On Distant Shores – Episode 60

“Resign?” Ian stared at the general chief of surgery in numb disbelief.

“You must see the sense of it,” John Collins Warren answered. “Our hospital depends on several charitable benefactors. We cannot be seen to have anything to do with notoriety or scandal.”

“But . . .” Ian licked his lips, his mind spinning.

It had been three weeks since Horace Wells had attacked him outside his home, and his chest still ached where he’d been stabbed. Yet now his heart ached far worse, for the thought of leaving the hospital, his career ruined, filled him with grief and shame.

“Wells was quite out of his mind. He had nothing to do with me –”

“Nonsense, Crombie. He was your colleague.” Warren’s eyebrows rose from behind his spectacles and Ian felt himself flush.

“We had a professional association, it is true –”

“And so you can no longer be associated with this hospital.” Warren spoke with an ominous tone of finality. “I will give you a reference. That is as much as you can hope for.”

Fifteen minutes later Ian stood in front of the iconic Bulfinch Dome where Wells had attempted the surgery a few short months ago.

On that fated morning Ian had been full of both hope and fear, still believing the best was yet to come. Now what did he have? He was without a position, a purpose, and he could not bear to return to his home and confess to Caroline the extent of his shame.

Over the weeks of his recovery they’d drawn closer, but Ian still chafed at the thought of revealing to her how low he had fallen.

The spring morning was fine and balmy, and Ian found himself wandering the streets of the city he’d come to call home, recalling those first years as a fearful boy under Henry Moore’s protection, then as a young medical student full of daring and ambition, and finally a young man, swept away by Caroline Campbell’s fresh beauty.

He ended up in Boston Common, recalling how cows had once grazed where society matrons now walked, their full skirts brushing beds of tulips. How changed the world was, and yet not changed enough. Some things, he thought desolately, would never change, for he was still as without resources or hope as he’d been as a boy, having gambled away his family’s future on a reckless act of what he’d thought had been manly authority.

He’d been a fool then, and he was a fool now. What hope did he have? Ian lowered his head, closing his eyes against the tidal wave of despair that threatened to crash over him.


Ian tensed, then glanced up to see Caroline coming towards him, her face drawn in a frown of confusion.

“What are you doing here?”

“I . . .” Words failed him.

She held her gloved hands out to him, her expression now one of concern.

“You look deathly pale. Is your wound bothering you?”

He wanted to say yes, to pretend that his injury was all that bothered him. Yet, as she came towards him, her hands still outstretched, he remembered the look of tender concern and love on her face when she’d confessed how afraid she’d been for his life, and how much she loved him.

No matter what he had lost, he still had that, and surely Caroline’s love was the most precious thing he’d ever possessed.

“Caroline.” He grasped her hands. “I’ve been forced to resign my position.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.