So energized, Adalyn rose early the next morning, her lack of sleep having little negative effect on her mood. As she stood at the window watching the slowly rising sun, Eloise entered her bedchamber.
“I expected to find you still sound asleep, miss.”
Adalyn turned, unable to contain the hope in her heart. “It’s such a beautiful day, I didn’t want to waste a moment of it lying in bed.”
Eloise’s warm brown eyes blinked, a slow smile spread across her lips. “What is the gentleman’s name, if I may be so bold?” She placed the pitcher of warm water on the wash stand.
Adalyn bit her lip. Was it that obvious? “I’m sure I don’t understand what you mean.”
Eloise laughed and moved toward the clothes press to retrieve one of Adalyn’s gowns. “Very well, miss. Your secret is safe with me.”
During breakfast, Adalyn schooled her features, hoping that neither Harry, Maggie, or her father would suspect as Eloise had. Several times, Maggie had tilted her head, her eyes narrowed suspiciously, but she remained silent.
Her father and Harry were too immersed in a conversation about a case to pay any attention, which thankfully continued as they rode in Harry’s carriage to the clinic. At least there she would be preoccupied enough to put Nash’s dangerous good looks from her mind.
Or so she hoped.
Raised voices almost drowned out the tiny bell that tinkled as they entered the clinic. Adalyn, her father, and Harry each froze inside the doorway, attempting to make sense of the situation before them.
“Keep him away from me!” a woman yelled. A purple bruise bloomed under her left eye and trailed to her cheek.
Dr. Somersby held the arms of an angry, shabbily dressed man. Dr. Marbry stood between the woman and the angry man, his arms outstretched like a barrier.
The restrained man struggled against Oliver’s grip. Red blotches traveled up his neck to his face. “You best be comin’ home wi’ me ri’ now if you know wha’s good for you!”
Adalyn’s blood chilled.
Priscilla stood to the side, holding an umbrella like a cricket bat. “Stand aside, Timothy. Let me at him!”
“You cannot whack people with umbrellas, Priscilla,” Timothy answered.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Harry’s commanding voice stilled the chaos. He directed his attention to Dr. Somersby. “Oliver?”
“Mrs. Martin presented for treatment. Mrs. Marbry was taking her information when Mr. Martin stormed in looking for her and further assaulted her.”
“Further? You ain’t got no proof I hit ’er afore.” Mr. Martin answered. The man had the gall to sound affronted.
As far as Adalyn was concerned, the evidence on the woman’s face spoke volumes. She’d had experience with beaten wives in Boston, more times than she’d like to admit, sometimes with deadly consequences. As callous as it sounded, Mrs. Martin was lucky. At least she lived.
Harry took charge. “Dr. Marbry, assist Mrs. Martin to an examination room. Mr. Martin, leave these premises immediately.”
“I ain’t listening to no fancy doctors. She’s my wife. I ’ave a ri to keep ’er in line.”
Adalyn’s heart pounded, grateful Oliver still held tight to Mr. Martin’s arms when Harry stepped so close to the man he could most likely smell his foul breath.
And Adalyn had no doubt it was foul. The man was filthy, and the stench from his unwashed body reached to where she stood several feet away.
Keeping his voice low, Harry said, “You may not wish to listen to me as a physician, but you will listen to me as a duke. With one word, I can have a constable here posthaste and throw you in gaol before you even think about striking your wife again.”
The man stilled for a moment, as if considering Harry’s threat, then tugged against Oliver’s restraint again. “Ain’t no law says I can’t hit my wife.”
Adalyn had never seen Harry so angry. Fists clenched at his side, jaw pulsing, his whole body vibrated with rage. “Unfortunately, that’s true. However, there is breach of the peace which is very much law. Don’t discount my power, sir. I have no qualms about wielding it to protect a woman.”
Mr. Martin opened his mouth as if to continue his argument.
Harry lifted a hand. “And if you expect to talk your way out of this, who do you think a constable will believe? You or the Duke of Ashton?”
