Be Careful What You Wish For–Part 1

Author’s Note:

Diphtheria is “an acute, toxin-mediated disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The name of the disease is derived from the Greek “diphthera,” meaning leather hide.” Hippocrates knew and described the disease as far back as the 5th century BC. Known as “the strangling angel of children,” in the 19th and 20th centuries diphtheria was among the top causes of death for children under age 15.

Not until the 1880s was the mechanism behind this disease discovered. A viable antitoxin did not become available until the mid 1890s.[1]

Some of the treatments and information regarding diphtheria mentioned in the following story may seem inaccurate in light of modern knowledge. Remember though, in 1885, the medical and Healing communities would not have had access to such knowledge.

 


 

Thursday 27 August, 1885
Day 1

 

“Some people have all the luck,” Josephine Black informed her grandmother. “Why do all the exciting things happen to Katja?”

Caroline Black said nothing; Josie paused to tuck a golden curl behind one tiny ear, then returned to her weeding and lamenting.

“I mean, what an adventure she had, traveling all the way from Texas up to Wyoming with all those rough and ready cowboys.” Including that oh-so-handsome Jonathan Steele, she added in silent envy. Gosh, why aren’t there any men like that around here? “And then Jonathan fell in love with her, and nearly died for her, and now she’s run off and married him without Uncle Robert’s permission, and . . . and it’s just not fair!”

When her grandmother remained silent, Josie finally looked her direction. Gran was staring at her in open disapproval. “What?” Josie demanded. “Is it too much to ask that I have some adventure and romance in my life as well?”

“Adventure and romance? Is that all you’ve seen of what your cousin has gone through?”

Personally, Josie thought Kat was far too uptight and too self-controlled, and that was the real reason she’d suffered from constant nightmares and anxiety problems, but of course she didn’t say that aloud. Instead she waved a dirt-covered gloved hand dismissively. “Oh, I know she went through a lot, and I’m sure it was rather stressful. But she did have Jonathan with her the whole while. That must have made it easier.” I would have gone through anything if I’d had someone like him with me. She let out another sigh. “For once I want to have a little excitement myself, something other than my normal, boring life.”

“Be careful what you wish for, lass,” was the grave response. “You might just get it.”

Oh, I do wish for it, she thought wistfully. With all my heart. Sometimes it seemed to Josie that her whole family tree was filled with the stuff of novels. Her parents’ wartime courtship, Uncle Robert and Aunt Dani’s whirlwind marriage and adventures out West, and now her staid, logical, always-proper cousin eloping with her cowboy hero. I don’t care what happens. I just want the chance to face danger and find love, to be the heroine of my own story.

But instead I’m stuck here in Gettysburg, with no one and nothing, where it’s highly unlikely I’ll find any such adventure.

Josie straightened up and looked around the familiar setting of the Black family farm. That she was still in Pennsylvania at all was totally unplanned. Not that she minded—Gettysburg wasn’t a large city, but there was still more of a social life here than back at Woodhaven. Her parents had originally planned to take everyone home the first week in August, but her cousin’s sudden flight out to Wyoming Territory had put those plans on hold. By the time that situation had been resolved, it was nearly time for her parents to leave for the end of summer encampment at West Point, to see her brother Will for the first time since they’d dropped him off at the military academy back in June.

It had been Gran’s suggestion that Josie and her siblings just remain in Gettysburg. It had also been her suggestion that Uncle Rob and Aunt Dani join Mama and Papa on their trip. The two couples had left that very morning.

Josie looked longingly down the long tree-lined drive, wishing she too could have gone to see her brother . . . and all the other cadets at the academy. A small smile crossed her face. She didn’t doubt for a moment that she would have had a great deal of fun with the young men there. Which is likely the main reason Mama and Papa said no as quickly as they did when you asked, she told herself wryly.

A movement caught her eye. The bright afternoon sunlight made her squint, but there was definitely something coming up the hill toward the house. Unfortunately, she recognized the horse and buggy. Embarrassment flashed through her almost immediately.

“Dr. Scott’s here,” she told her grandmother in a subdued voice.

Gran stood up and shook out her apron. “So that’s what your mother was talking to him about at church. I said I could take care of Samuel just fine on my own while she was gone, but that obviously wasn’t good enough for her. I suppose that means we’ll be seeing a great deal more of the boy this week.” She shook her head, but her tone was fond. “Not that I mind. Perhaps he’ll stay for supper.”

Josie felt her heart sinking all the more. Please, no. If he was a guest, she’d have to be gracious and entertaining, and she had no desire to be either toward Dr. Timothy Scott. Such an attitude was not typical of her, but she’d felt that way ever since Christmas, when he’d made such a fool of her.

No, she admitted with bitter honesty. He was a perfect gentleman. It was through no fault of his that I made a complete fool of myself.

After Judge Scott had died four years ago, Gran had refused to allow her old school friend to spend the holidays alone, and when Eliza’s son had returned to Gettysburg two years ago to set up his practice, he too had been invited to join the Blacks for holidays.

While over those two years Josie hadn’t given the young doctor much more attention than she’d given any other good-looking young man, she hadn’t minded his appearance at the supper table Christmas night. Not in the slightest. After Jonathan Steele’s rather blatant rejection of her friendly invitation the night before—I was just trying to be friendly. I’d never stoop so low as to poach someone else’s beau. Especially not my own cousin’s—she’d felt the need for some lighthearted flirtation to lift her spirits.

