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A forbidden love

Henry swung himself up the ladder to the loft of the barn, whistling. He couldn't believe
the turn his life had taken in the past two months. At first he'd wondered if Sophie's interest in
him was the temporary, childish rebellion of a bored aristocrat. But the sweet, stolen hours he'd
spent with her had convinced him differently. Now Henry knew that the impossible was true.
Lady Sophie Edmonton, the beautiful, fair-haired daughter of a duke, was in love with Henry
Patman, a common stable hand.
Their clandestine meetings couldn't go on forever. Someone was sure to catch them
sooner or later.
The most serious source of apprehension was the duke himself. True, there was little
chance of the Duke of Edmonton walking in on them as they kissed behind the stables or held
hands by the lake. But he was growing adamant in his demands that Sophie accept a proposal
from an acceptable suitor. They both knew that the duke would never accept a poor stable boy as
a son-in-law.
Henry hoped that Sophie would consent to marry him, even though it meant that she
would have to give up everything else she held dear in the world. And he planned to ask her for
her hand tonight.

Written by
Kate William
Created by

To Larry and Kathy Bloom

RL 6, age 12 and up
A Bantam Book / January 1997
Sweet Valley High is a registered trademark of Francine Pascal.
Conceived by Francine Pascal.
Produced by Daniel Weiss Associates, Inc.
33 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011.
Cover art by Bruce Emmett.
All rights reserved.
Copyright 1997 by Francine Pascal.
Cover art copyright 1997 by Daniel Weiss Associates, Inc.
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or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books.
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It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author nor the
publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."
ISBN: 0-553-57023-4
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
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OPM 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

The Patmans of Sweet Valley

Family Tree
Paternal Line

The Patmans of Sweet Valley

Family Tree
Maternal Line

1825. A grand estate in the English countryside.
Sophie eased off her linen stockings and folded them neatly over the slippers lying on the
soft green grass. Then Lady Sophie Edmonton, eldest daughter of the duke of Edmonton, stepped
into the mud at the edge of the lake and let it squish up, cool between her toes.
Sophie laughed. "If father could see me now!" she exclaimed. It was fortunate that he
couldn't. The rigid duke was unlikely to approve of his sixteen-year-old daughter parading
around the family's estate in her bare feet. Even on a stifling August day, such behavior was
scandalous for a young woman of her position. And Sophie planned to take off more than just
her shoes and stockings.
She pulled from her collar the gold locket her mother had given her six years earlier, just
before she died. Sophie nearly always wore the locket hanging from her neck on a braided chain.
She fingered the single, perfect diamond set in its center. For a moment she could imagine that
her mother was with her, her eyes dancing with merriment.
Sophie carefully pulled the necklace over her head and placed it inside one shoe. Her
mother had kept her own impulsive side hidden from the duke. But Sophie knew she wouldn't
begrudge her daughter an hour of refreshment on a muggy day
Since her mother's death, Sophie had been considered the mistress of Edmonton Hall.
Usually she played the part dutifully, acting in a responsible, ladylike manner. It was her volatile
younger sister, Melanie, who was apt to behave in unseemly ways.
Now the duke was trying to find his elder daughter a suitable match, and Sophie's
behavior had to be completely above reproach. But just this one time she couldn't resist the lake's
clear blue water.
"You won't tell Papa, will you, Lord Byron?" she asked her horse, who was tied to a tree
nearby. "I wouldn't want to upset him todaynot with Charles Elliot coming to supper tonight to
have a look at me."
This latest earl would be the third nobleman to call on the Edmonton family in recent
weeks to see if Sophie might make him an acceptable wife. She knew it was her duty, but she
hated being paraded in front of these earls and dukes like a prize horse. At least her father agreed
that she herself would make the final choice. Sophie rolled her eyes. Undoubtedly she would
have fewer to choose from if word got out that she was in the habit of frolicking in a lake in her
She breathed deeply and resolved to forget her father's plans for her and just enjoy the
afternoon. Except for the abominable heat, the day was perfect. The sun warmed the grasses of
the green-and-gold fields. Their fragrance, like baking bread, mingled with the rich, damp smell
of mud at the water's edge.
Sophie glanced around the lake. It was small and round and sky blue, rimmed with elms
and chestnuts and her favorite weeping willow tree. As she'd expected, nobody was in sight.
Perspiration beaded on her temples beneath the stiff brim of her bonnet. She yanked it off and
laid it on the grass. Thenquickly, before her courage gave outSophie unbuttoned her linen
dress and pulled it over her head. Her petticoats followed. When she was wearing only her thin
muslin chemise, she waded into the sparkling water.
"I cannot believe I am doing this!" she murmured guiltily as she sank into the water up to
her shoulders. But it felt so deliriously cool against her skin that she didn't care if she was
behaving like a commoner. Even a duke's daughter needed a bit of a lark now and then. She was

careful to keep her head dry. Her golden blond hair was pulled into a simple chignon on the back
of her head, but a few unruly tendrils had escaped during her horseback ride. She could hide her
wet undergarments under her dress. But her father would be sure to notice if her hair was
Something fluttered against her bare ankle. A small carp swam by, its body waving in the
clear water as it moved. Sunshine beamed on Sophie's arms. She was certain she'd be red with
sunburn by nightfall. As she splashed water on her upper arms to cool them, she glanced toward
the shore.
Sophie froze. A man stood under the weeping willow, partially hidden by its cascading
foliage. A tall, well-built man with thick blond hair.
Sophie knew she should fear him. He was a stranger and she was practically naked in the
water. But when he stepped forward, brushing a willow frond away from his handsome, chiseled
face, something in the young man's blue eyes told her she had nothing to fear except her own
racing heart.
"I didn't mean to startle you," the man said. He was about Sophie's age or a little older,
she guessed. And his voice was as deep and rich as mahogany. "For a moment I thought you
were a mermaid."
"Perhaps I am," Sophie said in a lady-of-the-manor voice, as though meeting a strange
man while treading water in her undergarments was an everyday occurrence. "Have you seen any
evidence to the contrary?"
The man grinned. His smile was more dazzling than the slash of sunlight reflecting on the
lake's surface. "An intriguing question," he said with a naughty but good-natured twinkle in his
eyes. "I haven't seen nearly enough." He hooked his thumbs around his suspenders and tugged on
them thoughtfully. His head was bare. And he wore no coat or waistcoatjust a simple pair of
breeches and a loose white shirt. The man nudged Sophie's slippers with, the toe of his boot.
"Actually, the shoes and stockings here would tend to disprove the mermaid theory," he
continued. "I don't imagine a lady with the tail of a fish would have much use for footwear."
"No, I suppose she wouldn't," Sophie agreed. "Not unless something odd were afoot."
The man's admiring gaze made her feel light-headed, as if she might float like a hot-air balloon
right into his arms. She reached with her toes for the lake's silty bottom until she was standing
up. "I hope you're not too disappointed to learn that I'm just an ordinary woman," she said. But
his remarkable blue eyes made her feel anything but ordinary.
"Ordinary?" the man scoffed. "Hardly. If you're not a mermaid, you must be a water
nymph. You're far too beautiful to be an ordinary mortal."
Sophie felt her face grow warm. She had always thought of herself as reasonably pleasant
to look at, but nothing more. Fifteen-year-old Melaniewith her chestnut curls, green eyes, and
bow-shaped mouthwas the real beauty of the family. "You flatter me, sir," Sophie said.
"No," he said. "It was just an observationand an accurate one at that." He cocked his
head, and Sophie heard a voice calling in the distance. "I'm afraid I must go," he said suddenly.
"My employer beckons. Thank you for the delightful conversation. I hope we have another one
"I would like that too, sir," Sophie replied.
"That's the second time you've called me 'sir,' " he remarked. "I don't enjoy the sound of
that at all." He tipped his cap again. "I'm Henry Patman, at your service."
Sophie smiled. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Patman," she said. "I'm Sophie

His eyebrows shot up. "Lady Edmonton?"

No doubt, Sophie realized, he'd assumed that a woman who would disrobe in public had
to be from the lower classes. "Do you find that shocking?" she asked sharply to hide her
"Of course not," Henry Patman said quickly.
His blue eyes met Sophie's for a long, meaningful moment. She felt a rush of joy deep
inside, and she knew that she was incredibly, irrevocably in love. She loved his easy
conversation and good-natured joshing. She loved the way his black suspenders accentuated the
width of his shoulders. She loved his impudent smile. And she loved the shape of his long, lean
legs in their doeskin breeches as Henry Patman turned away and darted off through the willow
The duke's daughter leaned back in the water, and the hair ribbons that held her bun in
place loosened. Her long blond hair streamed free behind her, like the hair of a mermaid. And
Sophie stretched her arms out to her sides as if to embrace the world.
Sophie tucked a loose strand of damp hair under her gauze cap as she walked info the
parlor at teatime that afternoon. For a moment she clutched her mother's gold-and-diamond
locket for courage. She prayed that nobody could see her wet hair beneath the cap.
"Nothing exciting ever happens around here," Melanie complained dramatically as she
slumped into an overstuffed chair. "It's the same old family, the same old servants, and the same
old boring books and needlework, day after day after day."
Lawrence, the girls' older brother, tousled Melanie's hair fondly. "What would you like us
to doinvite the king for tea tomorrow?"
Melanie shrugged. "He's too old and fat," she said. Lucille, the maid who was setting a
tea tray on the table, gasped aloud, but Melanie continued. "Too bad George doesn't have a
young, handsome son who could be heir to the throne and come begging for my hand in
"You'll speak respectfully of King George as long as you're a member of this household,
young lady," demanded the duke of Edmonton. The girls' father was a tall, imposing man with
silver hair and iron gray eyes.
"Yes, Papa," Melanie said. The duke leaned forward to sip from his teacup, and Melanie
rolled her eyes at Sophie behind his back. Sophie swallowed a giggle.
"I wouldn't worry about a lack of young handsome men coming to beg for your hand,"
Lawrence assured Melanie as he reached for a scone. "You're the prettiest girl in the county
and one of the wealthiest and highest born. You'll have plenty of suitors when the time arrives."
"Ha!" Melanie complained. "I can't accept gentleman callers until Sophie is spoken for.
And I could be old and gray before she's betrothed at this rate."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Sophie demanded.
"It means you've had two perfectly good offers, but you've turned them down cold,"
Melanie reminded her. "Who are you waiting for?"
"Your sister makes an excellent point, Sophie," the girls' father said, gesturing with his
teacup. "I don't intend to rush you. But you must make an acceptable marriage. It's what your
mother would have wanted for you."
Melanie selected an iced pastry from a silver tray. "Sir Miles of Northampton is almost as
rich as the king!" she said. "I can't believe you weren't interested when he came to call last

Sophie grimaced. "Sir Miles is older than Father!"

"So?" Melanie asked philosophically. "Who are you to be picky?"
"I am Lady Sophie Edmonton, elder daughter of the duke of Edmonton," Sophie asserted.
Her father nodded approvingly. "Take care that you never forget it."
"Well, this duke's daughter is getting tired of waiting her turn," Melanie countered.
"You aren't even allowed to have suitors until you're sixteen," Lawrence reminded her.
"So?" Melanie said. "I can still look, can't I?"
"And we know you've done a great deal of looking," Lawrence shot back with a grin.
"In fact," Melanie continued, "I saw Lord Worthington's son Arthur in town yesterday.
Remember Arthur from that outing to the spas a few years ago? He's all grown up now and so
"His father's only a baron, Melanie," the duke said. "Certainly we can do better than
thatespecially for a girl with your physical charms."
"True," Melanie said. "Maybe Sophie would like him, though."
Sophie cast her sister a dark look. The topic of conversation was growing tiresomeand
every mention of handsome men brought Henry Patman to mind. "What are those lovely
blossoms on the sideboard?" she asked, pointedly changing the subject.
"Tea roses," Melanie replied. "They're newthe first bushes arrived from China just this
year. They're all the rage! The gardener has planted them all around the North Gazebo."
"What a gorgeous perfume," Sophie said absently. In her mind she was sitting beside
Henry Patman in the secluded, fragrant gazebo. She wore pure white linen with a lace overskirt.
He wore a cutaway coat and fitted trousers, and his hand felt strong and masculine around hers.
"Do we need more help in the garden this fall?" the duke asked his son.
"Yes, we could use an extra hand," Lawrence replied. "Should I tell the gardener to hire
another man?"
"Have him find somebody handsome this time!" Melanie urged, choosing a second
pastry. "Every manservant on this estate is at least forty years old. Are there no young gardeners
out there?"
Both men glared at her in mock exasperation. "Have him hire an older man," the duke
replied to Lawrence, with another glance at his youngest child. "What about the stables? How
does old Frankie like the new fellow?"
"The new stable hand is a bit independent," Lawrence said. "But he's a hard worker, and
the chap has a way with horses like I've never seen."
"A new stable hand to help old Frankie?" Melanie asked, her eyes lighting up. "What
does he look like? How old is he? Is he dark or fair?"
"He looks like King George's twin, except that he's ninety-eight years old and is utterly
bald," Lawrence teased.
"Lawrence!" Melanie wailed.
Sophie shook her head. "Melanie, do you ever think about anything besides men?"
"Certainly," Melanie said. "I think about fashionable clothes and expensive jewelry too.
After all, you have to be well dressed if you want to attract the attention of men."
"Perhaps you should take a cue from your sister, Sophie," the duke suggested. "You've
done an admirable job of running the household these last few years, and we will miss your
efficiency. But you're sixteen years old. It's time we arranged a match."
"Actually I was thinking that too" Sophie began.

"Good," her father interrupted. "Charles Elliot will be dining with us tonight. He's
anxious to meet you."
Sophie took a deep breath. "I'm not sure that Lord Elliot is"
"I know his family is new to the peerage," the duke admitted. "But his father was quite
close to the king's brother."
"Priscilla Nelson-Tynes knows his sister," Melanie informed them. "She says that Elliot
Arms is the finest country house in this part of England!"
"I knew Charles at Oxford," Lawrence said, grinning insolently at Sophie. "He's a
handsome chap. He might even measure up to Melanie's exacting standards."
"I hope you'll do your best to show him what an attractive, capable young woman you
are," the duke said. He spoke mildly, but Sophie could hear an edge of impatience in his voice.
Sophie sighed. This was not the time to tell her family about Henry Patman. "Certainly,
Papa. I shall be happy to meet the earl."
"Personally I'm more interested in that new stable hand," Melanie confided in a whisper
as the girls left the parlor. "I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon near the corral to see if I
can catch a glimpse of him. Want to come?"
"Do you ever give up?" Sophie asked.
"Never," Melanie averred. "Come with me to the stable, and I'll show you how to flirt
with a servant. It's good practice for the noblemen. And we all know you need that."
Sophie grimaced. "I have better things to do than sit outside a stable, mooning over a man
who smells like horses."
Instead she planned to sit by herself in some private spot, mooning over a man with eyes
as blue as the reflected sky in a still, cool lake.

"Definitely the watered silk," Melanie said, nodding at the rose-colored gown Sophie was
inspecting that evening as the girls dressed for dinner. "The flowered linen is dreadfully
"You don't think the puffed sleeves are too much?" Sophie asked.
"Puffed sleeves are the newest thing," Melanie assured her sister as she pulled Sophie's
corset laces tight.
Sophie nodded. Melanie could be exasperating, but when it came to fashion, she was the
expert. Usually Sophie's lady's maid would help her dress. Today Melanie had insisted on taking
over. For once the younger sister was ready early, dressed in an emerald gown that
complemented her eyes.
"Lord Elliot has spent a lot of time at court," Melanie reminded her. "He will expect a
prospective wife to dress in the latest styles."
"Perhaps the earl should be courting you instead," Sophie said. "I'm hopeless when it
comes to fashion."
Melanie shrugged. "That's what dressmakers are for," she said. "But at the moment I don't
think you'd notice if I dressed you in sackcloth! For a woman who could be the future bride of
one of the most eligible men in the county, you don't seem very chirpy."
Sophie sighed. "Melanie, I don't want to marry Charles Elliot!"
"You're hopeless about a lot more than fashion," Melanie observed.
"I don't love him!"
"Of course you don't love him!" Melanie exclaimed, mystified. "You've never even been
properly introduced. What do you expect?"
Sophie slipped the rose-colored gown over her head. "A lot," she said, thinking of Henry
Patman's wavy blond hair and light blue eyes.
"It's not as though some handsome young swain will materialize out of nowhere so that
you can fall in love," Melanie said. "The best you can do is to set your cap for someone who's
rich and handsome. You'll grow to love him in time."
"I don't know, Melanie," Sophie said as her sister fastened the long row of pearl buttons
that ran down the back of her bodice. "I just don't know."
In the mirror Sophie could see Melanie rolling her eyes. "Sophie, Sophie, Sophie,"
Melanie complained dramatically. "You wouldn't know a good catch if he did materialize out of
nowhere. But speaking of handsome men, you should see the new stable hand!"
Sophie fumbled with the fashionably low neckline of her dress until her sister
straightened it for her. "Honestly, Mellie!"
Melanie held a garnet necklace in front of her sister's collarbone, pursed her lips
thoughtfully, and then shook her head. "No, these won't do. I don't understand how you managed
to attract such a sunburn. I declare, your neck is nearly as red as these stones! Let's try my pearls
on you instead."
"Can't I just wear Mama's locket, as always?"
Melanie shook her head. "With a neckline this low? I hardly think so. Believe me, it must
be the pearls. Here, you can wear my matching drop earrings too."
Sophie sighed. Her sister certainly was doing her best to make her attractive for Charles
Elliot. She supposed the least she could do in return was to feign interest in Melanie's latest
flirtation. "So tell me about this stable hand," she said. If Melanie was talking about her own love
life, she might stop advising Sophie about hers.