The man’s mouth snapped shut so forcefully, Adalyn swore the man’s teeth clacked. “A’ri, a’ti. I’ll go. But you tell that bitch I’ll be waiting’ for ‘er at ’ome.”
Oliver released his hold on Mr. Martin’s arms.
Chills skittered up Adalyn’s spine when the man leered at her as he turned and left the clinic in a huff. A collective sigh of relief followed from the remaining patients in the waiting area.
“My dear, are you unwell?” Worry laced her father’s words, which caught the attention of both Harry and Oliver.
“I’m fine.” The lie wasn’t the biggest she’d ever told, but it stuck in her throat nevertheless.
Harry stepped forward. “Adalyn, do you feel up to joining Dr. Marbry in the examination room? I think having a woman present would ease Mrs. Martin’s mind considerably.”
Adalyn nodded and made her way down the hall to the examination rooms.
Mrs. Martin sat on the table, her arms crossed over her chest, hugging herself and rocking back and forth. Priscilla stood next to the patient, her blue eyes glancing imploringly at Timothy.
“I’ve come to assist,” Adalyn said.
“Thanks goodness. My wife is most adept at gathering information, but less so in actual treatment.” The loving smile Timothy sent Priscilla spoke volumes.
Priscilla returned her husband’s smile, brushing the sleeve of his coat with her fingers as she nodded to Adalyn, then exited the room.
Mrs. Martin eyed Adalyn suspiciously. “The doctor wants me to take off my clothes.”
“Only your gown, Mrs. Martin,” Timothy said.
Mrs. Martin shook her head. “It ain’t proper.”
Timothy turned to Adalyn. “She presented with pain upon breathing. I suspect broken ribs, but if I can’t examine her . . .”
“If she’s willing, would you allow me to examine her?”
Timothy nodded. “I’ll be right outside should you require me.”
Once they were alone, Adalyn first attempted to gain Mrs. Martin’s trust. “I promise no one will hurt you here. Can you show me where you’re in pain?”
Mrs. Martin pointed to her stomach then her side. “Like the doctor said, my side hurts the most when I breathe.”
“Will you allow me to remove your gown to examine you? I’ll be quick; I promise.”
Mrs. Martin nodded, and Adalyn proceeded to remove her gown.
“You talk funny.” The woman gave a short laugh, then cursed under her breath, wincing with pain.
“So I’ve been told more than once. I’m from Boston in America.” Adalyn made quick work of Mrs. Martin’s gown.
Bruises in the shape of fingers covered the woman’s upper arms and wrists. Adalyn suspected more lay underneath the woman’s chemise around her ribcage.
“Do I have permission to remove your stays?”
Mrs. Martin agreed. “How’s it you know about doctorin’?”
“My father is a physician.” With the stays removed, Adalyn palpated around Mrs. Martin’s ribs. “Tell me if this hurts more.”
“Bloody hell, o’ course it does.”
“You said it hurts more when you breathe deeply. What about when you twist or bend?”
“Like bloody hell.”
Adalyn replaced and loosely retied Mrs. Martin’s stays. “I agree with Dr. Marbry. You appear to have at least one broken rib. The stays might help immobilize the break, but make sure you don’t lace them too tight.”
After Adalyn helped Mrs. Martin back into her gown, she pulled up a chair and sat before her. Pinning the woman with her gaze, she prepared to deliver her treatment plan. “Mrs. Martin, how often does your husband beat you?” She knew better than to ask if her husband beat her. The evidence had been clear in the waiting room.
Mrs. Martin dropped her gaze as if she found the floor fascinating. “He don’t beat me.”
“We both know that’s a lie. How can I help you if you won’t be truthful with me?”
“Nobody can ’elp me.”
Adalyn hesitated, then reached for Mrs. Martin’s hand. As expected the woman jerked back initially, then allowed Adalyn to take her hand.
“Do you have any family to stay with? A mother or sister perhaps?”
