Authors: Emily Woods
2016 Emily Woods
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, but I just don’t think it’s right!” declared the woman in her mid-thirties hotly. Dr. Geoffrey Wilson had just asked her to remove her dress so that he could examine her. She had stated that she believed herself to be pregnant and he wanted to conduct a thorough examine.
“Mrs. Lewis, I am only trying to determine the cause of your previous miscarriages. I assure you that I’m not doing anything improper.”
Geoff had come to Bozeman over a year before to fill in for the old doctor who had decided to retire, but the women of the town had yet to trust him when it came to intimate matters.
“And I assure you that Dr. Green never asked me to take my clothing off during an examination!” Her indignation was palpable. With her back upright and her arms wrapped around her midsection, Mrs. Lewis looked as though she thought Geoff would rip her clothes from her body if she didn’t comply.
“Yes, I know, but Dr. Green went to medical school a very long time ago,” he explained aloud, but in fact, he wasn’t sure if the old man had gone at all. More likely he’d gained all his information about the human body from another doctor which had been the way of things fifty years before.
When he’d first entered the surgery, there wasn’t a medical diploma anywhere in sight. He’d been reluctant to hang his own diploma for fear of seeming pretentious, but his friend, the town’s bank manager had urged him to do so.
“Times are changing, Geoff,” Theodore Jefferson had pronounced firmly. “People need to get used to it here just like everywhere else.”
So, he’d hung it up in an inconspicuous corner, but it had still been the object of much scrutiny.
He wanted to refer to it now as a means of validating his methods, but Mrs. Lewis didn’t look to be the type who would be impressed by such a thing.
“Ma’am, I do believe that I can be a help if you let me examine you more thoroughly, but I understand your reluctance.” When he noticed a softening in her posture, he continued. “Would you feel more comfortable if your sister were to come in here with you? That way you wouldn’t feel that there was anything inappropriate going on.”
The woman’s lips were still pressed into a firm line, but he could see that she was considering the idea. From her records, he could see that she’d lost two babies already. He suspected an incompetent or weakened cervix from the description of her other miscarriages, but he needed to do a somewhat invasive exam in order to find out. She was in the beginning of her second trimester, so he should be able to determine if this was the cause or not.
“It may increase the chances of your being able to carry this baby to full term,” he stated persuasively, trying to look all of his twenty-nine years and more. Following a nearly seventy-year-old doctor was not an easy feat. Most people in the town looked upon Geoff as a child and barely let him dispense medicine for common ailments.
He could see that she was relenting. Mrs. Lewis gave a brief nod of her head, and he went out to the waiting room to talk to her sister. Thankfully, the older woman was very sensible.
“Anything that’ll help Shirley carry this baby,” she declared.
“The exam is very personal,” he warned. “It may seem indecent, so if you’d like to consult other people in the community first, I fully understand.”
He’d heard of other doctors who’d been run out of other towns for taking what others thought to be liberties with young women. In truth, the exam would require him to inspect certain parts of the patient’s anatomy that only her own mother and husband would have seen.
“No. I trust you,” she said confidently. “I don’t think you’re going to engage in any tomfoolery with me being present.” With that, she pushed open the interior door and began to lightly scold her younger sister. “Now Shirley, this here doctor went to a fine medical school where they learn about these kinds of things. Be a good girl and let him examine you. I’ll stay with you the whole time.”
The younger woman still looked terrified, but at her sister’s command, she allowed the procedure to happen. And he was grateful. It was as he suspected, and after completing the exam, he asked them to sit while he could explain what would happen.
“It’s a very small surgery and you would be as good as new within a week or two. You should stay in bed until then. Will that be possible?”
The sister answered for her. “You bet. I’ll watch over her and make sure she rests. And no arguments.” This last statement she leveled at her sister.
After booking an appointment for the following day, the sisters left and Geoff emitted a sigh of relief. That was one battle he’d managed to win, but how many more would he have to fight?
As was his custom, he prayed for the women who’d just left and sought God’s counsel for his practice and his life. He wondered if there was some answer that he might be overlooking. Since there were no others waiting and the surgery was in order, he picked up his Bible and leafed through the well-worn pages. Paul’s letters were his favorite, and as he paged through First Corinthians, his eyes fell on a passage in the seventh chapter.
