The Gilded Hour Page 95

•   •   •

MR. LEE WAS waiting for them at the house. The minute he took her hands in his, the calm and dignity that Anna had held on to so tightly all afternoon just melted away.

“Miss Anna,” he said. “I wish you and your new husband the very best.”

Her voice suddenly hoarse, Anna said, “Why thank you, Mr. Lee. And I almost got through the whole day without tears.”

“We missed you at the party,” Jack said, shaking the hand Mr. Lee extended to him.

“I wanted to stay behind, be the first one to welcome you both home.” With his free hand he squeezed Jack’s forearm, a fatherly gesture that wasn’t lost on Anna. “I expect you’ve had a long day and would like to retire.”

Before Jack turned away, Mr. Lee held up a letter. “For you. Came just an hour ago.”

Anna raised an eyebrow.

“From Oscar,” Jack said. “It will wait.”

•   •   •

JACK HAD NEVER seen Anna’s room before, though he had hinted and sometimes came right out and asked. She had always put him off with a smile.

It was a large room, the windows looking out over the garden, where the day still burned bright though it was after seven. Wallpaper too faded to make out a pattern above wainscoting painted white, a gleaming wooden floor covered with small rugs, a bookcase over a desk piled with books and files and papers.

Anna stood in the doorway for a long moment, looking nonplussed.

“Something wrong?”

“That’s a new bed,” she said. “And the dresser is new too, twice the height of my old one.”

“That’s my dresser,” Jack said. “They must have commandeered the delivery wagons.”

“I can’t believe they managed all this in such a short time.” She walked across the room to open a closet door and glanced at him over her shoulder. “It’s all here. Your suits and shirts and your shoes—everything put away tidily. They must have started as soon as they got the telegrams this morning.”

There were two chairs facing each other in front of a small fireplace with a low table between them. A vase of roses sat there on an embroidered cloth that Jack recognized as the work of one of his sisters. Nothing elaborate, but still too much, it seemed.

“Are you put out about the changes?”

She turned toward him suddenly. “Surprised, but not put out. I’m—happy that you’re here. I am, really.”

But she stood on the opposite side of the room, on the opposite side of the bed, her hands clasped together at her waist.

Jack said, “Come and tell me about these pictures.”

Having something to do seemed to relax her. She joined him, but stood a little apart and fixed her attention on the neatly framed photographs and paintings and drawings that were staggered across the full width of the wall over a dressing table. They seemed to be arranged chronologically, the oldest and simplest nearest the door: a drawing of a couple in their fifties, sitting together on a porch. Along the bottom was printed Uphill House 1823, and then a signature, L. Ballentyne. For a few minutes Jack just studied one picture after another, so many faces, all Anna’s people and Sophie’s too, because there was a watercolor of a woman who was clearly Indian, standing with a strongly built man who was Indian and African both, by his features. Again the work of L. Ballentyne: Hannah and Ben, Downhill House 1840.

Anna stepped closer to the wall to touch a frame that had been carved with vines and flowers. The portrait was a simple charcoal drawing of another couple, very young and full of life. They sat shoulder to shoulder with a young boy no more than two between them. Before reading the words written along the bottom he knew that these were Anna’s parents and the brother she never spoke of.

“Your aunt did all of these drawings and paintings.”

She nodded, clearing her throat. “Aunt Quinlan’s first husband was a Ballentyne.” She inclined her head toward a small painting, no larger than a hand. The man pictured there was real enough to talk to.

Anna nodded to the painting of her parents and brother. “There are other pictures of them, but this is my favorite of all. They seem so alive, sometimes it’s hard to look at them.”

“You look something like your mother, but I think this”—he nodded to the first frame—“must be your grandmother, because you are her image exactly.”

“So they tell me. She was a schoolteacher and even so she had great adventures. I never met her.”

Jack thought for a moment, wondering if he should have left the portraits for another time. Asking her to talk about the family she had lost when so many other things were pressing on her.

She said, “I have an idea. Every night before we go to sleep I can tell you about the people in one of these portraits. I think that way it will come to me more easily. And you could tell me one of your stories. But now I want to go to bed. I have to leave for the hospital at half past five in the morning.”

“Is it too strange—”

“I want you here,” she interrupted him. “I really do want you here.”

And it seemed she did. She was more herself as she went about unpacking her valise and putting out clothes for the next day, talking to him about everything and nothing. When she went off to have a bath Jack pulled Oscar’s letter out of his pocket.


Since Friday:

Item. We managed to nail down all Janine Campbell’s movements from Sunday until she arrived at the New Amsterdam, and both Anna and Sophie have solid alibis and witnesses to swear to their whereabouts. If somebody besides the deceased had a hand in the operation, it wasn’t either of the Drs. Savard.

Item. Don’t have much to say about the Campbell boys yet, what there is to tell I’ll do that face-to-face.

Item. Comstock’s men went through the Campbells’ place before I could get there and came away with pamphlets that have got him yelling in the D.A.’s ear. Haven’t been able to get close enough to know what exactly he found but I’m working on it.

Item. I’ve had a tail on Campbell since Friday 3 pm, nothing to report there.

Item. Belmont thinks that if we can shake loose from Comstock and the damn pamphlets that will put an end to the whole mess by Tuesday and the Verhoevens can get on the next ship.

Item. Comstock is one of the jurors. Belmont did his best to get him thrown off but no luck so far. I should know more before the hearing starts on Monday.


•   •   •

WHEN IT WAS his turn, Jack took his time in the bathroom, thinking about Oscar’s letter, trying to draw from the words the things he would have read otherwise from the man’s face. He gave up finally with the realization that the morning would bring a long and difficult day, and they both needed their sleep. And still, the idea of Anna waiting for him in bed made him want her.

There was a lock on the bedroom door and Jack was glad of it, because he didn’t intend to sleep in anything but bare skin, as he always had. He stripped down while she watched him, stretched out on her side, trying to stay awake.

When he got under the covers she smiled at him sleepily and held out her arms for his kiss, gentle as it was. By the time he had made himself comfortable the dusk had filled the room, and Anna was asleep.

He lay awake for a long time, thinking of the Campbell boys and of Oscar’s letter. In the morning he’d walk with Anna to the New Amsterdam and they would talk. With that idea in his head he fell asleep and dreamed of the sailboats on Raritan Bay, moving farther and farther out of sight.



Monday, May 28, 1883



On Tuesday of last week, Mrs. Janine Campbell calmly lied to her husband about her plans for the next day. She told him she was taking their four sons to spend a week with their cousins in the countryside.

“Those boys loved it here,” Mrs. Harold Campbell, sister-in-law to the deceased, told the Sun. “They never wanted to go home. All the fresh air and good food, and the freedom to play. It breaks my heart to think of them lost, out there in the world wondering where their mother is, and why she left them. Janine can’t have been in her right mind.”

An autopsy determined that Mrs. Campbell underwent an illegal operation sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday, a fact her husband will not credit.

Nevertheless, physicians are agreed that she did indeed have an abortion. How she managed to travel out of town is less certain. “She must have been fevered and in terrible pain,” said Dr. Hannibal Morgan of Bellevue. “I can only imagine that she dosed herself with opiates.”

Thus far detectives have been unable to find anyone who saw Janine Campbell traveling with her boys that Wednesday, but inquiries are still being conducted.

By all accounts Mrs. Campbell was a virtuous woman who kept a spotless home and showered her sons with maternal affection. None of her neighbors have a bad word to say about her.

“She was just three months out of childbed,” noted Dr. Morgan. “This has all the hallmarks of puerperal insanity. In extreme cases even murder cannot be ruled out.”

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