Posted on 2018-01-16
Summary: While enjoying the countryside in their new gig, Sophy is unable to prevent the admiral from running foul of a dung-cart. Luckily Anne Elliot hears the crash and is able to tend to the wounded.
Licensing Note: Based on Characters and story lines from Persuasion by Jane Austen. Text from Jane Austen is in green . The tense, pronouns, or wording of these quotes may be slightly modified to fit the scene. All original content and plot for The Doctor is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.
Ch. 1 Impact
Sophy Wentworth savored the feel of the wind at her face once more. This was what she missed most about being asea, the wind in her hair. In the month and a half that they had been ashore she’d felt nothing like it. They’d been a week in possession of Kellynch hall and this delightful gig was the newest addition to their establishment. If she closed her eyes, leaned slightly forward, and conjured up the memory of sea air, she could nearly imagine herself there again.
Not that she disliked Kellynch, the hall was beautiful and by far the most luxurious lodgings she’d ever held claim to. It was, however, a trifle too grand, too large for merely the admiral and her. Particularly after years of living on frigates and man-of-wars in close quarters with the sailors. Perhaps if they could persuade Frederick to join them it wouldn’t feel so empty. She also disliked the rigid class distinctions on shore. At the moment, her husband was in possession of a large fortune, which allowed him to let the palatial estate. But in the past, she had been merely the daughter of a curate with more mouths to feed than bread to fill them. When she married, she went to sea with her husband. She was the Captain’s wife — later promoted to Admiral — and therefore there was a deference from the crew, but there were always interactions. She could hold conversations with the sailors, tend to them when ill or injured, read or write letters for those who were illiterate. At Kellynch, she quickly found, the servants were unwilling to break their masks of servitude and have a conversation with her. She therefore found herself far more stifled on land in a grand estate than she ever had confined in a comparatively small ship full of men.
Opening her eyes, she startled and said with some urgence, "My dear Admiral, that post! we shall certainly take that post." But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself they happily passed the danger. The Admiral had yet to gain his land-legs it would seem. She trusted her husband implicitly at the helm of a ship. He could thread a frigate through the tightest straights with as much ease as crossing a style from one field to the next. He had a mutual respect for the sea, the wind, and the tides that allowed him to prevail even in the harshest conditions. The carriage horse, however, did not seem to respect him as well as the sea, unimpressed as it was with his clumsy, unpracticed, and casual control over the reigns. This was not the first narrowly averted disaster they’d had. But so far Sophy had been able to subtly correct his mistakes.
She sighed and looked out over the countryside. So far, they’d limited their explorations to the gardens, groves, and prospects of the Kellynch estate as they’d hitherto lacked an open carriage, so this was the farthest they’d roamed. The rolling hills and neat fields of Somersetshire would never have the untamed beauty of the sea, but they were pretty, quiet, and serene. They crested the top of a hill and Sophy closed her eyes in anticipation of the increased speed on their descent.
"Blast!" Her husband’s exclamation forced her eyes open and she saw a dung cart, pulled by a donkey, crossing the intersection just at the foot of the hill. She reached out her hand to the reigns to help stop the gig, but they were moving too fast to stop, the donkey was moving too slow to clear them. She closed her eyes and braced for impact, as she’d done so many times on board ship. The horse made a terrible cry accompanied by the first jolt of impact. There was a brief sensation of weightlessness before she hit the ground in an explosion of pain and everything went black.
She had no need to steer her own thoughts away from such dangerous territory as Frederick’s sleeping arangements because at that moment she heard a heart-rending cry, followed by the unmistakable sounds of splintering wood, twisting metal, and human pain associated with a carriage crash. Without a thought she broke out in a run and within a moment she came upon the scene. With military precision, Anne took in the scene. A sporting vehicle had collided with a farm cart of some sort. The horse was trapped between the weight of the gig from above and the cart before it The poor creature was in evident pain, it’s front legs appeared broken where they had made impact. A gentleman lay prostrate atop the cart, evidently flung there from the gig. Anne did not like the unnatural angle at which he was sprawled. Mr. Thomas, the tenant farmer who was fertilizing his fields, appeared unharmed, and was tending to the gentleman. As she began to make her way toward the scene to offer what aid she could, she stopped up short as a well-dressed woman lay in a heap before her, thrown some five yards from the crash.
