“I want a furlough for two weeks’ time,” Jed said, without
any greeting or preamble.
McBurney sat at the desk that had been his only a few weeks
ago, a position he had yearned to be free of and now regretted losing. If he
had remained chief, Mary would be lying upstairs in her bed, Sister Isabella
watching over her until he could come up, an empty bowl of broth on the bedside
table. He would be hurrying through the paperwork because she was waiting for
him and if she were sleeping when he found her, she would be turned to the
chair he occupied, her plaited hair revealing her pale face, looking like the
young girl she had once been, her sleep untroubled. But a letter had come with
Summers’s promotion and he had blessed it, unwise enough to rejoice at the
prospect of only practicing medicine and sorting out the separation from Eliza.
Now, McBurney was the chief and had used his power to deceive Jed, to send Mary
away, resorting to subterfuge since he could not succeed in challenging Jed
directly. Why McBurney had been so insistent in forcing Mary to leave was a
mystery, one Jed frankly didn’t care about solving; he only wanted to get to
Mary as quickly as possible and to make sure she was safe and properly cared
for. There were limitations to what he could accomplish without being her
husband, but he was willing to use every other resource at his disposal and he
“I believe you forget yourself, Captain Foster. You have not
made a report about your visit to the General, nor have you inquired about the
state of Mansion House in your absence,” McBurney replied, stroking a finger
along his jaw. “Nurse Hastings has been back for hours—I might consider your
late arrival consistent with you abandoning your duty…desertion, if you will.”
“I want the furlough,” Jed repeated, his left hand in a
fist. He would not be drawn into any irrelevant discussion about the pox-ridden
General, whether Byron Hale had managed to complete two or three amputations
today, anything that derailed him from his only purpose.
“You want? It is
not your place to make demands of me! I am your superior officer, though you
might prefer to forget it, shamed to be commanded by a man younger than
yourself,” McBurney exclaimed, his left eye twitching as he slapped his hand
down on the desk’s blotter, making the inkwell shake.
“I don’t give a damn about any of that. You will give me
that furlough or you’ll have my signed resignation from my commission within
the hour and only one surgeon left in this God-forsaken place!”
“This is about that woman, isn’t it? Mariya—the Baroness?
Shall you tell me again how she is only your patient? How your concern is simply
that of any physician?” McBurney said. His color was up and his eyes were
shining with some malicious glee, as if he savored impugning the reputation of
woman uniformly known to value honesty, goodness and principles.
“I see. I’ll have my resignation on your desk within the
hour then. Dr. Hale will have to decide which of my surgeries he’s prepared to
take on tomorrow,” Jed declared. He wouldn’t waste any more time when it was
better spent planning his departure, packing up and meeting with Samuel and
Miss Jenkins, as Mary would want him to. Mrs. Garland had agreed to stay with
Mary in Washington City for a few days but she could not tarry longer than
“Come now, you’re not going to throw over everything for
her, Foster. It’s pointless, in any case—it’s out of our hands, your and mine.
If she dies, it’s God’s will and there’s nothing you can do about it,” McBurney
answered, beginning with some pathetic attempt at manly conciliation, devolving
to a tired platitude about God that had never been a comfort to anyone and
could not obscure the man’s expectation of Mary’s death. Jed had been making
every effort to keep his temper in check, to complete his interview with his savage
fury banked, but the airy way McBurney said it if she dies undid all dams. She had been getting better,
perhaps more slowly than he wanted to see, but it was the abrupt expulsion into
the night, with only a tired, inexperienced woman to try and keep her alive
until the dawn, that endangered her so; McBurney’s action might be a death
sentence for the sweetest, best woman Jed had ever met, the only woman he’d
ever love. If she died—Jed could not allow himself to peer into that abyss but
he knew he would follow her, though he would let the needle take him and not a
bullet like that Rebel. He would take his chances that it was only death that
was needed to unite them or death then would swiftly, helpfully, blessedly end
the desperate hurt of being without her.
“When my parents got my siblings and I back from foster care, they went out and bought a bunch of Disney movies. The first movie I ever remember watching was The Lion King. We all cuddled on the couch and watched it and I fell asleep in my dad’s arms. Now whenever I watch the Lion King it makes me think of having my family back again. :)”
Jude supposes they probably shouldn’t have painted their nails in the backyard. He also probably shouldn’t have made fun of Connor for being completely incapable of painting with his left hand. How does Connor always manage to pin him?
Hopefully Mariana forgives him for spilling all of her blue nail polish…