Romy's Walk

Romy's Walk

by Peggy Stoks

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780842319430
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 03/28/2001
Series: Abounding Love , #2
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.81(d)

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Chapter 1

Pitman, Washington Territory

Summer 1880

"Stand clear! Runaway team!"

Crossing the rough surface of Front Street on her way to Hanford's Dry Goods, Romy Schmitt looked up in terror at the pair of maddened horses and wildly careening wagon bearing down on her. For a split second she hesitated in the wide dirt track, not knowing which way to run. Gauging she was nearer her destination than the side of the street from which she had come, she picked up her skirts and raced toward safety.

But as if they had read her mind, the wild-eyed horses veered in their tumultuous course, now only thirty feet distant, and charged straight toward her. The shouts of several men were drowned out by the horrific noise of pounding hooves and the rattle of the bouncing, empty wagon. Wheeling sharply, Romy intended to flee back to the other side of the street, but somehow her feet became tangled and she sprawled face forward in the dirt.

Get up, get up, get up!

With every nerve ending on fire, she scrabbled to her hands and knees and tried to rise, but it was too late—the team was upon her. In an instant, panic gave way to a blinding, white pain that obliterated all sense of time and space.

A woman's screams—hers?—filled the air while strong hands manipulated her body, turning her over. Far above her, fleecy white clouds wafted, unconcerned, in a sky of cobalt blue, while just over her head a cacophony of urgent male voices shouted out one thing after another.

"Not the teacher!"

"... so much blood ..."

"Where's the doctor?"

"... tourniquet ... going to die ..."

Their words blended together, becoming meaningless, as a peculiar numbness settled over her. Her stomach emptied at the same time her consciousness faded to a hush, and it seemed as though she traveled down a long tunnel, leaving the others behind.

Warm and comfortable, she reacted with aversion to those who would not let her rest. Hands tugged at her, lifted her, caused her to cry out. Again she was aware of voices, the smell of dirt and manure, the stench of her sickness. And the pain—the dreadful, dreadful pain.

"Bring her in here."

She recognized the command as coming from Jeremiah Landis, proprietor of the dry goods store. Landis was a sturdily built man of about thirty, with a dark beard and a head of thick, dark curls. Though he was decent and hardworking, he kept mostly to himself. In the two years Romy had resided in the western Washington Territory community of Pitman, she doubted he had passed more than a dozen sentences with her, outside of the requisite comments about her purchases, what goods he might or might not have, and the weather.

How could she be so sure, then, that she loved him?

"Put her on the counter," he commanded.

As the hands deposited her on the hard, wooden surface, she whimpered, making sounds she had never heard come from any human. What was happening? Why didn't it stop hurting? Why couldn't she go back to sleep? Someone was doing something with her lower limbs ... who was it? She tried sitting up to take stock of the situation, but a slight motion of her head was all she could manage. A violent episode of shuddering ensued soon afterward, making her feel as though she were packed in snow. Closing her eyes, she tried not to make a sound while vainly attempting to regain control over her body.

Oh, please, God, make it stop hurting.

Not far from her she heard two men make a wager about whether or not her leg would come off. Come off? Were they out of their heads? How could a person's leg come off? Mr. Landis reprimanded them sharply before they had settled on an amount, causing one of them to spit out a foul phrase and stomp from the store.

"What if Foxworth's in no shape to ... to do what he has to do?" another man asked, opening a floodgate of opinions.

"He might have been a crack surgeon on the battlefield, but he's nothing but an old rummy nowadays."

"I wouldn't take my dogs to him."

"Yeah? Iffen you did, that squaw of his would prob'ly cook 'em into stew and—"

"Outside. All of you except Wilson." Landis cut short the men's polemics and herded them outdoors, curtly thanking them for their help. A few moments later, the storefront was quiet. "How are you doing on that end, Wilson?" he asked quietly. "Do you need any more cloth?"

"Pretty soon I will." Romy recognized Owen Wilson's voice, Pitman's harbormaster and father of five of her pupils. "Oh, Nelly, it won't quit."

A deep sigh issued from the man standing near her. A second later, warm, callused fingers touched her forehead, then her cheek. "Miss Schmitt, can you hear me?"

Opening her eyes, she gazed into the face of the man for whom her heart longed. She ached at his expression, both grave and sad, the lines around his eyes appearing deeply engraved in his tanned skin.

Jeremiah's warm fingers cupped one side of her face with tenderness. "You've been injured ... rather severely, it grieves me to say. We've sent for the doctor. Is there anyone you want me to notify?"

Notify? Why should anyone need to be notified? Was she going to die? Panic bubbled inside her, competing with the pain, causing her to fight for breath. She thought of her parents, still living in Missouri. When she came west she realized she might never see them again, but the thought of not being able to write even one more letter caused a keen grief to pierce her heart. And, too, there were Olivia and Elena, her girlhood friends. Her two very best friends.

With Olivia she corresponded regularly. A talented healer now residing in the flatlands of northeastern Colorado, Olivia Plummer sought to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, who had also been a gifted midwife. Elena, however, had run away to join the theater several years ago, at the same time escaping her unhappy home. Neither she nor Olivia had heard from Elena in more than two years, and they did not know if their friend was alive or dead. How could she leave this world without knowing what had happened to Elena? without saying good-bye to any of her loved ones?

