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Authors: Maggie Hope

A Nurse's Duty

BOOK: A Nurse's Duty
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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Epilogue

Copyright

About the Book

Following a disastrous marriage to a miner, Karen has devoted herself to a nursing career. Rising to the challenge of caring for the wounded soldiers returning home from the Great War, she has resigned herself to putting her vocation before any hope of romance.

However, she finds herself drawn to handsome, troubled Patrick Murphy. But Patrick is also a Catholic priest. Dare Karen risk scandal and her position by falling for the one man she cannot have…?

About the Author

Maggie Hope was born and raised in County Durham. She worked as a nurse for many years, before giving up her career to raise her family.

She is the author of the bestselling
A Wartime Nurse
and
A Mother’s Gift
, also published by Ebury.

Chapter One


NOW THEN, RACHEL KNIGHT
,’ said Gran, pushing open the bedroom door and striding into the room, ‘what have you been up to?’ She put her basket down on the highly polished mahogany table and removed her hat, sticking the enormous hatpin through the straw viciously before putting it beside the basket. ‘By, I knew there was something the matter, I knew it in my bones this last few days but I couldn’t get away any sooner. That daft lad I have on the farm is about as much use as a chap with no arms.’

‘Hello, Gran,’ said Karen, grinning with delight. She rushed up to the old lady and kissed the proffered cheek. She would have liked to give her gran a hug but knew that wasn’t allowed.

‘Oh, Mam,’ said Rachel helplessly, and her voice was so small Karen gazed anxiously at the bed. Mam looked as though she was going to cry. Evidently Gran thought so too for she walked over to the bed and bent over her daughter, kissing her and patting her hand. When she sat down on the high bed her feet barely touched the mat, she was so tiny, but she wore a daunting air of authority.

‘I knew there was something wrong,’ she said again. ‘Karen, go and put the kettle on, there’s a good lass. I’m fair clemming for a cup of tea.’

Karen moved to the middle door which led to the kitchen but she hesitated to open it as she realized the doctor was still in the kitchen with Da. The doctor’s voice rang out loud and clear and hateful.

‘I’m afraid her heart’s involved, Mr Knight,’ he said. ‘It’s a flare up of rheumatic fever, of course. She must have had it as a child.’

Gran jumped off the bed and rushed to the door, flinging it wide.

‘What did you say?’ she demanded, her small, wiry body bristling. ‘My Rachel certainly did
not
have a fever. She was never ill in her life – a few growing pains, that’s all.’

Doctor Brown drew himself up in outrage and looked down his nose at the shabby woman who had interrupted him so rudely. He glanced at Da but he was looking stricken under the layer of coal dust which covered him all over for he had just come in from fore shift at the pit.

‘Who is this person?’ Doctor Brown asked at last, his plummy voice sounding strange, almost alien to Karen. Her ten-year-old heart swelled in resentment at this description of her lovely gran and she edged further into the kitchen so that she could stand beside her. But Gran needed no help in facing up to such a bit of a lad as this one, doctor though he may be.

‘I’m the lass’s mother, Mrs Jane Rain, that’s who I am. And don’t you talk as though I haven’t a right to know what’s wrong with my own bairn. I’m telling you, she never had a fever, not a bad one, not never.’

Doctor Brown pursed his lips. ‘Well, Mrs Rain, as I was telling Mr Knight, your daughter most certainly has had rheumatic fever though it probably did seem as though she only had growing pains. To you, that is. A doctor would have diagnosed it differently.’ With great deliberation, he turned his back on Jane.

‘As I was saying, Mr Knight, her heart is involved. She will need plenty of rest and a good light diet. A month in bed for now, I’d say. I’ll leave you a prescription for some tablets for her heart and a tonic.’ He shook his head, frowning, as he pulled a prescription pad from his pocket and began to write. ‘Poverty … poverty and ignorance. Bad feeding as a child, that’s the usual cause. There’s a lot of it around here. Lessons on nutrition are needed. Too much money is wasted, not enough spent on good wholesome food. One doesn’t see half so much ill-health among the labouring poor of the south.’

‘I fed my family right, as far as I was able,’ snapped Gran. Standing beside her, Karen could feel her quivering with rage. She moved closer and took her hand but Gran shook her off. Clenching her fist, she stepped forward till she was almost under the doctor’s nose.

‘And what the hell do you know about it?’ she demanded. ‘You and your fancy airs. Who the hell are you?’

‘Mother!’

Karen looked anxiously at her father. Gran had sworn, she had said the H-word, the word that was only ever said when it was being read out of the Bible. What would Da do to Gran for swearing?

‘Well, I don’t care, I don’t give a d—’ Gran faltered as she caught Da’s eye and didn’t quite finish the oath. She turned back to the doctor whose face had taken on an interesting mottled colour of red shading into white. ‘You cannot be so fine and rich, else what would you be doing doctoring us poor mining folk? You’re here for the fourpence a week we pay the panel. We’re the paymasters here, and don’t you forget it.’ She nodded her head vehemently and a stray wisp of hair fell from her topknot and across her eyes. Irritated, she pushed it back under a hairpin before opening her mouth to continue.