Anne dropped to her knees beside the woman and assured herself that she was in fact breathing. "She’s alive but unconscious," she shouted to Mr. Thomas, "how is he?"
"Out cold," he shouted back, "He’s no visible injuries, but I’m affeared of his back at that angle."
"Lets not move him until we’ve help." She quickly surveyed the woman and could see a rather badly broken leg and severe cuts along her face and hands, no doubt where she’d scraped against the ground on landing. "She’s got a broken leg and is bleeding quite a bit. I’ll stay with her as you go for help," Anne spoke with a command far greater than her usual manner. Elizabeth may give the orders in her household, but she was useless in a crisis and Anne knew when she must take control of a situation. Her mother had taught her all of the typical nursing skills necessary for women of their station, and there was a time when she had read extensively on treating wounds. She had thought such skills would come in handy if... But now was not the time to dwell on past regrets.
Without heeding any proprieties, she began tearing strips of fabric off of her middle petticoat to use as bandages. The leg was her first concern, the bone had punctured through the skin and it was bleeding badly. She could do nothing to set the bone here, but she wrapped a long strip of cotton above the break, twisting and tying it as tight as she could. She was pleased when the bleeding visibly lessened. Appropriating a piece of wood from the ruined gig, she bound the injured limb to it to minimize further damage in transit. She quickly bandaged off the cuts on the woman’s hands and arms then held a piece of fabric to the cut on her face.
She heard the rapid approach of feet. "Anne!" Her brother-in-law, Charles Musgrove called as they approached. "We met Mr. Thomas as we were out shooting. We’ve sent a servant for the apothecary and sent Mr. Thomas on to Uppercross to get more help and supplies, how are they?"
"I’ve not seen the gentleman ans Mr. Thomas saw to him before running for help, but she’s as stable as she’ll be until we can set this leg."
"We should get them up to Uppercross," Mr. Musgrove, Charles’s father said as he came up, panting from the run.
"Is that wise? The cottage is not half so far and my chamber is on the first floor, we may bring them there until we know more."
Charles, always willing to be led when difficult decisions were to be made, heartily replied, "Of course!"
Mr. Musgrove, eager to be of use, and not unaware of the smaller size of the Uppercross cottage compared to Uppercross manor, and of his daughter-in-law’s disposition, was hesitant to agree, but Anne’s arguments that it would be in the best interests of their patients soon prevailed.
As a small stream of servants approached with doors taken off of their hinges to transport the injured strangers, Anne first supervised moving the lady onto a door and gave instructions to remove her to the cottage and instill her in her own chamber. After Mr. Musgrove and Charles set off with her first patient, she turned her attention to the gentleman, as she approached, she was relieved to see the first signs of consciousness appear. "Try not to move," she told him gently, but with an air of command, as she approached, "you’ve been in an accident, I’m going to check you for injuries."
He was sprawled on his back with his head inside the cart and his back resting unevenly against the raised edge of the cart. Anne was far too short to do much from the ground, and very much dismayed to discover her patient was, indeed laying in a dung cart. But she was aware of the limited anatomical knowledge of her well-meaning brother-in-law and his father and therefore that she had best check him before he was moved.
"Sophy?" He asked in a gruff voice, still disoriented.
"Her leg is broken, and she’s rather cut up. The bone broke through the skin and the wound was bleeding badly, but I put a tourniquet on her and it slowed the bleeding. We’ll know more when she regains consciousness." She answered as she climbed up behind his head and looked him over. "Luckily you don’t appear to have any open wounds, as contact with this fertilizer would surely increase the risk of infection. Can you move your hands and feet?" She asked as she plunged her hand beneath him and felt the length of his spine for injury. All four appendages moved in their turn. "Good, your spine seems to be in tact, I think you can get up now if you feel up to it"
"Are you a doctor?" He asked gruffly?
Anne shifted so she was above him and could offer him her hand. "Unfortunately, they tend to leave such titles to men, but I am a capable nurse." He looked up to her approvingly with clear green eyes.
"You’re a fair sight gentler and prettier to wake up to than most doctors and surgeons I’ve known, but you sure do talk like them." He said as he took her hand and slowly righted himself.
