A Surrendered Heart
by Judith Miller
A Surrendered Heart
By Judith Miller and Tracie Peterson
Wednesday, April 26, 1899Rochester, New York
CHOLERA ON THE RISE! EPIDEMIC ANTICIPATED IN ROCHESTER!
Amanda Broadmoor glanced at the imprudent headline that emblazoned last night's edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Why must the newspaper exaggerate? People would be frightened into a genuine panic with such ill-advised news reporting. Turning the headline to the inside, she creased the paper and slipped it beneath a stack of mail on the marble-topped table in the lower hallway of her family's fashionable home. Certain this most recent newspaper article would cause yet another family squabble, she had hidden the paper in her bedroom the previous evening.
No doubt the glaring headline had increased sales for the owner of the press. The paper had been quick to report four recent deaths attributed to the dreaded disease, and with an early spring and unrelenting rains, a number of prominent families had already fled the city. After yesterday's report, more would surely follow. And for those who didn't possess the wherewithal to flee, the report would serve no purpose but to heighten their fear.
Of course the Broadmoors were among the social elite of Rochester, New York. Amanda had never known need or want, and when bad things dared to rear their ugly heads, she had been carefully sheltered from the worst of it. All that had changed, however, when she decided to seek a career in medicine.
At twenty-one, Amanda felt she had the right to make her own way in life, but her father and mother hardly saw it that way. Their attitudes reflected those of their peers and the world around them. Women working in the medical field were highly frowned upon, and a woman of Amanda's social standing was reared to marry and produce heirs, not to tend the sick. Especially not those suffering from cholera.
"And Mama can be such an alarmist."
At the first report Amanda's mother had suggested the entire family take refuge at their summer estate located on Broadmoor Island in the St. Lawrence River. But that idea had been immediately vetoed by her father. Jonas Broadmoor had avowed his work would not permit him to leave Rochester. And Amanda agreed with her father's decision. After devoting much of her time and energy to medical training at Dr. Carstead's side, Amanda couldn't possibly desert her work—not now—not when she was most needed.
Amanda glanced at the clock. Her mother would expect her for breakfast, but remaining any longer would simply ensure a tearful plea for her to cease working with Dr. Carstead. She would then need to offer a lengthy explanation as to why her work was critical, and that in turn would cause a tardy arrival at the Home for the Friendless. Before the matter could be resolved, much valuable time would be wasted, time that could be used to care for those in need of her ministrations. With each newspaper claim, an argument ensued, leaving Amanda to feel she must betray either her mother or Dr. Carstead. She didn't feel up to a quarrel today.
After fastening her cloak, she tucked a strand of blond hair beneath her bonnet and slipped into the kitchen, where the carriage driver was finishing his morning repast. "Do hurry," she said, motioning toward the door. "I'm needed at the Home."
He downed a final gulp of coffee, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and nodded. "The carriage is ready and waiting." He quickstepped to the east side of the kitchen and opened the door with a flourish. His broad smile revealed a row of uneven teeth. "You see? Always prepared. That's my motto."
"An excellent motto, though sometimes difficult to achieve," Amanda said, pleased to discover the rain had ceased.
She hurried toward the carriage, the driver close on her heels. Her own attempts to be prepared seemed to fall short far too often. Since beginning her study of medicine with Dr. Carstead, she'd made every effort to anticipate his needs, but it seemed he frequently requested an item she'd never before heard of, a medical instrument other than what she offered, or a bandage of a different width. Amanda was certain her inadequate choices sometimes annoyed him. However, he held his temper in check—at least most of the time.
"Did you read today's headline?" the driver asked before closing the carriage door.
Amanda nodded. "Indeed. That's why we must hurry. I'm afraid there will be many at the clinic doors this morning. Sometimes simply hearing about an illness causes people to fear they've contracted it." A sense of exhaustion washed over her just thinking about the work ahead.
The driver grimaced. "I know what you mean, miss. I read the article in the paper and then wondered if I was suffering some of the symptoms myself."