"Oh, Sophie!" Melanie gushed. She laid the gold locket on the dressing table and hooked
the pearls around her sister's neck instead. "This man is absolutely divine! You should see how
broad his shoulders are. And what gorgeous eyes!"
"Girls!" came their father's voice from just outside the door. "Are you ready? Lord Elliot
is coming up the drive."
"Come in, Papa," Sophie called.
"Melanie, I sincerely hope that wasn't your sister's beau I heard you discussing in such a
forward manner a moment ago," the duke cautioned.
"Charles Elliot?" Melanie asked. "Certainly not. I've never even met the earl. I have no
idea how broad his shoulders are."
"Such talk isn't befitting a lady of your youth and breeding," the duke reminded her. "And
it's hardly respectful toward a nobleman of his standing."
Melanie tossed her chestnut curls. "Respect was the last thing on my mind," she declared.
"I was talking about the new stable hand, Henry Patman."
Sophie gasped.
"Dear, are you all right?" the duke asked his elder daughter. "Your face looks flushed."
"It's nothing," Sophie said faintly, falling into the nearest armchair before her knees
buckled. "I got a bit of a sunburn today, that's all."
"You really ought to keep your bonnet on," Melanie reminded her. "I didn't dare remove
mine while I was waiting near the stable to catch a glimpse of Henry."
"Melanie!" The duke's voice rose an octave. "That's no way for a lady to behave."
"Don't worry, Papa," Melanie said, dimples flashing. "Henry didn't think I was acting
boldly. I told him I was there to discuss private riding lessons. I'm sure young Henry could teach
me plenty." She winked at Sophie. "You should see his gait!"
"Don't talk of him that way!" Sophie whispered, horrified that Melanie could be so crass
about the man that she, Sophie, loved.
The duke's face was as red as Sophie's throat. "Your sister is right, Melanie," he said. "I
will not have my daughter speaking in such familiar terms about a mere servant!"
"I can't help it if I'm lonely!" Melanie said, pouting. "You won't let me keep company
with any of the young noblemen."
"You have your sister for company!" the duke thundered. "You have your girlfriends!"
"Sophie's always so busy organizing the maidservants and ordering foodstuffs," Melanie
complained. "And Priscilla's on holiday with her family at the spas. Who else am I supposed to
talk to? Besides, what's the harm of a few riding lessons? It's not my fault that Henry's the most
perfect specimen of a man in all of Britain."
The duke controlled his voice with difficulty. "I absolutely forbid you to take private
lessons from that young man!"
"But Papa"
"Not another word!" the duke silenced her. "You will stay away from the stables unless
old Frankie is nearby. No daughter of mine will be seen in the company of a stable hand!" The
duke turned on his heel. "See that you're both downstairs in ten minutes!" he commanded as he
stamped off. His coattails flew out behind him just before he slammed the door.
Sophie, limp in the armchair, leaned back her head and stared desolately at the painted
clouds on the ceiling.

"Isn't it romantic?" Melanie sang out. She twirled in place to make her full skirt balloon
out around her. "Jane Austen could have written a novel about mea well-bred young lady,
wildly attracted to a man of a lower class, a man my father disapproves of! It's all so exciting!"
"I don't see what's exciting about it," Sophie said in a small voice, blinking her eyes to
clear the tears.
Melanie didn't notice her glumness. "You have no sense of drama," she complained.
"You don't know anything about love!"
"You're not in love," Sophie reminded her wearily. But I am.
"Not yet, but I could be," Melanie said, peering into the looking glass to rearrange her
curls. "Wouldn't that be romantic? In love with a stable hand! Priscilla Nelson-Tynes would faint
dead away!" Melanie opened the door of the room. "Well, Lawrence says Charles Elliot is not
hard to gaze upon either. And he's here. Are you coming down to meet the latest love of your
"You go ahead, Mellie," Sophie told her. "I'll be right there."
After Melanie bounded out of the room, Sophie rose and stood before the mirror. "I've
already met the love of my life," she said sadly. "And he's a stable hand."
She clenched her fists at her sides. Something in Henry Patman's eyes made her certain
that he felt the same way about her as she did about him. She would not give him upnot for her
father and certainly not for Charles Elliot, even if he was an earl. She didn't care if she had to
sneak around to do it. She would see Henry again. She had to.
She unclasped the pearls from around her neck and replaced them with her mother's gold
locket. Then she squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and ran downstairs to act the part of a
duke's proper daughter.
Seven weeks later Sophie sat in the armchair near the window of the girls' bedroom.
Luckily Melanie was at the Nelson-Tynes estate, welcoming Priscilla home from summer
holiday. Melanie had been acting suspicious lately, as if she knew Sophie was hiding something.
Melanie's watchfulness made it doubly hard for Sophie to steal away to meet Henry, as she
planned to do again at eight o'clock that night. Until then she would sit alone with her diary,
gazing out the window at the late September twilight and dreaming about the man she loved.
In case Melanie should return early, Sophie's diary lay open on her lap inside a larger
book, a copy of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. Sophie stared at the shadows on the vast lawn of
Edmonton Hall. Then she flipped backward in her diary until she found the entry she wanted to
Wednesday, August 3
I saw HIM again, Diary! I have been in agony since Monday, hoping to
catch another glimpse of Henry Patman after our first meeting by the lake.
Melanie spent much of yesterday hanging about the stablesagainst Papa's
explicit orders, I might addin hopes of seeing Henry. But she was disappointed.
Old Frankie was working alone. He's a dear, sweet old man, but he isn't rich,
handsome, or well born, so he might as well be invisible to Melanie. Henry was
off the estate on some errand. It serves her right.
Today I arose early to beat my lay-abed sister to our mutual goal. And
sure enough there was Henry, pitchfork in hand as he spread fresh, sweet hay in
the stall next to Lord Byron's. I stood a moment in the shadows, watching. As he

worked with the pitchfork the worn muslin of his shirt tightened over his arm
muscles. An unruly lock of blond hair fell across hi& forehead, lending a dashing
air to his otherwise picture-perfect appearance. And I ached to stroke those arms
and run my fingers through that hair. The magic of Monday afternoon had not
dissipated in the least.
"Good morning!" Sophie called as she stepped gingerly across the stable yard. It was
Wednesday, two days after her first meeting with Henry.
His face lit up like the sun. "Well, if it isn't my favorite mermaid!" he said. He leaned on
the wooden handle of the pitchfork. "How may I be of service this morning, Lady Edmonton?"
"It's such a beautiful morning. I believe I shall take Lord Byron out for a ride," Sophie
said casually. "Would you saddle him up for me?"
"As you wish," Henry said, the very picture of an obedient servant. Then he grinned. "As
a mermaid, you'll want the sidesaddle, I presume?"
Sophie grinned back. "Of course," she replied. "And Mr. Patman," she began carefully,
"is there a route you might suggest for my ride? I'm frightfully tired of all the proper, established
bridle paths on the grounds. I'm quite ready to try something new."
"Are you intent on a solitary ride?" he asked, holding her gaze with his pale blue eyes.
"Or would you prefer a route that allows for the possibility of a chance encounter along the
Sophie took a deep breath and tried to calm the drumming in her chest. "Chance
encounters are lovely," she said softly. "I would very much like to meet up with a riding
companionbut only if it's the right person."
"And how will you know if it is the right person?" Henry asked as he began strapping the
sidesaddle onto Sophie's favorite gelding.
"Oh, I shall know right away," Sophie said lightly. "We mermaids have a special sense
about such things." She held out her hand so that Henry could help her into the saddle. They
touched only lightly, but heat spread from his fingers into hers and shot through her entire body.
For a moment she was dizzy. Henry's hand steadied her.
"I suppose you'd be happiest with a riding companion who's also a water sprite, like
yourself," he said in a strained, uncertain voice.
Sophie squared her shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. "No, not at all," she said
evenly. "I would prefer somebody with both feet planted firmly on the ground." She pointed to
the horse's legs and smiled. "Or all four feet."
A broad smile flashed across Henry's handsome features. Then he took a deep breath and
gave her directions for a route to follow.
"And where along this route do you predict I might meet a possible riding companion?"
Sophie asked.
Henry clenched his jaw and looked away for a moment, as if he were intent on old
Frankie, who was exercising a mare at the far end of the corral. Then he gazed back at Sophie
with those marvelous eyes. For a moment Henry Patman looked terribly vulnerable. "Tell me,
Lady Sophie," he asked, "are you certain that this is a good idea? What if the duke disapproves
of this new route you're planning to take?"
Sophie's courage faltered for just a moment. But the concern in his eyes renewed her
resolution. "Mr. Patman," she said in her most dignified voice. "I am old enough to choose my
own route. My father's approval or disapproval is irrelevant."

Henry smiled in admiration. "In that case, I would guess that the most likely place for a
chance encounter is on the south edge of the copse of alder trees. You could meet somebody
quite interesting there."
"I hope I do," Sophie said over her shoulder.
And when I arrived at the alder copse, Diary, he was there! We rode
together for a time. Then we sat in the shade and talked for more than an hour.
Before he left, he kissed my hand, and we arranged to meet again. I'm so happy.
And so fearful. What on earth will Papa say?
Sophie gazed out the window again. Just thinking about Henry Patman made her heart
beat faster. She paged forward a few weeks, to another entry.
August 27, 1825
I slipped out of the house after dinner and raced to the North Gazebo, as
planned. The aroma of those magnificent tea roses enveloped us as we sat on the
bench, hidden from view. The warmth of Henry's hand on mine sent tingles
through my body, and his eyes were the pale blue of robins' eggs.
Then he kissed me. His lips were sweet and warm, and his kiss set off
something deep inside me, a rejoicing and a yearning I can't begin to describe. I
only know that I love him. We must be together.
Sophie smiled, remembering the wonder of that first tender kiss. The fact that a man as
gorgeous and sensitive as Henry could love her seemed like a miracle. Sophie moved a few
pages forward in her diary until she found what she was looking fora small slip of writing
paper, carefully unfolded and pasted in. It was a poem Henry had written for her.
To a Mermaid
Through willow branches I first glimpsed
A rare and precious water nymph.
A sparkling smile and flowing hair
Your graceful arms, so lithe and fair.
Your love's an unexpected prize
For one so earthly born as I.
My heart is yours, to hold or break,
My Sophie, lady of the lake.
Henry Patman, September 1, 1825
Sophie sighed. Nobody had ever written poetry for her before. Her other suitors wanted
to marry her only because of her titled father and handsome dowry. Henry was different. Henry
truly loved her. And she was determined to be with him, no matter what it took. No matter what
the duke might say.
She picked up her fountain pen and began to write.

Tuesday, September 20, 1825

I've been seeing Henry for seven weeks now, and I love him more every
day. Sometimes I think my heart will burst with such love. I know not what will
come of this. Papa would be furious. He still takes every opportunity to impress
me with the charms of Charles Elliot. Lord Elliot is a pleasant enough man, to be
sure. But I don't love him, and I shan't marry for any reason other than for love.
The grandfather clock in the hallway rang seven-thirty, its chime echoing through the
house. Sophie slammed her diary shut. She stashed it in the bottom drawer of her Chippendale
dressing table. Then she pulled on her riding boots, dabbed lavender scent behind her ears, and
hurried from the room to meet Henry at the barn behind the stables.
Henry swung himself up the ladder to the loft of the barn, whistling. He couldn't believe
the turn his life had taken in the past two months. At first he'd wondered if Sophie's interest in
him was the temporary, childish rebellion of a bored aristocrat. But the sweet, stolen hours he'd
spent with her had convinced him differently. Now Henry knew that the impossible was true.
Lady Sophie Edmonton, the beautiful, fair-haired daughter of a duke, was in love with Henry
Patman, a common stable hand.
Their clandestine meetings couldn't go on forever. Someone was sure to catch them
sooner or later. In fact, he suspected that old Frankie, the head groom, already knew the truth. No
matter. It was Frankie who'd recommended Henry for his position. And Frankie had always been
fond of Sophie. Their secret was safe with the old man.
A more serious source of apprehension was the duke himself. True, there was little
chance of the Duke of Edmonton walking in on them as they kissed behind the stables or held
hands by the lake. But he was growing adamant in his demands that Sophie accept a proposal
from an acceptable suitor. They both knew that the duke would never accept a poor stable boy as
a son-in-law. So tonight Henry would take decisive action. Together he and Sophie would decide
their fate.
"Henry?" Sophie's sweet whisper filtered up to him like the lantern light through the
rough planks. "Henry, are you here?"
"I'm here, my love," he called down in a low voice. Through the opened trapdoor he
could see her below, her white frock shining in the dimly lit interior of the barn. Henry held out
his hand and helped her up the final rung of the ladder.
"Oh, Henry," Sophie murmured, her face against his shoulder as they embraced. She
smelled of sunlight and lavender. "I've missed you so much."
He laughed lightly. "It's only been a day since our last meeting."
"I know," she admitted. "But it seems like a week. And Papa had Lord Elliot to dinner
again yesterday. I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out without giving an answer. What
are we going to do?"
"First," he said gently, "you are going to kiss me." He gazed into her clear blue eyes that
were so full of love and mystery. Then he tilted her chin up with his finger until her mouth met
his. Sophie's lips opened like a rose, and he kissed her as long as he dared. Then he sank back
into the hay and pulled her down beside him.
Sophie smiled and rested her head on his shoulder. "I love you, Henry Patman," she said.

"I'm pleased to hear that," he said in a formal tone, reaching into his coat pocket. "It
makes this much easier." He handed her a small bundle, wrapped in a handkerchief. "Open it," he
whispered, his voice trembling.
Sophie gasped. A simple silver ring shone in her hand like the thinnest crescent moon.
"It's beautiful!" she whispered, her eyes wide.
"I know I'm a commoner and as poor as a church mouse. And I know your father will
never consent to the match. But legally, we don't need his permission. Being with you and
making you happy are the only things that matter to me. Will you be my wife?"
Tears glistened in Sophie's eyes. "Yes, Henry. I will. Nothing would make me happier!"
They embraced again, and when Henry kissed her, Sophie responded with more passion
than he'd thought possible. With her lips on his, it was easy to forget about the people and
customs that conspired to keep them apart. She wasn't the daughter of a duke. He wasn't a stable
hand. They were Sophie and Henry, two people who would soon be joined as one in marriage.
"But how?" she asked a minute later. "Legally we may be old enough to marry without
his permission, but my father has tremendous influence in this county. No clergyman would risk
his wrath by granting us a marriage license!"
"I have a plan," Henry explained. "Slip out of the house late Saturday night. Meet me at
the stable at midnight. I'll have Lord Byron and another horse saddled and ready to go. I think
old Frankie knows about us"
Sophie's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, no! What if he tells my father?"
"He won't," Henry assured her. "In fact, if I'm reading his hints correctly, I believe the old
man approves. He'll help us if we need him."
Sophie nodded and flashed him a half smile. "Henry, when you saddle Lord Byron, forget
the sidesaddle. Even a mermaid can ride astride when speed is of the essence."
He laughed appreciatively. She was trying hard to be brave, despite the enormous step
she was agreeing to take.
"We'll ride all night and into the morning," Henry explained. "Two counties from here,
where nobody knows you, we'll find someone to marry us."
Sophie nodded resolutely, but silent tears slid down her face. Henry wiped them away
with his hand.
"Darling"he hesitated"are you sure this is what you want? I'm asking you to give up
everything for me. Don't agree unless you're absolutely certain."
Sophie blinked away the last of her tears. She smiled radiantly and reached for something
at her collar. "Of course I'm certain," she said. Suddenly she seemed utterly calm and content.
"I've never been more certain of anything," she continued, gaining courage as she spoke. "Here.
Take this as a symbol of my love."
Henry gulped as Sophie pulled from her neck the gold-and-diamond locket she'd
inherited from her mother. She lowered it over his head and leaned forward to kiss him.
"I can't accept the locket, Sophie," he protested. "The kiss is enough to seal our vows.
The locket was your mother's! I know how much it means to you."
"That is exactly why I want you to have it," Sophie said serenely, considering the matter
closed. "We will be safest if we don't see each other again until Saturday. I'll miss you
desperately, but it's best if we don't risk discovery."
Henry nodded, impressed with her foresight. "You're right, love, but it will be a very long
four days."

"Perhaps Papa will relent and allow us to remain here, once we're married and he sees
that he can't change that."
Henry nodded again. "It's possible," he said carefully. "But I don't want you to get your
hopes up, only to have them dashed. You know that it's unlikely your father will ever allow us to
set foot in Edmonton Hall again."
"I know," she agreed, smiling bravely. "Now I must return to the house before Melanie
discovers I'm gone."
He held her hand tightly and gazed into her eyes. "Until Saturday, then," he said.
"Until Saturday." She hiked up her skirts to step down onto the ladder. Then she
scrambled to the floor of the barn, the lantern light casting unearthly shadows around her.
"I love you, Sophie!" Henry called in a husky voice as she neared the door.
She stopped and turned to look up at him. "I love you too," she replied.
Her white skirt flashed in the doorway, and then she was gone, like mist. Henry sank
back into the hay and wondered if he'd dreamed the whole thing. But the gold locket that hung
around his neck felt smooth under his fingers. It was still warm from her soft, white skin. He
kissed the locket and held it to his lips, dreaming of the future.