"Am I going to die?" A shuddering sob escaped her, then another. Despite the warmth of the summer morning, a bone-deep chill enshrouded her. "I'm dying, aren't I?"

Landis's voice caught, but his dark eyes met hers squarely, honestly. "Wilson and I are doing everything we can, but you're losing a lot of blood." With a quick motion, he turned and reached for a bolt of muslin, pulled several yards free, and began draping the fabric across her upper torso.

Did his jaw tremble while he worked to warm her? Why did he blink so rapidly? Was it too much to hope that he might nurture a tender feeling or two for her?

"I ... love you," she blurted, nearly out of her mind with pain and fear. For some reason, before she died, she needed for him to know the secret she had carried these many months.

"I ... I hoped ... one day ... I might become ... your ..." Her words ended in a groan of agony as Wilson maneuvered her leg in a manner that all but made her beg for death. Surely dying would be no more painful than what she suffered right this minute.

"Jesus!" she pleaded to the one she had called Savior since her childhood, "Oh, Jesus ... please ... deliver me."

The door opened, admitting a man with a rapid stride. Was it the doctor?

"Pastor Quinn," Wilson exclaimed. "Thank God you're here. Did you happen to see Dr. Foxworth?"

"He's coming up the—" The reverend's words were cut short by the noisy entrance of another.

"Is she still alive?" The surgeon's voice was loud and boisterous, his words pranging and slurring into one another. Laden by a heavy-looking kit, a native woman followed him into the building.

"Yes, Miss Schmitt is alive." Landis's voice was like water thrown into subzero air. "Foxworth, are you drunk?"

"No, unfortunately, I wouldn't say drunk."

"Good heavens, man, but you've been drinking already this morning!" the pastor cried, shocked.

"So what if I have? Don't tell me you've never tossed back a few with your eggs."

"Certainly not!" Quinn, tall and slender, huffed with outrage. "Just how do you expect to attend to your duties when you're soused?"

"You attend to your duties, preacher boy, and I'll attend to mine. And furthermore, may I remind you that I did not come to the great Northwest to attend to any duties. I'm old, I've had my fill of medicine, and I'd rather be fishing," the physician griped. "Now, do you want my help or not? If you don't, Annie and I will be on our way."

Landis spoke, his voice grim. "There's no choice. She'll bleed to death if we don't let him have a go at her."

I'm bleeding to death. This is what it feels like to die.

Romy felt both part of and strangely detached from the new activity in the room. Where had Landis gone? Glancing up, she saw the earnest eyes of the young pastor staring down at her. His Adam's apple bobbed in his throat as he tried—and failed—to smile. Instead, he patted her shoulder awkwardly, helplessly, while Dr. Foxworth made a cursory examination of her form.

"That foot's got to go," he grumbled, nodding toward the native woman with whom he shared his cabin. "A catlin and the saw, Annie. And some ether, I suppose."

"You can't do that!" Pastor Quinn protested, his fingers tightening on Romy's shoulder.

"He has to," came Landis's grim voice from just behind Quinn.

"It's her only chance," Wilson seconded.

"If that," Foxworth bluntly stated. "Look at her face: it's the color of wax. She may not even need the ether."

"Hold up," Landis commanded, his voice bold. More gently, he continued, sounding nearer. "Are you still conscious, Miss Schmitt?"

"Yes." Her reply was no more distinguishable than a rustle of wind through the pines. Had he heard? she wondered.

"Pastor," he went on, "while she's still with us, will you marry us? Quickly?"

"Well," Quinn stammered, "it's highly irregular ... but ..." The younger man swallowed, an embarrassed flush rising in his boyish cheeks. "Is there grave reason for this to be done, Mr. Landis?"

"None besides honoring her wishes."

The surgeon snorted, interrupting Wilson's affirmation. "Why bother? You'll be a widower by nightfall."

"That's my business," Landis retorted.

Had she heard correctly? Romy wondered, stupified by the events taking place. Jeremiah Landis wanted to marry her? While she was dying ... or because she was dying? As she understood things, they were going to cut off her foot, and then she was going to die.

She felt herself drifting away but battled against the warm, beckoning promise of insensibility. She would remain conscious for her wedding. Summoning every bit of the mettle that had sustained her during her arduous journey west, she met the gaze of her husband-to-be.

Less than two minutes later their covenant had been made, and she felt the dry brush of his lips against hers. A seizure gripped her then, plucking her from her tenuous hold on cognizance and hurtling her into the deep void of oblivion.

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Romy's Walk 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful Christian Romance. I haven't read a book in a couple of years and I simply could not put this book down.I can't wait to read the Oliva's Touch and Elena's Song . Thanks again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book after reading 'Olivia's Touch'. These two books (plus a third I have yet to read) are interrelated and reference the correlating storylines. I had trouble putting the books down! The author does a great job relaying the intensity of the emotions that the characters are experiencing. This book, although set in the 1800's, addresses many emotional and spiritual issues that we face today. I am not an overly religious individual, but I did find this book inspirational.