A historical and romantic adventure woven around the story of Florence Nightingale.Gervase Howard is in her mid-teens when her working-class mother dies and she must go to live with relatives in service to a wealthy, noble family, outside of London....
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A historical and romantic adventure woven around the story of Florence Nightingale.Gervase Howard is in her mid-teens when her working-class mother dies and she must go to live with relatives in service to a wealthy, noble family, outside of London. While learning various jobs, she is drawn to the eldest son, Davis. Her fascination with him grows deeper, but more hopeless, since the two are separated not just by class, but also by Davis's love for Roberta.When Davis announces his engagement, he asks Gervase to join them as Roberta's maid. But instead Gervase becomes a companion to Florence Nightingale and accompanies her when the Crimean War breaks out and she is asked to create a corps of nurses. On the field, Gervase crosses paths with Davis, who has become disillusioned in his marriage and is drawn to her warmth and care. Both know, however, there is nothing more for them than friendship.Upon her return to England, Gervase receives word that Davis has been seriously injured in a fa
Gilbert Morris is one of todays best-known Christian novelists, specialising in historical fiction. His best-selling works include Edge of Honor (winner of a Christy Award in 2001), Jacobs Way, the House of Winslow series, the Appomattox series, and The Wakefield Saga. He lives in Gulf Shores, Alabama, with his wife, Johnnie. - Publisher.
Kimberly May 1851--November 1852 Chapter One Asoft but persistent touch on her lips brought Gervase Howard out of sleep instantly. Opening her eyes, she saw Mr. Bob staring at her. Smiling, she stroked the head of the huge cat. 'Good morning, Mr. Bob. How are you this morning?' The cat at once began to purr, the rumbles deep in his chest humming as if generated by a miniature engine. He rose at once, arched his back, and yawned mightily. Placing his front paws on Gervase's chest, he began kneading her powerfully, eyes half shut with pleasure. The purring reached a crescendo, and although the claws of the cat were painful, Gervase did not object. 'You've been fighting again, Mr. Bob. Why do you have to do that?' Mr. Bob was a dark-gray tabby with a large blunt head marked with a dark Mand scarred from many battles. The only white spot on him was at the tip of his tail, and when he held it up straight, it always reminded Gervase of a candle. For a time Gervase lay there, shutting out everything except the cat. She stroked Mr. Bob as he continued to knead her chest; then finally she pulled him down, rolling over so she could face him. He had big golden eyes, round as shillings, and he watched her carefully, still purring. 'You're all I have left, Mr. Bob.' The whispered words frightened Gervase, and her vivid imagination suddenly began to function despite her attempts to will the world away. Ever since the funeral, she had tried to blot out the details of her future, but now, graphically and powerfully, she could see her mother's face as it had looked in the wooden coffin---pale, worn, completely different from the way she had appeared in life. Gervase closed her eyes but the image seemed to magnify itself. She clutched Mr. Bob tightly and forced herself to think of her mother as she liked to remember her best. A series of images flashed in front of her---her mother smiling and laughing, her blue-green eyes dancing. Gervase remembered a time when she had come to her mother hurt and frightened---she could not even recall why now---and her mother had simply picked her up and spun around until Gervase was dizzy. Then she had pulled Gervase onto her lap and held her tightly, whispering comfort. That poignant memory triggered others like it, for Gervase's mother had always known how to give comfort to her only daughter. Sometimes she had quoted Scripture, always with a fervency and a faith that Gervase had never seen in anyone else. At other times she had sung happy songs to Gervase, sometimes popular songs but more often hymns they sang together in the Methodist chapel they attended every Sunday. Often she would tell Gervase fantastic stories filled with wonder and hope. Somehow she had always been able to drive away Gervase's fears and anxieties. The memories were jolted and driven away as Mr. Bob began to protest. He stiffened his legs and squirmed, saying, 'Yow!'