Back Cover Blurb:
Stories of four young women who are each braving challenges at the dawn of the 20th century in the big city. Will they overcome their hardships and find love?
Three Rings for Alice by Lisa Lickel
Love and respect in 1899 Milwaukee is as close as a phone call.
Forgiven by Paula Mowery
When Henry and Jessie meet it seems to be classic love at first sight until a shocking revelation tears them apart.
The Pocket Watch by Kathleen Rouser
Searching for the past an orphan and a young doctor find love for the future.
Flames of Hope by Teena Stewart
Love ignites in the midst of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.
We are featuringThe Pocket Watch:
Isabel Jones, an orphan, receives a ruby ring left by the mother she never knew and wants more than ever to find her roots. When a young physician, Daniel Harper, rescues her from an oncoming automobile and she finds his pocket watch in a puddle, her circumstances take a turn. She begins to consider what life outside the orphanage could be like. Daniel’s heart has been broken before, but the attractive young lady who finds his treasured timepiece wouldn’t be deemed suitable by his social climbing parents.
When Isabel and Daniel work side by side, caring for the orphanage children during an influenza epidemic, she becomes gravely ill. He is compelled to redeem the time by helping her find the past. While his lost pocket watch intertwined their lives, the ruby ring threatens to tear them apart by revealing a dreadful truth.
By Kathleen Rouser
The winds and rains of October, 1899 seemed to conspire against Isabel Jones as she rushed to cross Jefferson Avenue. She squinted to avoid the cold stinging drops and strands of wet hair from whipping into her eyes. Isabel gripped the bottle of much-needed cough medicine in her pocket, which she had procured for the little ones at the orphanage. She hurried to get back to them before the croup worsened. Chugga, chugga, chugga... She looked up just in time to see one of those motor contraptions barreling around the corner.
“Miss! Watch out!” An iron grip on Isabel’s upper arm propelled her backward.
She didn’t see her rescuer until they had tumbled onto their backsides and both sat like children playing in a puddle on the side of the road. The bewildered look on her rescuer’s face chased away Isabel’s embarrassment. She bit her lips together in vain. Laughter bubbled out.
The glint in his sky-blue eyes belied his amusement, despite his serious expression. Then he smiled. “May I ascertain whether you’re well, miss?”
“I’m quite all right, but the bottle of medicine must have broken. What a mess!” She held up her gloved hand, sticky liquid dripping onto her navy woolen cloak. “It happened so fast.” Isabel blinked, then, much less amused.
The young man stood then and helped her to her feet. “I am so sorry. I’ll take care of it. What was the medicine for?” He reached for a black bag, which he’d dropped next to him and then rattled around in it.
“The little ones are sick with croup.”
He gave her a quizzical gaze.
“Oh, they’re not my children, but I help with them.”
“I see.” He handed her a small bottle. “Don’t worry. I’m the real thing, not part of a medicine man sideshow.” He grinned.
Isabel took the proffered medicine.
“Where do you live, miss?”
She swallowed. “I...”
“I’m terribly sorry. I don’t mean to be improper. I only want to make sure the druggist delivers more to you as soon as possible. I’ll be heading that way momentarily.”
She relaxed. “I’m Miss Isabel Jones.” She pulled off the soiled glove. Where could she tell him she lived? Isabel took in the strong chin, straight nose, the blond hair with a bit of curl in front and a moustache. He might as well be a handsome prince rescuing her on a steed. Perhaps the orphan asylum looked like a mansion, but living there wasn’t as impressive as abiding in the Gothic structures on Griswold. She stared down at her wet boots. “Over at Elmwood and Jefferson, at the Protestant Orphan Asylum of Detroit.”
He took her fingers lightly in his. “Delighted to meet you, Miss Jones. I’m Dr. Daniel Harper.”
“Pleased to meet you as well, Doctor.” Isabel pulled her hand away. “I must get back now. Thank you.” She held the bottle up, turned, looked both ways, and then ran across the street.
When she glanced over her shoulder and waved, the young man lifted his hat. “Good-bye.”
Isabel made it to the corner with her heart pounding and stopped. She had left the parcel with the broken bottle near the curb. It could be a danger to someone. She went back. Miss Crabtree would be furious she’d taken so long. She opened her cloak and untied her apron to wrap the sticky pieces of glass. Where rain collected just off the curb, something shone in the wan sunlight. She found a stick to hook the gold chain peeking out from the murky puddle. Along with it came a pocket watch.
Isabel grasped onto the dripping treasure. On the back she read the initials DJH. Daniel...something... Harper perhaps?
“Doctor!” she cried out, looking round for the gray tweed overcoat and matching newsboy cap. Passersby stared at her, but Dr. Harper was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t have time to check at the pharmacy, so she put it into her pocket, tucked next to the sample he’d given her, and picked up her garbage.
