A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan Read Online (FREE)
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Leicester, September 1857
“IN HER CONDITION,” DOCTOR PARWINE WAS SAYING from the other side of the room, “she must particularly beware foul miasmas.”
The atmosphere in the room was neither foul nor miasmic, Jonas Grantham thought, only gloomy and tense. The girl—and, unfortunately, she was a girl, no matter the situation she’d found herself in—sat stiffly on a chair across the room. Her hair was dark and unbound; her figure showed no sign of the changes that would shortly come to her. She didn’t cry, although Jonas supposed that most girls in her situation would weep. She simply stared straight ahead, hands folded. Maybe she didn’t understand what had happened to her.
He’d seen her a time or two before. He remembered her playing with the other girls just a few years ago, rolling a hoop down the street and shrieking with laughter, ribbons trailing after her.
She still looked more child than woman, but there was no hint of laughter about her now.
“Foul miasmas,” the girl’s mother breathed. “What are foul miasmas?”
“Miasmas,” Parwine intoned, “are the cause of all disease, and are particularly noxious to…” He glanced down at the girl, and then narrowed his eyes. “To expecting mothers,” he finished. “There are a number of miasmas which one must avoid. There is the idio-kino miasma, produced by…”
Jonas Grantham barely restrained himself from a roll of the eyes. In a matter of weeks, he was due to start his course of medical instruction at King’s College in London. He’d beat out students with pedigrees from Oxford and Cambridge to win a prized three-year Warneford scholarship. He was itching for the first lecture—scheduled for the first of October at eight P.M., a mere six days and seven hours from this moment—and ignoramuses like Parwine made his hands itch all the more.
Truly, miasmas? In this modern day and age? The theory of miasmas had been conclusively disproven three years past. Only benighted fools still spouted that gibberish. But Jonas had asked to spend time with Doctor Parwine. He had an agreement in place to take over the man’s practice as soon as he’d finished his education. Parwine had been most specific: He could come along, see how things were managed, but as an untutored (the older man’s words) youth, he was expected to keep silent. So here Jonas stood, listening to an old man ramble on about miasmas.
“Finally,” Parwine was saying, “there is the perkoino miasma, the cause of yellow fever—but surely you will not expose your daughter to that.”
Her parents exchanged glances. “No, doctor, of course not. But what is to be done?”
The last weeks following the man about had not been totally useless. Jonas had learned a great deal about how not to be a physician from Parwine. The doctor maundered on and on with medical terminology that none of his patients understood, all of it supposition that had been rejected by scientific men within the last decades. It took all of Jonas’s self-control—never excellent under ideal circumstances—to keep his mouth shut. He kept telling himself to respect his elders, and so far he’d managed. Barely.