The Gilded Hour Page 78

“She had a difficult time of it, I take it.”

Anna gave him a grim smile. “I don’t know exactly. She has never spoken of it to any of us. I’m sure Cap knows, but I have never pressed her for the details. Someday maybe she will talk to me about it. I’ve been short with everyone this last week, but I’m especially sorry to have been short with her.”

Jack leaned forward, took her by the wrist, and pulled her out of her chair and onto his lap.

“They’ll be gone at this time tomorrow,” Anna said, pressing her cheek to his shoulder. “I know that, but it still doesn’t feel real.”

The urge to tease her was more than he could withstand. “Just now you feel pretty real to me.” He slid his hand from her waist down over her hip, and she shivered and turned her face to hide her smile.

“You make me blush like a little girl.”

“You are anything but a little girl to me, Savard.”

Anna began to yawn and then caught herself.

“You have a busy day tomorrow too,” Jack said. “Do you want to skip the fireworks for a good night’s sleep?”

After a very long pause she said, “It will be hours before anyone comes home.” Her voice had gone low and a little rough. “I can’t remember the last time I was in the house by myself.”

The sound of band music came to them on the breeze, drums and trumpets and horns too faint to make out a melody. “Such a fine summer evening,” Jack said against her hair. “It would be a shame to spend it alone.”

•   •   •

THEY WALKED TO Waverly Place at a comfortable pace, holding hands and talking very little. The city streets were far emptier than usual but as it turned out, the citizens of Manhattan had only migrated upward onto roofs. It seemed that everyone who had not gone to the new bridge had found a high place to perch, and voices drifted down to them now and then. Fretting children, young people excited by the novelty and the day’s festivities. There were rooster calls back and forth followed by laughter.

“What is that about?” Anna wondered.

“Mrs. Roebling had the honor of crossing the bridge first, since she did all the work after her husband was injured,” Jack told her. “Apparently with a rooster in her lap for good luck.”

Good luck. Anna had never taken comfort in such ideas, but she wished, just now, that she could. If there was any good luck to be had in the world, Sophie and Cap should have it all.

“Where has your mind gone?” Jack’s voice, low and a little gruff, set something off in her, a prickling that raced down her back to spread out and out. She pressed his hand and leaned against his arm, as if she meant to push him off the sidewalk. Jack Mezzanotte, as solid as a wall.

“I’m just where I want to be,” Anna said. “Except for one odd thing. I’ve walked this way home too many times to count, but tonight it seems to have stretched to double the normal distance.”

“You’re impatient.” He pulled her closer. “And that puts me in a good mood.”

He kissed her, full-mouthed, intent, his hands framing her face. When he lifted his head he said, “You make the most intriguing sounds. Little squeaks and a soft clicking at the back of your throat. As if you were drinking me in.”

“That’s a backhanded compliment,” Anna said, laughing. “If it’s a compliment at all.”

She tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her. He spread his hands to span the full width of her back. “Take me to your bed, Savard, and I’ll come up with compliments to make you blush for days.”

They ran the rest of the way, breathless, laughing.

•   •   •

INSTEAD OF USING the front door they circled around to the passageway that led to the carriage house, passing the small stable and the garden sheds, the chicken coop closed up tight, an icehouse. The air smelled of newly cut grass and hay, ripening compost and flowering lilac bushes, taller even than Jack, that divided the working parts of the garden from the rest.

Anna went ahead, gesturing for him to wait where he was.

He wandered through the garden, lit by the moon and the reflected glow of the streetlamps. It surprised him still, this quiet island behind brick walls. There were fruit and specimen trees and flower beds that even his father could not have found fault with, a rose arbor overhung with vines weighed down with buds, the neat rows where vegetables had been planted.

The pergola reminded him of home, where the family ate out of doors in the warm months at a long table under a grape arbor. Someone familiar with the way things were done in Italy and southern France had designed this place, for privacy and comfort. Jack sat down on a wide chaise longue upholstered in dark velvet and piled with cushions. Shadows moved with the breeze, every leaf and shoot, blossom and vine dancing.

Jack thought, It seems I am turning into a poet.

Now he realized that Anna wasn’t going to take him to her bed after all, but she would come to him here. They would lie down together in a bower of blossoming lilac and wait for the fireworks to arch across the sky. And he would have her here. It had been too long, and he wasn’t willing to wait even one more hour.

Things hadn’t gone as planned today, but it occurred to him that a doctor was the right wife for him; she really would understand when work kept him out late or took him away unexpectedly. He knew more than a few detectives with unhappy wives and sour views on marriage, something that had kept him from thinking too much about the institution for himself. Until Anna.

And now she came around the corner carrying an old-fashioned hurricane lamp, as round and bright as a sun in the new dark. It covered her in light and lifted her face out of the night, and Jack heard himself catch his breath. She had changed into a loose white gown of some fine fabric and let her hair out of its pleats and tucks so that the breeze sent it twisting and twirling around her like a dark lacy shawl.

The words that came to mind were ones he could not say. To tell Anna Savard that she looked like an angel would embarrass them both with such triteness. To say she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life would diminish the truth of it. And so he got up and went to her. He took the lamp from her and put it on the table. The pergola came to life, the crockery vase filled with white lilac and deep red Rose de Rescht he had sent from the greenhouse, the blue leather binding of a book that had been left out, the jumble of cushions, yellows and greens and pinks, that lined the chaise longue with its velvet upholstery worn thin and silky as a woman’s skin.

She was looking over her shoulder into the dark garden, as if she did not trust herself to look at him. He caught her wrist, threaded his fingers through hers, long and strong and tough with constant scrubbing and still gentle enough to remind him that she was female, and fragile in ways she would never admit to him or herself.

“Look,” she said, her voice hoarse as he drew her into his arms. “Look, Jack. The first fireflies.”

He took his time with her, exploring skin that never saw the light of day: the backs of her knees, the soft crease between thigh and buttock, the small of her back. He pressed his face to her belly and slid up to nuzzle her breasts, suckling with a wet and greedy mouth until she gasped and tried to twist away. He would have none of it. He held her down to take what she wanted to give him, and here was another shock: she liked being at his mercy.

With some small part of her mind she realized that the fireworks had begun. Colors fell like rain in the whispering dark.



Friday, May 25, 1883


There is great agitation among the upper classes of this city about a wedding to take place this morning at Trinity Chapel. The groom is Peter Verhoeven, Esq., son of Anton Verhoeven, a prominent Belgian architect, deceased, and Clarinda Belmont of this city, also deceased. Through his mother Mr. Verhoeven, an attorney, inherited a large portion of the Belmont fortune as well as a fine home on Park Place.

The bride is Sophie Élodie Savard, a beautiful mulatto lady, highly educated and refined in person and habit. The couple have known each other from childhood.

According to the city clerk, a marriage license has been issued. In light of this fact, members of the Belmont and related families declared the intention to disown Mr. Verhoeven should the scandalous and unnatural union go forward.

Both bride and groom have declined to be interviewed, but the Sun has learned that they plan to leave for Europe after the wedding ceremony and luncheon. They will travel to Switzerland, where Mr. Verhoeven will be admitted to a private sanatorium for treatment of advanced consumption. His new wife, who is a qualified physician, will attend him there.

•   •   •


Friday, May 25, 1883




Mrs. Janine Lavoie Campbell, aged 26 years, of 19 Charles Street, died yesterday afternoon at the New Amsterdam Charity Hospital as a result of possible medical malpractice.

Originally from Maine, Mrs. Campbell was employed by the Bangor post office until her marriage to Mr. Archer Campbell of this city. The marriage was a fruitful one, producing four boys in five years.

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