“Branson, I will be here for two hours. You may hitch the team and come to Miss Hale’s room if you wish, or just wait for me.” John looked at his pocket watch and proceeded up the steps to the hospital doors.
As he walked the corridors, he thought he would bring flowers the next time. She may not be awake, but they would be there welcoming her back when her eyes opened. He prayed for good news.
Walking into her room, Donaldson was discussing her condition with a hospital doctor. John decided to wait outside and listen even though he knew Donaldson would tell him all there was and the truth along with it. John heard them wrapping up the conversation and walked back inside.
“Hello Thornton,” said Donaldson, almost in a cheery voice. “I think we have good news here,” Donaldson said goodbye to the other doctor, who then left the room.
“What is the good news?”
“We are sure the internal bleeding has stopped. There is a certainty that her kidneys are functioning properly, and no blood is being found. We’ve decided to change the doses of laudanum. Margaret should sleep in four hour intervals during the day. That’s being done because we want to question her about additional pain we are not seeing. Also, she will be fed while she’s awake. Her awake times will be brief, at least through today and begin to increase as the days go on.”
John exhaled an audible sigh of relief. “How about the rib and the other hits to her body?”
“Her rib area is wrapped tightly. That’s all that can be done with that part of the body. She will be released before it is healed, but it will take time. She will have to be severely restricted as to her movements, such as bending and lifting. I should think by the time that is healed, all the other bruised areas will have disappeared and the painfulness along with it. She is doing good, John. She will be uncomfortable for a few weeks, but I expect we can release her in about four days unless she mentions something we do not know about. Although we see no outside injury, we are quite interested in her head. Does she have headaches? Is her eyesight normal? These are why we want her wake now and then. We are going to try a new medication on her which is supposed to help relieve the pain but not keep her sedated. She may look like she wants to swoon, a bit dizzy perhaps, but it should not shut her down to the point of sleeping. How long is your visit, this time?
“At least two hours, unless she wakes,” John replied.
“I think you’ll be in luck. She should be waking, we think, in about an hour. We will need some time with her at that point. I don’t know how long it will take. But if you are willing to wait, we will dispense the laudanum when she feels she wants it.”
“I will wait all day if there is that chance.”
“I thought you might say that. I’ll see to it that you have some time with her.”
“Thank you, Donaldson.”
John proceeded to pull a chair next to her bed, long moments after he stood over her, just looking at the prone angle. Her long eyelashes would flutter, and her hand would jerk, on occasions. He sat and stroked her arm and fingers. The warmth beneath his hand had been a long time in coming, hope had been given up, as his life emptied out. Just his light touch to her sent all the fibers in his body tingling. His mind was struggling to grasp that she was within reach; that she had come to him. His emotions had been unleashed, and they wanted to vault ahead of his actions. He felt such a swelling inside of his chest that he thought his heart would pop out. He began to speak to her, finally standing and kissing her lightly on her forehead.
“Margaret, this is John. You are safe now. You will always be safe with me. I want to hold you gently in my arms. I want to look into your eyes and feel your breath upon my face.” John was sure he was imagining the tiniest lines of a smile at the corners of her mouth. Could she hear him, he wondered.
“Hello, Mr. Thornton. Your Miss Hale had a good night. I guess you have talked with the doctors?”
“Hello, Miss Pickering. Yes, I did just speak with Dr. Donaldson.”
“That’s Mrs. Pickering. I am sure you are anxious for her to open her eyes.”
“Indeed.” John didn’t care for this light talk. He wanted to be alone with her.
“I wish I did not have to do this, but I am going to have to ask you to leave for about half an hour. I need to bath her and change her bed. We expect her to come around soon, and I’d like to get her bath taken care of before she wakes.”
“I’ll see if my driver is waiting. If not, I will be waiting down the hall.” John reached over and kissed her hand, letting it slowly rest where it had been. He left the room.
As he was again traversing the corridor, he considered a wedding ring. Here, he had a minister waiting and no ring. Finding Branson at the curb, he said, “Branson, the best jewelry merchant in the city, if you please.”
Captain Lenox arrived at the infirmary and wasn’t sure who to ask to find out who was the doctor on duty three days ago. Several nurses passed him by giving him their smiles of approval at the red-coated officer. A nice looking young nurse was scribbling on a tablet near the administration area. He decided to start there.
“Hello, Miss. I am hoping to locate the doctor on duty three days ago. Would you happen to know who that was or where I could find out?” Maxwell gave her his most endearing smile.
“Yes, Captain. I can find out for you. Please wait here.”
The nurse disappeared behind the desk she had been standing in front of and disappeared through a door. A few moments later she came back carrying a piece of paper. “Captain, it says here that Dr. Jerome was on duty,” the nurse replied.
“Is he here today?”
“No, I do not believe so. Is there something I can help you with?”
“You may be able to do just that. I believe another Captain friend of mine was in here three days ago to be looked at. I am afraid he may be coming down with a fever and wanted to seek advice.”
“What is the patient’s name, sir?” She smiled.
“That would be Captain Hartford. I would appreciate knowing if he came here, or sought his personal physician.”
Once again the nurse left for the door behind her. She was gone a few more moments than before and returned with a frown.
“I’m sorry, Captain. It’s been many months since Captain Hartford has been here for his annual medical exam. Nothing since then, I’m afraid. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No, Miss. Can I have your name?”