"Anne!" Charles said disapprovingly as he approached them, "You could have waited for me to return before climbing into ..." He trailed off and his nose wrinkled at the smell. Nonetheless, he offered his hand to help her down. "It’s hardly a place for a lady."
"I had to be sure of his injuries before he could move, and I was willing and able to help, would you have me risk his health for my own delicate sensibilities?"
Charles looked as if he might answer in the affirmative but her patient, stiff and sore, but otherwise no worse for the wear, forestalled him. "The doctor here had the foresight to put a tourniquet on a gaping leg wound and assure I had no damage to my spine after a severe blow to my back before I moved. Would you have had the knowledge to do so?"
Charles sputtered somewhat, unsure of his answer. This was apparently answer enough for him and he nodded and said: "Well, Miss, I’m glad you were on hand to aid us and weren’t so missish to shy away from blood or dung to help strangers in need," he said with evident gratitude and admiration. "Admiral Croft, at your service," he attempted a bow, but found his head still too light and sore to properly perform such a maneuver. Valiantly ignoring her rising pulse at the identity of her patient, Anne held out her hand to steady him and led her disoriented patient to a cart brought by the servants for their service.
As they walked, she heard Charles finishing the introductions. "I’m Mr. Charles Musgrove, sir. This is Anne Elliot, she is my wife’s sister. We’ve taken Mrs. Croft to our home until she’s been seen by the apothecary." Anne climbed up on the cart with the Admiral, aware of the filth and blood that caked her morning gown. As they made the short trip back to the cottage, Anne counted her blessings that Frederick himself had not witnessed her present state yet marveled at the odds that she should be so near and able to aid his sister.
It was not until hours later, after the apothecary had come and gone and Mrs. Croft was established as comfortably as possible in Anne’s own bed and a cot placed beside for Anne to nurse her, that she realized the consequences. Frederick would come — she had seen the Admiral writing to him. He would be here. Soon. In her bedchamber even, to visit his injured sister. She sat on the cot and attempted to discern whether she longed for or feared his arrival.
Ch 2 (Re)introductions
There’s been a carriage accident. Sophy’s injured. Luckily our clever young doctor was able to save her leg, but she’s still unconscious. Sophy’s been ordered to stay at a cottage nearby the accident for fear of further injury. Come immediately.
Frederick blinked down at the short express from his brother-in-law. His sister had survived years living aboard ship during a war with little more than bumps and bruises and yet somehow managed to severely injure herself within two months of peace on shore. He began packing his belongings immediately. He would go, he would be there for his sister when she needed him. Sophy had been pressing him to visit them even before his ship hit port, but he had put off any definite response. There were too many memories in that house, that county, warning Frederick from returning. But now he would be forced to return to the location of his greatest humiliation and sorrow. Even if his fraternal duty did not urge him to Somersetshire, he would not disobey the summons. The admiral had left off their titles in his note, but the tenor was no less than an order from a ranking officer. Frederick cursed the cruel twist of fate that led them to rent that house of all places. Her house.
The journey from Plymouth was not long and he arrived in good time the day following the accident. It was dark as he approached the gates of Kellynch, but he allowed his horse to slow and stop. He wanted to be angry. He wanted to be spiteful. He wanted to triumph over the fact that he’d accomplished all he said he would when she had doubted him — that he was rich while her pompous father had been forced to let his ancestral home. But all he felt at the first sight of her home in eight years was deep sorrow for what might have been. After the hurried trip he knew he ought to go in, to inquire after his sister’s health, to bolster the Admiral. The gates were even left open in anticipation of his arrival, and yet they still formed an invisible barrier he seemed unable to cross. As it turned out, breaching the gate of her house, even in the absence of all the family, terrified him more than breaching an enemy blockade when he was out-maned and outgunned.
When he finally did enter the park it felt sadly anticlimactic, he was met with a darkened drive lined by trees rustling in the evening breeze. Having already fought his battle of will, he was unprepared for the assault on crossing the threshold of the house. Memories crashed in on him in waves and he seemed to remember every welcome he had received there in turn. Anne greeting him with a demure curtsy and a kind inquiry after his brother. Anne greeting him with a grateful smile as she escaped her sister to walk with him. Anne’s eyes twinkling with mischief as she led him to the library. Anne greeting him with an incandescent smile and love shining in her eyes the day after he’d proposed. Sir Walter’s mask of bored indignation as he all but denied his consent. Anne’s sober determination as she fought for their future. Lady Russell’s haughty disdain as Anne stood beside her, the hope fading from her eyes. Anne’s sobbing as she broke their engagement. These memories seemed to huddle about him like specters as he handed his hat, gloves, and greatcoat to the same butler who had witnessed all of these past greetings but gave no indication of recognition now.
