The Gilded Hour Page 93

“That’s an excellent record,” Anna said, and saw them both relax a little. “We’ve seen quite a few babies this weekend,” Anna went on. “Twins, about three months old—”

“The Dorsey girls,” the mother suggested.

“I wouldn’t care for twins,” her daughter said, but her nervous smile said she wasn’t so sure. Most young women her age did like the idea of twins but found the reality more than they had imagined or wanted to deal with.

“I heard a very young baby crying when we passed a house on the main street this morning—”

“Mrs. Caruthers’s first, poor thing’s got the colic something terrible.”

“—and, then yesterday—” She paused to look at Jack.

“Yes?” the mother prompted, also turning to Jack and smiling in a way that made her look more her daughter’s age.

“We were on the beach very near Mount Loretto,” he said. “We met a family with a friendly little girl who introduced us to her parents and grandmother and her new baby brother.”

“That would be Eamon and Helen Mullen, don’t you think, Allie? Helen is a good friend of both my daughters. She married the same week as my older girl, my Jess.”

“They looked very happy,” Anna said.

“Oh, yes,” said Allie Reynolds, her hand returning to rub her belly in gentle circles. “But they have had some heartache.” She lowered her voice. “Helen lost her own little boy to a fever when he was just three months old. He was gone so quick, they couldn’t even send for the doctor.”

The story went on for a while, mother and daughter reconstructing the death of the Mullens’ son.

“Then she couldn’t catch again,” said the daughter. “Three years, they tried. It was hard to see her so unhappy.”

“She seems very satisfied now,” Anna said.

“That little boy was a blessing, it’s true. They adopted him, you know. There’s no lack of little Irish orphans in the city, is what we hear. So the new priest arranged for them to get one and it’s made all the difference to the Mullens. Brought them all back to life, you might even say.”

•   •   •

THE PASSENGERS WERE coming off the ferry just as Jack and Anna left the train station, a small crowd of people on their way to Tottenville. The last person they passed was a priest in a Roman collar, a man in his fifties or more, rotund, with blazing red cheeks and sharp blue eyes. This would be the evasive Father McKinnawae, Jack was fairly sure. But there was no time to stop and introduce themselves. It was a conversation that would need careful planning.

“Maybe I should write to him again,” Anna said when the ferry had begun its trip north on Raritan Bay.

“It would be better if I approached him,” Jack said. “If you can leave that to me once the inquest is over. At least we know the baby is healthy and in good hands.”

“Yes,” Anna said. “That’s one less thing to worry about. I don’t mind admitting, my head is spinning.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Jack said, slipping an arm around her shoulders.

She gave him a half smile. “It will be a very strange honeymoon. I have surgery all tomorrow morning and then in the afternoon—”

Her expression was almost blank when she was thinking about the inquest. Out of self-preservation, Jack thought. Distancing herself in any way she could in order to better see and understand and analyze.

“We’ll have to be inventive,” he whispered against her ear, and she smiled and shivered a little.

Then he saw her attention shift to the empty seat beside her where an abandoned newspaper fluttered in the breeze. She leaned over to pick it up, and Jack saw the headline, each word like a slash:



•   •   •

CAP SAID, “YOU must have that telegram by heart now. How many times have you read it?”

“I’ll keep reading it until they show up at the door and I know it’s really true.”

In fact Sophie didn’t doubt the news at all, but studying the telegram gave her a few moments to think of other things without being observed too closely. A necessary deception, she told herself. Cap was still recovering from Friday, and she had gone to some lengths to see that nothing new was laid before him for as long as humanly possible. If their places were reversed she would not thank him for such interference, but she was his physician as well as his wife, and as such it was her responsibility. And more than that, she could not bring herself to open up the discussion of the Campbell boys; she could barely stand to think about them at all.

And still the image of Janine Campbell as she had last seen her would not be banished. All over the city people were convincing themselves that she had killed her sons, but Sophie hadn’t seen any evidence of psychosis when she saw her, just weeks ago. Depression, yes. Anger, too, and despair. But to deliberately set out with the boys to kill them and return home alone, that required a coldhearted forethought or a complete break with reality, neither of which she could see.

When the door chime came to them Cap said, “Go on, I know you can’t wait.”

She flew across the room and smiled at him from the door as she took off her protective mask. “I’ll bring them straight up.”

•   •   •

ANNA LOOKED ALMOST burnished, as if she had been buffeted by hard winds off a cold sea and then polished by sunlight. And she was smiling, a sincere smile without artifice. Sophie folded her cousin into her arms and hugged her as hard as she could.

“Ouch.” Anna laughed, pulling away. “You never will learn your own strength.”

Sophie turned to Jack and hugged him, too, and got no complaints.

“You two,” Sophie said. “Always up to tricks.” She had tears in her eyes, but she didn’t care and for once Anna didn’t seem to mind at all. Her calm, resolute, generally impenetrable expression was gone. For today, at least.

“How’s Cap?” Jack wanted to know.

“Fairly calm. Recovering.” It was close enough to the truth. “He met with Conrad for two hours this afternoon and then I put an end to it. But we can talk about that later.”

They started up the stairs and Sophie noticed the paper tucked under Jack’s arm.

He caught her gaze and nodded.

Sophie said, “Let’s leave that sorry business aside for now too, can we do that? He hasn’t seen the paper yet.”

Anna raised a brow in surprise. “Cap without the Sunday newspapers—”

“It took some finagling,” Sophie admitted. “And now I’m going to insist that we leave everything else aside, to celebrate—”

“Anna’s capitulation,” Jack supplied.

Anna paused on the stair to look over her shoulder and raise her brow at him. “I’ll argue with you about that word later.”

“And I’ll look forward to the argument.”

It was good to see them bantering and at ease with each other. Sophie wished she could say the same of herself and Cap. He was distant and worried and in pain, and she wanted very badly to get him on the next ship that left New York harbor. Anna would know all this without being told in explicit terms. No doubt she had spoken to Jack about it. For the moment, though, Anna’s attention was focused in a different direction.

“Have you had word from Roses today?” she asked.

From his room Cap called out, “An avalanche of words. One note after the other.”

Anna stopped in the doorway to look at him. “Not about a party, I hope.”

Sophie nudged her into the room and took Jack’s arm to get him moving, too. Then she closed the door behind them.

“Of course,” Cap said. “You didn’t really think you could talk them out of one, I hope.”

Jack said, “Cap, you look a sight better than the last time I saw you. Marriage agrees with you.”

Cap’s lopsided grin came and went. “You have dark circles under your eyes, so I’ll assume the same for you.”

Sophie let out a squawk of surprised laughter, but Anna just frowned at Cap. “Marriage hasn’t done anything for your manners. But I am glad to see you, nonetheless.”

Jack said, “So you’re saying we need to be prepared for a surprise party when we get to Roses?”

Sophie shot Cap an irritated frown, but she should have known he couldn’t keep the news to himself.

“You might as well tell us,” Anna said. “What is Auntie up to?”

“Never mind about Auntie for the moment,” Sophie said. “Let’s sit down. I want to hear about this sudden launch into marriage. Every detail. Right from the beginning.”

The conversation stretched from one side of the room to the other, where Cap sat in strict isolation. Sophie thought she might someday get used to this, this being close and far at once. If fate was kind she would have the chance.

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