"Have you been having difficulty with your digestive organs?"
At the mention of his digestive organs, the color heightened in the driver's cheeks. He glanced away and shook his head. "No, but I had a bit of a headache yesterday, and thought I was a bit thirstier than usual."
"It's likely nothing, but if you begin to experience additional symptoms, be sure to come and see the doctor. Don't wait too long."
Still unable to meet her gaze, he touched his finger to the brim of his hat. "Thank you for your concern, miss. I'll heed your advice."
When they arrived at the Home for the Friendless a short time later, Amanda's prediction proved true. Lines had formed outside the building, and there was little doubt most of those waiting were seeking medical attention. After bidding the driver good day, she hurried around the side of the building and entered through the back door leading into the office Dr. Blake Carstead occupied during his days at the Home.
She stopped short at the sight of the doctor examining a young woman. "You've arrived earlier than usual, I see."
He grunted. "After reading last night's newspaper, I knew we'd have more patients today. I wish someone would place a muzzle on that reporter. He seems to take delight in frightening people. Did you read what he said?"
Amanda removed her cloak and hung it on the peg alongside the doctor's woolen overcoat. "Only the headline," she replied. "I do hope the article was incorrect."
Dr. Carstead continued to examine a cut on his patient's arm. "It was exaggerated. There was one death due to cholera, but a colleague tells me the other deaths occurred when a carriage overturned and crushed two passersby. I don't know why the owner of that paper permits such slipshod reporting. If I practiced medicine the way that newspaper reports the news, I'd have a room filled with dead patients."
The patient's eyes widened at the doctor's last remark.
"He truly does a better job than the newspaper," Amanda said, approaching the woman's side.
Once the woman's arm had been properly bandaged, Amanda showed her to the door and returned to see how she could best assist Blake that day.
"Honestly, I think the newspaper enjoys putting people in a state of panic," Blake said as he washed his hands.
"Trouble sells papers." Amanda held out a towel.
Blake took it and looked at her oddly for a moment. "You look pale. Are you sleeping and eating right?"
She put her hands on her hips. "I might ask you the same thing. You haven't slept in days."
"I didn't know you were keeping track," he said rather sarcastically. "But I don't have the same privilege of going home to a comfortable meal and bed that you have."
"And whose fault is that?" Amanda countered. "You won't go home, and you won't let me stay."
"It wouldn't be proper."
She huffed. "It won't be proper when you collapse from exhaustion, either, but I'm sure I'll think of something to tell the masses of sick people. 'Oh, we're very sorry, but the doctor is a prideful and arrogant man who believes himself immortal.' Even God rested on the seventh day, Dr. Carstead."
"God wasn't dealing with cholera at the time," Blake replied, unmoved by her comments.
Amanda let out an exasperated breath and went to wipe down the examination table.
It was their last opportunity for private banter, as a steady stream of patients kept them working until well past six that evening.
Exhausted but unwilling to let on to how tired she was, Amanda reached for her coat and suppressed a yawn.
"How are you getting home?" Blake asked.
"I'm certain the driver is waiting for me."
"I'll walk you out and make sure he's there."
Amanda didn't argue. She wanted to ask when he planned to leave but knew it would only stir an argument. She had no energy left to partake of such a silly exchange, and Blake seemed to sense this.
Taking hold of her arm, he escorted her out to the street, where the Broadmoor carriage waited. The driver quickly climbed down and opened the door. His coat revealed that it had been raining much of the time he'd been waiting.
"Try to eat a good meal and take a hot bath," Blake instructed as he helped her into the carriage. "You're no good to me if you get sick."
Amanda shook her head and fixed him with a stare. "I was thinking much the same about you. Besides, you stink and need a shave."
He looked at her soberly for a moment and then broke into a smile. "There you go again. Caring about me."
She reached for the door. "I'm not at all concerned about you, Dr. Carstead, but the friendless and sick are beginning to take up a collection for you. I believe they plan to purchase a bar of soap and a razor."