His emotions threatened to overcome his senses until he was drawn out of them but a gruff: "Frederick! I’m glad you’ve arrived," from the admiral.
"Admiral," he said as he took long strides toward his brother-in-law, "how is Sophy?"
"She woke up this morning with a deuce of a headache and some sensitivity to light and sound, but nothing you and I haven’t survived after a canon blast to the ship. The doctor says there’s no sign of infection in her leg, and it’s been set properly, although that apothecary doesn’t seem to be worth his weight in powders."
Frederick tried to parse this account as they walked into the drawing room, "She’s seen a doctor and an apothecary?"
"What?" The Admiral looked up in some confusion before his brow cleared and he laughed as they sat. "No, ’doctor’ is just what I’ve been calling the girl who found us, you know how I am with lady’s names... Catherine, Anne, Elizabeth, Mary ... one of the Tudor queens. Saved your sister’s leg, if not her life I’d reckon. Sacrificed strips off her own petticoat to create a tourniquet after the bone broke through the skin. I’ve not known many girls who wouldn’t faint dead away at such a sight, let alone properly treat it. Then she crawled up into a dung cart to insure my spine was safe before she’d let me move. She’s worth ten of that country apothecary though — she had to remind him to clean the wound with alcohol before he set the leg, and she stitched it up herself. Then she gave up her own bedchamber so that Sophy could recover comfortably and has been nursing her ever since."
Frederick’s heart clenched at the description. He remembered Anne’s self-sacrificing nature, the care she took of others, and her prowess as a nurse. He had to remind himself that Anne and her family had left the neighborhood. He had never yet come across another woman like her, but that didn’t make this paragon his Anne. Besides, climbing into a dung cart would be beneath the Elliot pride. "She sounds like quite a woman," Frederick replied numbly.
"Yes. Most ship’s surgeons or field-cutters would have amputated, but not her. She’d be welcome on my ship any day with skill, nerves and instincts like hers. "
Frederick scoffed, I would never willingly admit any ladies on board a ship of mine, excepting for a ball, or a visit, which a few hours might comprehend.
"That’s not very gallant of you my boy," abused the Admiral.
"But, if I know myself," said he, "this is from no want of gallantry towards them. It is rather from feeling how impossible it is, with all one’s efforts, and all one’s sacrifices, to make the accommodations on board such as women ought to have. There can be no want of gallantry, Admiral, in rating the claims of women to every personal comfort high, and this is what I do. I hate to hear of women on board, or to see them on board."
The admiral shook his head at him. "When you’ve got a wife, you will sing a different tune. My Sophy has spent most of her married life on board and has been most content, and I’ve very thankful to have her with me." He paused thoughtfully, "and do you think a woman who would willingly climb into a cart of manure to aid a stranger would have any qualms over the accommodations of a frigate or man-of-war?"
"Perhaps not, but such a woman could hardly be a lady."
The admiral harrumphed at this slight to his new favorite, "daughter of this house she was. Her and her sister now live over at Uppercross. One of them is married to that Musgrove fellow, though my head wasn’t quite recovered well enough from the crash when introductions were made to rightly remember which was which."
Frederick’s heart stopped. Catherine, Anne, Elizabeth, Mary ... Blast if he hadn’t listed all of the Elliot sisters. Never in a million years could he envision Elizabeth Elliot soiling her gown for any reason, much less in order to give aid. Frederick had never met the youngest as she’d been away at school that summer, but he’d always heard her described as flighty, frivolous, and always fancying herself ill. No, this ’doctor’ had to be Anne. But was it possible she was married? In his mind she was forever frozen at nineteen: beautiful, intelligent, naive, persuadable. He knew it was possible, probable even, that she’d moved on and married, but even the thought of it was painful.
