her in-depth search for suitable work.

“I’ve noticed that you work better with patients on a one-to-one basis, while not under the watchful eye of a supervisor. You have a relentless spirit that is lathered in compassion, as well as a good intuition for reaching the souls of those in your care while tending to their physical needs. That is why I chose not to place you in a hospital setting.”

Gwendolyn’s face revealed her surprise, for many of her peers had already left for institutions across America, and she figured she’d follow suit.

“You are surprised?” Constance said. “One cannot throw all nurses into the same pot. Skills and personality play a big part in my decision.”

Gwendolyn wished she’d stop beating around the bush. If not a state hospital, then where would she go after spending three intense months of serious study. She bit her lip. As much as she’d like to claim victory by displaying the fruits of the spirit, her lack of patience often raised its ugly head to destroy her witness.

“There is a family in Kentucky who have suffered great loss during the Civil War. Their one and only son lost his memory in combat, somehow escaped the camp hospital, and then wandered off to a town nearby, where he lived the life of a beggar. A woman apparently watched out for him, to make sure he didn’t starve.”

“That was kind of her,” Gwendolyn said.

“Many principles and boundaries have been tested and stretched this past decade,” Constance said. “The patient’s father, Thomas McAlister, discovered his whereabouts quite by accident while on a business trip. The lad was brought home, but the family is at a loss as to how to restore him back to his former self.”

“We both know that may never happen. The workings of the mind are unpredictable at the best of times,” Gwendolyn said.

Constance Harrow closed the file and sighed. “Yes, well, the affluent among us tend to believe money can perform miracles. It’s your job to do the best you can, and perhaps seize an opportunity to point them to the Lord who specializes in total healing.”

Gwendolyn let out a long breath. “I am God’s servant and will try my best.” She wanted to scream – what a waste of her newly-developed nursing skills.

“Since his return to the McAlister plantation, Daniel shows little interest in taking his rightful place as the future heir to their huge operation, and the family would like the aid of a nurse.”

“But he has no injuries – what will I do?”

“He did have serious injuries to his left side, which continues to hinder him from walking with a proper nobleman’s gait; his father’s words – not mine.” She chuckled slightly, and continued. “He will need exercise, but you should target his inner-man, Nurse Gwendolyn. Daniel McAlister is an emotional victim of combat, unable to or uninterested in adapting to life after the war.”

Gwendolyn’s brow lifted, and the woman attempted to appease her. “We did cover studies in the science of psychology. Perhaps this duty will more satisfy your definition of a nurse.”

“Yes, we did, Miss Harrow.” Gwendolyn sighed, realizing that the woman was probably right in giving her an emotionally ill patient. Aiding doctors in bloody operations in tents lined with dying men during the war had left her feeling nauseated. She’d never succumbed to fainting but had hoped to overcome the weakness in her new job posting. She supposed she could easily put that skill development off for a while.

“My dear, I’m afraid I am sending you into the young McAlister’s lion’s den. Surgeons in Kentucky have done all they can to heal his wounded leg, so physically, he is coping, but there are complications. Thomas McAlister is reluctant to share to what, exactly, those complications are. His family cannot cope, and they are in need of the help of a nurse with a strong backbone who will not buckle under the lad’s demanding ways. Depression does strange things to one’s mind, especially our war heroes, and I’ve watched you do miracles with such patients.”

Constance inhaled while studying Gwendolyn. “What do you think, Miss Peters? Are you up for the challenge?”

Gwendolyn swallowed the lump forming in her throat. To serve in a home with such sadness…She’d witnessed soldiers who had crawled inside themselves and refused to let anyone past their defenses. She was barely one week out of school and the ripe old age of nineteen, far too young, in her estimation, to face such mysteries of the inner-man.

“I do have three younger brothers who have tried to bully me for years. I suppose the training I received there will help in this situation.”

Constance Harrow pushed back her chair and stood. “Exactly. I have every confidence in you. The family is hoping for a full recovery, and you’re the best to prepare them for the worst-case scenario, should the Good Lord continue to withhold the lad’s memories. Good luck, Nurse Gwendolyn.”

She reached her hand out, and the young woman gripped it with fresh strength. She was a graduate of the notorious Harrow School of Nursing.

“I won’t fail the Academy’s reputation, Ms. Harrow,” Gwendolyn said.

“I’m sure you won’t.” She offered one of those rare smiles and continued. “Be sure to use that firm handshake when you greet Thomas McAlister, the father who will pay your wages. You will gain his confidence immediately.”

“When do I leave?”

The woman passed Gwendolyn an envelope. “The train to Kentucky pulls out tomorrow afternoon. I trust that is ample time for you to pack?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll be on the train,” Gwendolyn said. “Any last nuggets of advice?”

“Just be yourself and tend to the man’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, if allowed the privilege. I will send the McAlisters a wire, informing them of your time of arrival.

Good-bye. I shall miss you, child.”

And just like that, Gwendolyn’s future was sealed. When the door closed behind her, she leaned against it and exhaled loudly. The assignment was not at all what she’d expected, and she suddenly felt insecure. For the first time, she questioned her choice of vocation.

The end of the sneak peek. I hope you will considering purchasing this historic, Christian, Romance today.

Well, I best get back to the party. Have a great day!

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