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Excerpt from The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

by Mackenzi Lee
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  • First Published:
  • Oct 2, 2018
  • Paperback:
  • May 2020
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Print Excerpt

My hands are steady, I notice with a blush of pride, even after the good jolt my heart was given when the actual severing occurred. I have read the books. I have studied anatomical drawings. I once cut open my own foot in a horribly misguided attempt to understand what the blue veins I can see through my skin look like up close. And though comparing books about medicine to the actual practice is like comparing a garden puddle to the ocean, I am as prepared for this as I could possibly be.

This is not how I envisioned attending to my first true medical patient in Edinburgh—in the backroom of the tiny bakeshop I've been toiling in to keep myself afloat between failed petition after failed petition to the university and a whole slew of private surgeons, begging for permission to study. But after the year I've had, I'll take whatever opportunities to put my knowledge into practice that are presented. Gift horses and mouths and all that.

"Here, sit down." I guide Callum to the stool behind the counter, where I take coins from his customers, for I can make change faster than Mr. Brown, the second clerk. "Hand over your head," I say, for if nothing else, gravity will work in favor of keeping his blood inside his body. He obeys. I then fish the wayward fingertip from the washbasin, coming up with several chunks of slimy dough before I finally find it.

I return to Callum, who still has both hands over his head so that it looks as though he's surrendering. He's pale as flour, or perhaps that is actually flour dusting his cheeks. He's not a clean sort. "Is it bad?" he croaks.

"Well, it's not good, but it certainly could have been worse. Here, let me have a look." He starts to unwrap the towel, and I qualify, "No, lower your arms. I can't look at it all the way up there."

The bleeding has not stopped, but it has slowed enough that I can remove the towel long enough for a look. The finger is less severed than I expected. While he sliced off a good piece of his fingerprint and a wicked crescent of the nail, the bone is untouched. If one must lose a part of one's finger, this is the best that can be hoped for.

I pull the skin on either side of the wound up over it. I have a sewing kit in my bag, as I have three times lost the button from my cloak this winter and grew tired of walking around with the ghastly wind of the Nor Loch flapping its tails. All it takes is three stitches—in a style I learned not from A General System of Surgery but rather from a hideous pillow cover my mother pestered me into embroidering a daft-looking dog upon—to hold the flap in place. A few drops of blood still ooze up between the stitches, and I frown down at them. Had they truly been upon a pillowcase, I would have ripped them out and tried again.

But considering how little practice I've had with sealing an amputation—particularly one so small and delicate—and how much it slowed the bleeding, I allow myself a moment of pride before I move on to the second priority of Dr. Platt's treaty on wounds of the flesh: holding infection at bay.

"Stay here," I say, as though he has any inclination to move. "I'll be right back."

In the kitchen, I bring water to a quick boil over the stove, still warm and easily stoked, then add wine and vinegar before soaking a towel in the mixture and returning to where Callum is still sitting wide-eyed behind the counter.

"You're not going to ... do you have to ... cut it off?" he asks.

"No, you already did that," I reply. "We're not amputating anything, just cleaning it up."

"Oh." He looks at the wine bottle in my fist and swallows hard. "I thought you were trying to douse me."

"I thought you might want it."

I offer him the bottle, but he doesn't take it. "I was saving that."

"What for? Here, give me your hand." I blot the stitching—which is much cleaner than I had previously thought; I am far too hard on myself—with the soaked towel. Callum coughs with his cheeks puffed out when the vinegar tang strikes the air. Then it's a strip of cheesecloth around the finger, bound and tucked.

Excerpted from The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. Copyright © 2018 by Mackenzi Lee. Excerpted by permission of Katherine Tegan Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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