Tabitha in Moonlight (Harlequin Romance, 1905)

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9781842620663: Tabitha in Moonlight (Harlequin Romance, 1905)

Sister Tabitha just could not damp her feelings for the attractive Dutch surgeon, Marius van Beek, but what future could there be for her? He appreciated her as an efficient colleague - but she couldn't believe that he ever saw her as a woman. Indeed, why should he? Tabitha had always had it drummed into her - especially by her selfish stepsister Lilith - that no man would ever take a second look at her. It was the last straw when Marius called Tabitha a Cinderella and asked when her prince would come along. He didn't know that only he could answer that...

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Romance readers around the world were sad to note the passing of Betty Neels in June 2001.Her career spanned thirty years, and she continued to write into her ninetieth year.To her millions of fans, Betty epitomized the romance writer.Betty’s first book, Sister Peters in Amsterdam,was published in 1969, and she eventually completed 134 books.Her novels offer a reassuring warmth that was very much a part of her own personality.Her spirit and genuine talent live on in all her stories.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Miss Tabitha Crawley opened the door of Men's Orthopaedic ward with the outward calmness of manner for which she was famed throughout St Martin's Hospital, although inwardly she seethed with the frustration of having to leave her half-eaten supper, combined with the knowledge that within half an hour of going off duty after a tiresome day, it would be her almost certain lot to have to remain on duty to admit the emergency she had just been warned of. She had already calculated that the patient would arrive at about the same time as the night staff, which meant that she would have to admit him, for the night nurses would be instantly caught up in the machinery of night routine and the night sisters would be taking the day reports.

She frowned heavily, an act which did nothing to improve her looks, for her face was unremarkable enough with its undistinguished nose, wide mouth and hazel eyes, whose lashes, of the same pale brown of her hair, were thick enough but lacked both curl and length. Her hair was one of her few good points, for it was long and thick and straight, but as she wore it tidily drawn back into a plaited coil, its beauty was lost to all but the more discerning. Not that many of those she met bothered to look further than her face, to dismiss her as a nice, rather dull girl; if they had looked again they would have seen that she had a good figure and quite beautiful legs. The fact that they didn't look for a second time didn't bother Tabitha in the least—indeed, it gave her considerable amusement, for she was blessed with a sense of humour and was able to laugh at herself, which, she reminded herself upon occasion, was a very good thing. She had plenty of friends anyway, and although she was considered something of a martinet on the ward, the nurses liked her, for she was considerate and kind and didn't shirk a hard day's work.

Nurse Betts and Mrs Jeffs, the nursing auxiliary, tidying beds at the far end of the ward, watched her neat figure as she walked towards them, and Betts said softly:

'You know, Mrs Jeffs, she's got a marvelous shape and a lovely voice. if only she'd do something to her hair..' She broke off as Tabitha reached them.

'An emergency,' she said without preamble. 'Will you get one of the top beds ready, please? We'd better have him near the office—it's a compound fracture of tib and fib. He's eighty years old and he's been lying for hours before he was discovered. They're getting some blood into him now, but they won't do anything until tomorrow morning; he's too shocked. I'll lay up a trolley just the same.' She smiled a little and looked almost pretty.

The trolley done, she went back into the ward to start her last round, an undertaking which she always thought of as the Nightingale touch, but the men seemed to like it and it gave her the chance to wish each of them an individual good night as well as make sure that all was well as she paused for a few seconds by their beds. She started at the top of the ward, opposite to where Nurse Betts and Mrs Jeffs were still busy, coming to a halt beside a bed whose occupant was displaying a lively interest in what was going on. He was a young man of her own age, recovering from the effects of a too hearty rugger scrum, and he grinned at her cheerfully.

'Hullo, Sister—hard luck, just as you're due off. Hope it's someone with a bit of life in 'em.'

'Eighty,' said Tabitha crisply, 'and I fancy he's the one you should be sorry for. How's the leg?'

He swung its plastered length awkwardly. 'Fine. Pity old Sawbones is out of commission, he might have taken this lump of concrete off—I bet the new bloke'll keep it on for weeks. What's he like, Sister?'

'I haven't an idea,' said Tabitha, 'but be sure you'll do as he says. Now settle down, Jimmy, there's a good boy.' Her voice was motherly and he said instantly, just as though she were twice his age: 'Yes, Sister, OK. Goodnight.'

Tabitha went on down the neat row of beds, pausing by each one to tuck in a blanket or shake a pillow and now and then feel a foot to make sure that its circulation was all it should be.