More of Isabel’s hair tumbled free from under the front brim of her hat. Her navy wool cloak and gloves were probably irreparably stained. She was Cinderella without glass slippers. No handsome prince would ever come to her rescue.
* * *
Daniel Harper, MD held tight to the handle of his black bag. The girl’s laughter had tickled him—no—it had gotten under his thick skin he’d carefully grown since the betrayal. But her chestnut hair had fallen out from under her hat in a most fetching way. The fact that she was more worried about getting medicine to her wards than the stains on her worn clothing pricked at his heart as though Cupid dared try to enter its chambers again with his deceptive arrows.
Daniel noticed the sun began shining like a golden smile between clouds. It must be at least mid-morning. He’d promised to stop at the pharmacy, but Mrs. Campbell would be pacing the floor with little Timmy, in quite a tizzy. If he didn’t get to his patient soon, he would have to medicate them both. Reaching into his waistcoat, he felt for his timepiece, but the spot was empty. He searched all around his feet. The pocket watch seemed to be long gone. Even the button he attached the chain to dangled by a thread. Had it happened when he fell? There wasn’t any time to look, but there certainly wasn’t time to buy a new one either.
* * *
Miss Crabtree stood waiting inside the door with arms folded. “What took you so long, young lady?”
Isabel felt six years old again as she stooped to remove her boots and bit her tongue against her impertinent reply.
“Just look at you! You’re an absolute mess! I send you on a simple errand, and you can’t even complete it.”
“Yes, ma’am. I do have the medicine, though.” She fished the small bottle from her pocket.
“What? This isn’t nearly enough. Didn’t you hear all of the children up there coughing the whole night, struggling for breath? And you bring me this?” Miss Crabtree snatched it from Isabel’s hand.
“But the wind blew my hair into my eyes, and I closed them against a sheet of rain for just a moment. And I didn’t see the automobile coming around the corner—”
“I don’t want excuses for your laziness!” Miss Crabtree began a new tirade.
“Is there a problem here, Biddy?” Mrs. Pleasance put a hand on Miss Crabtree’s shoulder, stopping her friend short.
“You handle this slothful child, Hope! I can’t do anything with her.” Miss Crabtree turned and stomped up the central stairway.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Pleasance, I know I must look frightfully unkempt, a terrible representative of the home.”
“Nonsense, dear, wherever you take your smile, you shine forth. Oh my, you must have had quite a run-in! Let’s get those wet things off of you. There’s nothing a little Fels Naphtha soap cannot handle in getting rid of tough stains.”
After Isabel changed her clothes, Mrs. Pleasance accompanied her to the laundry tub. They stood scrubbing her garments, side by side, while Isabel told the account of her savior-doctor and his kind offer of more medicine.
The orphanage director smiled. “Well, that was a double blessing for us, saving your life and being generous enough to replace the bottle of medication.”
Isabel nodded. Somehow, the young doctor appeared more than that. She kept thinking about the surprised amusement on his face, when she laughed about falling in the puddle. He looked jolly and boyish, not stern and tough like some of the doctors who’d visited the orphan asylum.
“Best stop daydreaming and get about your chores now, Isabel. Why don’t you stay on the first floor, and give Miss Crabtree a wide berth.” She smiled. “You could clean the office for me and be there in case anyone stops in.”
“Yes, Mrs. Pleasance.”
With so many children ill, the office had fallen quiet. Isabel filed papers as she’d been shown. Her humming filled the silence. Once everything was better organized, Isabel found the feather duster and went about her cleaning. The middle drawer was slightly ajar in a tall dark wood filing cabinet…not just in any cabinet, but in the forbidden cabinet…filled with the secrets of the children’s pasts. She should push it closed, search for the key, and lock it.
But a white corner of paper taunted her. It would be okay to look, if she tucked it back inside, right? Placing the duster on the shelf behind her, Isabel pulled the file out. Molly Duncan’s full name was written on it. Inside she found a birth certificate, complete with parents’ names and information about where she’d been born. It rang true with what she knew about little Molly. Both of her parents had died, and she had no kin close by. The distant relatives had never come for her, but occasionally Molly had a new Sunday dress she said her cousins sent.
Isabel tucked Molly’s file back where it belonged and began to push the drawer closed. But what about her own? There must be something in here about her past.
Whenever she asked, Mrs. Pleasance had changed the subject, telling her to think of the good things the future may hold, but she still wondered.
Who were her parents? All she knew is that she’d been dropped off at the orphanage in a little basket with Isabel printed on the paper pinned to her blanket.Mrs. Pleasance added Jones, rather than Smith, but there had been no other clues, according to the director.
Isabel’s hands grew sweaty, her heartbeat louder than the clock ticking in the room. She rifled through the folders, not even stopping to watch in case someone opened the door. Ah! There was the file she sought!
“Miss Isabel! What are you up to? Close that drawer immediately!” Miss Crabtree stood with arms akimbo, her eyebrows furrowed.