“ ‘Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband,’ ” he read aloud in astonishment. “Really, Lord?” he questioned, but even as he reread the words, he believed that he’d found an answer. If he had a wife, then people would trust him more. Men would trust him with their wives, women would trust him with more personal matters and he would be seen as an altogether more reliable, steady type of person. Also, if he had his own wife and children, the residents would take him more seriously.
His mind skimmed over the available women in town, but there were none that would be suitable. This was only a problem for a moment as he remembered how his friend Theo had found his wife. Not only Theo, but also the man’s brother-in-law, the sheriff and his deputy as well had written to a newspaper in New York and arranged for mail-order brides. From what he’d seen, each man was very happy with the arrangement.
A small smile appeared on his face as he thanked God for the idea. He wasted no time, but began to scribble out a description of the kind of woman he was looking for. Without a moment’s hesitation, he placed the letter in an envelope and set out for the bank to find the address of the newspaper from his friend and any other relevant information.
He whistled as he went, sure that he’d found the answer to all his problems.
hat’s this here say
?” asked a man named Bobby, a clerk at the New York Daily Tribune. “Some people really should go back to school and learn better penmanship.”
Another clerk, Peter, looked over his shoulder. “It’s a want ad, right? Looks like a…doctor…wants a…what’s that, assistant? That would be a nurse. Ha! It figures. I can never read my own doc’s writing.” They shared a brief chuckle before getting back to deciphering the scrawled letter.
“Well, he wrote something that looks like assistant and woman, so I suspect you’re right. It must be for a nurse. And it does say something about a practice, and that looks like the word busy, so that must be it. Okay, run it like this. ‘Doctor in Bozeman, Montana requires nurse for busy practice. Apply to the following address.’ Put the address just below. He sent along a bit more money than he needed to, so use the larger type. That’ll make up the difference.”
“But what about all those other words? I think he wrote something about being hard-working and such.”
“Okay, throw it in there.” Bobby got back to setting the type for the newspaper’s headline. Small matters like want ads didn’t particularly worry him. The big business scandal was much more important.
Peter set off to do Bobby’s bidding, never knowing the havoc he was about to create.
ate Buchanan unwrapped
her sandwich and opened the newspaper to the want ads. In just under two months she would receive her diploma from the Brooklyn Hospital School of Nursing, so she’d been scouring the ads for weeks. As soon as she was able, she wanted to get a job of her own and move out of her parents’ home. Life there was unbearable.
She took a bite of her simple cheese sandwich more to garner sustenance than because of actual hunger. As she chewed, she ruminated about her circumstances.
Ever since her two older siblings had left for positions far away, life had gone from bad to worse. It had never been a happy household, not even in the best of times, but with just her parents at home, everything was so much worse. Her father’s drinking was increasing and her mother’s long, cold silences became longer and colder. The only time the two talked to each other was to shout over money. They weren’t exactly poor, but her mother spent more than they could afford. Thankfully her grandmother had provided for her education, and she would be forever grateful.
Her eyes skimmed the page and stopped at an ad that was slightly larger than the others. Her heart beat a little faster as she realized it was a posting for a nurse, but it was in Montana. Could she do that? Could she move that far away from everything she knew?
After a little thought, she realized that there was no harm in applying. Since her family life was so miserable, leaving her parents didn’t bother her, but she did have a few friends. It would be sad to leave them behind, but the postings in New York were few, and everyone in her class was already out looking for jobs. Some had the advantage of knowing people in the hospitals here, and others had strong recommendations. Although she was finishing with good grades, she was not at the top of her class, so potential employers had not paid much attention to her application. Also, she knew that she came off a little cold, and that possibly prevented her from receiving any offers.
It seemed that this ad couldn’t have come at a better time. She would send off a letter today and let this Doctor Wilson know that she was interested in his posting. With a little luck, she might be off on a grand adventure in the Wild West shortly after she graduated. The more that she thought about it, the more she felt that putting a fair bit of distance between herself and her parents was possibly the best thing that could happen to her.
himself a patient man by nature, but the slowness of the post suddenly irritated him to no end. There hadn’t been even one letter yet and he’d sent his own ad nearly five weeks ago. Theo, Jackson and Wes had all received letters to their ads no later than a month after posting them. Was his ad so unappealing that no one would respond? Had the people at the newspaper bungled his address?
