My dear readers know that I am a fan of novels that spotlight the lives of historical women, so I am happy to introduce my guest to you today. Joan Koster is here to share an excerpt from her new book, That Dickinson Girl.
That Dickinson Girl: An Excerpt
Guest Post by Joan Koster
Julia eyed the intruder. Half a head shorter, more girl than woman, she wore a drab dress under a plain cloak. No ribbon or jewel relieved the narrow white collar. No ruffle or crinoline spoiled the fall of the skirt. Her upright stance and the quality of cloth reeked of the morality and righteousness Julia knew all too well. A Quaker, for sure.
Their eyes met. She glimpsed a smooth cheek and long, dark lashes, a wide, smiling mouth, and a square chin partially hidden beneath black curls cut so short that she could see the girl’s neck peeking above the stiff collar, pink as the dawn-tinted clouds. She wanted to rest her palm on that vulnerable bit of skin, pull her close, and steal her warmth.
Julia pressed the pendant she hid beneath her dress, the sting of cold metal against her racing heart suitable punishment for her wayward thoughts.
The stranger lifted her skirt and gave a sideways bow like an actress at the Arch Theater. “Anna Dickinson, at your service.” She swung her attention to Gracie. “And who is this who wants to become a doctor?”
Julia twisted her fingers in the faded ribbon of her bonnet and stifled the impulse to drag Gracie away. Her independent sister would hate that. Besides, it didn’t matter; Little Miss Quaker would be gone as soon as she heard their last name. Every member of the Society of Friends knew the sordid tale of the man who’d stolen money from Arch Street Meeting.
Her sister stuck out her hand. “Gracie Pennington.”
Julia waited for the girl’s smile to fade and that oh-so-respectable personage to flee.
Instead, the Quaker wrapped both hands around Gracie’s and smiled. A do-gooder then, set on some charitable work for a ragged schoolgirl with aspirations beyond her station in life. Julia knew where that would end.
She stepped closer. “And I’m Julia. Julia Pennington.”
“Ah yes, the vigilant older sister. Don’t worry; I won’t steal her.” She tapped Gracie on the nose. “So, what’s stopping you from pursuing an illustrious medical career?”
Gracie toyed with the unraveling fringe of the shawl. “We’ve no money—”
“Is that all?” the girl said. “A mere pebble in your road, my child. If you truly want something, you’ll find a way, no matter how many pebbles and rocks they throw at you. We make our own chances in life. Takes hard work, though. A medical degree requires a mind sharper than a milliner’s needle.”
Pebbles? Julia scrutinized the thick weave of the girl’s woolen cloak and the toe of the polished half-boot poking out from under her skirts. Little Miss Quaker had to be younger than Julia’s own nineteen years. What experience did this privileged girl have ducking pebbles or piercing cloth with a needle?
She yanked on the interloper’s sleeve. “Gracie’s top of her class. She doesn’t need a busy-body do-gooder sticking her nose into something she doesn’t know beans about. She’s not your child. She’s my sister. I take care of her.”
The girl ran a finger down the frayed collar of Gracie’s too-small coat. “Well then, that is a shame. Makes me want to weep, seeing ambition denied”—the corners of her mouth turned up—“by beans.”