Sophie buckled the strap on her valise and pushed it under her bed. She was glad the
dressmaker had finished her gown early for Priscilla's coming-out ball this winter. Now it would
be her wedding dress.
Sophie took a deep breath, marveling at her own calmness. "Tonight I'm leaving here
forever," she whispered to the empty room. "Tomorrow morning I'll no longer be Lady
Edmonton, daughter of a duke. I'll be plain old Sophie Patman. Mrs. Henry Patman."
She smiled at the sound of it. She wasn't sure how they would manage. Henry had little
money. But Sophie had some savings of her own and a few jewels that could be sold if things
were tight until Henry found a new job. None of it mattered as long as they were together. She
imagined herself in her new silk dress, a blue as pale as Henry's eyes. The sleeves were puffed
at Melanie's insistence. And the hem of the skirt was decorated with lace and tiny rosebuds made
of silk. Under the skirt her blue silk pumps
"Oh, no!" Sophie said aloud. "I forgot the shoes!" She slid the valise from under the bed,
rummaged in her wardrobe for the blue pumps, and made a space for them in the nearly full
valise. She buckled the clasp again and shoved the valise back under the bed.
After the valise was out of sight, Sophie sat on the bed and lay back until her head
touched the quilt. She gazed up at the painted clouds on the ceiling, breathing heavily. Packing
had proceeded this way all afternoonin sporadic bursts as she remembered items she had
forgotten. All the while she'd kept a sharp eye out for Melanie. Now she was exhausted and
nervous and so excited that it was making her dizzy.
"I have to get ahold of myself," she whispered, sitting up on the bed. Henry's silver ring
hung from a chain beneath her bodice. For now she didn't dare wear it where anyone could see.
She pulled it out and held it in her hand for a moment, remembering the touch of his lips the
night he asked her to marry him. The thought calmed her shaking hands, but her breath still came
out ragged, as if her corset was laced too tight.
Suddenly Sophie knew the remedy for her nerves. She would make one last diary entry as
a single woman. She ran to her Chippendale dressing table, slid open the bottom drawer, and
reached under a stack of papers to the small volume that held her most private thoughts.
Her diary was gone.
Sophie threw the papers aside and scoured every inch of the drawer, to no avail. She bit
her lip, hardly able to contemplate the implications. She shook her head. "I can't have lost my
diary!" she said aloud, her voice on the edge of panic. She must have tossed it into her valise
early in the afternoon, when she packed her best silk stockings from the top drawer of the
dressing table. She yanked out the valise and pawed through her belongings again. The diary
wasn't there.
Sophie's fists pounded against the side of the bed. "This cannot be happening," she
wailed. She swallowed hard. "I'll find it," she whispered to herself as hot tears burned her eyes.
"It must still be in this room. I misplaced it; that's all." She ran to her bureau and began yanking
open drawers and sifting through their contents.
The diary contained every detail of her courtship with Henry Patman and every detail of
their planned elopement. If it somehow fell into her father's hands, there would be no wedding.
And if that happened, Sophie knew that her life would be over.
In the darkness Sophie groped under the bedclothes for the handle of her valise and
slowly eased it out from under her bed. Across the room Melanie turned and murmured

something unintelligible. Sophie froze until her sister's breathing returned to the slow, regular
rhythm of sleep. She threw off the dressing gown she'd worn to bed over her clothes. Then she
bunched it under the quilt on her bed, with two velvet pillows. From the doorway, at least, it
would look as if she were asleep, curled up under the quilt. She carefully lifted the valise and her
shoes and slipped out the door in her stocking feet.
Sophie edged along the hall, expecting to hear her father's angry shout at any moment. A
note rang through the house like a shot. Sophie jumped, but it was only the grandfather clock,
chiming once for half-past eleven. She hurried to the grand staircase of the manor house and
skipped lightly down the stairs.
Sophie's diary was still missing, but she convinced herself that it didn't matter. If Melanie
or a maid had found the slim volume and turned it over to the duke, surely he would have
confronted Sophie with it by now.
The heavy oaken door of the manor house creaked like a cricket when Sophie pushed it
open. She held her breath, but nobody stirred in the mansion. She stepped outside, paused to pull
on her boots, and flew down the front stairs, toting the heavy valise.
Fifteen minutes later she kissed Henry in the dark stable yard and watched in the
moonlight while he tied her belongings to the back of Lord Byron's saddle.
"Are you still sure you want to go through with this?" he whispered one last time. The
warmth of his breath against her ear sent waves of pleasure through her body even now.
Sophie kissed him on the cheek. "Why?" she asked lightly. "Have you changed your
Henry grinned and kissed her back. Then he lifted her onto Lord Byron's back, though
they both knew she was perfectly capable of mounting a horse by herself.
"This is it," he said in a low voice full of sorrow and anticipation. Sophie turned the
gelding to take one last look at the slate roof of the manor house in the distance. Henry mounted
the other horse. She fell into step beside him and they picked their way across the dark corral.
Henry dismounted and ran forward to open the gate. Suddenly his horse reared. Three
men materialized out of the darkness. Sophie gasped. Moonlight glistened on the barrel of a
musket that prodded Henry in the chest.
"Henry!" Sophie cried.
A powerful hand grabbed the reins from her fingers.
"Dismount your horse, Sophie!" ordered the Duke of Edmonton.
"Papa! Let me explain!"
"The explanation is clear enough," he replied. Her father's face was in shadow, but she'd
never heard his voice seething with so much anger.
A kinder hand rested on her arm. "Let me help you down," said her brother's voice. "You
know we can't let you do this."
"I won't get down from this horse until you tell that man to stop pointing the gun at
Henry," Sophie announced, trying to keep her voice from cracking.
"You're in no position to dictate any terms!" the duke roared. "I have instructed the
constable to take Mr. Patman into custodyand you, young lady, have no voice in the matter.
Climb off that horse this instant."
Sophie crossed her arms in front of her. "I will not."
Her father's face leaned in closer to Sophie, and she could see his features, etched by
anger in the moonlight. He spoke in a voice that was chillingly quiet. "If you refuse to dismount,
I will have your brother remove you from the saddle by force."

Sophie stared back at her father, her jaw clenched. He nodded at Lawrence. "Please,
Sophie," her brother urged. "Don't make me do it."
"Sophie," came Henry's sad, sweet voice, "there's nothing more we can do."
Sophie stared toward Henry, cursing the shadows that obscured his face. She took a deep
breath and dismounted. Her father cast her a withering look and instructed Lawrence to escort
her back to the mansion.
Before Sophie turned away, the moon emerged from behind a cloud, bathing the road in
light as white as milk. Her last glimpse of the man she loved was of Henry's face as he gazed a
wistful good-bye.
The constable rammed him in the back with the gun. "Get a move on," he growled. Henry
stumbled and quickly righted himself. Then he faded into the dark, flanked by the duke and the
constable, who walked as stiffly as toy soldiers.
Lawrence took Sophie's arm to help her over some uneven ground, but she wrenched his
hand away. She'd never felt so alone in all her life.
It no longer mattered who she married. Tears streamed down Sophie's face. She would
never love anyone but Henry Patman until the day she died.
Henry Patman stood at the railing of a ship in the harbor at Liverpool. He squinted into
the sunlight, out the mouth of the harbor. But he saw only Sophie. He could feel the weight of
her gold locket in his pocket. But the iron that bound his hands was heavier. Once the ship set
sail and was clear of British waters, Henry would be free. He had committed no crime, but the
duke had arranged for his deportation.
No doubt he thinks himself generous for not sending me to Newgate Prison, Henry
thought bitterly.
He didn't feel free. He wasn't free to marry the woman he loved and to remain in the
country of his birth. "There is no freedom without power," he whispered. The Americans knew
that. Only a half century earlier they had found the power to fight for their freedom. Perhaps
America was the place for one such as him. But times had changed. These days high ideals and
lofty sentiments weren't enough. Money was power. And without love, power was the only thing
that mattered.
"I will make my fortune in the New World," he vowed, whispering to the waves. "No
man will ever make me feel so powerless again."
Henry slumped against a brick wall, somewhere in New York City. He pulled his
threadbare coat tighter. Hard, gritty bits of snow pelted him like pebbles. The December wind cut
through his clothes like a scythe.
He had disembarked the ship that morning, eager to see his new home, the promised land.
But life for a poor man in the city looked grim. More than a hundred thousand souls called New
York City home. To Henry, accustomed to the rural expanses of the English countryside, it
seemed that every one of that multitude was wandering the street around him.
The city smelled of sewage and sweat, of horses, garbage, and woodsmoke. Even worse
was the smell of his own filthy body and lice-ridden clothes; it had been impossible to keep clean
during the long, cramped voyage. Now the noise and confusion of Gotham made him long for
the more structured life aboard the ship.
Carts and carriages clattered over unpaved streets, oblivious to the crowds of pedestrians
and the squealing pigs that appeared to roam freely through the mazelike streets of the city.

Vendors hawked oysters, chestnuts, and other foodstuffs that Henry had no money to buy. Their
accents seemed flat and unnatural. And everything he saweven the peopleseemed dingy and
gray. All in all, the promised land didn't seem very promising.
But Henry had sworn an oath to himself. He knew he would someday rise above the
squalor that surrounded him and make himself as powerful as he wanted to be.

"Your earl looks quite handsome!" Lawrence told Sophie on an early spring day in 1826.
She stood in front of a mirror in the vestry of a grand cathedral in London, fumbling with the
lace at her neck. Her brother tilted her face up to look into her eyes. "Be happy, sister," he urged.
"You're marrying a fine man."
Sophie shrugged. She supposed that twenty-four-year-old Charles Elliot was attractive,
with his slim figure, blond hair, and easy smile. He was pleasant enough at conversation, and he
treated her with respect. But she didn't love the earl, and she knew she never would.
Still, it didn't matter. In another few minutes she would marry Charles and become the
countess Elliot. She would preside over Elliot Arms as the mistress of the manor. She would
spend the social season in London at Charles's town house. She would be his dutiful wifeas
she'd been her father's dutiful daughter for the last six months, quietly obeying the duke's wishes
in everything.
"You look lovely," Lawrence told her. "Are you ready?"
Sophie shook her head. "No," she said softly, speaking of much more than her dress. She
pressed her lips together. "I can't get the collar to lie right. You know how clumsy I am at such
Lawrence smiled. "I'm afraid I shan't be of much help with it, but I know someone who
would be."
"Melanie," Sophie said flatly
"It's your wedding day, Sophie. Can't you forgive her?"
"My wedding day was supposed to have been last September," Sophie reminded him, her
voice cold and dispassionate. "Melanie read my diary. She told Father of my plans to elope. How
can I forgive her for that?"
"She only did it for your own good," Lawrence argued. "She didn't want you to make a
mistake you would regret later. She wants to see you, Sophie. Let me call her in."
Sophie took a deep breath. "Very well," she said slowly. "It doesn't matter either way.
Nothing does."
Lawrence ushered Melanie into the small chamber. He smiled encouragingly at Sophie
before he walked out the door.
"Does this mean you're no longer angry with me?" Melanie asked. Her words might have
sounded hopeful to somebody who didn't know her. But Melanie's lips were pouting, and a
defiant gleam lit her eyes.
"I haven't felt angry in months," Sophie said truthfully, still trying to arrange the lace
collar so it lay flat. I haven't felt anything in months, she amended to herself.
Melanie stepped behind Sophie and reached around her throat to smooth the collar. She
wouldn't meet Sophie's eyes in the mirror. "Everything is your fault, you know," Melanie told
her sister.
Sophie felt curiously distant from the scene, as if she were standing outside the window,
peeping in at a blank-faced bride and her sullen sister. She laughed ironically. "Lawrence still
believes you were motivated by concern for my best interests," she said. "But you and I both
know the truth"
"The truth is that you stole Henry from me!" Melanie interrupted, angry tears in her eyes.
"I was closer to you than anyone," Sophie continued as if her sister hadn't spoken. "For
fifteen years we shared sweetmeats and secrets and silk stockings. And then you betrayed me."
"You stole him from me!" Melanie repeated.

"He was never yours to begin with."

"He would have been!" Melanie insisted. "I loved him, and you knew it. If I couldn't have
him, I wasn't about to let you have him either!"
"You didn't love him," Sophie said. "If he had noticed you at all, you would have
forgotten him in a month and moved on to some new flirtation."
"That's not true!"
"It doesn't matter anymore," Sophie said. "Neither of us will ever see Henry again, and I
am about to marry Charles Elliot. Next year or the year after I suspect you'll marry some likely
duke or marquess. And we'll both live happily ever after."
"I know I will," Melanie said with bitter triumph, her eyes narrowed. "But you don't look
very happy."
"I'm as happy as I can be," Sophie said truthfully. In the chapel outside the door an organ
began to play, signaling the start of her wedding ceremony. Then she squared her shoulders,
raised her chin, and stepped out into the music.
Henry leaped from his mattress at the sound of gunpowder popping in the street outside.
He peered through the cracked window of his unlit room, the pane grimy even beneath its layer
of ice. He scraped the frost from the inside of the glass. A few sputtering gas lamps lit the street
outside. In their glow he saw three boys playing with firecrackers. At least, he saw their feet and
legs. His basement window rested on the level of the street. It made for an odd view of life in the
city, but somehow that seemed appropriate. Henry had started at the bottom when he arrived
from Britain almost exactly thirteen years earlier. And despite all his efforts the bottom was
exactly where he'd stayed.
"Happy New Year!" one of the boys yelled. Another round of firecrackers popped and
sparked. Then the three sets of poorly shod feet scrambled out of view.
Henry shook his head. It was January 1, 1839, and he'd made no progress at all in the
New World. He'd been nearly twenty-one years old when he stepped off the ship from Britain in
1826. Now he was almost thirty-four, but he had nothing to show for his years of labor except a
weary body and a few gray hairs.
Henry's first thought upon arriving in the city had been to find work as a groom or driver,
but such jobs were scarce. Through the years he'd hawked newspapers in the streets. He'd
washed dishes, cleaned fish, watered horses, and run errands. But the few coins he could make in
any of those jobs weren't enough to keep him fed.
Finally Henry had tried his hand at gambling. Luck had been with him at first. But it had
run out. Now he owed money to the kind of rogues who would break his legsor worseif his
accounts were past due. And as of midnight the final deadline had expired. He fully expected his
creditors to send thugs to extract some land of paymentprobably within hours.
Henry kicked aside a rat, which scurried to a dark corner and watched him warily with its
sharp, beady eyes. Then he sat down heavily on the torn mattress, shaking his head. After all he'd
come through, after all his work, he deserved better than this. "Blamed if I'm going to die in a
rat-infested cellar at the hands of some paid rowdies!" he said aloud. But he wasn't sure how he
could prevent himself from meeting such an end.
Two hours later Henry sat up with a start, surprised to find that he'd dozed off. He pulled
his thin blanket around him as he strained his ears to listen. A horse whinnied in the distance. A
rodent scuttled somewhere close at hand. And then he heard it: two rough voices speaking in low

growls, just outside his window. He watched their feet as they walked toward the front steps of
the squalid boardinghouse.
"I'm sure this is the building, Shem," whispered one man. "But how will we know him?"
"Charlie said he lives in the basement," said Shem. "Besides, he talks like a Brit."
"What if he doesn't plank down the greenbacks?"
Shem gave a sinister chuckle, and Henry gulped when he heard the sound of a pistol
being loaded. "Well, Phineas, you know how wrathy Charlie gets when folks don't pay up,"
Shem said. "If the Brit can't give up the loot, then we take our payment any way we can."
When the heavy front door closed behind them, Henry ran to his window and tried to
wrench it open. "Oh, no!" he hissed. The window was stuckprobably frozen shut. And the
men's footsteps were growing louder. Henry pounded at the window frame with the heel of his
"Did you hear that?" came Shem's voice from down the corridor.
The window creaked open. Henry threw his small bundle of belongings out into the
snow. Then he grasped the sill and swung himself up, praying his shoulders would make it
through the small opening. Behind him the door of his room flew open and banged against the
"Trying to skedaddle?" Shem asked in a pleasant voice. "I suspicion that means you can't
pay the money you owe Charlie."
Henry wrenched his shoulders through the window, wincing as a shard of glass from the
broken pane scraped his arm.
"What d'ya think, Shem?" asked Phineas. "Do we shoot him in the rear as he hangs there,
half in and half out? Or do we pull him back inside so we can hurt him face-to-face?"
Shem spat on the floor. "It ain't sporting to shoot a man from behind," he said with a
laugh. "Or in the behind, as the case may be."
Phineas grabbed Henry by the nearest foot and yanked on it. Henry, surprised by the
man's strength, nearly lost his grip on the windowsill. Now the tightness of the space was an
asset. With his shoulders crammed into the window opening, he was harder to pull back into the
cellar. Henry whipped his other leg around and caught Phineas squarely in the jaw with his boot.
He heard the big man stagger back and fall against his companion. Henry took advantage of their
confusion to squeeze his shoulders the rest of the way through the window. Pain screamed down
one arm as he sliced it on the broken glass.
At any moment he expected to feel a bullet searing his flesh. But Shem didn't fire. Maybe
he'd dropped the gun when Phineas fell on him. Henry didn't stop to look. Another rough hand
groped at his foot. Henry jerked his legs through the window and skidded forward, facedown in
the gritty snow. A bullet whizzed by his hip, and Henry somersaulted away from the window.
Then he grabbed his knapsack, leaped to his feet, and sprinted away, ignoring the pain in his
shoulder and foot.
Behind him another gunshot rang out in the cold, still night. Two sets of quick, heavy
footsteps were pursuing him. And they were gaining on him.
The first dawn of 1839 lit the filth-smeared window of a tavern near the banks of the
Hudson River. Henry looked up, red-eyed, from his poker hand. Hours earlier he had managed to
elude Shem and Phineas. But his escape could bring only a temporary respite. If he stayed in
town, the two thugsor others like themwould eventually catch up with him. His only chance
for escaping Charlie's bill collectors was to somehow come up with enough money to leave New

