Shell Shocked


65 pages
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It is the closing months of World War 1 and Lady Serena Buxton is on her own. Her home, Buxton Hall, is now a hospital. With her husband Randolph fighting at the front, the quartermaster, doctor and matron become her allies. Her household staff rally round her, all except the housekeeper who seems more and more detached. What is her problem? The human problems on the home front escalate and then Randolph is reported missing in action. Fighting her own emotions while she solves one issue after another, Serena is barely holding her own. And then Randolph comes home. She married for love. But the man who returns to her is not the man she married. How will she survive this devastating event? And will her love be strong enough to hold everything she holds dear together?



Publié par
Date de parution 02 décembre 2014
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781773622088
Langue English

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Shell Shocked
The Buxton Chronicles, Book 3
By Victoria Chatham
Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-208-8 Amazon 978-1-77362-209-5 WEB 978-1-77362-210-1
Copyright 2014 by Victoria Chatham Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. * * * Dedication To brave souls everywhere who have given their live s for their countries.
Chapter One
Buxton Hall March, 1918 Lady Serena Buxton’s fine grey eyes opened wide in dismay at the scene before her. Pairs of medical orderlies carrying stretchers filed through the pillared entrance of Buxton Hall and deposited their burdens on the glea ming marble floor. DearLord, will this never end? She counted the stretchers, twelve in all. The sile nce of some of the heavily bandaged patients unnerved her. She could not begin to imagine the wounds the dressings protected. A few of them moaned and were quickly attended by the orderlies. Her head spun with the logistics of how they were t o house them all and breathed a sigh of relief when the quartermaster in charge of the hospital walked in. “Captain Parry.” She hurried towards him keeping he r voice low and urgent. “Where are we to put them all? We simply do not have enoug h beds.” “Sorry, Lady Buxton, but Gloucester Hospital is spl itting apart at the seams. We’re bringing in extra beds right now. I’ve also brought you two new recruits from the Voluntary Aid Detachment.” The captain gave her an encouraging smile but the strain of this latest emergency showed in his eyes. Serena co uldn’t help but notice how his uniform hung on his now spare frame. “Best I could do on short notice, but I’ll round up a few more as soon as I can.” “That would be much appreciated.” Serena turned to the two girls who stood nervously before her and smiled at them, hoping to put them a little at ease. Neither girl responded. Maybe this was their first sight of wounded soldiers. Maybe they were stunned by the size and opulence of the entrance hall with its high, painted ceiling sporting nymphs and cherubs. The scope of the design never failed to impress visitors, but Serena realized the newcomers were not admiring their surroundings at all. They were simply awaiting instruction from her. “Come with me. I’ll take you to Matron.” The girls followed her in silence as she headed int o what had been an elegant ballroom with polished oak floor, mahogany paneling , exquisite chandeliers, and walls hung with family portraits. Now, it was a busy hosp ital ward. Mentally registering how many patients the room alr eady contained as she took the new girls to the matron’s station, Serena noticed t hat the nurses and VAD’s were already pushing beds closer together. “I have two new recruits for you, Matron,” Serena s aid as she halted her little party in front of a desk stationed in the centre of the ward. Matron Sally Light looked up, the expression in her eyes as bright and crisp as her starched collar and cuffs.
“And not a moment too soon.” The matron stood up, g iving both girls a quick, eagle-eyed assessment, taking in their tidy uniforms and neatly bobbed hair. “Names, please.” “Kathleen Hardisty, Matron,” lisped the first young woman, holding her head high and inspecting the matron as closely as she was bei ng inspected. “Rebecca Browning,” whispered the second, peeking s hyly from beneath heavy brown bangs. “Is this your first appointment?” Sally asked them. Both girls nodded hesitantly, unsure of themselves under the matron’s intense scrutiny and Serena’s heart sank a little. She hope d they would have the stamina needed to cope with the busy day that lay ahead of them. “I take it you know how to make beds?” Serena saw the matron relax a little as each girl in turn both agreed that they did. “Good. I’ll have Sister Serena show you where the linen room is. We need sheets, blankets, and pillow s, for twelve beds. Hurry along now.” Serena took Kathleen and Rebecca with her across th e hall to a staircase that led below stairs. “Do be careful,” Serena warned as she reached the t op stair. “We’re fortunate to have electricity, but it isn’t very bright on these stairs. The switch is on the right, just here.” The girls clattered down the stairs behind her and she led them along the corridor to the linen room where she opened the door and showed them in. Kathleen and Rebecca looked around the well stocked room with interest. “Hold your arms out and I’ll load you up with sheet s.” Weariness seeped into Serena’s bones, making her weak. Her arms trembled as she lifted down sets of sheets and stacked them on the girls’ outstretched arms. They were interrupted by a light knock on the door which stood half open. Serena opened the door all the way to reveal her butler standing in the hallway. “Yes, Jenkins, what is it?” “Sorry to disturb you, Milady.” His voice wavered a nd he avoided eye contact with her. Serena stepped outside the room, noting the pallor in his normally ruddy cheeks and the tightness of his jaw. He said nothing, but proffered a silver salver upon which sat a tell-tale envelope. Serena’s breath caught in her throat as crazy image s spun in her mind. This could not be happening to her. This couldn’t possibly be the news every household dreaded. The slow and steady drum of her pulse quickly speed ed up to a fevered throb in her wrists and pounding in her temples until she though t her head would explode. Her vision wavered and she wrapped her arms around hers elf to ward off the chill racing up her spine. The movement caused her to breathe again , an exhale that rasped through her throat and deflated her lungs, causing her to g asp. She looked again into Jenkins’ face; saw the compas sion in his soft brown eyes before he lowered his gaze against the intensity he no doubt saw in hers.