Amanda pulled the door shut even as she heard Blake roar with laughter. She smiled to herself. It was good to hear him laugh. There had been so little worth laughing about these last days.
Thursday, April 27, 1899
"You're late," Blake growled out as Amanda entered the examination room the next day. "I know I told you to rest, but I didn't mean all night and all day."
"Oh, hush. I'm only a few minutes late. The driver was delayed this morning." She hung up her coat and immediately pulled on her apron. She gave Blake a cursory glance. "I see you took my advice. Now at least you won't drive people away in fear."
Blake touched his clean-shaven chin before pointing to the door. "The Rochester Health Board has sent examiners to check us out. I didn't want to look shabby for them."
Amanda dropped to a nearby chair. She gasped as a fleeting pain sliced through her midsection. Once again she had hurried out of the house without breakfast in order to avoid a confrontation with her mother. This time, however, she was certain that had she eaten breakfast, she would have embarrassed herself in front of the good doctor. She swallowed and clasped her open palm tight against her waist. "Has there been any further word regarding the quarantine?"
Dr. Carstead nodded toward the crowd gathered outside his door and touched a finger to his pursed lips. "We don't want to cause undue worry." He leaned forward, his dark hazel eyes radiating concern. "You're not getting sick on me, are you?"
"No, of course not. I experienced a brief moment of discomfort, but I'm feeling fine." She stood and brushed a wrinkle from her faded navy blue skirt.
Shortly after beginning her work with Dr. Carstead, she'd acquired a uniform of sorts. The doctor had been quick to advise that if she was serious about learning medicine, she'd best save her expensive silk and satin day dresses for leisure and adopt a more utilitarian form of dress for her days at the clinic. At first she'd been affronted by his remark, but he'd been correct. Even though she had covered her serge skirts and cotton blouses with a canvas apron, the Broadmoor laundress still complained of the stains that required extra scrubbing.
"I'm sure we'll hear of the examiner's decision soon. Why don't you go through the line and separate those who have complaints that suggest they've contracted cholera. Place them in the office at the end of the hallway. When you've completed that, let me know and I'll examine them."
Amanda retrieved a pencil and paper. She preferred keeping notes while she spoke to the patients, especially when there were so many. Otherwise important details could easily be forgotten.
Before exiting the room, Amanda poured a glass of water and quickly downed the contents. The cool liquid slid down her parched throat, but her stomach immediately clenched in a painful spasm. Perhaps she should have eaten breakfast after all. Forcing a smile, she replaced the glass and hurried out of the room with her stomach still violently protesting.
Dr. Carstead waved another patient into his office, and Amanda stopped beside the next person in line. Although the older man appeared disgruntled when she approached, he finally complied when she advised him that he couldn't see the doctor until he'd answered her questions. A brief look at the lump on his head and a view of his scraped knuckles confirmed that today's visit had nothing to do with cholera. After spending too much time at the local tavern last night, he'd challenged another patron to a fight.
Amanda managed to maintain her composure for a while longer but stopped short when she came to the sixth person in the long line. Clutching her stomach, she pointed her finger toward the ceiling. "I'll be back," she promised, then dropped her pencil and paper on a nearby table. Grabbing an enamel basin, she raced into a room at the far end of the hall and divested herself of the water she'd swallowed only minutes earlier. The liquid burned the back of her throat, and her stomach muscles ached in protest, but that was soon forgotten when gripping pains attacked her lower intestines. The intensity sent her running for the bathroom.
When she returned a short time later, Dr. Carstead was waiting. "You're sick. You're as white as a sheet and shaking. Why didn't you tell me earlier? You may have infected all those you came in contact with today."
Amanda clutched her stomach. "You think I have cholera?" She shook her head in denial. "I failed to eat breakfast and my stomach is upset—nothing more." Another spasm gripped her midsection, and her knees buckled. Had Blake not held her upright, she would have collapsed at his feet.
