A Hazard of the Trade
Kit pulled back the entrance flap to her tent to find Clara and Lizzy kneeling and sobbing by Kit’s stretcher. She lit a lamp and lifted it high to view the figure laying motionless on
Her breath caught in her throat and she pressed her hand to her mouth. “Oh, Ginny.”
“I got meself into a spot of trouble, Kit."
Kit turned her head, closed her eyes for a moment and drew in a breath.
Ginny stared pitifully at her with one eye. The extended purplish-red orb that was the closed lid of her other eye looked almost ready to burst. Her nose oozed blood down her split and
blackened cheeks. She held her arm over her chest and her breathing came in rasping, short breaths.
“I’ll get Tom,” Kit said. She turned to leave the tent.
Ginny’s arm reached out.
“No. No one must know about this.”
Kit paused and faced her again. “You need a doctor.”
“No, please. Just you.”
“I’m not trained to deal with this. Tom will be discreet. I know he will.”
Kit left the tent and rushed to the cottage, but Margaret informed her Tom had finished for the day. She hurried to his tent and softly called his name.
Tom emerged, yawning, and pulling his suspender belts onto his shoulders.
“Kit, what is it? Is it Clara?”
“No, but you must follow me. Bring your bag.”
Tom grabbed his bag and followed Kit as she led the way with the lamp. When they reached the tent, Ginny was unconscious.
Clara and Lizzy moved out of the way to allow Tom to kneel beside the stretcher.
“Girls, wait in the cottage with Margaret, would you?” Kit said.
“She’s going to be all right, isn’t she?” Lizzy asked.
“Yes, of course, she is. Now go, both of you.”
“Ginny, Ginny can you hear me?” Tom asked.
“Yes,” Ginny gasped.
“I need to get this off her.” Tom gestured with his eyes at her dress. He reached into his bag.
Kit unbuttoned Ginny's dress but hesitated to move her injured arm.
“Here's some scissors." Tom handed her a pair from his bag. "You’ll have to cut the sleeves down her arm.”
“Please, no,” Ginny moaned. “It’s me best dress.”
“I have to,” Kit said. “I’ll give you one of mine. I’m going to have to straighten your arm now. I’ll be gentle. Take a deep breath.” Ginny drew in her breath as Kit took her arm by the wrist and
placed it by her side. Ginny screamed, bringing Lizzy back into the tent.
“What are you doing to my Mama?”
“You’re going to have to trust us, Lizzy,” said Kit. “Now, go to the cottage like I told you.”
Lizzy wiped tears from her eyes, turned, and exited the tent.
Kit parted the sleeve on Ginny's injured arm and slipped out her other arm. She pulled the dress down to her ankles and gently lifted her feet, one at a time, to pull the dress from underneath her.
She unlaced her corset and pulled on one end to release it from under her body.
“You’ll have to take off the other garments too.”
Kit shook her head. “But you’re a man. It’s not right.”
“Damn it, Kit, this is no time for propriety. I have to see her injuries.”
Kit nodded and repeated the steps with the dress to remove her chemise, leaving Ginny laying in only her pantalettes. When she stopped her busy work, she gasped at the mass of blue and black
bruises that covered most of her bare torso.
“At least one of her ribs is broken and her arm,” Tom said. “Would you go and fetch me some warm water, and we’ll start cleaning these wounds?”
Kit hurried out of the tent and towards the cottage, leaving the lantern with Tom, and using the dim light from the moon to guide her path. Inside the cottage, Clara and Lizzy were sitting by the
fire with Margaret. Lizzy rushed to Kit’s side.
“Is mama all right?”
“Yes, Lizzy, she’s going to be fine. But she’s very hurt and she needs lots of rest. Do you know who did this to her?”
“No,” said the girl. She turned her face away.
“If you know something, you must tell me.”
“I don’t know!” she shouted. She ran back to Clara by the fire.
Kit fetched the pot of water from over the fire and poured it in a basin with some cool water from the well and hurried back to the tent.
Tom was finishing bandaging Ginny's broken arm. “We’ll need some splint materials. Finley should be able to take care of that in the morning. I’ll need you to clean her other wounds to
see if any need suturing. I’m worried about that one above her eye.”
Kit carefully sponged dried blood from her wounds while Tom passed a bandage under her back and over her ribs.
“I’m sorry to put you to so much trouble,” Ginny murmered.
“You just hush and be still now.” Kit gently squeezed her hand. “Tom and I will do all we can. You’re going to be fine.”
“It hurts awful bad, Kit.”
“I gave her some laudanum while you were out,” Tom said. “It’ll take effect very soon.”
When Ginny’s muscles relaxed with the affects of the drug, Tom took a needle and thread and worked on closing the wound above her eye.
Kit sponged the remainder of the blood from her nose and the wounds around her mouth.
When Tom had finished, Kit covered their patient with blankets.
“That’s all we can do for her now.” Tom rubbed his hands with a damp cloth. “The rest is up to her. Try to keep her as still as possible and keep her warm.”
“Thank you, Tom.”
“I just hope all this changes her mind about her work.”
“I don’t agree with it either, but it’s what she’s had to do to survive without a husband.”
“When she’s well enough, I might be able to use some of the hospital’s expenditure to employ her to do cleaning until I issue her with a clean bill health in another month. That’s the best I can
Kit welled with gratitude and stepped forward and threw her arms around him.
He quickly wrapped her arms around her and pulled her close.
“If something ever happened to you, I’d never forgive myself,” he said.
Kit stepped back and her eyes searched his face.
“Why do you care about me so much?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Not until now.”
“I can only hope that your feelings for me are the same.”
He stepped towards her and gently pressed his lips to hers.
They embraced and a surge within her brought her mouth to press harder against his and her fingers to run through his golden hair.
His hands grasped her tiny waist and slipped up her back to her shoulders, drawing her in as close as he could.
Confusion reigned her emotions as she remembered the kiss she had almost shared with Finley. She drew away from him.
“What’s the matter? Did I do something wrong?”
“No. But I. . . . I can’t do this right now.”
“But why?” He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“I have to sort my feelings out first.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I just need some time to think, is all.”
“Think about what? If you feel the same way about me as I feel about you, what is there to think about?”
“Please, Tom, would you leave me now?”
He placed his hands on his hips and cast his eyes to the ground.
Kit watched his soft blond hair fall, covering one eye. She wanted to take him in her arms and feel his lips on hers again, but the confusion cemented her feet.
He raised his head and swept the hair from his face.
“All right. You need some time to think. I’ll leave and report the assault to the police sergeant. I’ll be back in the morning to check on Ginny. Good night.”
He lifted his bag from the table and exited the tent.
Kit immediately felt a loss she’d never felt before, not even when she waved Jimmy farewell from the dock. She lifted the lamp onto the table and drew a chair along side the stretcher to
sit the night through keeping watch.
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