Isabel dropped the papers in her hands, pushing it shut onto her fingers. “Ow!” She pulled them away, feeling quite guilty. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. The drawer was open and I—”
“We have taught you honesty and to honor the rules of this home, but you simply act like a spoiled child. You will go to your room and wait until Mrs. Pleasance and I can deal with you.”
“Yes, Miss Crabtree.” Isabel bit her lip and held her throbbing fingers. She just wanted to know whose family she had come from, which the unfeeling woman probably couldn’t understand. “I just want to find out who I am.”
“What? Don’t raise your voice at me. You’re nothing but the child of some riff-raff off the street, no doubt, so don’t get any high-faluting ideas. Be thankful you still have a roof over your head.”
Isabel turned away, marching out the door and up the stairs to the room she shared with three other young women. Ginny Baker, who slept on the bottom bunk to the left of her, breezed in. A halo of ginger hair curled around her freckled face. “We’ll be serving lunch in a few minutes. What are you doing up here?”
“Haven’t you ever wanted to know more about your past?” Isabel stared into her friend’s blue eyes.
“Remember, silly? I was a little older when I came to the orphanage. I have some memory of my family.” Ginny placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m in trouble for looking in the forbidden files. Now I have to wait for Mrs. Pleasance.”
“I’ll save you something to eat. I just came up to put my sweater away. It’s warm by the ovens.” Her dear friend hugged her. She was like a sister. “Don’t worry. She’ll understand and go easy on you.” Ginny attempted to reassure her with a dimpled smile.
As Isabel watched her leave, Mrs. Pleasance appeared in the doorway with a small box under her arm. She bit her lower lip, and her eyes shown with a sympathetic light. “Isabel, I think it’s time we talk about something important to you.”
She nodded back at the orphanage director, moving up the edge of the bed to make room for Mrs. Pleasance, who sat down next to her. “I’m sorry I have had to put you off for a long time. Part of this is my fault.”
Isabel shook her head. “I got carried away, I—”
“No.” Mrs. Pleasance squeezed her hand. “You have asked me many times and I have avoided the whole story.” She pried the lid off the paperboard box. “These are yours, Isabel. Go ahead.”
She reached in to touch a white blanket, yellowed with time, and felt its softness, like a whisper of her mother’s love. Isabel held her breath. This little covering was a part of her life, her beginning. It smelled of attic dust and lost memories. “I came here wrapped in this blanket?” But there was more! An envelope lay in the bottom of the box with a lump in the middle. The yellowed paper crinkled at Isabel’s touch. “This is mine, too?”
The older woman nodded. “Yes, my dear.”
At nineteen, Isabel felt the odd wonderment of childhood, despite her age. She rubbed her fingers over the object in the envelope. Opening it, she then emptied the contents into her other hand. A petite red oval gemstone shone almost pink, catching the brief rays of sunlight. She sucked in her breath as she took in the gold filigree setting and two little diamonds, one on each side of the stone.
“Your mother likely came from a local mission for…women. She was ill when she rang the doorbell and tried to run, but we opened it quickly and implored her to come in. She would only say that she wanted you to have a better life than she could give you. Your eyes, for that was all we could see in the dark, are much like hers. It was winter and her scarf was wrapped close around her face. She refused any assistance from us, but she asked us to give you the ring when you grew up.”
Isabel slipped the piece of jewelry onto her right ring finger, which fit like it was made for her. She felt richer for it—not because of the gem or the precious metal—but because it had been a gift from the woman who had birthed her. The ring, next to her Bible, was her only other treasure.
“Thank you.” She could barely get the words out as she choked back a sob.
“One other thing, Isabel, it’s time for you to see more of the world outside of these walls.”
Isabel shook her head. “I’m happy helping with the children.”
“I understand, but I know just the job for you. A gentleman who needs a companion for his invalid wife called. I believe you’re a perfect fit. You have a gentle, helpful spirit.”
“I thought you needed me here.” Isabel couldn’t look into Mrs. Pleasance’s eyes.
“My dear, someday you may want a family of your own. Keeping you here until you become a spinster isn’t the job of the orphan asylum.” Mrs. Pleasance patted Isabel’s hand again.
Isabel’s gaze fastened on the ring as it glinted in the daylight. Her own family? If the good Lord gave her a family, she would never leave her children. But could she be the right kind of mother when she wasn’t able to even deliver a bottle of medicine to the orphanage in one piece?
Kathleen Rouser has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. The Pocket Watch is Kathleen’s debut novella. She has been published in Homeschool Digest and An Encouraging Word. She currently enjoys interviewing authors for the Novel PASTimes historical fiction blog. Her desire is to bring to life endearing characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for the transforming power of Jesus in their everyday lives. She lives in southeast Michigan with her spoiled cat, Lilybits, and her hero and husband of 32 years, Jack, who not only listens to her stories, but also cooks for her.
You can find her on the web
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