Blake Carstead stared at Amanda's pale face while he tucked a heavy blanket over her quivering body. He raked his long fingers through his unruly mass of dark brown hair and turned toward the door. How could he possibly manage without Amanda's help? The crowd continued to increase by the minute.
"Quincy! I need your help," Blake shouted to Amanda's uncle, the proprietor of the Home for the Friendless. If Amanda contracted cholera, her parents would hold him responsible. Neither had encouraged her to pursue medical training. In fact, her father had used every ruse possible to keep her out of medical school. When Blake had suggested she could work with him and receive training, she'd readily accepted.
Amanda stirred and touched his arm. "Water. I'm so thirsty," she whispered.
He offered her only a couple ounces, for he knew what would occur. She clutched the glass and downed the small amount of liquid he offered. Immediately, she pointed to the nearby basin. Fear shone in her eyes as she heaved relentlessly before falling back onto the bed.
Where was Quincy? He rushed to the door and peered into the clamoring crowd of patients. All of them wanted to see a doctor—and none of them wanted to wait in the overflowing room. They all feared the same thing. The person sitting beside them might carry the dreaded disease. When he finally spotted Quincy, he stepped farther into the room and shouted above the din. Two men, neither one appearing particularly happy, stood inside the front entrance. Blake recognized them as officials from the Health Department. They shook their heads, obviously agitated and anxious to be on their way. They pushed a paper into Quincy's hand and hurried from the room.
After Quincy read the paper, he shoved it into his jacket and then cupped his hands to his mouth. "The Home for the Friendless has been placed under quarantine. The authorities have tacked a formal notice to the front gate."
A hum of dissent quickly escalated into angry voices. Quincy retrieved the wrinkled sheet of paper from his pocket and waved it overhead. "This is a letter of explanation. No one is to leave the building."
Blake wasn't surprised when the gathered patients rushed out of the waiting room and onto the streets. They looked like mice fleeing a sinking ship, and there was no one to stop them. Within minutes few remained, and those who did were too infirm to leave under their own power. By the terms of the quarantine, no one should have left the building, but neither Blake nor Quincy possessed the power to hold them prisoner. And the authorities didn't have sufficient time to enforce the orders. They were too busy delivering them.
The behavior of the patients came as no surprise to Dr. Carstead. He'd seen the same reaction in other cities. People understood the need for quarantines, but they refused to be inconvenienced. He'd discovered many were willing to remain within the confines of their own homes, but they didn't want to be held in an unfamiliar institution such as the Home for the Friendless. And he understood their behavior. He, too, would have preferred to be surrounded by the comfort and convenience of his own home, where the downstairs had been converted into a doctor's office with all of the latest equipment to provide care for patients able to afford his medical services.
Recently Blake's volunteer work at the Home was consuming more and more of his time. There was little doubt he would be needed here during the days to come. The living conditions of those who required free medical care made them all the more susceptible to diseases. Besides, there were sufficient doctors within the city of Rochester to care for those patients who could afford to pay for medical treatment.
According to the terms of the notice, they would be quarantined at the Home for the next five days. Further evaluation would be made at that time. And with several patients showing definite signs of cholera, Blake guessed the quarantine would be extended. If they were to stave off the spread of the disease, it would take more than quarantines.
He lifted his gaze upward. "We need you, Lord," he whispered before finally gaining Quincy's attention. When the older man drew near, Blake grasped him by the arm and pulled him closer. "It's Amanda. I'm afraid she's suffering from cholera."
Quincy peered across the threshold. The sight of his niece caused him to pale. "I greeted her when she arrived this morning. She looked fine. When did this . . . How could this . . . Her parents will never forgive me. They'll blame this on me."
"They can't possibly blame you. They—"
Quincy shook his head with a vehemence that caused his hair to settle in unfashionable disarray. "You mark my words. If Amanda doesn't recover, I'll face my brother's wrath for the remainder of my days. Jonas Broadmoor can hold a grudge longer than any man I've ever known."