She glanced once at the telegram lying in the centr e of the tray. The incongruity of such a plain envelope being served in such a pretty fashion was not lost on her, but that thought evaporated as her hand, almost of its own v olition, reached out. She had no sense of her brain sending a message to her fingers and watched in surprise as her almost disembodied arm hung woodenly in the air. Th en her chilled fingers connected with the envelope. As reality crept back into her consciousness, she s aw that one edge of the rain-speckled missive bore a smudged finger print. Could it be ink from the telegraph operator, or just the post boy’s grubby thumb? She picked up the telegram and turned it over in her fingers before lifting the flap and hes itantly removing the slip of paper it contained. Holding her breath, she opened the single sheet and scanned the contents. Her searching gaze skimmed over the words ‘Priority’ an d ‘Deeply regret’ until one word jumped out at her. “Missing,” she whispered. Tears of relief welled in her eyes but she blinked them away, stood straight and tall, and cleared her thro at. She took another deep breath to be sure she was steady enough to speak. “His Lordsh ip is reported missing, Jenkins. Please tell the post boy, if he is still waiting, t here is no reply, and tell Mrs. Griffiths I shall come and speak to you all in the servants’ ha ll after lunch.” Jenkins bowed his head, relief evident on his face, and retreated. Serena stood as still as one of the columns supporting the entrance portico to her home. She clutched the telegram in her hand, squeezing her eyes shut t o stem the tears, then remembered the new girls waiting uncertainly behind her. She s wallowed her fear and composed herself. “Kathleen, Rebecca, please go ahead.” She stood to one side so they could pass by her. “I’ll bring the blankets and pillows.” This was not the time to be weak. This was not the time to allow panic to control her. She could not, must not focus on her own woes while they had so many new patients to tend. She pushed the offending missive into the pocket of her apron, collected as much bedding as she could carry and made her way upstairs. * * * Captain Parry’s men brought in and set up the extra beds, making the ward a hive of activity. Matron Light took no chances with Kath leen and Rebecca, pairing them up with the more experienced VAD’s in order to get the beds made quickly and correctly. Michael Sands, the resident doctor, assessed his ne w patients as each was transferred from the stretcher to a bed. Serena not iced that both Kathleen and Rebecca paled as they heard a man cry out in pain but they kept working, being given no chance to slow their pace by the girls whom they assisted. The telegram rustled in her pocket every time she m oved, but Serena swept from ward to linen room and back, ferrying the required bedding until all the beds had been
made up and the patients rested as comfortably as p ossible. She approached the matron’s desk intending to ask to be excused from h er duties, but Sally’s low tones as she spoke to Dr. Sands stopped her. “With this many patients crowded together how can w e be expected to prevent infection?” whispered Sally. “We can’t, Matron. We can only watch for signs of f ever and headaches and quarantine the patient if necessary,” replied the d octor quietly. Serena stepped forward. “You mean the Spanish flu?” Her heart sank as she considered the implications of the swift moving dis ease. “Has it reached us already?” The matron and doctor looked up at her. “We do not want to worry anyone,” Sally assured her, “but there is no telling if any of our new intake may already be infected. We can only monitor them as best we can.” “I must get back to work.” Dr. Sands nodded at both of them before he returned to a patient’s bedside. Serena remained silent, aware of Sally’s thoughtful regard of her. “What troubles you, my dear?” Sally still spoke in low tones. “I received a telegram from the War Department,” Se rena replied quietly, “and I need to excuse myself this afternoon to meet below stairs with my staff.” “Your husband?” Sally asked. Thankful for Sally’s quick understanding, Serena si mply nodded. Tears pricked her eyes once more and her voice hovered somewhere in t he region of the lump in her throat as she whispered, “Reported missing.” Sally stood up, looked around until she located the ward sister then beckoned her over. “Sister Johnson, I’ll be in my room if you ne ed me, but I shan’t be away for long.” With that, Sally gently but firmly propelled Serena out of the ward. Still dazed by the report that Randolph was missing, Serena allowed he rself to be ushered along a corridor to the room Sally used as her parlor and o ffice. The morning’s fire still smoldered in the hearth. S ally took a poker from the set of fire irons and stirred the embers into life, then a dded a few sticks of kindling wood. When sure they had caught alight, she set two piece s of coal amongst them. “Sit down, my dear.” She indicated a worn, button-b acked velvet chair and Serena sank into it as her knees finally gave up all prete nce of holding her upright. Sally produced a blanket and proceeded to wrap it around her, tucking her in as if she were a child. “This will help warm you while I boil the ke ttle for tea.” The matron bustled between setting the kettle on a single-ring gas burner and collecting cups and saucers. When she was done, she sat in a chair next to Serena. “Oh, Sally,” Serena whispered. “What am I to do?” Sally caught Serena’s hands and clasped them firmly in her own. “You will continue to do just what you have been doing until your husb and returns. From everything you have told me about him, he is a brave and resourcef ul man. He has been reported missing, not killed in action, or dead from wounds. He could have been temporarily separated from his unit, he might be in a first aid station or even captured, but you must believe that missing means what it says. For now yo u must focus on that and believe that he will, like the cat, come back”