Cotter left his palomino at the livery around the side of the Yale Medical School administration building. It was hot and sunny–typical August. He straightened out his five-button charcoal suit coat, removed his spurs, and walked up the inclined limestone stairs on either side of the large carriage stones. It was measurably cooler inside. Ambient light from the tops of windows was adequate and no lamps were lit for illumination. The foyer of the administration building was spacious with a domed ceiling. Oil portraits of past deans and noted staff physicians were placed at three-foot intervals on the inner walls of the circular foyer. Cotter went to the desk marked ‘Reception’ and looked down at the woman writing on an unlined notebook. He cleared his throat.
“Jacob Cotter to see Dr. Wainright Randall.”
“Just a minute. Let me use my blotter.” The 43-year-old woman looked up at him and then looked back at a small ledger-style book. “Yes. My, you’re right on time. Let me check if Dr. Randall is ready to receive you, sir.”
Cotter looked around the reception area. There was one comfortable stuffed chair opposite a wooden pew-style bench. The lighting was dim but Cotter saw the portrait of his father to the right of the door marked, Dean of Admissions. He walked up to the portrait and read the brass engraved plate at the center-bottom of the frame. “Edward Cotter MD. Chief Physician and Surgeon. Yale Medical School 1859-1863.”
Cotter was aware of the receptionist brushing by him.
“You can go right in, sir.”
Cotter didn’t look in her direction but moved directly forward, opened the door and walked in.
“Welcome back Jacob.” The thickset man behind the desk stood up with his opening remarks and went to greet Cotter.
“Dr. Randall, I’ve dreamed of this day when we would meet again.”
They shook hands vigorously. Randall beckoned him to sit in front of his desk on a brocade parlor chair. The dean had long white mutton-chop sideburns but was otherwise clean shaven. He sat back and folded his hands across the middle of his vested, dark brown suit. His right thumb got caught in his watch chain and he unconsciously readjusted it.
“And I also, although my vision of this meeting was to be with both you and your father. Let me extend my condolences–a few years late to you. I did attend the funeral on behalf of myself and the medical staff.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I knew you couldn’t break away from the war to come back with his body.”
“Dr. Randall, the battle casualties were always overwhelming. Dad and I talked about what we should do in the event one of us was killed. We agreed if we left our duty station for even a week, over a hundred Union soldiers would die from their wounds. They needed surgeons night-and-day Dr. Randall.”
“And I understand you worked with Edward side-by-side?”
“Every day until he was killed.”
“Jacob, I had the admissions re-instate your status as having three more years left to complete to get your degree, but let me be honest.” Randall sat forward and folded his hands on top of his broad dark mahogany desk. “You were at the top of your class and I understand–we all do–why you and Edward heeded President Lincoln’s call for physicians. If your performance indicates the two-years spent as an assistant surgeon to your father demonstrates an advanced competence, I will personally advocate those two years to be years spent as training. You could get your diploma in two rather than three years.” He sat back for Cotter to ponder his remarks.
Cotter paused only for a few seconds. The aroma of wood oil polish applied to the bulky furniture and looking at the two walls lined with medical texts brought him immediately back to the world of medical academia. “I would gratefully accept such a situation, sir. But only if I truly deserve it.”
“We shall see. I have high expectations. Jacob the term will be starting in three-weeks. Do you need help settling in? I understand you’ve already taken temporary residence in the dormitory?”
“Yes, sir, but I would like to have my own place. I’m looking for an unworked farm, a full-time hand and a part time house maid.”
“That’s no problem. My secretary can offer you a list to choose from.”
Randall shuffled in his chair, obviously uncomfortable at his next question. “You will be seeing your family soon? They’re quite anxious about your returning to Connecticut and to New Haven in particular.”
“Yes, I’ll bet they are but not for domestic affection. You know when dad died they had me disinherited?”
“Yes. I never understood that.” Randall sat back and waited for Cotter to elaborate.
“In his will dad signed over his estate to my brother and sister to manage and to legally adjust the inheritance should he die in the war. Unfortunately, he used the word ‘family members’ and didn’t mention my name. Mathew and Nancy defined the family to be just the two of them after his death.”
“Are you well with finances? I was told payment for your three years of school are already banked in annual trust by yourself to Yale.”
“Yes. I only re-applied to school when I become solvent. I don’t need any supplemental income for the next ten-years.”
“I see. What is it you did for a living during 1865 to now, Jacob?”
“I assisted law-enforcement officers in apprehending killers and thieves.”
“And nothing to do with Medical care?”
“I tended to the wounds of many people along the way.”
“One last thing Jacob. We here at admissions were also motivated for your readmission by one of your former classmates who needs help in his practice and has asked for you in particular.”
“You must mean Charlie–Doctor–Garrison.”
“Yes, Charles Garrison. You two were inseparable in medical school. I was surprised he didn’t go with you to the war.”
“Charlie needed to finish his training–he was needed in his hometown. There was only one Doctor for a hundred-miles. As for the war itself, Charles was from Texas and his sympathies were for the North rather than the Texas alliance with the Confederacy. It would have been a difficult choice for him.”
“Have you two talked recently?”
“Only by letter, sir. It’s my intention to set up practice with Charlie–Dr. Garrison–after I finish at Yale.”
“That’s admirable Jacob. I’m sure that your father would agree. Well, we’ll help get your domestic requirements met. In three-weeks, it’s back to the books and the midnight oil with you. One more note, Jacob–your new classmates will notice you’re a few years older than they are. They may ask questions about what you did after the war. Can you handle that? Yale medical students can be snobby about class affiliations and background.”
“I’m sure I can handle any such situation, sir.”
“I am always here if you need me.” The Dean rose and extended his hand. “Once again, welcome back Jacob Cotter.”
“I’m glad I was able to come back Dr. Randall.”
Cotter left the office with Randall who spoke with the receptionist about Cotter’s request for a dwelling and local labor. He left Cotter with her looking up several folders and writing rapidly on her notepad.
“The man on the top of the list is from the war, Mr. Cotter. He has some disability but is very good with his hands.”
“And the house maid?” He leaned over t take the first piece of paper.
“She’s trustworthy and a good housewife. She can use the money and will do a good job.”
“And the isolated farmhouses?”
“How far away do you want to be, Mr. Cotter?”
“No more than a 30-minute ride.”
She wrote rapidly again. “Here you are. These should be suitable for the kind of domicile you want also.”
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