While Frederick was having this moment of self-reflection, the admiral was vocally trying to piece together his doctor’s identity. "I heard only one word in three of that introduction for all of the buzzing in my ears, but the young Musgrove did help her down from the cart and admonish her about her unladylike behavior. It stands to reason that she’s his wife. Well, you’ll see for yourself tomorrow as you can hardly avoid the introduction."
Tomorrow. An odd sensation of excitement mingled with dread settled on him. He would see her again tomorrow. Possibly at her husband’s home. Surrounded by her children. How could he bear to see the future that should have been his acted out with another man? What right had she to be happy when she’d stolen his future happiness from him? How dare she impose herself on him again after he’d finally forgotten her ... At least he had meant to forget her, and believed it to be done ... And she’d saved his sister’s life. By the admiral’s account she was every bit as selfless and kind and capable and ... perfect as she’d always been. Tomorrow.
This morning Sophy woke early, slowly coming out of the fog of her dreams. It was not yet dawn, she could hear Anne’s measured, easy breaths beside her on the cot, indicating that she was still asleep. Sophy tried to shift into a more comfortable position, but the stints and straps securing her leg made that impossible. She raised her hand to itch her forehead and realized that the bandages on her hand prevented her from doing so. Thwarted in all measures of comfort, she pushed back into her pillow with a sigh and attempted to sleep, but it was no use. She was awake. She peered around the room, chasing any form of entertainment, but there was little of any note. The window was unfortunately positioned at just such a height that she could see the sky, but nothing earth-bound. She strained up onto her elbows to see further, but that pulled at her leg and she cried slightly in the pain.
"Is there anything I might do for you Sophy?" Came Anne’s groggy but solicitous voice.
"I am sorry to have intruded on your sleep Anne, I find myself rather restless this morning."
"Quite understandable. Have you need for the necessary?" As she hadn’t yet risen she hadn’t realized it but now it was quite evident that she did. She merely nodded and blushed slightly. As Anne helped her accomplish mundane and personal tasks of personal hygiene, Sophy inwardly chaffed at being so useless and requiring such aid. She was a capable, battle-hardened woman!
After an hour of painful labor to accomplish what ordinarily would have taken no more than fifteen minutes, Sophy was seated upright in bed with her bandages changed, face washed, teeth powdered, hair brushed and arranged, and a mountain of pillows at her back. She was exhausted. As Anne began bustling around the room to make her own preparations, Sophy was struk anew by this lady’s selflessness. "I must apologize again for taking over your bedchamber. I’m affraid I’m a rather troublesome house guest."
Anne smiled, "perhaps troublesome for a house guest, but you’ve been an ideal patient thus far." She moved to the corner where there was a dressing screan. "Do you mind if I simply get dressed here, that way I do not need to trouble the maid to sit with you while I do so."
"Of course not, so long as I do not trouble you."
Anne laughed from behind the screen. "I must admit it’s been somewhat fun sharing a room with you, quite like sharing the nursery with my sisters when we were little. Before we became fine ladies."
"I envy you your sisters then, I had only brothers who were more apt to bring frogs into the nursery than to whisper secrets," Sophy said drowsily.
"Yes, so I’ve heard," Anne replied and for a moment, Sophy was puzzled by her meaning. Unfortunately, the strains of getting ready for the morning had taken their effect and before she could examine Anne’s source for such information she drifted off to sleep. When she opened her eyes again she found Anne at the door accepting a breakfast tray from a maid.
"Do you feel up to eating?" Anne asked, "I know laudanum sometimes makes me queasy, but it’s best to keep your strength up nonetheless."
"Thank you," Sophy said then looked at the tray Anne set before her with nothing more than a bowl of gruel and some toast. "I suppose if I must," she sighed. In order to avoid sight of Anne’s more appetizing breakfast, she shifted her eyes to the window. The dusty purple sky was beginning to be shot through with tendrils of red, orange, and pink. "It’s a shame I cannot see more of the window," she sighed.
"Perhaps," began Anne as she moved to the vanity and shoved it slightly, then adjusted the tilt of the mirror, "does that help?" Sophy shifted her gaze to the mirror and was gifted with a full view of the rolling fields and trees at sunrise."
"Perfect, thank you." The two ladies sat in silence for some time eating their breakfast and watching the sun rise.