“Yes, Captain. My name is Amy. Amy Pettigrew.”
“Thank you, Miss Pettigrew. You have been most helpful. I shall seek his personal physician.”
With that, Maxwell walked away convinced there was a mystery surrounding, Captain Hartford. He didn’t have to give his own name, but should Hartford get wind of it, he’d know who was going behind his back and asking questions.
Captain Grant Hartford sensed trouble. He did not know where Margaret was, but he felt Captain Lenox was becoming suspicious that he did. Margaret had run somewhere, that was for sure, and he knew why. After his last evening with her, and his lustful enforcements, he had no idea what she would say when found. She did speak about calling his bluff, but she also talked about ending her own life. He began to realize that there would be no wedding. But in the off chance that there was still hope of that, he needed to ensure that his knowledge of Frederick Hale’s whereabouts was still known. Hartford believed if Margaret was going to the authorities, that he could lie his way out of that due to his rank, and then, perhaps, go on to redeem any doubts by producing a wanted man who the Navy had been hunting for several years. He decided to write his contact in France and alert him to a situation that may soon come to be of real value.
Frederick and Lisa arrived in the middle of night, knocking lightly on the flat’s door of his friend Nathan. They were admitted, and safe, to all of Frederick’s senses. There had been several times in the past weeks that he felt he was seeing the same man around the postal station, but never followed him home. Slipping out in the middle of the night, Frederick was confident that they had stolen away unseen. He and Lisa were welcomed, and it was decided that the pair would stay a couple days. Nathan would scout out another location across the city and check for Frederick’s mail one last time. Later that day, Frederick would compose a note to Bell at the Milton Grand Hotel and Nathan would take it to his own local mail station for delivery.
John started the process to select the ring he felt best fit Margaret’s soul. Nothing gaudy or large but something with fire and brilliance set in a soft mounting.
“Mr. Thornton, I cannot help but feel honored to have you visit our store. I have often wondered if you would ever make such a purchase anywhere. I am filled with pride to have this distinction of selling you, your wedding ring. The other jewelers will envy me, this.”
John couldn’t help but hold at bay the smile he wanted to show, with that remark. It appeared his status as a ‘catch’ would soon come to an end, and more the glad he was of it.
“Mr. Winstone, I would ask for your discretion until this is official. You are the only one to know of this, and I am not certain my suit will be accepted.”
“Mr. Thornton, we never speak of our clients in personal regards unless it is a known fact. I can assure you, you have my personal guarantee of complete diplomacy. May I ask which lady will have the honors to be asked?”
“No. I’m sorry for that, but surely you must understand.”
“I do, indeed. I was too forward to ask. I apologize. Now, that we’ve narrowed down your choices, do you feel there is one of special interest. Of course, we can size the ring at any time.”
John had spotted the ring immediately. He felt it was Margaret set in stone. It was a delicate emerald ring in an oval shape. Around the large stone were pearls and diamonds. It was all set in a web of filigree platinum. John saw it as soft and brilliant. The pearls toned it down from being ostentatious, which would never suit Margaret.”
“That’s a very nice choice, Mr. Thornton, and I do not say that as a salesman but as a friend. Looking at this one, I would say the lady is very feminine and also has qualities of spirit and challenge.”
“Why do you say that?” John asked.
“When one has been in the business as long as I have you get the feeling of the receiver when the purchaser is very discriminating in the time taken to select a wedding ring. Would you like that engraved while you wait?”
John was given a bit of paper to write down his brief statement of love for the inside of the ring. He slid the paper back to the jeweler who disappeared into the backroom. The ring was presented to him in a very small leather slip case, placed in a blue velvet bag. John slipped the ring into his inside pocket and headed back to the hospital.
Maxwell had arrived at the Shaw’s to see two very frantic women. They both rushed to him at the door, inquiring of any news.
“I regret to say that I have no news of Miss Hale. However, I have been looking into Captain Hartford’s movements and feel his is not telling the truth. Whether he is knowledgeable of Miss Hale’s location, I do not know. Somehow, I do tend to doubt that he knows of her whereabouts, but something leads me to think he does know why she has vanished. I think it is time to visit London’s constabulary.”
“You do not feel that it should be taken up with the Military constabulary?”
“No, I have no proof of anything. I will give my information to the local officials and let them lead the search. The Metropolitan Police Force are quite skilled at their job.”
“I will make myself ready,” exclaimed Edith’s mother, as she left the room for the stairs.
Edith walked over and received a kiss from Maxwell. Backing away, she said that she would be down in a few minutes.
As Edith left for her room, her nervous condition subsided knowing that something official was about to begin.
Branson pulled the coach to the hospital steps. Yesterday, his master had talked to the minister and today he most assuredly had purchased a wedding ring. For the four years that he had been with Mr. Thornton, he thought he might never see this day come. He remembered Miss Hale from a two years ago and had known of his master’s great interest in her. Branson, himself, was let down when she left so suddenly. His master had never recovered. Branson could count on one hand the number of women he had been out with since she left. Although, overjoyed for what could now lie ahead, he knew the dark clouds were forming over this situation. Branson promised himself to do everything possible to aid his master through this treacherous ordeal. He couldn’t let him seek this man alone and destroy a life he’d been waiting for. Branson decided to work on his own alternate plan should it go that far.