The ward was almost aggressively Victorian with its lofty ceiling and tall, narrow windows, and the faint breeze of the summer's evening seemed to emphasise this. Tabitha had a sudden longing to be home, instantly dismissed as she fetched up by Mr Prosser's bed. Mr Prosser had two broken legs because the brakes on his fish and chip van failed on a steep West Country hill when he was on his way to the more remote villages with his appetising load. Tabitha's nose twitched at the memory of the reek of fish and chips which had pervaded the ward for hours after his arrival. Even now, several weeks after his admission, the more humorous-minded of his companions in misfortune were apt to crack fishy jokes at his expense. Not that he minded; he was a cockney by birth and had migrated to the West Country several years earlier, satisfying a lifelong urge to live in the country while at the same time retaining his native humour. He said now:

''Ullo, ducks. What's all the bustle about? Some poor perisher cracked 'is legs like yours truly?'

Tabitha nodded. 'That's right—but only one. How are the toes?'

'All there, Sister—I wriggled 'em like you said. How's 'Is Nibs?'

'As comfortable as possible. I'll tell Mr Raynard you enquired, shall I?'

'Yes—'e's been 'oist with 'is own...' he hesitated.

'Petard,' finished Tabitha for him. 'Hard luck, wasn't it?'

She spoke with genuine sympathy. It was indeed hard luck for the senior orthopaedic surgeon to have fallen down in his own garden and broken his patella into two pieces. He had been brought in late that afternoon and had largely been the cause of Tabitha's tiresome day, for whereas his patients were willing to lie still and have done to them whatever was necessary for their good, Mr Raynard had felt compelled to order everyone about and even went so far as to say that if he wanted his damn knee properly attended to he'd better get up and do it himself, which piece of nonsense was properly ignored by those ministering to him. He had had the grace to beg everyone's pardon later on and had even gone so far as to thank God that he was in his own ward and in Tabitha's capable hands. Having thus made amends he then demanded the portable telephone to be fetched, and ignoring the fact that the staff were longing to get him settled in his bed, had a long conversation, his share of which enabled his hearers to guess without much difficulty that he was arranging for someone to do his work. He laid the receiver down at length and fixed Tabitha with, for him, a mild eye.

'That's settled. A colleague of mine has just given up his appointment prior to going on a series of lecture tours, he's coming down tomorrow to see to this—' he waved an impatient hand at his splinted knee. 'He'll take over for me until I can get about.' He grinned at her. 'He's an easy-going chap—he'll be a nice change from me, Tabby.'

She had said, 'Oh yes' in a neutral voice, thinking privately that probably the new man would be even worse than the other old friend of Mr Raynard's, who had come for a week when he was down with 'flu. He had been easy-going too—his rounds had been leisurely and totally lacking in instructions to either herself or the houseman, but hours later, usually as she was preparing to go off duty, he would return to the ward, full of splendid ideas which he wanted to put into operation immediately.

She walked on slowly down the ward, passing the time of day with each patient while she wondered why Mr Raynard chose to lie in discomfort and a fair amount of pain until this colleague of his should arrive in the morning, and then remembered that George Steele, his registrar, was out for the evening and wouldn't be back until very late, and there really wasn't anyone else.

She was on her way up the other side of the ward now and there were only Mr Pimm and Mr Oscar left before the two empty beds at the top of the ward. She stood between the two men, each of whom had a miniature chess board balanced on their chests, and Mr Pimm rumbled:

'He's got me, Sister—it's taken him the whole evening, but he's finally done it.'

'How?' asked Tabitha, remembering with a grief she still felt keenly the games of chess she and her father had played before he had married again. It was one of the memories she tried her best to forget, and she thrust it aside now and listened intelligently to Mr Oscar's triumphant explanation before wishing them a cheerful good night and going finally into the cubicle outside her office.

Mr Raynard was waiting for her, looking bad-tempered—something which she ignored, for she had long ago learned not to mind his bristling manner and sharp tongue. Now he asked; 'Is there something coming in?'

She told him briefly and added: 'If you're quite comfortable, sir, I won't stay—there are several things...I hope you'll sleep well. You've been written up for what you asked for and I hope you'll take it—you need a good sleep. Nothing after midnight, either, in case you go to theatre early—that depends upon your colleague, I imagine. I shall be here at eight o'clock anyway, and your pre-meds are written up.'

Mr Raynard snorted. 'All nicely arranged. You'll go with me to the theatre, of course.'

Tabitha raised her eyebrows. 'If you insist, sir—though I must remind you that it's theatre day tomorrow and there's a list from here to there; you made it out yourself last week.'

Mr Raynard looked sour. 'Well, you've got a staff nurse who's quite able to carry out your pernickety ideas.'...

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