These thoughts and more raced through his mind as he travelled the short distance down the main street to the post office to retrieve his mail. Occasionally there was a letter from his mother begging him to come home to Minnesota, but he was happy here, pursing his dream as a doctor in his own right instead of working for years under a superior doctor who would give him all the less desirable appointments and possibly not even leave him the practice when he retired.
No, as hard as his life was out here, he much preferred it to anything that Minnesota had to offer. He would work hard, hopefully get married and eventually earn the trust of the people here. That was his dream.
When he entered the almost empty post office, the clerk looked up from his work.
“Got one for you today, Doc,” he announced with a grin. He extended the envelope as though it were a gift, and indeed, Geoff took it as such. He didn’t even wait until he was back in his office to see what it contained, but tore it open right there.
The letter was disappointingly short and included no photograph. Although he hadn’t specified that he wanted one, he was led to believe that it was normal for the girl to send one. He’d had a few made up to send out as well, but now he wondered if he should do so.
Still, a short letter was better than none. He read it over again as he walked back to his office, more slowly this time.
ear Dr. Wilson
I recently came across your advertisement in the New York Daily Tribune. I am very interested in applying for the position and hope that you will find me a satisfactory candidate. I am a recent graduate and am seeking to broaden my horizons, so to speak. Living in the West would be highly satisfactory to me, and I’m sure that I will do well there.
Let me assure you that I’m fully qualified to fill this position. I may not have much experience, but I’m willing to learn and be guided under your direction. I’m a hard-working woman with keen organizational skills and strong nerves, which will be a great benefit to you.
If it’s convenient for you, I would like to come to Bozeman at your earliest convenience and we can have a trial period of a month or so. If we are both pleased with the arrangement, then we can continue on.
Please reply to the postal office box number below,
t wasn’t a very
personal letter, he surmised. Perhaps she was a very formal type of person, but he could find nothing wrong in that. He wondered at some of the phrases she’d used though. What did she mean that she was fully qualified? Did that mean she could cook and sew? But then what about the lack of experience? Perhaps it was a euphemism for not having had any suitors. That was fine with him.
When he read the part about being willing to learn under his direction, he blushed slightly. Did she think that because he was a doctor that he would know a lot about the human body and…well, married life in general? He gulped at the thought. Although he’d had a few relationships with some pleasant women in Minnesota, they’d been very brief and nothing had come of any of them, certainly nothing worthy for him to consider himself experienced in the art of…love.
He was also a little confused about the one-month trial, but after a moment’s consideration, he presumed that she meant to live in Bozeman for a time, get to know each other and then marry if all went well. From what he understood, most potential couples wrote a number of letters back and forth and once they were both satisfied with each other, they would agree to marry. It was a rather costly trip from New York to Montana and what would happen at the end if she didn’t find him agreeable? Would she expect him to pay for her return journey as well?
He sighed and refolded the letter, placing it back into the envelope. Well, at least he’d received one response. That meant the newspaper company had printed his information correctly.
As he walked back to the office, he wondered what he should do. Should he respond to this letter or wait to see if someone warmer would write? He was surprised at the lack of personal information. She gave no indication of her age, interests or family. Did she not think it would be relevant? Perhaps she believed that a man of his position was merely looking for a suitable wife and didn’t care about her personality and such.
Well, he would give it one week and if no other replies arrived, he would send a response. With that thought resolved in his mind, he went back about his business.
ear Miss Buchanan
Thank you for your letter. I was pleased to receive it, but to be honest, I was hoping to receive a little more information about yourself and perhaps even a photo. I’m inclosing one of myself with this letter in case you were interested. I have decided to take you up on your proposal to have a one-month trial. I’m enclosing your ticket, which you may use on any date. Please inform me of the day you intend to arrive and I will be sure to be at the station.
I feel I should tell you a little more about myself, but perhaps you prefer to learn about me firsthand, so I won’t drone on endlessly about my life and ambitions. We can talk more when you arrive.
Please do not concern yourself with your lack of experience. I, too, do not have much experience. Perhaps we can learn together.