It should have been easy to accomplish: Josie knew, as surely as if she’d been a Truth‑Seer, that Dr. Scott was more than slightly attracted to her. That was nothing unusual—most men were more than slightly attracted to her. Knowing that, she figured he’d be a willing participant in her plans for the evening—dancing, teasing banter, and maybe a kiss or two.

However, things hadn’t turned out well. She winced at the memory.

She had been waiting for him in the doorway to the parlor, wearing her new dark green dress, a holly red ribbon woven through her golden curls. With a smile playing about her lips, she’d pointed above her head at a spray of mistletoe hanging from the doorframe.

“Oh dear. It seems I am caught.” Her voice held both laughter and an invitation.

Instead he’d backed away from her.

“Don’t you want to kiss me?” she’d asked, opening her eyes even wider and drifting closer to him.

“Very much so.”

“Then why don’t you?”

His voice had broken as he informed her gravely, “Because, my dear, I am not interested in light flirtations, nor do I wish to be just another name on your long list of conquests. When you finally decide to grow up and treat love as something more than a game to be played with points to be won, then I will gladly surrender all of myself into your enchanting little hands. But not until then.”

And then he had turned and walked away.

From that moment on, Josie couldn’t be in the same room as the man without feeling horribly ashamed of herself. For though he continued to behave in public as though nothing had changed between them, she knew better, knew that while she still had his eye, she’d lost his respect. And for unknown some reason, losing that bothered her far more than she cared to admit.

So she’d tried to avoid him as much as possible. Her task had been easy most of the spring because she’d been home in Virginia. It’d been significantly harder this summer, since they’d spent most of it up in Pennsylvania, and not only were the Scotts and the Blacks old friends and members of the same church, Dr. Scott also often came by to talk with Mama on medical matters.

Now he was here to look after Grandda, and possibly stay as a guest for the evening. Can things get any worse? Josie wondered miserably.

“I think I’m going to go change,” she suddenly announced, and hurried toward the house even as Dr. Scott reined in and swung down from the buggy’s high seat. She could feel her grandmother’s gaze following her as she went.

“Don’t take too long, a cailín,” Gran called after her. “I’ll need your help with supper.”

Upstairs, Josie went as slowly as she thought she could get away with. She changed from the old, worn dress she used for gardening into one of her new summer frocks. Then she spent some time arranging her hair. The best defense is a good offense, she reasoned cynically, even as a warm flush began to crawl up her neck and face. Maybe if he’s too busy admiring me, he won’t think about Christmas.

By the time she was done her toilette, Dr. Scott must have also finished examining Grandda, because he was in the front hall speaking to Gran. Both looked up as she came down the stairs; Josie felt a small moment of triumph when the doctor’s eyes lit up ever so slightly in appreciation of the picture she presented.

“That dress certainly becomes you,” Gran told her affectionately.

I know, Josie thought. Its soft, smoky blue color did marvelous things to her silver‑gray eyes and porcelain skin. And that’s exactly why I chose to wear it. “Thank you,” she said instead, keeping her voice and eyes lowered.

“Just let me finish talking to Timothy here and then we’ll get started on supper. He’s got another short appointment, but Eliza’s off visiting Kitty in Baltimore, so he’s been alone all week. Therefore, I’ve invited him to join us.”

Drat. Which means she’ll seat me next to him, because I always get seated next to our guests. She briefly considered Leaning on her grandmother to suggest a different seating arrangement, but Papa had expressly forbidden her from using that particular Gift on others, especially on members of her family.

Instead, she stood by the sitting room window, listening with half an ear to Dr. Scott and her grandmother. While seeming to look outside, she surreptitiously studied the doctor, evaluating him.

Once upon a time, she’d considered him quite attractive. Now that I think on it, he was my first real crush, she realized. With a mental laugh she added, Well, at least I had good taste in men even as a child. His brown hair was still thick and rather curly, and his eyes were the color of the fine dark chocolate that Josie loved. She could remember those eyes often twinkling at her, usually when teasing her about something, from behind the little wire‑rimmed spectacles he’d always worn. And while he was only of average height—significantly shorter than the men in her family and just taller than Josie herself, though she was tall for a girl—he was strong for his size: he’d carried his mother around for weeks when she’d broken her ankle last year.

No, he’s not ill‑favored at all, she had to allow.

But when compared to Katja’s Jon, who was tall and darkly handsome, with a ready smile and blue eyes that could turn a girl to mush just by looking at her, and who had been willing to face death for the girl he loved—when compared to a man like that, the doctor seemed so  . . . lacking.

Not to mention how sober and serious he always seems nowadays. I rarely hear him laugh or tease anyone anymore. Why, he’s gotten downright boring, was her dismissive conclusion, because boring was one of the worst things a man could be to a girl who craved excitement.

So why then does his opinion of me matter so much? she asked of herself, but didn’t get a chance to answer.

She noticed the movement on the front porch at the same time the sound of Maggie crying hit her ears. The front door opened and Ellis stood there, cradling his sobbing sister in his arms.

 

Next installment.

 


[1]:https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/dip.html

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