Mrs. Martin shook her head. “Mum’s dead and my sister already ’as too many mouths to feed.”
The woman wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “’E don’t allow no friends.”
Adalyn struggled to find a solution. Mrs. Martin needed to get away from her violent husband, at least until her ribs healed. “If I gave you some money to help with your sister’s expenses, do you think she would take you in?”
Mrs. Martin’s blue eyes widened, locking with Adalyn’s. “Why would you do that? I ain’t nothin’ to you.”
How could Adalyn explain it? “I may have only met you today, but that doesn’t mean you’re not important. I want to help you.”
Mrs. Martin shrugged. “It’s your money.”
When Adalyn reached inside her reticule, she discovered she’d given the last of her English currency to the hackney driver the day before. “Give me a moment. Stay here.”
Finding Timothy waiting in the hall, she advised him that she concurred with his diagnosis and that she suggested Mrs. Martin stay with her sister for the interim. “She’s redressed, but I need to find Harry.”
Harry poked his head out of the next room. “Here I am.”
Relieved to find Harry alone with her father rather than a patient, she said, “I’d like to give Mrs. Martin some money so she can stay with her sister while her injuries heal. But all I have left is American money.”
The men exchanged a glance, but both nodded, asking no further questions. Between them they gave her eighteen shillings. When she held out one dollar, they shook their heads.
Harry placed his hand over hers, curling her fingers around the money. “Keep it. As duke and owner of the clinic, it’s my responsibility to ensure the care of our patients. Tell her to come back if she needs more.”
Tears welled in her eyes at Harry’s generosity. As much as she’d missed him in Boston, she understood how much good he accomplished through his title in England. Thanking them, she hurried back to the examination room.
Upon entering, she found Timothy providing Mrs. Martin instructions regarding her care. “No heavy lifting if possible or anything that causes undo movement around your ribs. Rest as much as possible. If you wish to assist your sister in any household tasks, keep them light. No scrubbing floors. If you like, I shall write a note to your sister explaining things.”
“Won’t do no good. She can’t read. But she ain’t goin’ to like this one bit.”
Adalyn held out the money. “Perhaps this might make her more amenable to the arrangements?”
Mrs. Martin’s eyes widened. “That’s more than ’er man makes in a fortnight.”
“Then it should cover your food for at least three times that long. Dr. Radcliffe said if you need more, return here and he’ll see you get it.”
With that, Mrs. Martin broke down in heavy sobs. “I ain’t used to such kindness.”
Timothy kept his distance but darted a glance toward Adalyn.
She gently wrapped Mrs. Martin in her embrace, patting her back. “Then it’s long overdue. While you’re recovering, perhaps think of finding employment and setting up your own household.”
Shock painted Mrs. Martin’s face. “You mean leave Reggie?”
“If it’s necessary to keep him from hitting you, yes.”
“Miss Lovelace, might I have a word after Mrs. Martin leaves?” Timothy’s eyes, although compassionate, held a warning.
She escorted Mrs. Martin out of the clinic, making her promise to come back in a month, then returned to the examination room.
Timothy motioned for her to take a seat. “Miss Lovelace—Adalyn, I’m unsure how things are done in America, but here in England there are laws, unjust ones I will admit, that allow a husband to discipline his wife.”
As she opened her mouth to protest, he held up a quelling hand. “I’m not saying I agree. As I said, they’re unjust, but they are the law. Unfortunately, we’ve seen it all too often in the East End. And no doubt it occurs in the high echelons of society as well, perhaps more discreetly. It’s almost impossible for a woman to leave her husband. She would be an outcast.”
Adalyn’s hands trembled. “Better than being dead.”
Timothy ran a hand through his thick head of auburn hair. “I’m not saying I disagree. But I would caution you not to provide false hope.”
In her heart, Adalyn knew he was right. She’d seen it in Boston as well. The problem wasn’t contained to one country, or as Timothy suggested, even one class. It was universal.
And it broke her heart.