Over the course of the morning they spent much time discussing Sophy’s time at sea. She found Anne to be curiously well-informed on shipboard life. She asked insightful questions and Sophy gave frank answers.
"You seem to know quite a bit about the Navy," Sophy finally stated directly after Anne began another question with the phrase I’ve heard...
Anne blushed and averted her eyes. "I ... that is ..." she bit her lips and Sophy suddenly felt she was looking a a much younger girl "... I have read a lot."
"Evidently," Sophy replied sardonically, not believing that the girl had no more personal connection to the Navy than mere books.
"My ..." she cleared her throat "... that is to say all of my sources have been men. It’s been wonderful to hear your experience."
Sophy smiled, "yes, I suppose my life and my marriage have been rather far outside of the common way." She paused, looking intently at her audience and was struck with the desire to startle the girl out of her reserve. "You would make a fine Navy wife, my dear." She was not disappointed.
Anne choked and sputtered out the tea she was drinking. Her face first drained of color, then blushed furiously, and she refused to meet Sophy’s eye. "Was there a young sailor in your past?" Without a word Anne nodded in the affirmative with tears pooling in her eyes. "You loved him?" Anne took a tremulous breath and nodded again. "What happened?" The silence drew on for a long moment as Anne’s eyes bounced across any object in the room other than Sophy.
"Her father objected to the young man." A deep low voice answered from the doorway.
Sophy’s head snapped to her brother and she found that her cry of "Frederick!" was made in chorus with Anne. All of the pieces slid into place at once: his reluctance to visit Kellynch, her knowledge of Sophy’s childhood, her familiarity with the Navy, her reluctance to discuss her young man.
"Frederick!" She jumped out of her chair and stared at him, pale and startled as if she’d seen a ghost. He was still Frederick! Not Captain or Mr. Wentworth, but Frederick. He strove for an impassive face as he bowed to her. She curtsied back, but she seemed to finally lose the battle over her tears and said: "if you’ll excuse me," in a quiet hurried voice. Before he could register her words she was past him and rushing down the hall.
"Anne!" He called after her, but she did not heed him.
"Frederick Wentworth!" His sister’s voice had taken the same tone she’d used to scold him when he was young and she’d all but taken over their mother’s role after her death. "Explain yourself immediately!"
"Hello Sophy," he pasted a false smile on his face and turned toward her, "how are you feeling?"
"Confused and entirely dependent on that girl you just sent running out of the room crying. Now explain!"
Frederick sighed and sunk into the chair, covering his face with his hands. It was her chair. In her bedchamber. Where she had been nursing his injured sister. "Do you recall the summer of ’06, when I came to visit Edward? He was curate of the nearby parish of Monkford. I met Anne and she was like a breath of fresh sea air. I had never — nor have I since — encountered such perfect excellence of the mind or the perfect unrivalled hold it possessed over my own. I fell in love with her almost instantly, and she with me. I proposed and was elated when she accepted me. Her father ... well, you’ve met Sir Walter. He did not care for his daughter to marry a man of no consequence — little though he cared to provide her with any other luxuries or opportunities — but she resisted his officiousness and stood by me." He paused for a moment, drawing courage to recount the next fatal blow. He felt Sophy’s hand on his arm. "Her godmother, Lady Russell, convinced her against me in the end. She broke off our engagement and we’ve not seen each other in over eight years." It more than he’d ever spoken of the subject to anyone, and Frederick felt drained from the effort.
"Oh, Frederick," Sophy’s hand tightened on his arm, "you need to go after her."
His head snapped up and some of the indignation and resentment of the last eight years bubbled to the surface. " She broke my heart. She cast me aside. Why must I go after her?"
"Because she saved my life. Because you’ve had chances over the past eight years to speak to her and have not." Frederick began to object to this point, but Sophy raised her hand to silence him. "We both know she could not contact you no matter how much she may wish to, any reconciliation would have to be initiated by you." Frederick allowed this logic to sink in and he hung his head.
"Most importantly, you should go after her because I’ve just spent the last eight and fourty hours with her and I know that she loves you still."
His head again snapped up to meet his sister’s gaze. "How?"
