day on the twenty-fourth, never bothering to ask him if he had other intentions.
It was always the same, Tim thought. Christmas, the summer holiday, whenever Eustace decided he wanted a day or a fortnight off, he simply instructed Tim to take over his practice and expected him to do it. Iâm not a partner in this practice, Tim mused. Iâm just an employee.
Eustace angled across the lawn to his own walkway. His coach waited outside the gate. Eager to leave, the doctor flung the gate open with such force that it almost struck Ginny Whitson, who was trotting up the sidewalk as fast as she could, her child in her arms. She halted to let him pass, and he glared at her.
âAway with you,â he shouted, waving his arm in a dismissive gesture. âWe want no trollops or beggars in this neighborhood. Go ply your trade among your own kind.â He climbed into his carriage, knocked twice on the roof, and his driver cracked the whip. The four perfectly matched black horses sped off.
Undeterred, Ginny waited for the carriage to drive out of sight and then continued to Timâs door. He apologized for his partnerâs behavior, but Ginny shrugged it off.
âItâs like that all the time for me, sir,â she remarked, âno need to get upset. But if Iâm making trouble for you, Doctor, I wonât come âround anymore.â
âYouâre not the one whoâs making the trouble,â Tim said, his tone carrying the bitterness he felt toward Eustace. The greedy physician hated Timâs penchant for treating the occasional poor caller, since such patients could not pay and deprived Eustace of a commission. He had said as much to Tim on several occasions.
âThatâs no way for a gentleman to behave,â Tim continued. As he spoke, Tim looked at Ginny, and his shock at her appearance immediately chased away his displeasure with his partner. A dark red slash crossed her forehead above her right eye, and her left cheek was bruised and swollen. Her lower lip was split, a bloody scab covering most of it. The blanket she had worn as a cloak was missing, and the shoulder of her frock was torn.
âWhat happened?â Tim asked. âWere you attacked?â
âYes, sir, but itâs nothing for you to worry about,â she answered, his concern making her uncomfortable. Tim, however, pressed for an explanation, and, feeling obliged to him for his willingness to treat her son, Ginny reluctantly told the story.
âIt was early this morning, Doctor. Jonathan and I had just started on our way here, and we passed a hot soup cart. I bought a cup of broth for the babyâs breakfast. There were two men standing across the street, and when they saw my bag of coins, they tried to steal them. I fought, but they were too strong. They hit me, stole the money and my cloak. But Iâm all right, sir. The soup man was kind enough to give me another cup of broth, seeing as how the first one got spilled in the fight. At least Jonathan wasnât hurtâI held on to him the whole time.â
âWere the constables able to find the men?â Tim inquired.
âI never called them, sir. I didnât know the men who robbed me, and the peelers wouldnât have done much for the likes of me, anyway. Thatâs just how it is.â
Once Tim had Ginny and her son in the consulting room, he cleaned her cuts and bandaged her forehead. Then he turned his attention to Jonathan. He carefully pressed and prodded the swelling, measured its size and its exact location on the boyâs back, and examined the surrounding area. Each time Tim touched the swollen point, Jonathan groaned. Ginny watched the procedure with intense interest. When Tim was done, he turned to her and excused himself.
âI need to check something in one of my books,â he explained. âIâll be back in a moment.â
Tim stepped into the waiting room, closing the door behind him. He took a deep