The Captain’s Woman
The Thompsons of Locust Street 4
by Holly Bush
Publication Date: January 10th, 2023
Publisher: Holly Bush Books
Genre: Historical Romance
Meet the Thompsons of Locust Street, an unconventional family taking Philadelphia high society by storm…
1870. Muireall Thompson takes her duties seriously as the eldest sibling after her parents die on their family’s crossing from Scotland to America in 1854. Their death made her responsible for her remaining family and left little time for her to grieve her beloved parents.
But now her brothers and sisters are adults, even the youngest Thompson is nearly ready to face the world on his own. What would she do, she wondered, when she was alone, other than care for an elderly aunt and volunteer at the Sisters of Charity orphanage? Had all the chances for a family of her own, children, a husband, passed her by?
Widower Anthony Marcus, recently Captain Marcus of the Union Army, is a man scrapping the bottom of his dignity and hanging on to his honor by the barest thread. Reduced to doing odd jobs to keep a roof over his dear daughter Ann’s head, he often leaves her with the Sisters of Charity, who run an orphanage nearby, while he is out seeking steady work with a decent salary that will allow him to move from their single room living quarters.
At the Orphanage the Sisters inform Muireall that Ann’s father was several hours late and that the girl had refused to eat a meal with the other children. Muireall promised to return the child quickly and takes her to her Locust Street home for a hot meal. Anthony Marcus interrupted their family dinner shortly after, panicked that his daughter was with strangers.
This begins a friendship held together by their own growing respect for one another and the charm of Ann Marcus. But disaster lurks again for the Thompson family just as Muireall and Anthony’s regard for each other has grown into something much more.
Muireall sat beside Ann at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage, reviewing the paper that she’d asked Ann to write about Roman emperors. Ann had done well considering the few books available at the orphanage. Muireall would like to take her to the library sometime, if her father would allow it. She thought Ann would love it. She looked up when the front door of the orphanage opened and Mr. Marcus’s landlady, Mrs. Phillips, came inside and walked directly to them. Muireall stood in anticipation of some news, probably not good news.
“There you are, Ann, dear. Come along home. Hurry and get your coat,” Mrs. Phillips said.
“What has happened?” Muireall asked.
“Mr. Marcus fell and hurt his leg. His good leg. Hurry now, Ann.”
As Muireall helped Ann with her coat, she was silent but tense, meeting Muireall’s eyes with worry. Muireall donned her own coat and told the sisters she’d be leaving for the day.
“Come along, Ann,” she said. “Let us see how your father fares.”
“Papa,” Ann whispered, and tears filled her eyes.
“Don’t borrow trouble,” Muireall said with less surety and more hopefulness. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
When they reached the boarding house, Muireall followed Ann upstairs and stopped Mrs. Phillips at the door. “I will report to you as soon as I’ve gotten Ann settled. I can’t thank you enough for getting us from the orphanage.”
The landlady wrung her hands. “I do so adore that child, and Mr. Marcus is such a gentleman. So kind, always offering to help me with small fixes and to deal with the laborers if I’ve got a bigger repair. He’s a godsend after my Jimmy up and decided to go west. Tell me if there’s anything to be done.”
“I will, Mrs. Phillips. I just think the less people to see him when he’s not at his best would suit him better.”
“You’re right, Miss Thompson. He’s a man with a man’s pride.”
Muireall went into the Marcus apartment. He was stretched out flat on his back on the couch, a trickle of blood above his ear.
“Oh, Papa! You’re bleeding,” Ann said. “Let me help you.”
“You can help me by being quiet. My head is pounding. Do not fret now. Your Papa will be fine; he’ll just need a day or two to rest.” He looked up at Muireall. “Why are you here?”
Muireall turned to Ann. “Ann, will you please go downstairs with Mrs. Phillips? She is worried sick about your father. You can reassure her that he will be fine. Also, take this coin and send one of the orphans—Tommy, perhaps—for a bag of coal. Ask Mrs. Phillips to watch you cross the street to the orphanage.”
“I don’t need . . .” Mr. Marcus began sharply but then reached down to his leg, clearly in severe pain.
“Go on, Ann. I’ll keep your father company.” Ann hurried out the door, coin in hand, wiping her eyes on her sleeve.
“I have no need of your company, Miss Thompson. I would prefer you leave.”
Muireall knelt on the floor near his head. “I’m going to help you sit up so I can get your jacket off of you.” She slipped her hand under his shoulders and lifted, hearing his intake of breath on the pain. She shrugged his coat down his arms and helped him lay back. She moved down to his feet and began to unlace his boots.
“You absolutely will not remove my boots! Do you hear me?”
“The sisters half a block away can hear you. Quit fidgeting.”
A knock sounded at the door, and Muireall said come in as Mr. Marcus shouted to go away. The door creaked open, and Mr. Bauer stuck his head in.
“Miss Thompson? Is there anything I can do for you? The sisters told me you were here.”
“No!” Mr. Marcus shouted.
“Yes, Mr. Bauer. How fortuitous your timing is. Please go to the University of Penn to Cohen Hall. Dr. Albert Watson is a researcher there. Please ask him to attend me here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mr. Bauer said over the shouting.
Mr. Marcus stopped yelling suddenly, and Muireall saw his face go white. “I’m going to be sick.”
Muireall retrieved a basin and was barely back to his side when he retched. She wrung out a wet towel and wiped his face and hands, now shaking with his efforts. She poured him a glass of water and told him to rinse his mouth.
“Where is the water closet, Mr. Marcus?”
“In the hallway,” he whispered through pale lips.
Muireall carried the basin to the water closet in the hallway and returned to see him breathing deeply as if to stave off pain.
She wrestled his left boot from his foot and saw an ugly gash peeking up over his sock and bruising already beginning. She untied his right boot to his feeble protests and carefully removed it. There were dark scars crisscrossing his foot and ankle and an area above his ankle that seemed to be missing flesh and muscle. She could even see the shape of his leg bone. It was a terrible-looking wound.
“Seen enough?” he said.
“Unbutton your pants and lift your hips, Mr. Marcus.”
“I will not, you infernal, interfering woman!”
“Unbutton your pants, or I will do it for you. I’m sure you have short drawers on underneath, and these pants are soaking wet and muddy.”
“You are the most infuriating woman I’ve ever met,” he said as he began to unbutton his pants.
“Do you have a pair of long drawers or more comfortable pants anywhere here?”
“On the shelf behind me,” he said.
Muireall allowed him his privacy, even though it cost him dearly to get his pants off by himself. She found a pair of drawstring pants and helped him on with them. He was out of breath and white-faced by the time she had him situated on a pillow, in clean pants, and under a blanket.
“Do not go to sleep, Mr. Marcus. I don’t know if you have a concussion or not.”
“What do you know of nursing?” he said irritably.
“My brother James, the boxer. I’ve patched him up more times than you know.”
Holly Bush writes historical romance set in the U.S.in the late 1800s, in Victorian England, and an occasional Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance.
She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.