"Looking back, nearly every conversation we’ve had had veiled references to you had I known to search them out. She’s asked me about my childhood and my family. She’s researched the Navy. She’s peppered me with questions about being a woman living onboard ship, about being married to a captain — she said captain, not admiral. And because that brave, intelligent capable woman would not have run out of the room crying were she not in love with you."
"Not to mention that she’s got a copy of the Navy list with what looks like every newspaper mention of you for the last eight years tucked in to the leaves," the admiral added from the corner near a small bookshelf. He handed Frederick the small book, bloated from its bindings with the added clippings. Frederick reverently turned the pages and flipped through the articles, some marred by tear stains.
As he desperately tried to wrap his head around the fact that Anne still loved him — had always loved him, even as she ended their engagement — Sophy quietly asked: "The only real question left is do you love her?"
He’d spent eight years telling himself he was indiferent, that he’d forgotten her, that she’d used him ill, but in that moment he knew the answer with certain clarity. "Yes," he breathed. "I’ve never stopped loving her."
"Then why are you still here?" The admiral asked in a tone that was habitually used to carry commands over howling gales.
Still grasping the book, Frederick bolted out of the chair and hurried after Anne. When he passed the morning room, he stopped and urgently asked: "Anne?" Her sister gaped, her brother-in-law blustered, but a remarkable stout, forward child, of two years old stood and pointed out toward the gardens. He nodded his thanks and headed out the double doors.
Hey everyone, I hope you like this little story. As usual, I've got the whole story written, but the message board only lets me post it in doses. This one's short, only ~13000 words, but if you'd like the pdf of the whole story, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medical Notes: I am not fluent in Regency era medical procedures and I know that some of this seems anachronistic, but I wanted to write a scenario that was fairly plausible and showed Anne’s capability, knowledge, and selflessness. I essentially wanted her to be well read and knowledgeable enough of medicine that she would both impress the admiral and Frederick and not do anything horrible to Sophy. Unfortunately, medical knowledge and wound care of the time were batshit crazy. Broken bones could heal, but since Sophy’s bone broke through the skin and left a gaping wound, it would have been more difficult to deal with.
It would have been standard practice to probe a wound then add an irritant (that would make it worse) because it looked like it was doing ... something (?), and they thought puss was a good sign (AAAAHHH!). Then, when the leg inevitably went gangrene they would amputate. Sometimes they didn’t even wait for the gangrene, they would just preemptively amputate.
Also, germ theory had existed since 1546, but doctors and surgeons still thought it was a load of bunk in the early nineteenth century, so they didn’t bother with silly details like washing their hands or cleaning tools. Nurses and midwives had a much better track record for at least washing and cleaning wounds than doctors and surgeons, so I’m giving Anne that benefit of the doubt — but maybe she’s just fastidious.
However, tourniquets, pouring alcohol on wounds, using stitches to stop bleeding, and checking the wound for heat, redness, and inflammation as signs of infection were known techniques (and actually wouldn’t do any harm to the patient). If Anne had read Galen and Hippocrates (because for real, ancient Greek medical practices were still in use) as well as Moyle, she could have come up with this treatment plan.
Fitzharris, Lindsey. The Butchering Art : Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine. New York : Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.
Moyle, John. Abstractum Chirurgiae Marinae., or, An Abstract of Sea Chirurgery: Designed for the Use of Such Chirurgeons Who Desire to Serve at Sea, Yet Are Unacquainted with Sea Practice : in Order to Their Restoring to Health of Sick or Wounded Sea-Men; but May All Fitly Serve for Most Chirurgeons. In Three Compendious Books. The First Containeth Certain Directions Necessary to Be Observed by the Sea-Chirurgeon in His Fitting out. The Second Teacheth How He Should Perform His Chirurgical Duty Being at Sea, Both in an Ingagement and at Other Times. The Third Instructeth How He Must Execute the Phisical Office Imposed on Him. London: Printed by J. Richardson for Tho. Passinger, 1686.
John XXI, Pope. The Treasurie of Healthe : Conteynyng Many Profitable Medycines, Gathered out of Hypocrates, Galen and Auycen. Imprynted at London in Fletestreate at the sygne of the Rosegarland :by Wyllyam Coplande., 1550.
I’d also strongly recommend the podcast Sawbones if you’re not missish or squeamish and enjoy learning about medical history.