York. But Henry didn't have a penny to his name. All he had was Sophie's locketthe locket
he'd sworn to keep forever.
Handing the gold-and-diamond locket over to the pawnshop owner had felt like losing
Sophie all over again. But his options had run out. Sophie would understand. She would want
him to be safe.
From the first hand Henry had been more motivated than ever before to win this poker
game. He had to make enough to buy back Sophie's locket and leave New York City forever.
And for the first time in years Henry was on a winning streak. The pile of money in front
of him was more than he'd ever seen in his life. This would be the final hand. Two of Henry's
opponents had folded; one of them had proceeded to pass out at the table, his head in his arms.
Only Henry and Silas O'Hara were left in the game.
"What do you say?" Henry asked, staring O'Hara steadily in the man's bloodshot, halflidded eyes. "Are you in?"
"I reckon I am," O'Hara said in a slow, deep Georgia drawl, made slower by a lack of
sleep and an abundance of bourbon. "But you done cleaned me out. Let me give you an IOU."
"You used an IOU for the last round, Silas," the dealer reminded the man. "And the
stakes are a lot higher now."
"So I did, so I did," O'Hara acknowledged.
"Maybe it's time to fold," the dealer suggested.
O'Hara's head swiveled. "Not on your life!" he said. He swatted his cards with an
unsteady hand. "These little babies are going to make me rich!"
"You're already rich as Solomon!" the dealer shot back.
"Well, then they're going to make me richer!" O'Hara declared.
"That's some poker face you got there," Henry observed.
"I tell you what I'm going to do," O'Hara decided. "I got me the nicest little plantation
you ever did see, away down in Georgia."
"I thought you lived in South Carolina," the dealer said.
"I do," O'Hara answered. He hiccuped, laughed at himself, and continued. "The place I
live on came down from my wife's daddy. Charleston folks, you know. This other farm is mine,
free and clear. It's got workers and furnishings and a business manager. It's a little run-down, but
it's got everything you could want, except a master that lives on the premises."
"Does it have a deed?" Henry asked.
"Right here in my pocket," said O'Hara. He pulled out a folded sheet of parchment and
laid it on the table. "Show me your cards, Brit. If you win the hand, the plantation's yours."
Henry scanned the deed. "You've got yourself a bet," he agreed. He knew he should be
nervous. But Sophie's locket had brought him the luck he needed to turn his life around. This
day, he couldn't lose. Slowly but confidently he turned over his cards. "A flush," he said.
O'Hara's blotchy face paled.
"Your turn, Silas," the dealer urged.
"Shoot!" O'Hara exclaimed. He tipped up his glass and drank his bourbon in one gulp.
Then he turned over his cards one at a time. "Three of a kind," he said. "Brit, you've got yourself
a plantation."
Henry boarded a train later that day, trying to regain the euphoria he'd felt at sunrise. He
was leaving New York, free from Charlie and his hired thugs. He was clean and fed. He wore a

new suit cut in the latest fashion. Even more surprising, he was a landowner. In fact, he owned
an enormous amount of land and a plantation house that rivaled Edmonton Hall. In England such
a turn of fortune would have been unthinkable.
But part of him would have traded it all to have Sophie's locket back. Henry had raced to
the pawnshop after the card game had broken up. But the locket had been gone.
Henry found a seat on the train and leaned against the window, staring out at the dirty,
winding streets of New York. The trip to Georgia would involve a combination of trains, boats,
stagecoaches, and horse-drawn omnibuses. But he had plenty of time. As soon as he left the city
he'd be safe from Charlie's thugs, who were mad enough to pummel him into the snow at this
point, money or no money. Once he was safely away, he would send back what he owed. After
that it didn't matter how long it took him to reach his new home in the Georgia countryside.
The train began chugging along, and Henry watched the outskirts of the city fly by. A
long, wretched phase of his life had been swept away. But his life in England had been swept
away too. It had been thirteen years since he'd seen the country of his birth. As long as he carried
Sophie's locket Henry had felt a connection to Englandand to her. Now his last link with that
idyllic past was gone.
Henry wiped a tear from his eye. Then he straightened his back and resolved to stop
mourning the past. He finally had what he'd dreamed about since the day Sophie's father expelled
him from Britain. He had money. And with it he had power. From now on he would be the
master of his own destiny. Other men would bend to his willfor the first time in his life.

July 1846. London.
Whispering together, the dark-haired beauty and her handsome fianc planned their
elopement. She would flee her father's house at night and meet her love in the forest outside of
town. Then they would run away and be wedded in a place where her father's decrees held no
Watching the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream from her box seat in a London
theater, Sophie felt memories filled with unspeakable joy and unbearable pain rise within her.
She pressed her lips together and fought down the feelings from the past. For twenty years she'd
been the countess Elliot, obedient wife of the earl and impeccable mistress both of Elliot Arms
and a stately London residence on Berkeley Square. She had sealed off the memory of Henry
Patman long ago, and she refused to open the floodgates now.
The scene onstage changed to the working-class neighborhood of a group of vulgar
craftsmen, and Sophie sighed with relief.
Sophie glanced at her daughter, beside her in the box. Looking at Emma was like seeing
herself twenty years earlier. Emma had the same golden blond hair, the same delicate facial
features, and the same nose that had always seemed slightly too long to Sophie on her own face.
The only difference was Emma's eyes. Sophie's were as blue as the sky on a clear summer's day.
Her daughter's were a dark, soulful brown, like the eyes of a gypsy.
Now those brown eyes shone as Emma gazed at the actors, mesmerized. It was Emma's
sixteenth birthday, and Sophie and Charles were celebrating by taking her to her first theatrical
production. Emma barely breathed as she drank in the sights and sounds of the audience, the
colorful costumes, the magical scenery, and Shakespeare's soul-stirring words.
Suddenly Sophie recognized the look on her daughter's face. Emma was feeling the same
joy Sophie had experienced at the age of sixteenthe day she treaded water in a lake, unable to
take her eyes off the young stable hand who stood on the shore. Emma was in love. She was in
love with the theater.
"Did you enjoy the play last night?" Lord Charles Elliot asked his daughter at breakfast
that morning.
"Oh, yes, Papa!" Emma said, bubbling with enthusiasm. "Thank you so muchyou too,
Mama. I can't imagine a more thrilling birthday present."
Sophie smiled. "It's unfortunate that the season is ending so soon. Parliament adjourns
next week, so we'll soon be back in the country. But next year, Emma, I promise you we'll attend
as many plays as you like."
"Actually"Emma hesitated"last night helped me make a decision about my future."
Charles smiled indulgently at his only child. "And what would that be?" he asked as he
speared a slice of ham.
Emma took a deep breath. "I want to become an actress!"
Charles dropped his fork, and it clattered to the floor. A servant rushed in to clear it away
and replaced it with a fresh one before the earl had recovered enough to respond.
"What a lovely idea, Emma," Sophie said.
"Lovely idea, rubbish!" Charles spat out. "Have you forgotten who you are? After you
turn eighteen, you'll be presented at court. Your prospects for marriage will be excellent! You've
no need of a career at alllet alone a career on the stage!"

"You say that word as if it leaves a bad taste in your mouth!" Emma pointed out.
"Besides, Mother said it was a lovely idea."
"As an idea, it is lovelya wonderful daydream," Sophie said quickly. "But you must be
practical, dear. You wouldn't fancy the reality of life as an actress. It's not nearly as glamorous as
it seems. Your real prospects are so much more exciting. You're a noblewoman and an heiress.
You could marry a duke or a marquess!"
"Listen to your mother," Charles said. "She is a proper, respectable woman, as you should
aspire to be."
"I'm not my mother!" Emma protested. "I've always been bored by the idea of running a
household and paying social calls. Now I know why. Last night I understood at lastacting is
what I was born to do!"
"Are you sure this is what you want, Emma?" Sophie asked. Sophie's blue eyes were
hesitant, but Emma thought she saw a glimmer of sympathy there.
Before Emma could answer, Charles rose from his chair. "I don't care what she thinks she
wants!" he thundered. "The child is sixteen years old. I know what's best for her, and she will
follow my wishes!"
"But Papa"
"I consider the matter closed," he said firmly, sitting down and savagely spearing another
slice of ham.
"Mama," Emma appealed.
Sophie's face seemed to have closed over, and the understanding look she'd had a
moment earlier had disappeared. "Your father is right, of course," she said quietly. "Accept his
judgment, Emma. In time you'll thank him for it."
Emma turned restlessly, on the edge of waking. Something bright was shining on her.
She opened her eyes to see a full moon outside the window of her bedroom at Elliot Arms.
"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?" she whispered automatically. Ever
since her first visit to the theater five years earlier, Emma had read and learned every play she
could find, especially those of William Shakespeare. Now the lines came to her constantly,
unbidden. She hadn't mentioned her ambition to her father again, but Emma was more
determined than ever to move to London permanently and become an actress.
Every spring the family had returned to the city for the social season. And Emma
attended the theater there as often as possiblesometimes without her parents' knowledge. Her
father didn't mind her going to plays. All the fashionable families did. But he would never
approve of the passion she felt as she sat in a hushed theater. This year the abominable heat in
London had cut the season short. It was still July, but Emma was back in the countryside with
her parents, dreaming of the plays she was missing.
With a chuckle she realized that it was well after midnight. "So it's now my birthday
again," she whispered to the moon. "I am twenty-one years old."
If Emma were still in London, she would be attending a play with her parents that night
as part of her now-ritual birthday celebration: She Stoops to Conquer. Instead she would
celebrate with a birthday dinner here at Elliot Arms. Her parents would be present, of course.
And Aunt Melanie and her family were invited as well.
Emma shook her head. Her two cousins were close to her own age, but she found their
company tedious. They cared about nothing but clothes, jewelry, and eligible bachelors. When it
came to fashion, Emma had a dramatic sense of style. But she dressed to please herself, not to

impress some potential husband. Worrying about such things was a waste of time. She would
much rather be holding her breath in suspense as some thrilling plot unfolded onstage.
Emma rose from her bed as if entering another world. She glided across the floor,
following the path of moonlight to the window. Then she sat on the wide window seat and pulled
her nightgown-covered knees up to her chest. Gazing out at the manicured lawn, Emma
imagined a young man gazing up at her in the moonlight, dressed in a colorful, Italianate
costume and dark cloak.
"O Romeo, Romeo!" Emma cried softly, "wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father,
and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Capulet."
She ran through the entire scene from Romeo and Juliet, reciting the lines for both
characters. When the scene concluded and the young lovers parted with sweet sorrow, Emma
remained on the window seat, gazing at the moon. When she was very small, her father had held
her in his arms and told her to make a wish on the moon. She knew what she would wish today.
But she also knew that her father would never condone her wish.
"It would be so much easier if I had someone to confide in," she whispered. Her friends
and cousins would be mystified by her ambition to become an actress.
Emma thought of her mother. Occasionally, as they left a London theaterEmma's mind
still awhirl with verses and costumesshe caught her mother's eye and thought she saw a
glimmer of understanding. But then Sophie would take Charles's arm, and her face would settle
into the face of a proper noblewoman who knew her place in society. Sophie wanted her to be
happyof that Emma was certain. But she would never contradict her husband's wishes for
Emma's future.
"Mama has never had an independent thought in her life," Emma whispered. She hated
herself for speaking so disloyally. But she was sure it was true. Emma loved her mother, but
Sophie would never understand this yearning for something so different from what her
upbringing said she should want. Sophie always wanted exactly what she was supposed to want.
No more and no less.
Nineteen-year-old Belinda, the daughter of Duchess Melanie Briarton, shoved her hand
in front of her cousin's face as Emma was trying to eat her turtle soup. "Look at my ring, Emma!
I'm going to marry Edward Nelson-Tynes!"
"Edward is the nephew of Priscilla, my old school chum," Melanie explained
unnecessarily. "He's the duke's heir, you know."
Belinda sighed happily. "Isn't he the most handsome, most dashing man you've ever
Emma pasted a smile on her face. "That's wonderful, Belinda," she said politely. "I know
you'll be very happy."
"Mama says I can make my debut at court next spring!" boasted seventeen-year-old
Brittany Briarton. "Then I can have suitors too!"
Aunt Melanie tossed her head slightly so that chestnut ringlets bounced at each ear. "Isn't
this the third year since you were presented, Emma?" she asked sweetly. "You'd best hurry and
find a husband, or my little Brittany could be married before you!"
Charles rose to his feet at the head of the table. "Before we continue with this line of
conversation, I believe a toast would be appropriate." He raised his glass of champagne. "To my
lovely and obedient daughter, Emma, on the occasion of her twenty-first birthday!"

Sophie smiled proudly at Emma as everyone drank in honor of her birthday. But Charles
was not finished. "Now I have a birthday surprise for Emma."
Emma stared at him, wondering what it could be. Sophie's eyebrows arched high on her
forehead, and Emma knew that not even her mother was in on the surprise.
"I have made some very special arrangements for my daughter, which I know will make
her happy. I want to announce the betrothal of Lady Emma Elliot to Baron Arthur Worthington's
eldest son, Stephen."
Emma felt as if she were falling into an abyss. Around her the family began extolling
Stephen's respectability and physical attractions, but their voices seemed to be coming from
somewhere far, far away.
Sophie watched her daughter's face grow pale. The duke of Briarton was exchanging
toasts with Charles. Melanie and her silly daughters were giggling and gossiping about Emma's
betrothed. But Emma seemed frozen in time.
Sophie had known her husband was considering a match between Emma and the
Worthington boy. But she hadn't thought he'd make the arrangement final without first
consulting hernot to mention Emma.
As Sophie watched, Emma's lips mouthed the word no. Sophie reached under the table to
take her daughters hand. Despite the hot weather, Emma's skin was as cold as ice. Suddenly
Emma began shaking her head violently.
"No!" she whispered, jumping to her feet and upsetting her chair. "No!"
"Charles," Sophie began, "perhaps"
"The decision has been made," intoned the earl.
And Sophie watched helplessly as her daughter ran, sobbing, from the room.
Moonlight poured in through Emma's window a few hours later. But this time it wasn't
the light that had awakened her. She sat up, blinking, surprised to see her mother sitting on the
edge of her bed. Sophie's blond hair, usually pulled back tightly from her face, flowed long and
free over her shoulders. She looked young in the moonlightso young that Emma, her eyes still
heavy with tears and sleep, thought for a moment that she was gazing at her own reflection.
"Mother?" she whispered. As Emma's mind cleared, her father's announcement flowed
back over her like the moonlight, and tears began running down her swollen face.
"About your father's plans" Sophie began.
"I don't want to talk about it!" Emma interrupted. "You can't possibly understand how I
"Yes, I can," Sophie insisted. "My father did the same thing to me."
Emma's eyes widened. "But grandfather didn't force you to wed. You wanted to marry
Papa!" she said.
"I suppose I did," Sophie said, nodding slightly. She gazed at the full moon for a full
minute before continuing. "But only after I lost the will to fight against my father's wishes. Only
after he took away my dream."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't misunderstand me, Emma," Sophie began. "Your father has been a kind and
generous husband. And I've been a proper wife to him." She took a deep breath before
continuing. "I was sixteen years old when I fell in love"
"Yes," Emma said, nodding. "With father."

"No. With a stable hand named Henry Patman."

Emma gasped.
Sophie spoke quickly now, staring at her hands, which glowed white in the moonlight.
"We fell in love and planned to elope. But my father discovered us and had Henry deported to
"How terrible!"
"My dream dissolved when Henry left Britain," Sophie said, her eyes glazed and
unfocused. "When Papa ordered me to marry Charles, I no longer had anything to lose. I gave in
and did as he said."
Emma stroked her mother's hand. "I didn't know."
"It's time you did," Sophie replied, still whispering. "My father stood in the way of my
dreams. I can't watch you suffer the same fate."
"What other choice do I have?" Emma sobbed. "It would take months or years of learning
and working before I could support myself as an actress. Father will never agree to help me,"
"We don't need his help," Sophie said. She smiled at her daughter, but tears glistened in
her eyes. She lifted a carpetbag and sat it on the bed beside Emma. "This is the money I've saved
from my household allowance over the past twenty-five years. If being an actress is what you
truly desire, then I want you to take this money and work hard to make your dream come true."
Emma threw her arms around her mother, stunned by Sophie's generosity and
understanding. "Thank you, Mama," she said, her voice quavering. "I don't know what else to
"Say you'll follow your dream wherever it takes you and that you'll find a way to be
happy," Sophie said tearfully.
"I will, Mama," Emma promised.
"There's one more thing in that bag, in a small purse," Sophie said. "It's a silver ring.
Henry gave it to me the night we became engaged. I couldn't wear it after I was betrothed to your
father. But I've kept it all these years. Now I want you to have it."
"No, Mama! I can't take so precious a gift. It's all you have to remember him by!"
Sophie shook her head, a tearful smile on her face. "No, dear. The ring doesn't matter
anymore. What I have to remember Henry by is in here." She clasped her hands together and
raised them to her heart. "My memories are the one thing my father couldn't take away. I want
you to keep the ring now, to remember the importance of following your heart."
"But Henry"
"Henry would understand."
Emma pulled a thin silver band from the purse and slipped it over her finger. "I think I do
too," she whispered.

