The Gilded Hour Page 73

“What are you thinking?” he wanted to know.

Anna started out of her thoughts. “About privacy,” she said. “And the reason people rush into marriage.”


THREE DAYS LATER Jack said, “There’s something I wanted to tell you about.”

Anna looked up from the medical journal article she was reading. They were sitting in the garden while the girls played hide-and-seek. For once there were no other adults nearby.

She said, “I’m listening.”

“Where’s your aunt?”

Anna’s brows slanted down into a V shape. “Why?”

“Because I want to tell her about it too.”

“Staten Island?”

“No,” he said, vaguely irritated.

“We’re not going?”

“We will go, but that’s not what I want to talk to you about.”

“And when will that happen, the trip to Staten Island?”

He realized she was winding him up, and let out what he hoped would sound like a long-suffering sigh.

“Saturday, if you like.”

“It’s a long journey. At least a half day if the ferries are running on time.” She paused to study the binding of her journal. “I doubt we can get back at a reasonable hour. Are there hotels on Staten Island?”

Jack bit back a laugh. “We’d shock Sister Mary Augustin right out of her shoes.”

Anna’s face went slack with surprise.


She sat up straighter. “I forgot to tell you about the letter I had from Mary Irene.” She recited it to the best of her memory. “There was an odd phrase,” she finished. “Something like she was reassigned to the Mother House where she can contemplate devotion to duty and detachment from self. What does it mean? Is she being punished?”

Jack said, “I don’t think they would see it that way. They are being protective.”

“Ah.” Anna sat back. “They are protecting her from her own curiosity and her talent—because she is talented, Jack. She has a natural affinity for medicine.”

He waited for her to come to some conclusion, and hoped she wouldn’t decide to rescue Mary Augustin. He could see her doing just that, and looking to him for help.

She was saying, “I don’t understand it, but I don’t see what I can do, either. If she wants a different life, she’ll have to walk away on her own.” She glanced at him and her frown deepened. “It’s a terrible waste of a good mind.”

“I agree.”

“Do you really, or are you trying to appease me?”

“Savard,” Jack said. “Listen to me now. I’m not the kind of man who will say anything to avoid an argument. In fact, I like arguing with you. In this case I do agree.”

“You agree that her mind is being wasted?”

Jack shifted uneasily in his seat. “I agree that she’s in a place where her gifts are not put to good use, yes.”

“Could I write to her?”

“To what end?”

She shrugged. “I could offer her a position as a nurse; she’d have room and board and a small salary. And she could apply for medical school and a scholarship, if she wants to do that. Can I write to her?”

“Believe it or not, I’ve never been inside a convent and I don’t have any idea what’s allowed and what isn’t. I wasn’t raised a Catholic, you know that.”

“There must be a way to get a letter to her. She’s not a prisoner, is she?”

“No,” Jack said. “Or better said, she’s not being physically restrained. But there are other ways to tie people down.”

Other women liked nothing better than a compliment, but his Anna was inordinately pleased when he offered her a way of looking at something she hadn’t considered. Her smile said this was one of those moments.

“It will have to wait until after the wedding,” she said. “But this weekend—”

“It will have to wait until Monday,” Jack said firmly. “This weekend—” It was his turn to lift a brow.

“Staten Island?”

“Have you ever been?”

“No, I’ve never even thought of it.”

“It’s a wonderful place to visit, the beaches especially. Do you have a bathing costume?”

She shook her head.

“We’ll have to remedy that. I’d like to see your hair down with the sun shining on it.” She looked away, but he went on. “You are beautiful, you know.”

Anna was up in a flash, too embarrassed to sit still, unwilling to be admired.

“I’m going to keep telling you things you don’t like to hear,” he called after her. “Until you believe them.”

She threw up her hands in disgust and disappeared into the house.

•   •   •

ANNA DROPPED ONTO the sofa across from her aunt, who sat contemplating a swatch of watered silk, the tender blue-green of Sophie’s eyes.

“Did the fitting go well?”

“She will be a stunning bride.” Aunt Quinlan smiled at Anna, something of wistfulness in her expression. “It’s a good thing you’re here, I might have turned maudlin without you to distract me. Where’s Jack?”

“In the garden hatching plans. We’re going to eat with his sisters this evening, to sort through some practical matters.”

Aunt Quinlan’s eyes were damp, and she blinked hard.

“Are you all right, Auntie?”

“I was just thinking that the house will be very empty when you go away. And I’m wondering about the little girls, if you’ll want to take them with you.”

Anna drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment. “I don’t want to disrupt the girls now that they are settled, and I also can’t imagine leaving you to handle this all on your own. Especially if we manage to find the boys.”

“You’re so sure the younger one is on Staten Island, but why?”

“We know Father McKinnawae took him from the Foundling, that’s the one solid piece of information we have. So I think we need to have a plan in case we do bring him home. I know you and Mrs. Lee and Margaret like having children here, but it is too much to ask. We need to talk about hiring a nurse and a maid, too, I think.”

Her aunt nodded. “You’ve decided to move in with the sisters, then.”

Anna bit back a laugh. “God, no. I really don’t want to leave here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else but here.”

“Then stay,” her aunt said. “Jack is welcome, you know that.”

Anna wrapped her arms around herself and offered a small and regretful smile. “He’s too much of a bull for this china shop, Auntie.”

Aunt Quinlan looked beyond Anna to the parlor door. “Come in, Jack,” she said. “We were just talking about your plans.”

He sat down next to Anna, not quite touching. “Bull in a china shop?”

A ripple of awareness ran down Anna’s spine and along every nerve. She wondered if his voice would always elicit such a physical reaction from her.

“Listening at doors, Mezzanotte?”

He flashed a smile at her but spoke to Aunt Quinlan. “I came in to see if you two would take a very short walk with me.”

Aunt Quinlan reached for her cane before the words were out of Jack’s mouth.

Anna got up too. “Is this what you were wanting to tell me? Where are we going?”

“Mrs. Greber’s.” And in response to a blank look: “Your neighbor?”

Aunt Quinlan sat down again. “Katharina Greber?”

Mrs. Greber was one of the few people Aunt Quinlan truly disliked, and her tone gave that away. Anna was glad to see that Jack had it figured out.

“I see there’s some history I don’t know about. You aren’t the best of friends?”

Anna scrambled for the shortest possible explanation. “Aunt Quinlan believes that Mrs. Greber took—”


“That Mrs. Greber is responsible for the disappearance of one of Mr. Lee’s prize roses. Roots and all. There used to be a door in the wall between her garden and ours—”

“Anna,” said Aunt Quinlan. “You know she took that rose.”

Jack said, “So you won’t miss her, now that she’s moved away.”

Aunt Quinlan’s expression stilled, and then she produced a huge and unapologetic smile. “Moved?”

“To live with a son, I think.”

“And the house is empty?”

Jack’s gaze settled on Anna. “For the moment. I was thinking we might want to buy it.”

“Anna,” Aunt Quinlan said. “If you don’t kiss that man, I’ll have to do it for you.”

•   •   •

THE HOUSE WAS far smaller than the Quinlan residence, but similar in style and solidly built, most likely by the same architect. Buff-colored limestone walls and a tile roof, the rooms not especially large but more than sufficient. Inside it was in desperate need of renovation and repairs, but Jack had known immediately that it would suit. The expression on Anna’s face told him he was right.

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