If you would be so kind as to include a photo, I would be much obliged. Of course it will not change anything, but it would be nice to see your face so that I can recognize you when you arrive.
drew together at the casual tone of the letter. It seemed very informal to her, but perhaps people in the West were like that. She was a little annoyed at his request for a photo, and thought it was strange he’d sent one of himself, but perhaps that was just so they’d recognize each other?
When she studied the photo of the serious young man, she realized that he was much younger than she’d expected. He probably wasn’t much older than her own twenty-two years. His face was pleasing, but she didn’t let herself dwell on the slight dimple that showed despite his somber expression. Nor did she pay any attention to the mirth that appeared to lurk in his smiling eyes. His dark hair had a slight wave to it, but it’d been pushed back with what she’d expected was a great deal of pomade. Without the product, his hair was probably unruly, she thought with a small grin. But then she chastised herself. Why should it matter what he looked like? He was likely married with a number of children. Perhaps he’d been hoping for an older woman to assist him. Still, he didn’t seem to be perturbed by her own lack of experience. She just hoped that his wife wouldn’t be jealous of his working with a younger woman, not, she admitted, that the woman would have much to be jealous of.
With a deep sigh, she put the letter down on her bedside table and contemplated her options. In the time since she’d graduated, she’d looked around for jobs in New York, but without any great enthusiasm. For some reason, she’d been counting on this job in Bozeman. Now that she was being offered the position, she felt conflicted. Would this be the right move for her?
“Where’s the housekeeping money?” It was her father. She knew it wasn’t directed at her, but tensed nonetheless because she anticipated what was coming next.
“It’s my housekeeping money, so why should you care?” That reply was from her mother.
“Because there’s no food in the house!” he roared. “Is the money gone completely? What is it this time, woman? Shoes? A new purse?” Her father’s voice rose in pitch and volume. She braced herself for the argument that was sure to follow.
“Don’t think that you can fool me. I know what you want it for. If I need something nice to keep me in good spirits then no one should blame me! Better clothes than alcohol. You know what? Very few women would have stayed with you as long as I have, so stop pestering me!” Her mother spoke with venom, knowing that her father would never hit her no matter how she antagonized him. At least, he had never done so to Kate’s knowledge.
“Well, there’s the door, woman! No one’s stopping you from packing up and going through it!”
Kate burrowed her head under her pillow and pressed her hands to either side in an effort to block out the noise. She could still hear the voices, but the words were muted now. Even though she’d stopped crying over the fracture in her parents’ relationship many years ago, their arguments still upset her.
When the noise had subsided, she removed the pillow and sat up in her bed. Her gaze rested on the small slip of paper wrapped around a ticket that could mean her freedom.
Suddenly the choice seemed clear. She determined that she would go west. Who would stop her? She would send a telegram to the doctor and board the train tomorrow morning. No one would try to stop her, but just in case, she wouldn’t tell her parents that she was leaving. A note telling them of her plans would suffice. She wouldn’t even say where she was going in the unlikely event that they would try to stop her, but she felt it was her duty at least to let them know she was leaving.
Her heart felt lighter and she jumped up to pack. She didn’t have much, and wouldn’t really need much more than a few items of clothing. She had her uniform from the school, so she’d bring that and a few other essentials. Anything else she could buy in Bozeman.
“You’ll just have to take me as I am, Dr. Wilson,” she murmured. “There’s no time to send a photo.” She felt a twinge of remorse, for he had specifically asked for one, but she couldn’t fathom what difference it would make. She wasn’t hideous, she thought as she stopped in the midst of her frenzy to contemplate her reflection in the small mirror on her wall. Her hair was a light brown, nothing remarkable or detestable. Her eyes were of an indistinguishable color. Sometimes they were gray, sometimes a light blue. Her face wasn’t particularly memorable, but her skin was good and her lashes were long. Her lips were a tad full, but there was nothing she could do about that.
As for her figure, she was trim and compact, strong, but not overly feminine. Well, she was sensible-looking at least. That had to be a redeeming quality in a nurse. Surely he couldn’t find fault with her. And with probably being married, he probably wouldn’t care about her looks anyway. Why should it matter? It wouldn’t. He would see that she was perfect for the position and be glad that she’d come.
For the first time in a very long time, Kate experienced a lightness in her chest, a spark of something that wasn’t dark or painful. It was so unfamiliar that she almost couldn’t identify it, but after a few moments, she recognized it.
It was hope.