September 1851. London.
"My name is Vanessa Saxton," Emma told a sour-faced theater director in London six
weeks later.
The pseudonym had been her mother's idea. If Emma used her real name, her father
might be able to track her down. This was the ninth theater to which "Vanessa" had applied since
she'd arrived in the city. And it looked as if she was about to receive her ninth rejection.
"Do you have any experience?" the director asked, his hand on the door, blocking her
from entering the backstage area of the theater.
"Yes," Vanessa replied. After the first few rejections she'd learned that a negative answer
would abruptly end the interview. "I played Juliet," she said. It wasn't exactly a lie. She thought
about the night she'd sat at her window, performing Shakespeare for the moon.
"Where was that?" asked the man, sniffing suspiciously.
Vanessa hesitated. "Elliot Arms Theatre," she said.
"Never heard of it."
"It's in the countryside," Vanessa explained weakly.
"Anything else?" he asked, with a look that said he knew the answer was no.
"Please," she implored. "I know I don't have a lot of experience. But I've read dozens of
plays! I know many roles by heart, including every one of Shakespeare's heroines. Let me recite
something for you"
The man laughed. "Reading a play doesn't make you an actress."
"I'm taking acting lessons now, twice a week!" Vanessa told him. "I learn quickly, and
I'm willing to work for very little just to get experience."
The man rolled his eyes. "Apprentices we don't need," he said.
Vanessa opened her mouth to argue. Then she jumped back as the door slammed in her
Twenty minutes later she was trudging toward her rented room, wondering if her father
had been right after all. She patted her purse protectively. She had enough money to last for
several months, but she wasn't sure if she had the stamina to endure being rejected again and
again. Suddenly Vanessa looked up from her downcast thoughts, noting with surprise that the fog
had begun rolling in from the river. She shivered. The late afternoon was cold for September. It
would be good to get home.
Then Vanessa saw a sign she hadn't noticed before: The Vauxhall Theatre Company.
From the look of the building, she could tell it wasn't one of the more respectable theaters in the
city. It was small, and paint was peeling in long curls from the facade. Vanessa shook her head.
She would ignore the Vauxhall Theatre and continue home. She was planning to heat water to
soak her aching feet before retiring early to bed.
Vanessa bit her lip and stopped walking. She couldn't afford to be picky. With no
experience and no contacts in the theater world, she had to be willing to work anywhere she
could. A small role at the Vauxhall could lead to a bigger role. And that could lead to a role at
one of the better-known theaters. She knocked on the door.
To her surprise, an assistant took her immediately up a narrow staircase to the office of
the theater director, Mr. Possum. Vanessa was glad to get inside out of the damp chill. But she
had to admit that the director's looks weren't impressive. Mr. Possum was fat and balding, and
his teeth were rotting so badly that she longed to cover her nose with a handkerchief to filter out

the smell of his breath. Mr. Possum looked her up and down, the way many of the other directors
had. But his cold, beady-eyed appraisal gave her chills.
She sat when he told her to. It didn't matter what he looked like. This man was a theater
director, and he was willing to speak with her. Most of the others had made her stand in the
doorway. Vanessa clutched her purse on her knees, grateful for something to occupy her hands.
She answered the usual questions and braced herself for the inevitable rejection. Instead Mr.
Possum smiled broadly.
"We consider ourselves a teaching theater," he explained, "a place where young actresses
of obvious potential can gain experience. I believe you have that potential. I can always spot it
right off."
Vanessa wanted to leap from her chair and dance around the room. "Does that mean I
have a job?"
"That's what it means," he confirmed. He pulled out a pocket watch and frowned. "But I
have a rehearsal right now. Can you return this evening to discuss the terms of your contract?"
"I'll be here directly after dinner!" she promised.
Mr. Possum shook his head. "That won't do. I'll be tied up with a performance. Do you
mind stopping by much latersay, after eleven?"
"That would be fine," Vanessa agreed, trying to keep the elation out of her voice. A few
minutes later she floated out of the theater, her sore feet forgotten. Outside the building she let
out a whoop that would have given her father apoplexy. Finally she was on her way.
A light shone in an upper window of the Vauxhall Theatre when Vanessa approached it
that night. The rest of the building was dark. Before she'd left her family, Vanessa had never
been outside alone at night, except on the grounds of her father's well-protected estate. Her
parents would have been horrified to know she was unchaperoned and on foot. But hiring a
carriage cost money, and Vanessa's funds had to last until she could support herself.
She knocked and then shifted her weight from one foot to the other, tense with
excitement and the cold. Nobody answered. Vanessa pulled her embroidered jacket tighter
around her bodice and overskirt. The yellowish fog was so thick that the fringes on her jacket
were dripping. She knocked on the door again, harder, praying that her interview wasn't some
sort of cruel joke. Then she tried the latch, and the door swung inward.
Vanessa shrugged. It was too cold to stand on the doorstep all night. And the lighted
window seemed to be the one in the theater director's office. She stepped inside.
The front office was pitch black. Vanessa shuddered, suddenly filled with misgiving. She
opened the door behind her, and light from the gas lamp outside cast a flickering glow over the
room. She shook her head, silently berating herself for being afraid of the dark. It was a perfectly
ordinary room. Of course, Mr. Possum was the only person here, with the evening's performance
concluded. Nobody would waste precious gas to light parts of a building that weren't in use.
"Mr. Possum?" she called up the dark staircase.
"Vanessa Saxton?" came his voice, reverberating in the empty building. "Is that you? Join
me upstairs. We'll speak in my office."
Vanessa shut the front door again, took a breath as deep as her corset would allow, and
marched up the stairs, her birdcage-shaped crinoline catching on both sides of the narrow
passage as she moved. Vanessa relaxed a little when she stepped into Mr. Possum's office. A gas
lantern shed a comforting glow through the room. A coal stove in one corner was blazing with
cozy heat. Mr. Possum smiled encouragingly, shook her hand, and motioned her to a couchan

ancient chesterfield covered with a cheap, rough fabric. He perched on the edge of his desk to
face her.
"I want to thank you again for giving me this chance, sir," Vanessa began, setting her
purse beside her on the cushion. "You don't know how much it means to me."
"Oh, I suspect I'll get more out of our relationship than you will, Miss Saxton," the
theater director said. "As I said, I can always spot young talent when I see it."
He smiled again, his few remaining teeth discolored and misshaped. Excitement and
disgust warred in Vanessa's mind, but she resolved to be professional. After all, she reminded
herself, I am an actress now. Certainly she could act as if the man were slim and handsome and
didn't have gravy stains on his waistcoat. "About my contract" she began.
"I'm not much for paperwork," Mr. Possum admitted. "We have a written contract, of
course. But it's quite standard. Nothing we need to spend more than a moment on. What I had in
mind for tonight was just getting to know you a little better, my deaf."
Vanessa smiled weakly. "How nice," she said.
"Would you like some sherry?"
"No, thank you, sir. But I would like to get the terms of employment clear in my mind. I
know this must seem routine to you. But it's all new to me."
Mr. Possum slid off the desk and sat beside Vanessa on the scratchy couch. He patted her
hand. "Don't worry about a thing, darling," he said. "You just put yourself in my hands. I'll teach
you everything you need to know."
Vanessa tried to pull her hand away, but Mr. Possum grabbed it. His sour breath was hot
on her face. "I think you have the wrong idea about me," she told him, growing alarmed. His
hand gripped her wrist like a shackle.
"I have the idea that you desperately long to be an actress," he said, slipping his other arm
around her shoulders. "I can cast you in any role you want. But first you have to show me you
have the talent. And the desire."
He leaned forward to kiss her. Horrified, Vanessa jerked her head away. "Let go of me!"
she screamed. She jumped to her feet, but his big hand still crushed her wrist.
"Don't be a fool!" he hissed. "I can make your career."
Vanessa swung at him with her free arm, catching him in the jaw. He dropped her hand
and staggered back with a yell. Vanessa grabbed her purse from the chesterfield. Then she lifted
her skirts and ran out his office, down the stairs, and into the street.
"You'll never make it as an actress!" his voice called after her in the night, accusing.
"You don't have what it takes!"
"How could I have been such a ninny?" Vanessa mumbled to herself as she marched
down the fog-shrouded street. "I should have known what he really wanted!"
She was so intent on putting distance between herself and Mr. Possum that she barely
glanced around her. But the fog was becoming so thick that she wouldn't have seen much
anyway. She stepped in something soft and made a face. Horse dung, from the smell of it. She
slowed her pace only slightly to wipe the sole of her shoe on the pulverized stone that paved the
street. Just that morning Vanessa had felt worldly and grown-up, living in the city by herself.
Now she knew she'd been deceiving herself; she was vulnerable and naive. An angry tear slipped
from her eye.
"Maybe Father was right," she admitted to the fog. It swallowed her words as soon as she
spoke them. Vanessa's steps slowed. "Maybe becoming an actress was a foolish dream. I can still

go back to Elliot Arms and do as my father wishes. I can marry Stephen Worthington, if he'll still
have me, and become a proper baroness."
She wiped away another tear. As she did the silver ring on her finger caught a glint of
reflected light from some source.
Suddenly Vanessa heard her mother's voice. Work hard to make your dream come true,
Sophie had told her. Remember the importance of following your heart. If she gave up on her
dream without a fight, she would never forgive herself. And she would be betraying the memory
of her mother's dream, as well as throwing away her own dream.
"I'll stay and keep trying," she resolved. Suddenly she felt a new determination sputtering
into flame deep inside her, like a tiny candle. She clutched her purse tightly. "I will be an
actress," she vowed. "And nothing will stand in my way."
Suddenly Vanessa stopped. Lost in thought and blanketed by fog, she had wandered too
far south of her route home. She could hear the muffled lapping of the Thames River only a few
blocks away. A sick feeling washed over her. She was too close to the docks, in a section of town
where she'd have felt unsafe walking by herself during the daytime, let alone after midnight. She
peered into the drifting fog, trying to determine exactly where she was. Rickety two- and threestory buildings loomed up, invisible until she was quite close to them. Most were shuttered.
Where she could see the gleam of glass windows, the panes were broken into shards.
In Vanessa's experience London was a noisy city, raucous with late night partygoers and
tavern patrons. But this part of the city seemed unnaturally quiet, with no sound except the
lapping of the river, the rhythmic mourning of a stray cat, and an occasional bout of yelling
somewhere in the distance.
Vanessa saw a light flickering on the next block and hurried toward it, grateful to have
found one of the few gas lamps in this part of town. Perhaps in its glow she'd be able to make out
a street sign. As she crossed the street to reach the lamp she dragged her hem in a puddle. The
silk slapped against her ankle, cold and fish wet through her stockings. She let out a cry of
"Well, who do we have here?" said a loud voice.
Vanessa froze. Two huge, rough-looking men stood under the streetlight. Tendrils of fog
chased across their images as if the street were a stage setting for the ghost of Hamlet's father.
Vanessa began backing away.
"Well, Zeb," replied the taller man, stepping toward Vanessa with a wide grin on his face.
"She's dressed like a lady, but I ain't never seen a real lady in these parts."
"Not bloody likely at this time o' the night, Reuben," his companion agreed, following his
friend toward Vanessa. "Only one kind of girl walks alone on these streets so late."
Vanessa turned, hitched up her skirts, and ran, cursing the stiff crinoline that hampered
her movements. Behind her the men were running too.
"Just a minute there, sweetheart!" one of them called. Vanessa felt rough hands on her
shoulders. Her body was jerked around to face them.
"She's awful pretty for a common strumpet," Reuben said with a laugh.
Vanessa struggled against the men's groping hands. "Let me go!" she screamed as
Reuben fumbled with the buttons on her collar. "Let me go!"
"Aye, she's a feisty one," said Zeb, slipping a filthy, hairy hand over her mouth. "Hold
still, little girl. This won't hurt a bit."
Vanessa bit his hand, and Zeb yelled in pain.

"You're going to be sorry ye did that," Reuben told her, leering at her with yellowed,
angry eyes.
Then Zeb slammed her in the temple with his heavy fist. Pain rocketed through her head,
and Vanessa crumpled to the wet pavement. She faded from consciousness as the men's rough
hands began to tear at her jacket.

A man's hand rested on Vanessa's forehead. She gasped and tried to struggle, but her head
felt so heavy. Vaguely she noticed that her hair was damp. Maybe that's why my head feels
heavy, she thought groggily. But her eyelids were heavy too. As her mind began to clear she
realized she was lying on the wet street on her back, her crinoline raising her skirt like a lopsided
"It's all right, lass," whispered a man's voice.
"Let me go!" she tried to scream, but the sound came out as a whisper.
"Shhh," he said soothingly. "You're safe now. Nobody's going to hurt you."
Vanessa's eyelids fluttered open. The fog seemed thinner; the light from the nearby gas
lamp illuminated the street corner. Vanessa realized that she was staring into a pair of gentle
hazel eyes.
"The two men who waylaid you have gone," the young man told her. "On the next block
'twas I when I heard you scream. They run off as soon as they spied me coming."
Vanessa's hands flew to her jacket. The collar was torn and the top button opened. But
the brutish men had gotten no further than that.
"I'm beholden to you, sir," she whispered, trying to sit up without letting her crinoline fly
into an even more embarrassing position. Her pantalets were probably showing, but it didn't
seem to matter. The hazel-eyed man kept his eyes on her face. He placed an arm around her
shoulders and helped her sit up.
"Forgive me for not introducing myself sooner," he said. "Patrick O'Sullivan is my
name." He looked to be in his midtwenties, with reddish hair, a strong build, and very broad
Gradually Vanessa noticed the man's uniform and recognized the tall, stiff hat that lay
beside her in the street. "You're a bobby!" she told the young police officer. Instantly she
regretted the inane remark. He must think me a dolt.
Patrick O'Sullivan didn't seem to mind. "At your service, missy," he said with a smile.
"Perhaps I should take ye to a physician. 'Tis a nasty bump on your head, that is."
Vanessa shook her head, and a stab of pain made her wince. "No," she said. "Would you
just help me home, please? I rent a room off of Fleet Street."
"You live by your lonesome, do you?"
Vanessa nodded. "I can pay to hire a carriage, if you'd be kind enough to help me find
one" Then a sinking realization almost toppled her backward again. Patrick's hand on her back
steadied her. "My reticule!" she whispered, groping for her purse in disbelief. "They've stolen my
"Don't be worrying yourself, missy," Patrick said in his soothing Irish brogue. "I'll get
you to safety."
"You don't understand!" she cried, panicked. "All my money was in that reticule. Every
quid from my mother! It was supposed to last through the winter!"
"Hush now, lass," Patrick said smoothly. " 'Tis me own mother I'll take you to. I'd feel a
mite safer seeing you somewhere where there are folks that can keep an eye on you."
"But my purse!" Vanessa repeated, sobbing.
"RememberI'm a constable," the young bobby assured her. "If there's a way to get your
purse back, I'll surely find it. In the meantime I won't brook no argument. You're coming home
with me." As he reached for her hand to help her up, the light flashed off the plain silver band on
her finger. "It's a marvel those hooligans didna take your pretty ring," he remarked.

"Oh," Vanessa gasped, closing her free hand around the ring in sudden relief. "Oh, I'm so
glad." And then she burst into tears.
A fortnight later Vanessa threw open the door of the O'Sullivans's modest home near
Charing Cross. Patrick and his mother stood in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal.
"I got the job at the milliner's shop!" Vanessa announced excitedly. "I'm sure it must have
been the kind words you spoke of me."
"Poppycock!" Maggie O'Sullivan said with a wave of her large wooden spoon. "The
owner hired you because she could see that you're a likely lass and a willing worker."
Patrick took Vanessa's hand. "Congratulations," he said. His warm eyes shone with
happiness. "I promise I'll bring Mother next week to buy from you a new hat."
"Thank you both for being such good friends to me," Vanessa said. "But now that my
injury has healed and I'm employed, I should stop imposing on your hospitality. I plan to start
searching tomorrow for an affordable room."
"Nonsense!" Patrick said. "I won't hear of it. You should be staying here with us until
you're back on your feet."
"I am on my feet," Vanessa said. "I have a job, remember?"
Mrs. O'Sullivan shook her head. "But you haven't a copper farthing to your name, lass,"
she reminded Vanessa. "I wish to heavens that Patrick here could've nabbed the hooligans that
made off with your purse. Without your savings, it'll be months afore you can enroll again in
your acting classes if you have to be paying for room."
"She's right, 'Nessa," Patrick said, running a hand through his thick auburn hair. "We
have the spare room, empty since me sister Caitlin up and married last year. You might as well
continue here, at least through the winter."
Vanessa looked from Patrick to his mother and then around the neat, cozy kitchen. After
two weeks it felt more like home than Elliot Arms ever had. "All right," she agreed. "I'll stay for
a while."
Mrs. O'Sullivan had retired to bed. The heat from the fireplace bathed Vanessa's face in
warmth. Beside her on the couch Patrick's features shone orange in the reflected glow. Vanessa's
back was cold in the chill of late Decemberexcept for the slight, warm pressure of Patrick's
arm across the top of the couch, just barely touching her shoulders. Suddenly the feel of it there
made Vanessa uneasy. She leaned forward to stir the fire.
"Thank you for such a wonderful Christmas," she said, poking at the massive Yule log. "I
don't remember when I've had a happier one."
"Surely you've known better at your fancy country estate," Patrick said easily. Not a trace
of envy tinged his voice.
Vanessa shook her head. "No," she said slowly. She gazed around the room at the simple
Christmas tree in the corner, candles sparkling from its branches, and at the sprigs of holly
decorating the mantel shelf. She thought of the elaborate decorations that adorned every surface
at Elliot Arms at Christmas. "It was fancier, I suppose," she admitted. "But I like this much
"Tell me what it was like there," he urged.
"We always had grand meals and formal parties and such, but it was all so stuffy,"
Vanessa said. "It seems as if the point was never to celebrate with love and joy but to offer a
more spectacular feast at dinner than the one Aunt Melanie served at lunch."

Patrick laughed. "A mite tiresome is what it sounds," he agreed.