Both of the men turned when Amanda stirred. "My stomach. I need help," she groaned.
Blake tightened his hold on Quincy's arm. "We must locate a woman to help her. She'll be in further distress if I attempt to assist her while she's in the throes of elimination."
Quincy agreed. They had both assisted one of the men who'd gone through several days of suffering. The poor fellow had died soon thereafter. The episode was an immediate reminder of debilitating scenes of violent vomiting and unrelenting evacuation of the bowels accompanied by gripping pain and spasms that left the victim dehydrated. Nothing good could be said of what lay in store for Amanda.
Blake would oversee her care, but he didn't want to cause her embarrassment. She had been surrounded by wealth all her life. Now she'd be subjected to suffering this terrible illness in pitiable conditions. And all because of him! He should have insisted that she remain at home when the first cases of cholera had been suspected. Instead, he'd encouraged her to continue working alongside him. He'd told himself he was furthering her medical career, while in truth he'd both wanted and needed the caring hands she offered. Only now did he acknowledge his motivation had been borne of selfishness. What had he done?
While Quincy hurried off in search of some willing soul who might lend aid, Blake dragged a wooden screen from across the room and placed it beside Amanda's bed. It would offer a modicum of privacy.
She moaned, and her eyes fluttered open. "Water. Please won't you give me water?"
The result would be the same, but he couldn't refuse. He placed a basin on the table and then poured her a drink.
She'd barely finished drinking when she retched and emptied the contents of her stomach into the basin. Blake brushed the damp strands of hair from her perspiring forehead. Surely she must have had some of these symptoms before she'd come to work this morning. Why hadn't she stayed home where she could be properly cared for?
Before he could ask, Quincy peeked around the screen. "Mrs. Donner has offered to lend a hand."
"But only for a price," the woman said. She tapped her index finger in the opposing palm. "Don't forget you promised to pay me in advance."
Blake met the woman's intense gaze. "You might consider helping for the sake of simply doing good for another, Mrs. Donner."
"Don't you go judging me, Dr. Carstead. If I die from cholera, Miss Broadmoor's father won't take it upon himself to feed my children. I learned a long time ago that God helps them that help themselves."
"If I recall, you and your children have been living in the Home for the Friendless free of charge for well over three months now. Aren't those beds and food worth a speck of charity from you?"
When she shrugged, her tattered shawl slipped from one shoulder, and she yanked it back into place. "You'll not convince me to change my mind. Do you want my help or not?" She turned to face Quincy.
"We want your help."
Blake motioned to a pitcher and water. "You'll need to be careful to wash your hands after you've had contact with Miss Broadmoor." He glanced at the woman's dirt-encrusted fingers. "In fact, I had best teach you the proper method for scrubbing before you begin your new duties."
"Soon as I get my money," she said.
Quincy offered an apologetic look. "She's the only one who would even consider coming back here." Blake removed several coins from his pocket and placed them in the woman's outstretched hand. "This will have to do for now. We have no way of withdrawing money from the bank. The quarantine, you know."
Her hand remained open. "I'm guessing Mr. Broadmoor can offer a little more."
Quincy withdrew two bills from his pocket and gave them to her.
The older woman grinned and tucked them into her pocket along with the coins. "Now let's have that lesson in hand washing."
While Blake led Mrs. Donner to the washbasin, Quincy followed along, reciting Scripture. "'And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.'"
Mrs. Donner squared her shoulders and pointed her finger in Quincy's direction. "I don't need you reciting passages about charity. It's easy to be charitable when you got food on your table and money in the bank." Anger flashed in the woman's eyes. "If you want my help, you'll pay me with money and keep your preaching for them that want to hear it."
Blake sent a warning look in Quincy's direction. If he was left to care for Amanda through this undignified illness, she'd never be able to look him in the eye. He didn't want Mrs. Donner to leave him stranded in such a circumstance.