But Da had had enough. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he propelled her back into the front room and closed the door firmly, keeping his hand on the latch. Through the closed door, Karen could hear a foot being stamped and the muffled sound of Gran’s voice.

‘I’m sorry, Doctor,’ he said. ‘My wife’s mother is a bit upset, like, she didn’t mean to be rude. We are Christians in this house, we do not swear. Of course you must be right. You are the doctor after all. We’ll do whatever you say.’

‘Hmm!’ said Doctor Brown, drawing on a pair of leather gloves with shaking hands and striding to the back door. Karen thought
about
reminding him that his pony and trap were standing in the front of the row but a look from Da silenced her as she opened her mouth. Likely he didn’t want to go through the front room and face Gran again. Oh, well, he would only have to walk round the side of the Chapel to reach it, she thought.

‘Will you be calling back, Doctor?’ Da called after him as he went up the yard.

‘I will,’ he replied, and disappeared through the gate.

Da relaxed his grip on the latch of the middle door. He stood for a moment with his lips working and his eyes closed and Karen knew he was praying silently, or she thought he was praying though his fists were clenched at his sides. Then he opened his eyes and un latched the door and Karen’s mouth dropped open once again for that was the first time she had ever seen him go into the front room black from the pit. She hesitated in the open doorway, not sure if she ought to follow him. In the end she stayed quietly where she was for she didn’t want to be told to go out to play. If she did she would miss whatever Da was going to say to Gran and she didn’t want to do that.

Gran was sitting by the bed looking almost as pale and wan as her daughter. Nevertheless, she glared defiantly at her son-in-law.

‘Well, you didn’t think I was going to let that mammy’s boy talk like that to
me
, did you?’ she asked.

Da glared back and Karen quailed for her. What would he do to punish Gran for swearing? she wondered. He couldn’t make her go to every meeting at Chapel like he had done to Joe; Gran didn’t go to their Chapel.

‘I will not have swearing in my house,’ Da said coldly. ‘I know you are upset about Rachel but that is no excuse. The Lord dwells in this house.’

‘Thomas,’ said Mam, and her voice sounded so weak and thin that Karen could hardly hear it. Da changed his tone at once.

‘I’m sorry, pet,’ he said softly. ‘An’ I’m sorry if that fool of a
doctor
upset you an’ all. But what’s the good of arguing with them, they’ll never understand anything, will they? You lie quiet and get some rest now.’ He held his hand out to her and suddenly saw that it was still black and encrusted with coal dust. He looked quickly down to see if any had fallen on to the scrubbed floorboards or the clippie mat before retreating hurriedly to the kitchen.

‘You shouldn’t swear, Mam,’ said Rachel.

‘Nay, lass, I don’t, you know that. I’m as good a Methodist as that man of yours anytime. But that pompous young ass got my goat, saying you weren’t looked after properly when you was a bairn.’

‘He didn’t say that, not exactly,’ said Rachel.

‘Aye, well, he said something close to it,’ Gran insisted. She looked up and noticed Karen standing by the door. ‘Have you not put that kettle on yet, Karen?’ she barked, and Karen darted into the kitchen where her sister Kezia was filling the zinc bath for Da to have his wash before the fire. The kettle was already on the fire and singing alongside a pan of broth.

‘Gran wants a cup of tea,’ said Karen.

Kezia nodded and paused in ladling hot water out of the boiler at the side of the fire to spoon tea into the pot and pour boiling water over it. Da stripped to the waist and knelt before the tub to wash while the girls carried two cups of tea into the front room. They were used to waiting in there while Da washed the lower half of his body. He would give them a shout when he was finished.

‘It was necessary, Rachel, the men had to be fed first. It was them had to go out and find work when the lead mine closed, you know that. We would all have starved else.’ She sighed. ‘Eeh, but I was pleased when they got work in the pit here in Morton Main. Though I missed the dale, I did.’

‘Here’s your tea, Gran,’ said Karen, holding out the cup, and Jane took it absently, her thoughts far away. Karen knew she was
thinking
of her lads, all gone now: one son taken in a fall of stone at the pit and the other with the lung rot. Gran had often told her about them: the best workers in the county they had been, she often said.

Gran looked at her daughter, her eyes dark with pain. ‘Maybe I could have done with less meself,’ she murmured, ‘though there was precious little for either of us.’

‘Oh, Mam, it’s not your fault. Don’t start feeling guilty now,’ said Rachel, moving her head restlessly on the pillow.

‘I’m finished,’ called Da from the kitchen and Gran jumped up, suddenly all brisk and businesslike. ‘Now then, lasses, let’s have our dinners. It seems like a week since I had me breakfast.’

After that, Gran started to come visiting more often, always landing on the doorstep unannounced, a basket in her hand with butter and eggs in it. She would fish her apron from the basket and tie it round her and by the time Karen and Joe came in from school at dinner time there would be a heavenly smell of meat pudding wafting down the yard and Gran would be standing at the table, thumping her fists into a batch of bread dough. Karen loved those days, for since the doctor had forbidden Mam to knead bread they had to make do with buying it from the store baker who came round with his cart every Tuesday and Thursday. And it just didn’t taste like real bread.

BOOK: A Nurse's Duty
9.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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