"Thank you for showing me a better way," she said, meaning it with all her heart. "Not
just Christmas, but everything. I can never repay the kindness you and your mother have offered
"Think nothing of it, lassie," Patrick said, his arm tightening around her shoulders again.
"You've repaid me tenfold." He gazed into her eyes, and Vanessa felt a pang of misgiving.
"Vanessa," he continued, his voice dropping to a nervous whisper, "you must be knowing that I
love you."
"Really I do," he said. "I thought I had nary a chance, what with your background. But
you've been happy here. It's plain to see. And nothing would please me more than to have you
Vanessa opened her mouth, but she couldn't speak.
"What I'm trying to say in me own awkward way is this," Patrick said, blushing. "Will
you marry me, 'Nessa?"
Vanessa stared into the fire, shocked. She tried to sort through her racing thoughts and
fluttering emotions. Patrick was a good manthe best she'd ever known. He truly cared about
her, and he'd shown her a life full of peace and meaning. But marriage was supposed to be about
love, as in Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night's Dream. She was grateful to Patrick. But
did she love him? If she married him for any other reason, would it be any different from
marrying Stephen Worthington at her father's insistence?
I do love Patrick, she told herself. And it was true. But she loved him in the way she
imagined she'd love a brother. Was that the kind of love that made a marriage? She rubbed her
mother's ring on her finger as if it could connect her with Sophie's memories of true love. The
love Vanessa felt for Patrick seemed so different from the bond between Henry and Sophie. Or
Romeo and Juliet.
And what of her dream? If she married Patrick, would she be giving up her hopes of
becoming an actress? He said he supported her dream. But she'd have a house to take care of and
a husband to feed. And then the babies would come. On the other hand, she'd been trying for five
months to break into acting. Mr. Possum's theater was the closest she'd come to getting a job
and the price there had been higher than she was willing to pay. Maybe she'd tried long enough.
Maybe it was time to grow up and forge a new dream for herself.
Patrick's face was sad. " 'Tis sorry I am," he said softly. "I've upset you."
Vanessa looked into the eyes of the sweet, gentle man who had saved her life and then
given her a new one. "No, I'm not upset," she assured him. "I'm just surprised. And confused."
Patrick dropped to his knees and took her hand in his. "I can't promise you elegant gowns
and a country estate," he said. "I haven't even bought a ring; together we can look for one next
week. What I can promise is to love you and do me best to make you happy."
Vanessa nodded slowly. Romeo and Juliet were fictional characters. Maybe the warmth
and friendship she felt for Patrick was enough to make her happy. "Yes, Patrick," she decided
slowly. "I would be honored to be your wife."
She smiled at his joy. But deep inside, Vanessa felt a hollow ache. In the light of the fire
her silver ring gleamed orange.
Vanessa held two peacock tips in her mouth as she pinned a striped ribbon around the
low crown of a ladies' hat. She plucked the feathers from her mouth and carefully arranged them

to fall gracefully over the brim. Vanessa had never expected to enjoy her work in the milliners
shop so much, especially the more artistic side of the business. But she had soon discovered that
she loved the work. That morning, the day after Christmas, Mrs. Banks, the milliner, had stepped
out to meet with a customer, and Vanessa was alone in the shop.
The door opened, and a young man, tall and slender, strolled into the shop. He looked
about thirty. And he moved as gracefully as the dancers she'd seen in a ballet she'd attended with
her parents. That had been less than a year earlier, but it seemed like a lifetime away. She
straightened her shoulders, adopted her cultured shopgirl accent, and smiled at the black-haired
man. "May I help you, sir?" she asked.
"Yes," the man said, holding up a sheet of printed paper. "My name is Grady Philips. I
was wondering if I could put a circular in your shop window. It's an announcement about some
positions I have open, and I believe this neighborhood might draw some likely applicants."
"I'm afraid I can't give you permission, Mr. Philips," Vanessa apologized. "The owner
will be back around noon. I would be happy to ask her if you'd like to leave a paper with me."
"Thank you, miss," he said, sliding one of the circulars across the counter. Vanessa idly
read the first line. Her heart began to pound in her chest. The announcement was for positions in
a traveling theater troupepositions for one actor and one actress. Vanessa's sophisticatedsalesgirl act fell from her shoulders like a cloak. Her eyes raced across the page.
"Is something wrong, miss?" the man asked.
Vanessa looked up, embarrassed. Then she stopped. Grady Philips had the deepest blue
eyes she had ever seenas blue as the markings on the peacock feathers in the hat she was
decorating. She caught her breath.
"No, nothing's wrong, Mr. Philips," Vanessa said, her thumb unconsciously rubbing the
silver ring. She hesitated a moment but then rushed right in. Deep down, she knew this could be
her last chance to follow her dream. "I see that you're looking for a young actress. I am an
actress. I mean, I want to be. I don't have much experience, but I know I have the talent. Acting
is the only thing I've ever wanted to do." Vanessa knew she was fumbling for words, but
something in the man's eyes told her he didn't mind her awkwardness.
He looked at her appraisingly "You're not acting now, are you?" he asked.
Vanessa shook her head. "No," she said firmly. "This is me. The shopgirl from a few
minutes agothat was acting. I'm a bit shy around customers. It's easier if I pretend I'm playing
a role. But when it comes to my love of the theater, I'm completely sincere."
He nodded. "I believe you're right about one thing," he said slowly. "You do have talent.
I don't mind developing untried talent."
"So you'll give me a chance?" Vanessa asked.
"My troupe is a small, struggling one," he replied, evading her question. "But we have
tour dates lined up through the next year, with a heavy schedule of classicseverything from
Shakespeare back to the Greeks, as well as some modern works. I can only consider people who
have basic knowledge of the major plays. We leave London the day after New Year's to tour the
continent. That's only a week away; we've no time to educate a novice in the repertoire."
"I know every line of Juliet, Portia, Began, Ophelia, and Titania," Vanessa said, her voice
quiet but intense. "I can do Antigone. I've read the plays of Gogol, Goldsmith, Euripides, and
Aristophanes. I've sketched my own costume designs for every role in The Magic Flute. And I've
written a script for a stage adaptation of Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur." She took a deep breath
before continuing. "Mr. Philips, the theater means everything to me. Everything."

As she spoke, Vanessa saw the fire in her own heart reflected in the man's remarkable
eyes. And she knew she had found a kindred spirit. Grady Philips was as passionate about the
stage as she was. "Tell me about it," he said.
"I left my home and parents last summer to come to London to become an actress," she
said, trying to keep her breathing steady. "I've been taking acting classes. But I had to accept a
job at this shop until I can find work on the stage."
Grady Philips smiled. "I think you just found it," he said.
Patrick stared, concerned, at Vanessa's tense face as she led him across the frost-sprinkled
lawn of Trafalgar Square the night after Christmas. Something was bothering her greatly.
"A mite chilly it seems for a stroll," he said lightly, admiring the pink of her cheeks in the
cold. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather be sitting in front of a nice warm fire?"
Vanessa shook her head. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. "But I
had to talk to you alone."
Patrick was alarmed and mystified. "Easy, lassie. 'Twill be all right in the end, whatever it
Vanessa led him to a wooden bench and pulled him down beside her. She was shivering.
Patrick tried to encircle her narrow shoulders with his arm, but she shrugged him away. He
waited for her to speak. Around them people conversed; carriages rattled by along Pall Mall,
their horses' hooves clopping against the pavement. But those sounds seemed muffled, drowned
out by the crunching of frozen tufts of grass at Vanessa's feet as she fidgeted with the toe of her
" 'Nessa, darling. Please tell me what's hurting you so," he said gently. "You're scaring
When Vanessa turned to him, her brown eyes were full of tears. "I'm so sorry, Patrick. I
hope you can forgive me someday."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Vanessa didn't want to hurt Patrick, who had been kinder to her than any man she'd ever
known. But she had to be true to herself. She had to follow her dream.
"I'm leaving London," she said, staring at the ground. "I'm leaving you."
A week later tears streamed down Vanessa's face as she said her final good-byes to
Patrick and Maggie O'Sullivan. Patrick's eyes looked hurt and bewildered, as they had since she
told him she was leaving. But he knew she was doing what she had to do. And he loved her too
much to make it harder for her.
Vanessa walked toward the train station, where she would meet up with the rest of the
troupe. "To thine own self be true," she whispered, quoting from Hamlet. She had been deceiving
herselfand Patrickwhen she imagined she could be happy with a permanent role as an urban
housewife. She needed the smell of greasepaint, not of cabbage and diapers.
In her mind her mother's voice urged her to chase her dream. Vanessa raised her hand to
her lips and gently kissed the silver ring. "I am, Mama," she told the silver ring. "I'm going to be
an actress, and I'm going to make you proud of me."
She gulped the cold, exhilarating air of the new year. It was 1852, and Vanessa Saxton
was finally on her way.

On a warm evening in July, Vanessa breathed the fresh sea air and gazed over the rolling
waves of the Mediterranean. Its teal surface reflected a rainbow of color from the sunset, looking
more like a painted backdrop than a real place. Free from the constraints of Victorian England,
she walked barefoot in the sand, her sandals dangling from one hand. She'd left the hated
crinoline in her hotel room, and her cotton dress fluttered behind her in the breeze. She grasped
Grady's arm and sighed with pleasure. "It's marvelous to have an evening free," she said, leaning
close so her voice would carry above the wind and waves. "San Remo is beautiful at night."
"So are you, my dear," he said, kissing her on the forehead. "You were wonderful in
today's matinee. I've never seen a more convincing Titania in any production of A Midsummer
Night's Dream."
She squeezed his arm. "It helps to have the world's greatest director," she told him
sincerely. Since January, Grady had become more than a colleague; Vanessa had fallen in love
with him. And though they'd never said the words, she was sure he felt the same way. Some
things didn't need to be spoken. "You've taught me so much, Grady."
"You've taught yourself," he corrected. "I just had the good sense to cast you."
"Have I told you A Midsummer Night's Dream was the first play I ever attended?" she
asked. "My parents took me to see it in London on my sixteenth birthday, exactly six years ago
today. I knew from that night on that acting was the only thing I wanted to do."
"Then it's fitting that it should be your first major role," Grady said. "The first of many.
You are going to be a major star. But there's something else I wanted to speak with you about."
He stopped to face her and pulled a small box from his jacket.
"What's that?" Vanessa asked.
"A birthday present."
"That's terribly sweet of you, Grady. But you've given me my career. And the Italian
Riviera. I don't need any other gifts."
"Yes, you do," Grady said nervously. "You need this one."
She opened the box and her eyes widened. "Oh, Grady!" she breathed, stunned by the
exquisite ring of diamonds and rubies in a setting of antique gold. "It's gorgeous!"
"It's an engagement ring," he said, quickly-plucking it from the box. He slid it onto her
finger. "Will you marry me, Vanessa?"
"Yes!" she exclaimed without a moment's hesitation. She threw her arms around him and
melted against his lean body. When they kissed, Vanessa knew she'd been right to wait for true
A moment later she pulled away and looked up into his clear blue eyes. "You don't mind
if I continue to wear my mother's silver ring on my other hand, do you?"
"Of course not," he assured her. "I know how much it means to you."
"I suppose I don't even need it any longer as a reminder not to give up on my dreams. As
of this minute every dream I've ever had has been fulfilled. But I'd still like to wear the ring, until
I can give it to our own daughter one day."
Grady nodded. "You have no idea how good it feels to hear you speak of our children."
"It feels good to me too," Vanessa assured him. She hesitated. "But Grady, I mean, I don't
want to pry. But that engagement ring must have cost a fortune. I know hard you've worked to
make the theater troupe a success. I don't need"
Remarkably, Grady laughed. "I haven't been completely honest with you, Vanessa," he
said. "The truth is that I'm not the poor, struggling young actor and director I've made myself out
to be."

"Whatever do you mean?" she asked, confused.

"Don't look so concerned, darling," he said. "It's nothing sinister, though for some reason
I find it all quite embarrassing."
Vanessa held her breath, prepared to forgive him for nearly any transgression.
"Actually," he said, "I come from a titled family. My father is a marquess, with
frightfully enormous landholdings in the English countryside. I'll have a title and quite a bit of
money coming to me."
Now it was Vanessa's turn to laugh. And she laughed so hard that tears came to her eyes.
"That's not exactly the reaction I expected," Grady admitted.
Vanessa wiped her eyes. "You're not the only one who's hiding a secret," she informed
him. "My father's an earl! He has a dreadfully ostentatious estate, a town house in London, and
enough money to buy the crown jewels."
"And you're his heir?" Grady asked, laughing with her.
"I'm not sure," she said with a shrug. "I expected to be disinherited when I left home. But
I daresay that marrying a marquess's son might put me back in my father's good graces."
"I knew there was something that made us soul matessomething that runs even deeper
than our passion for the stage," Grady said softly.
The sky was dark now. The reflected lights of town shot through the waves like gold
thread in a tapestry. And Vanessa and Grady stood for a long time, arms intertwined, watching a
silver crescent of moon rise over the Mediterranean.
"I can't believe the way everything has worked out," Vanessa said softly. "It seems like a
wonderful dream."
"A midsummer night's dream," Grady added, and he leaned down to kiss her.

January 1861. A plantation in Georgia.
"When do you think we'll hear the news from Atlanta?" asked fourteen-year-old Sanford
Patman as he held tightly to the reins of the black-and-gold buggy.
"Tonight, I daresay," replied his older brother, James, his dark brown hair blowing in the
breeze. Judging from the sun through the magnolia leaves, James guessed it was sometime after
three o'clock; the chilly shadows of January were already lengthening on the tree-lined road to
the Patman plantation house.
"If Georgia secedes from the Union, do you think it will lead to war?" Sanford asked.
James ignored the question. It was too painful to think about. "Ease up on the bit," he said
instead. "You're pulling too hard on the lines."
Sanford shook his head. "I know what I'm doing!" he insisted. "Remember, Father was a
horse trainer in England before he moved here. He taught me to break horses while you were up
north last year getting educated."
"Father was a stable hand, not a trainer," James corrected. "And I'd hardly call Virginia
the North. Mr. Jefferson himself founded the University of Virginia."
Sanford rolled his eyes. "I know, I know," he said, as if he'd heard it all before. "And now
all the cream of Southern 'gentlemanhood' goes there to learn Latin, mathematics, and the art of
drinking peach brandy. Well, I'm glad I'm not a scholar like you. You can keep your book
learning. Give me an ale and a stable full of good horses any day."
"What about running the plantation?" James asked, suddenly serious. "Father is fifty-six
years old. He's in good health, but he won't be forever. What if it were up to you to manage
Enchanted Meadows and keep the accounts?" James sat quietly beside his brother, but his
posture was tense, as if much were riding on Sanford's reply.
"I reckon I'd louse it up royally," Sanford said with a laugh, "the way I louse up anything
that don't require a horse or a gun. That's why we've got you around, big brother. I figure on
letting you take care of the business end of Enchanted Meadows. You're the oldest; it's only
"And what do you plan to do?" James asked, his voice strained.
Sanford shrugged. "I'll look after the livestock, train the horses, and do a little hunting.
Maybe help you capture a runaway Negro from time to time. You know I'd rather break a colt
than break open an account book any day."
James sighed. The state legislature might have already voted to split off from the United
States. Even if secession was voted down today, James knew in his heart that it would happen
eventually. And when it did, he would have to choose sides. It would be a sight easier to tell his
father if he knew Sanford could be counted on.
James felt an irrational anger toward his younger brother. "I said to ease up on those
reins!" James ordered sharply. "You'll hurt the horses' mouths."
"I don't care if you turned twenty-one last week!" Sanford yelled back, his gray eyes
flashing. "Father said it was up to me to break this team to the buggy. And I say these Morgans
have to learn who's bossjust like the damn Yankees do!"
"Don't tell me you're for this secessionist rot too!" James replied. "President Lincoln is
right. We must preserve the Union above all else."
"Why?" Sanford asked. "What did the cussed government ever do for us?"
"We're all Americans, aren't we?"

Sanford ran a hand through his light brown hair. "We're Georgians first!" he declared.
"Lincoln and the rest of those northern Republicans and abolitionists have no right to tell
Georgians how to run our lives! I can't hold with that."
"But the abolitionists are right about slavery!" James said. "It's a sin and an abomination
for one person to own another!"
"Now you sound like that crazy ruffian John Brown," Sanford scoffed. "Father says
hanging old Osawatomie was the only sensible thing the government's done since all this
antislavery ruckus started. Too bad they couldn't hang the rest of the abolitionists with him!"
James reeled as if he'd been slapped. Sanford was only a boy! How could he have
developed such hatred for people he'd never met? James looked at Sanford's face, still as soft as a
child's. He saw that it wasn't hatred that made Sanford speak so. The lad was just parroting the
rhetoric he'd heard so often from their father Henry Patman, from the boys' maternal grandfather,
Macon DeVille, and from the other wealthy landowners in the county. Henry and Macon were
set in their ways, but perhaps it wasn't too late to change Sanford's views.
"Think about it, San," he said seriously. "Think about what it means to be a slave. To be
torn away from your family because of another man's whim. To be sold on an auction block like
a horse or a cow"
"Aw, James, don't go talking like one of those know-nothing Quaker cowards. You grew
up around the Negroes. You know they're not like us. Being slaves is what they're born for."
"Who are you to decide what another man is born for?" James asked quietly.
"I'm a white male landowner," Sanford said, without a trace of conflict in his voice.
"Same as you. And it's about time you remembered it."
James closed his eyes and shook his head. Neither brother spoke again for the rest of the
A few hours later the evening meal was over. The menJames, Henry, and Macon
retired to the library for an hour to smoke, drink toddies, and talk of politics and horses. Sanford,
to his chagrin, was considered too young to be counted one of them.
The conversation this night ranged around the usual subjects, but all three men were
listening for the clatter of hoofbeats outside. Ashley Armbruster of Live Oaks Plantation had
promised to ride hard to bring back the results of the vote for or against secession.
Henry was the first to hear the rider approaching. His black hair had thinned and become
streaked with silver during his years running the Georgia plantation. But he jumped to his feet as
quickly as a man half his age. James rose more tentatively, dreading the news. Between them
Macon DeVille remained seated in his wheelchair, but the old man's posture stiffened. Henry's
father-in-law was going deaf, but his mind was as sharp as ever.
"Why doesn't he come inside?" Macon demanded, though the hoofbeats were still
pounding up the drive.
"Give him a moment to rein in," James replied. "And he might want to take care of his
horse first." Secretly he hoped Ashley gave his mount an especially thorough rubdown. As long
as James didn't know what had been decided by the state legislature in Atlanta, he could put off
his own stand. He felt a sudden chill and moved closer to the fireplace.
James watched his father pace across the handsomely appointed room. Henry was tense
too, but he would welcome the news of secession as James could not. Like many wealthy
landowners in Georgia, Henry Patman had been pushing for it since Lincoln's election the
previous fall. Now it seemed the time could be here. Would Georgia cut itself loose from the

