How much is a miracle?
by Tom Slemen

ONE snowy afternoon in December 1901, just a week before Christmas, a six-year-old girl named Bridget Brown hurried into Clubb's Chemist on the corner of Rathbone and Wellington Road in Wavertree. In her hand she clutched the pocket money she had been saving to buy her mother a Christmas present.
`Excuse me sir, ' Bridget said to the chemist. Her face peeped over the counter's edge as she surveyed the elderly bespectacled chemist.
`Yes madam' Mr Jones wondered what the girl wanted. He certainly couldn't issue a prescription or any of his medicines to a minor.
`How much is a miracle?' Bridget enquired, and released a penny and three farthings from her little fist onto the glass-topped counter.
`I'm afraid we don't sell those little girl. ' The pharmacist said, eyeing Bridget with a look of pity.
`But my mummy needs one, ' said little Bridget, and she gazed at the shelves behind Mr Jones, her eyes searching for a miracle among the bottles. There were Gregory Powders, cough balsam, eye drops and other concoctions - but no miracles to be seen.
A tall slim man with black slicked-back hair and a trimmed moustache was touched by the little girl's innocent intentions. He was Dr Lionel Jacobs, a respected 40-year-old army field surgeon who had been injured in the Boer War in South Africa. He had been wounded in the leg and was recuperating at his cottage at Holly Bank in Allerton. Dr Jacobs stooped down and asked Bridget: `Why does your mother need a miracle?' Bridget reeled off her reply: `Well this morning I overheard my Auntie Lizzie say that my mother needed a miracle to save her life. I asked her how much the miracle would cost and Auntie Lizzie said they couldn't be bought.'
Mr Jones the chemist whispered to Jacobs, `Her mother is dying of a throat tumour. She won't last until Christmas. That poor little girl only lost her father six months back as well.'
Dr Jacobs was moved by the girl's plight, and he stooped down once more and said to Bridget: `Let's go home to see your mother.'


The ex-army surgeon visited the girl's crumbling home off Wellington Road and met her Aunt Lizzie and Bridget's ill mother, Margaret. Dr Jacobs felt Margaret's throat and established it was not a thyroid gland disorder - it was a lump. He arranged for Margaret to be treated at the Royal Infirmary in Pembroke Place, and Jacobs himself operated. The swelling had luckily been a benign tumour, and once it was removed, Margaret could breathe properly again.
`How can I repay you for saving my life?' Bridget's mother asked Dr Jacobs.
`A small fee will suffice. ' Jacobs replied. Margaret nodded despondently, for she was very poor.
Dr Jacobs said, `A penny and three farthings - the exact price of a miracle. ' Bridget smiled and eagerly offered the doctor her savings, but he just laughed and patted her head, then left Margaret Brown with the greatest Christmas present of all - the gift of life.


Copyright Tom Slemen 2010. All rights reserved