--- which meant, as Gervase well knew, 'It's time to turn me loose.' She released her grip and the big cat sat up and began washing his face. Then he gave himself a complete bath. Enviously Gervase thought, I wish I had no more worries than you have, Mr. Bob. But she did not dwell on this. Throwing back the worn coverlet, she stepped out of the bed and stood for a moment, dreading the day. Then she dressed hurriedly, putting on her one good dress---the one she had worn to the funeral---and moved to the oak washstand. Slowly she washed her face and then, looking into the small mirror, brushed her hair. As always, for a moment she stared at herself, disliking what she saw, for she felt plain and homely. She had a thin face dominated by large blue-green eyes she had inherited from her mother. Her hair was light blond and came down well below her shoulders. There was a slight curl in it, and she quickly bound it up so it made a bun on the back of her head. She looked down at herself, frowning, for at the age of fifteen she was very thin indeed. She knew other girls her age who had already blossomed into womanly contours. Another memory of her mother, whispering to her, 'You're going to be a beautiful young girl. Right now you are like one of the colts you see out in the pasture---all legs and awkward. But that will pass.' Gervase quickly turned away and moved into the other room. Her only hope for beauty was that her mother had been a well-shaped woman with winsome features. If I could only be as pretty as Mum! She halted abruptly and stared at the calendar her mother had made: a single sheet of paper with the weeks set out in pencil. Gervase touched it, sadness welling up as she remembered her mother urging her to draw birds at the top for decoration. She ran her fingers over the year, 1851, and the scrolled word May. She stopped at the number 5 and her throat grew thick--- for she had circled the number when she came home from her mother's funeral. Turning to avoid the calendar, she blinked back the tears and looked around the room. This was the only home she had ever known, and she was saddened further at the thought that this was the last day she would spend in it. There were only the two rooms, the bedroom and this one, the larger, which served for all other purposes. Two windows at one end of the room let in the feeble sunlight that illuminated it. She stared at the walls she had helped her mother paper. The wall covering had been salvaged from the dump---evidently, a wealthy patron had had too much. It featured small bluebirds and thrushes singing their hearts out. She had a painful memory of the day they had pasted the paper on, and she immediately moved toward the woodstove which served for both heat and cooking. The rest of the furniture included a pine table and four chairs---none of which matched---a settee, and beside it a lamp. A bookcase made of boxes was now empty, for Gervase had given away most of the books, keeping only a few. She had spent the week since the funeral getting rid of things, giving some of them away, selling some for what she could get, and now the room looked bare and alien---not at all like the warm, cheerful place in which she had grown up. Deliberately pushing these thoughts from her mind, Gervase built a fire. She was very efficient at this and soon it was blazing. She had given away all the groceries to Mrs. Warden, who had a houseful of youngsters, retaining only enough for this final breakfast. She fried the last of the bacon and the one thin slice of ham, but when she sat and tried to eat, the food seemed to stick in her throat. When she picked up the last of the bread she had saved, the thought came to her, This was the last loaf of bread Mum ever made. The thought so distressed her that she quickly put the bread down and wiped her lips. Mr. Bob came to press against her leg, and she broke the rest of the ham into small fragments and set it down. She watched as he wolfed the morsels down eagerly, then looked up and said, 'Yow!'---which meant, 'More, please!' Gervase snatched him and pressed her face against his fur, whispering, 'That's . . . that's all there is, Mr. Bob, but I'm sure we'll have plenty for you in our new place.' The thought of a new place disturbed Gervase and she got up at once. Picking up the bread, she went out the back door and began dividing the bread and tossing the crumbs on the ground. Quickly birds began to gather, mostly sparrows that were so tame now, they came almost close enough to take the bread out of her hand. It was a daily ritual for her, and had been so for so long that she could not remember when it first began. The birds chirped and made cheerful noises, scuffling in the dust and battling over the crumbs. 'You don't have to fight. There's plenty today.' As she broke off bits of bread and tossed them on the ground, she lifted her head.