United States, as four Southern states had done in recent weeks? And if that happened, would it
lead to war?
In a way, James envied his father. Henry Patman always seemed so sure of himself, so
secure in his convictions. Henry had come to Georgia more than twenty years earlier with no
connections and no familyjust the deed to a rundown plantation called Enchanted Meadows.
Before the year was done, he'd married Lacey DeVille, the only heir to the Magnolia Ridge
estate and a vast fortune. It was an astonishingly good match for a man of no background. Henry
had worked hard to improve his holdings and prove himself, and his father-in-law, Macon, had
developed a genuine fondness for the younger man.
Macon had even paid for a grand tour of Europe for Henry and Lacey back in 1852.
James remembered the tales his mother had told him about the trip. They explored Paris, toured
the ruins at Athens, and attended a Shakespeare play on the Italian Riviera. Lacey had thought it
odd when Henry refused to set foot in England, his homeland. But he hadn't explained his
reluctance, and she hadn't pushed the issue.
In the twenty-two years since he'd come to Georgia, Henry had built Enchanted Meadows
into a legacy worthy of passing on to his sons. James knew that his parents' hopes for the
plantation's future centered on him. Now he might be forced to dash those hopes. In the hall
Ashley's hurried footsteps were approaching.
The library door opened, and Angus, the black-skinned butler, appeared in his
impeccable uniform. "Master Patman," announced Angus, "Mr. Armbruster is here."
Ashley rushed into the room, out of breath. James was the only one who noticed Sanford
slip in behind him. Ashley's hair and clothing were disheveled from his long ride. His jaw was
"What is it?" Henry demanded, unable to wait any longer. "How did the legislature
"It's done," Ashley panted. "Georgia has seceded from the Union."
James collapsed into his chair, suddenly as exhausted as if he had made Ashley's long
journey himself. He'd thought he had prepared himself for the news of secession. But it
overwhelmed him just the same.
"What?" Macon barked. "Henry, what did he say?"
Ashley repeated the news in a louder voice for the old man.
"What happens next?" James asked, heartsick.
"That makes five states," Henry said, repeating what they all knew. "South Carolina,
Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and now Georgia. Is there any word on the others?"
Ashley nodded. "Mr. Stephens, the former congressman, believes that Louisiana, Texas,
and even Tennessee may follow shortly," he said.
"Alexander Stephens!" Henry said with a sneer. "I suppose he voted against secession.
And to think he's been a guest in this very house. The man is a traitor to his homeland!"
"Yes, he did vote against secession," Ashley said. "He wanted to preserve the Union. But
when the vote went the other way, he agreed to stand with Georgia."
"We don't need any of his kind!" Macon pronounced from his chair.
"I wish to God we didn't," Henry said tersely. "But Georgia will need every able-bodied
man and every man of cool judgment and good breeding. Mark my words. It will come to war."
"We'll pound those Yankees from here to Boston Harbor!" Sanford burst out. "Let me
join up, Father!" he begged.
James was aghast.

"You're only fourteen," Henry reminded his younger son. "And the conflict won't last
more than a few months."
Macon shook his head. "The South can win this war easily. There's no need to send
children into battle."
"I'm not a child!" Sanford protested, but nobody was listening.
"Must it end in war?" James asked hesitantly. "Is there no way to avoid battle and
"There is one way to avoid it!" Henry thundered. "Abe Lincoln can let Southerners
exercise our God-given right to run our affairs any way we wantas part of the Union or not.
And the Quaker abolitionists can stop trying to usurp our rights to our own property!"
"But Father," James said quietly. "The property you refer to is human beings."
"What?" Macon cried. "What did he say?" Nobody answered him.
"You're young and idealistic, son," Henry told James. "You don't yet understand the ways
of the world. Perhaps that's my fault. I should have allowed you a more active part in running
this plantation. We own two hundred fifty Negro slaves at Enchanted Meadows. Slave labor is
essential to the economy of the Southand to our way of life!"
"What about their way of life?" James asked.
"Slavery is all the Negroes knowit's all they're capable of!" Henry insisted.
"Now, perhaps," James said. "But with education"
"Silence, boy!" Henry shouted. Even Macon looked up in surprise at his tone. "I will not
hear any more of this sedition under my own roof! It's admirable that you have humanitarian
instincts for these poor, inferior creatures. But all this talk about education and freedom for them
next you'll be supporting rights for ladies, like those ill-bred, bloomer-wearing Yankee
"You were a Yankee yourself!" James reminded him.
"I am an Englishman!" Henry corrected. "I left New York as soon as I was able. Not a
single Yankee ever treated me like I was worth a farthing. It's only in the South that I was able to
make a home. And now I intend to protect that home!"
James turned away. He stared out the window at a huge magnolia tree, its evergreen
leaves thick and glossy even in January. He loved the life at Enchanted Meadows. But he could
no longer ignore the fact that it was based on cruelty and human degradation.
"There's talk of a meeting in Montgomery, Alabama," Ashley said, "with representatives
from all the seceding states."
"For what purpose?" James asked his friend.
"To start a new country, I daresay," Ashley replied. "Set up a government and do
whatever else new countries must do."
"Organize ourselves to defend our Southern women and property!" Macon interjected. "If
Lincoln wants a war, we'll give him a war. A war for Southern independence!"
"Lincoln doesn't want a war," James explained. "He just wants to keep the country
"It's too late for that!" Henry barked. "The Union has been divided. If Lincoln thinks he
can bring us back into the fold by force, then he knows nothing of Southern courage."
"Father, we have nothing but cotton fields, rhetoric, and human chattel!" James protested.
"The North has factories, railroads, and highways, as well as the larger population and an
established government. We can't win such a war!"

"Pshaw! Any Southern soldier can lick a dozen Yankees afore lunch and still have time
for juleps!" Sanford bragged. "Who needs railroads when you've got grit?"
James lowered his voice. "Father," he said, ignoring his brother's outburst, "you speak of
Southern courage. What you really mean is Southern arrogance."
Henry lashed out and slapped him across the face.
Both men froze, stunned. To his horror, James felt tears in his eves. Macon and Sanford
watched the two excitedly, like spectators at a cockfight. But Ashley backed toward the farthest
corner of the room, as if he would like to fade into the wainscoting.
When Henry spoke again, his voice was so quiet that James had to lean forward to hear.
"Almost a hundred years ago the American colonists grew tired of living under the tyranny of a
government that refused to let them run their own lives. The rebels had only what you call
arrogance. Yet they triumphed against King Georges tyranny and his superior forces. And we
will triumph against the tyranny of Abraham Lincoln! We too will be free!"
"And what of the slaves?" James asked. "What about their freedom?"
Henry stared at his son for a full minute. Then he turned on his heel and walked to the
window. As he gazed out at the winter night the tension of his back revealed that there would be
no compromise on this point.
Ashley broke the silence. "If it comes to war, James, what will you do?" he asked quietly.
"I hoped I would not have to choose sides," James admitted sadly. "But neutrality is no
longer an option."
"Neutrality is for cowards!" Macon announced. The others stared at him. James vaguely
wondered if the old man had heard enough of the conversation to understand what was
happening. Then he wondered if he himself really understood.
Henry wheeled suddenly to face his son. "Will you not stand with us to defend your
mother and home?"
"I would defend my mother with my life," James said. "But I will not fight to defend the
shackle and the whip. And I will not fight for brave, empty words about states' rights and our
obsolete way of life."
"You will cower at home with the women and Negroes?" Sanford asked, outraged.
"I will follow my conscience," James said. "I will side with the Union."
"Against your own family?" his father implored. Suddenly his tone was bewildered,
pleading. For the first time ever James thought that his father looked old.
"If you make that the only choice," he responded.
"It's not me that's making this happen!" Henry reminded him, emphasizing every word.
"I'm not responsible for this conflict. I didn't create our world!"
"Then let go of it," James said slowly. "Not for my sake, and not for the Negroes' sake.
But for all of us. Can't you see that this is wrong? Everything we stand for is an anachronism!"
"Is honor an anachronism?" Henry asked. "Is loyalty?"
"It depends on what you honor, and where you place your loyalty," James said.
"What do you mean, boy?" asked Macon. "All this highfalutin talk is for politicians and
scholars. Say what you mean."
James took a deep breath. Although it would break his heart to say the words he was
about to speak, he knew he had to do what he believed to be right. "I mean I'll pack my things
tonight and be gone from Enchanted Meadows in the morning."

Three months later James peered through a thicket of mountain laurel. Moonlight
bounced off the surface of the Savannah River and the standing water in the surrounding
swampland. By its inconstant light James could see the long beards of moss that hung from the
branches of live oaks, a darker black against the black night.
James's companions were invisible, behind him in the thicket. But he cautioned them
with a finger to his lips. Then he slipped from his hiding place and picked his way alone through
the marsh. He noticed the misshapen stump of a tree trunk, dead and rotted, its roots submerged
in a pool of water that seemed to glow in the eerie light. He cataloged it in his mind as a
landmark, on his way to the river's edge.
The fronds of a weeping willow spilled over onto the water, forming a cavern that was
nearly hidden from view. He slid through the willow's protective foliage. The raft was still there.
And he saw no sign of a patrol. James straightened, took a deep breath, and made a harsh,
guttural croaking sound. He allowed himself a moment of pride for finally getting the croak to
come out rightexactly like the call of a great blue heron. Hope had spent hours with him,
throughout the days of their long journey, teaching him to mimic the bird's cry. Now he heard
her respond from the laurel thicket with an identical call.
A few minutes later he nodded to Hope and the other six runaway slaves near the rotted
stump. Her face and hair were so dark that he didn't see her until she was standing only a few
feet away. She was as tense as he. But she smiled at him. And for a moment the responsibility for
the lives of these people lay lighter on his shoulders.
James wished he had half her courage. Leading people seemed to come as naturally to
Hope as breathing. From the start she had eased James's burden by taking charge of the fugitives.
That left him free to concentrate on finding their way, escaping patrols, and meeting the
designated contacts. The others followed Hope without questioneven at first, when they were
still wary of James. Now she carried an infant in her arms, giving the baby's mother, Suzannah, a
rest. Little Douglass cooed, and Hope shushed him with barely a sound.
Despite the danger of their situation he found himself musing about what a good mother
Hope would makeif she ever reached a safe place where she could have a normal life. The
thought that she might not sent chills down James's spine.
This was the third time he'd conducted escaping slaves along a stretch of the
Underground Railroad and only the first time he'd done it alone. At least one of the slaves he'd
helped had later been recaptured and returned to his owner, James's grandfather, Macon DeVille
of Magnolia Ridge. Most likely that man had been beaten and then sold farther south, to one of
the notoriously cruel cotton planters on the enormous farms of the coastal plain. He couldn't bear
the thought of Hopeor any of the othersmeeting that fate.
They followed him now as he led the way through curtains of moss to the willow tree on
the riverbank. Suddenly a dog barked in the distance. Every person froze. The first hound was
joined by others. A patrol was on the runaways' trail.
"Everybody on the raft, now!" James hissed. Terror gripped him, racing through every
vein in his body, paralyzing him.
"They's fixing to set those dogs on us," whispered a field hand named Joby as the other
runaways began stepping gingerly onto the makeshift craft. The whites of his eyes shone like the
moon against the night sky. "They'll drag us back in chains."
"They'll take away my baby, same as they took my other little ones," Suzannah whispered
as she waited her turn to board the raft. The hounds' baying grew louder. Tears streamed down
the woman's face.

"Stop it!" Hope hissed, her voice no louder than the breeze. "Can't none of us be thinking
that way!" Hope handed Douglass to Suzannah, and the young mother stepped onto the log raft.
Suzannah's tears stopped.
Hope's words had cut through James's fear as well. He nodded at her in gratitude. "Hush
now, everyone!" he ordered, in control of himself once more. "The patrol's getting closer." Now
he could hear the shouts of men as they followed the dogs through the heavy undergrowth. The
patrollers' words were still unintelligible, but the meaning was clearthe hunters knew they
were close to their prey. James slid the loaded pistol from his pocket and wondered if he'd be
able to pull the trigger when it was pointed at another human being, even a slave catcher. He
hoped he wouldn't ever have to find out.
When the last runaway was onboard, James pushed off from the shore with a pole.
Willow fronds draped over their heads and shoulders, damp and soft, as the raft bobbed away
from the bank. "I'll pole us upstream a ways," he whispered into Hope's ear. "When they cross
and try to pick up our scent, they'll be searching downstream for us."
The muscles in James's arms ached as he silently poled the raft upstream, carrying the
hunched quiet group of runaway slaves into the pitch darkness. He didn't stop until he heard the
baying of the hounds fade into the distance.
Again he had managed to escape with his precious cargo. Soon he'd allow the raft to drift
downstream, trying to lead his new friends to freedom.

Several hours later James and Hope sat at a rough-hewn table in a farmhouse outside of
Pendleton, Georgia. The other runaways had eaten first. Now James could hear tentative thumps
through the floorboards as they bedded down for the night in a hidden room off the root cellar.
The baby, Douglass, let out a soft cry, which faded into restless sleep.
"You done good to get all seven of them this far," said Tuckahoe Darby, owner of the
farmhouse, which served as a depot on the Underground Railroad. "The next guide will meet
them here the day after tomorrow to lead them to the next stop, near the border."
Dorabelle Darby slid another corn dodger onto James's plate. "Eat up now," she urged.
"You're awful thin for a rich boy."
James dug in gratefully. "Any news of the world lately?" he asked.
"We've been in the woods nigh unto forever," Hope explained.
"Y'all know Georgia and the other seceded states formed the Confederacy, with Jeff
Davis as president and Alexander Stephens as vice president?" Dora asked.
James nodded. "Yep," he said. "Anything newer than that?"
The Darbys glanced at each other.
"What is it?" Hope asked.
"You ain't heard tell?" Tuckahoe asked. "The war's started."
James dropped his knife. Suddenly he was even more afraid than he'd been on the
riverbank. "Where?" he asked. "How?"
"The way we hear it," Dorabelle began, "the Confederacy tried to capture the fort at
Charleston from the Union troops that was holding it"
"That's Fort Sumter," Tuckahoe supplied. "It happened more than a week back. Nobody
was killed, but the South did take the fort."
"Since then another state done seceded and joined the Confederacy," Dora reported.
James could hardly find the breath to speak. "Which state?" he asked, dreading the
Dora and Tuckahoe looked at each other and said together, "Virginia."
James paled. Virginia, mother of presidents and cradle of independence, wielded a lot of
influence with the states that were still undecided about secession. Besides that, the Old
Dominion was a second home to him. "With Virginia on the side of the Confederates," he said
slowly, "there's no doubt that the war will be a long and hard one."
"Did any of them other places go out with Virginia?" Hope asked faintly.
"Not yet, so far as we know," Tuckahoe said. "But folks say Arkansas and North Carolina
are next."
James looked at Hope. "I was hoping you and the others would be a little safer once you
reached the border tomorrow. If North Carolina stands with the South, you'll still be in
Confederate territory. We've got to get you past the Mason-Dixon line and then on to Canada
and fast."
"Thank goodness Tennessee voted to stay with Lincoln," Dora said. "Tuck will send a
message to your next Underground Railroad contact. We'll see if we can map you a more
westerly route to steer clear of the Carolinas."
"What if Tennessee decides to go out too?" Hope asked.
James squeezed her hand. "Don't worry," he said simply. "We'll get you through
somehow." It was what they had to do, so they would do it.

Hope looked him in the eye and nodded. For an instant the eye contact made James
uncomfortable. He was unused to Negroes staring at him so brazenlyjust like his neighbors or
his family. But then Hope smiled, and his doubts disappeared. He had never noticed how
beautiful her coffee brown eyes were. Or how full of determination.
This is what freedom is all about, he thought. Taking people one by one and judging their
worth by what you see in their eyes, not by the size of their holdings or the welt marks on their
It took him a minute to realize that Tuck was speaking. "The Confederate capitals moving
from Montgomery to Richmond come May," the farmer said. "Don't know quite why. Seems like
a fool notion to me, Richmond being so close to Washington."
"If those Virginians is so all-fired important to the South," Hope reasoned, "I expect the
Confederates are just trying to keep them happy."
James nodded. "I hadn't thought of that, but you're probably right."
"Enough politics," Dora said, pushing herself up with her hands. "You two youngins look
plumb worn out. James, you can have the loft. Hope, I'm afraid you'll have to hide down the root
cellar with the others. It's a mite uncomfortable, but it's the safest place to be if a patrol comes
sniffing around."
"I want to thank you again for helping us," James told the farm couple as he rooted
around for the saddlebag that contained his clean shirt, shaving gear, and maps. "You're taking a
big risk, harboring fugitives here." The punishment for helping runaway slaves was shooting or
hanging, usually without a trial.
Tuck looked surprised. "No more a risk than you're taking, young man."
"You're all taking a risk," Hope said softly. "And you're doing it for me. I want to help
"You have helped," James assured her. "We couldn't have made it here without you."
"I aim to do more," Hope insisted. "I reckon I won't move on with the rest of the group.
I'm heading back with you to help other slaves escape."
James was horrified. "You don't have to do that! It's more dangerous for you than it is for
any of us."
Hope shrugged. "I have more to gain by it too," she said. "My people have more to gain.
Arguing with me won't help," she added. "I've already done made up my mind about this."
"I can't let you do it!" James said. "You could be passing up your chance for freedom."
"Well, you ain't my master, so I reckon I'll do it anyway," Hope said. James couldn't help
smiling at her pluck.
"Well, I reckon it's getting late," Dora concluded. "Let's sleep on it and see what it sets
like in the morning."
James hauled on the reins of the two broken-down old plow horses he'd found waiting for
him at the last Underground Railroad depot. He pulled off to the side of a road near the
Tennessee border, and his rickety wagon creaked to a stop to let a gray-uniformed Confederate
regiment pass.
Hope, his wife for these past five months, sat beside him on the rough plank that served
as a front seat. Under the lap blanket he squeezed her hand. It felt like iceand not because of
the frosty November day. He saw a slight movement under the blanket, and he knew that Hope's
other hand was poised near the pistol he'd taken off the body of a fallen Confederate soldier and
taught her to use.

James forced himself not to glance behind him at the small load of crude furniture and
cheap household items. In a shallow compartment beneath those goods, under a false wagon
bottom, four runaway slaves lay, breathless.
"Howdy!" called the middle-aged officer. Eyeing Hope suspiciously, he reined his horse
and spat a long stream of tobacco juice in the center of the road. "Where you headed?" he asked
"Asheville," James lied easily. "Got kinfolks there."
"Any reason why a young man like you ain't joined up to defend the Cause?" the officer
asked. His tone was casual, but his eyes were as hard as buckshot.
James lifted his foot to show a bandage that covered a nonexistent injury. "Wounded at
Manassas," he explained. "But I'm a-fixing to go back to the fighting as soon as the foot's
"Manassas?" the officer asked suspiciously. "How do I know you're not making that up?
You could be one of those damnable Free-Soilers." He spat again. "Who were you at Manassas
"With Thomas Jackson's Virginians," James said proudly, glad that his years at the
university had modulated his accent to make the lie believable.
"Stonewall himself, you say?" the officer remarked.
"Yes, sir," James said casually.
"Tell me, son," the officer asked, "is it true that the general eats oranges as he goes into
Hope looked startled, but James took the question in stride. "No, sir," he replied, knowing
he was being tested. "It's lemons that Stonewall's partial to."
The officer nodded, satisfied. "Speaking of lemons, you got any food in that load?" he
asked, pointing to the wagon. "It's hard foraging this time of yearspecially in these highlands,
where there's so many know-nothing, Yankee-loving traitors."
"Just my dinner," James said apologetically. "A couple of pones and what's left of a
squirrel I shot a few hours back. You wouldn't take a poor man's horses, would you?"
"Would if they were worth anything," the officer said. He spit another long stream of
tobacco juice. "Ain't nobody gonna bother with those two nags. But what about that Nigra girl?
She yours?"
"Sure is," James said. "The only one I got left, after all the others run off."
"That true, girl?" the officer asked. "Why didn't you run off too?"
Hope kept her eyes carefully downcast. "Ain't got no reason to, sir," she said. "And
nowhere to go. Besides, the master needs me to tend his hurt foot." Her voice was steady, but
under the lap blanket her hand was trembling.
"Now that's a loyal gal you got," the gray-uniformed man said to James. "She's trained
real good. But I reckon I'm gonna need to see some papers on her. There's a powerful lot of
runaways in these parts. Can't be too careful."
James pulled out a folder of forged papers and handed them over wordlessly.
"Looks to be in order," the officer said after a cursory glance. "Be careful when you cross
the border into Tennessee," he warned as he handed the packet back to James. "The Yankees are
sneaking down in dribs and drabs. I suspicion they've got an eye on taking Nashville. Would be a
damn shame tooafter it took so long for the fool state to make up its mind to join the

James and Hope watched from the wagon seat as the Confederate columns marched by.
"Land sakes," he whispered. "I'm glad that's over."
"You and me both," his wife replied in a low voice. "How d'you know all that about
Jackson eating lemons?"
"I don't rightly remember," he said. "I reckon I just heard it somewhere."
Suddenly Hope grabbed his wrist under the blanket. Her face went gray.
"Honey, what is it?" James asked, concerned. The Southern infantry were still marching
by. He tried to steady her inconspicuously.
"It's all right," she said. "I was feeling poorly for a minute, but it's passing."
"You almost fainted!" he whispered, his eyes wide.
"I know," she said. "But it's nothing to worry about. A lot of women do it when they're
with child."
This time he grabbed her wrist. "You're going to have a baby?" he asked, torn between
elation and terror. "We're going to have a baby?" Luckily the soldiers were making too much
noise as they passed to hear their conversation. But he lowered his voice again. "When is it due?"
"Along about June, as near as I can figure," Hope replied. The last of the troops and their
entourage of camp followers passed by. James lifted the reins and steered the team back onto the
road. "All clear!" Hope said in a louder voice to reassure the fugitives in back. "Only a few miles
left to go."
"Obviously you can't go on helping me run these slaves north," James said. "We'll take
you to Knoxville with this group. From there it's an easy ride up to Kentucky, and after that
Ohio. You'll be safe there. I'll join you when the war's over, and we can go on to Canada
together, if we've a mind to."
"One of the reasons I left the plantation was to be free of folks who can take me from my
family whenever they want," Hope said. "You're my family now, and I'm not leaving you."
"Then I'll leave too," James promised. "As soon as I find a replacement for myself here
I'll head north and meet you in Ohio."
"Ain't neither of us wants that!" Hope exclaimed. "We can't stop working for the
Underground Railroad. There's too many runaways who need our help. I want to stay here with
you and keep guiding them out of Georgia."
James peeked to see that the Confederates were all behind the wagon. Then he leaned
over and kissed Hope on the cheek. "I don't know where you get your courage," he said.
"It's just plain stubbornness," she replied with a smile. "Will our marriage be legal in
"I don't know," James said slowly. "Probably not. But I don't care. We had a Quaker
ceremony, so it's legal in the eyes of one church at least. If Mr. Lincoln's government doesn't like
it any better than Georgia's does, well, that's Mr. Lincoln's problem. I don't intend to let it worry
me. Besides, we can always move on to Canada, where we'll be legal in the eyes of the law."
The following April, Hope stayed behind as James led six fleeing slavesincluding two
from his father's own plantationto a station in Tennessee. He'd left her with Tuck and Dora
Darby at their farmhouse, where she could hide in the root cellar if slavers came by. He hated to
let her out of his sight for two days. But at seven months pregnant Hope was in no condition to
sneak through bogs and woodlands. He delivered the six fugitives to their next contact. Then,
instead of catching some sleep, he'd left immediately to return to Hope.

A farmer had given him a lift in a wagon part of the way, but now James was on foot
again. At mid-morning the Darbys' modest house of unpainted wood appeared ahead of him
through a veil of dogwood. Suddenly James tensed. Something was wrong. He stood motionless
and peered into the clearing. The small farm should have been bustling with activity at ten
o'clock on a weekday morning in April. But the Darby farm was silent. Nobody was in sight.
Nothing moved. Not even a cardinal whistled what-chew what-chew in the trees.
He sprinted around the corner of the house and stopped short, reeling in shock. Two
bodies were hanging from the magnolia tree in the side yard. Tuckahoe and Dorabelle Darby had
been killed less than half an hour earlier, he judged as he fought the urge to vomit. From the
quiet he guessed that their livestock had been taken too. That meant it was probably soldiers, not
slavers. Tears of rage leaped to James's eyes and he slammed his fist against the trunk of the tree.
Then he shook his head. "Oh, Lordno!" he whispered. His voice rose to a shout. "Hope!"
James raced into the house. The kitchen table had been shoved aside and the rag rug
under it removed to expose the trapdoor to the root cellar. The door was up. James grabbed a
lantern, lit it frantically, and scuttled down the ladder, praying that the soldiers hadn't found the
secret room.
He jumped to the dirt floor, and his heart fell. The hidden door in the back wall was
pushed open. A gray-uniformed soldier was sprawled in the doorway, killed by a bloody gunshot
wound in the upper thigh. A pistol lay near his hand.
A few feet away lay Hope. An hour ago she'd been pulsing with new life. Now she was
utterly still, her thick black hair matted with blood from a pistol shot that had grazed her temple.
Her head and shoulders rested against the earthen wall like a rag doll's. One ugly bayonet wound
stained her side with crimson. Another bayonet thrustthe injury that killed herhad left a deep
gash over her heart. Hope's fingers still clenched her pistol.
James, his face streaming with tears, found room amid his grief and anger to be glad that
she'd gotten off a shot and killed the animal who had done this to her.
The cotton bolls should have been fluffy and white in the fields as James cantered
through the Georgia countryside in 1864. But the cotton crop, like everything else, had been
destroyed. He'd already ridden through Atlanta. It was his own Union forces that occupied the
city, but he was sick at heart to see the smoldering ruins.
Since Hope's death, James had fought his way through the war with a thirst for vengeance
and a lack of concern for his own safety. As a spy he'd infiltrated Confederate camps right under
the guns of their sentries. As a soldier he'd closed his ears to the eerie power of the rebel yell and
fought like a wildcat in a snare. He imagined that every Southern soldier was the man who'd
killed Hope, and he dared every Southern soldier to send him after her.
James had seen farmhouses burned and families riddled with bullets. He'd stumbled
through Virginia's aptly named Wilderness, helping push Lee's forces back through flaming
forests and mazelike thickets that muddled the mind until men no longer knew whether they
were fighting their own troops or the enemy's. He'd watched from Cemetery Ridge as Union
forces slaughtered General Pickett's division in the lush summer fields of Gettysburg,
But none of the horrors he'd witnessed had prepared James for what he was seeing now in
his home state. His eyes widened as he took in the devastation. General William Tecumseh
Sherman and his troops were somewhere ahead of James. They were moving southeast like a
scythe through Georgia, leaving a swath of destruction in their wake.

James urged his mount to a flying gallop. He didn't agree with his father's views. But he
loved his home and family. He had to get to Enchanted Meadows.
He turned the horse onto the once graceful drive where he and his brother had ridden
behind the Morgans on his last day at home. The fragrant magnolias were charred and broken,
and he knew they were harbingers of worse sights up ahead.
"It doesn't make sense!" he whispered to the blackened trunks. His cause had been the
moral one. But the soldiers who had marched through here with torches had been fighting for the
same cause. How could moral men wreak such destruction?
James steeled his shoulders as he approached the house. He slid off the mare, forgetting
to tie her, and winced as his feet hit the ground. He'd taken a musket ball in the leg at Second
Manassas; the surgeon said it would never heal completely. As James limped toward the remains
of his boyhood home tears blurred his vision.
Sherman's men had been thorough. The lovely marble columns were gone; only a few
broken cylinders were left scattered across the site. A jagged brick wall, waist high and scarred
by fire, was all that remained of the stately two-story facade. The only part of the house that
stood intact was the chimney, rising from the massive stone hearth like a monument to war.
Everything of value had been stolen. What remained was the debris of a family's life. Shattered
glass, scraps of cloth, an iron skillet, shards of pottery, and broken bits of furniture lay in piles,
reminding James of bodies left on a battlefield. But there were no bodies here, he realized with a
surge of hope. Where was his family?
Behind the debris-strewn foundation a wall of the old smokehouse was still standing. A
movement there caught his eye. "Who's there?" James called, fingering his musket.
"Master James?" asked a voice deep with sorrow. Angus the butler stepped tentatively
from behind the smokehouse wall, his once impeccable uniform filthy and tattered.
James could hardly breathe. "Angus!" he choked out. "Where's my family?"
Angus took James by the arma gesture that would have astonished both of them a few
years earlier, though neither noticed it nowand led him to a section of marble pillar. The
former slave motioned for him to sit. James obeyed.
"Your father was bent on leading a regiment himself," Angus said. "Nobody expected
him tonot a man his age. He died in Tennessee, April of 1862. Folks said it was a place called
James nodded. He'd still been leading slaves to freedom that spring. But he'd heard that
Shiloh was the bloodiest battle of the war. He'd been cheered by the news of a narrow Union
victory. Now he wondered how either side could win such a bloodbath.
"Your mother took ill as soon as she heard the news," Angus reported. "It didn't help her
none to see your brother head off to war himself the same week."
"But Sanford is only a child!" James exclaimed.
"Master Sanford was fifteen when he joined up," Angus reminded him. "The army wasn't
picky about a little thing like a boy's ageespecially if the boy had a gun and a horse. Politics
aside, you'd have been proud to see him setting on that big white stallion of your daddy's, all
decked out like a parade. But your mama, she cried for two days after he was gone. Never really
got over it. Then word came in July 1863 that young Sanford died in battle."
James gripped Angus's shoulder so hard that the older man had to pry his fingers loose.
"July '63?" James choked out.
"Yes, sir," Angus replied. "Gettysburg."

James's stomach contracted violently, and he swallowed hard to keep from vomiting. "I
was at Gettysburg too," he whispered.
"Miss Lacey took the news powerful hard," Angus said. "Your mama just sort of faded
away over the next few months, like flowers in August. She passed away last Christmas."
"My grandfather?"
Angus shook his head. "Macon DeVille died of the diphtheria not long after you moved
"Then there's nobody left," James said in disbelief. He closed his eyes and took a deep
breath. He had thought he was alone before. Now he was shocked at how much it hurt to know
he had no place to call home and no kin to call family.
He looked at Angus's lined face, and he realized the Patmans weren't the only family at
Enchanted Meadows that had suffered loss. "The other slaves" He edited his thoughts,
remembering the emancipation. "I mean, the other people who worked here. Where are they
Angus shrugged. "A few of us is still here. We fixed up the old outbuildings near the
creek. The Yankees missed those shacks when they torched the place. You want we should
"No, Angus!" James assured him. The thought of telling anyone what to do or where to
live horrified him after all that had happened. "It's not up to me. You can stay here as long as you
wantor as long as the Yankees will let you."
"Will you stay too?" Angus asked.
James wasn't sure of his answer until he heard the words coming out of his own mouth.
"There's nothing left for me here," he said in a grim voice, speaking more to himself than to the
older man. "I'm heading west."

April 1886. Backstage at a theater in London.
Katherine Richmond posed before the mirror in the green room, where the actors waited
for their cues to go onstage. Last night she had stood in this very spot, in costume and ready to
play her first adult role in a major production, as Bianca in Othello. She could still hear the
audiences applause and see her grandmother's proud smile after the performance. But today, so
early in the afternoon, the green room was quiet.
Katherine examined her reflection in the mirror. Most sixteen-year-old girls still wore
their hair down, perhaps tied with a silk ribbon at the nape of the neck. But Katherine's long,
almost black hair was piled high on top of her head, like a grown woman's. She moved her head
and watched her hair gleam in the light of the paraffin-oil lamp. Her lace-trimmed dress was
purest white with wide shoulders, a high neck, and stylish lace cuffs that reached all the way to
her elbows. She smoothed the skirt over her bustle and smiled demurely at her reflection.
Behind her fashionable figure another woman entered the room. Katherine whirled,
disappointed to see her. "Julia," she said, more politely than sincerely. "I hope you're feeling
better today."
Julia, an auburn-haired beauty five years older than Katherine, smiled back. "Yes, it was
just a touch of dyspepsia. It's lucky we had an understudy as well trained as you."
"Does this mean you'll be playing Bianca tonight?" Katherine asked in a cool voice.
Inside she was begging the actress to say no.
"Of course," Julia replied, unaware of the silent directive. "So you needn't worry about
another frantic call at the last minute. I hope I didn't put you out too much last night."
Katherine patted an imaginary lock of unruly hair into place. "Certainly not," she said. "I
was glad to fill in. Oh, it's after four o'clock!" she exclaimed, glancing at the clock on the
table. "I'm afraid I'm late for an appointment. Excuse me, Julia dear."
Katherine lifted her full skirt and hurried from the room. She was to take tea that day with
two of Britain's most celebrated actresses. At fifty-five, the marquesa Emma Philips, whose stage
name was Vanessa Saxton, was the grande dame of the London stage. And Emma's daughter,
Phoebe, at thirty-three, was one of the most beautiful and popular leading ladies in Europe. She
was currently playing Desdemona to her husband's Iago in this production of Othello.
Katherine threw open the door without bothering to knock and rushed into Phoebe's
dressing room. "Hello, Mother!" she said, kissing her on the cheek. "Good afternoon,
Grandmother! I'm so sorry to be late. I was just speaking to Julia about tonight's" She stopped,
noticing a gray-haired man rising to his feet. "Pardon me, sir," she apologized. "I didn't see you."
Most young girls would have waited to be introduced, but Katherine stepped forward and offered
her hand. "I'm Mrs. Richmond's daughter, Katherine," she said.
The gentleman kissed her hand. "I know who you are, young lady," he said, his bright
blue eyes twinkling with approval. "I am Sir Lancelot Smythe," he said in a deep voice that was
beginning to sound rough edged with age.
Katherine gulped, but she maintained her composure. "Sir Lancelot Smythe of the Royal
Shakespeare Company?" she asked.
"One and the same," the elderly man said, tapping his cane on the floor. In her excitement
over meeting him Katherine forgot her disappointment about not being able to play Bianca again
in that night's performance.

"Tea, Katherine?" Phoebe asked, motioning for everyone to sit. "I hope you don't mind
that we went ahead and started, dear."
"Of course not, Mother," Katherine said. "But I can leave if you have important business
to discuss with the director."
"Actually, Katherine," began her grandmother, twisting the silver ring she always wore
on her finger, "Sir Lancelot is here to speak with you."
This time Katherine couldn't hide her surprise behind her accustomed mask of
sophistication. "Me?" she asked, nearly choking on her tea.
"Young lady, I saw you perform Bianca last night," Sir Lancelot said in his gravelly
voice. "I was quite impressed to hear that you are only the understudy. You have a special
talenta spark I don't see often in an actress so young."
"Why, thank you, sir," Katherine said, hoping she wasn't blushing. "I wish I could take
credit. But my parents and grandmother taught me everything I know. The theater is the only
home I've ever known." She sipped her tea. "Or wanted."
"I have a proposition for you," the director said. She waited, breathless, while he lifted a
cucumber sandwich to his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. "My touring company will be visiting
America this summer, and I'm looking for a young actress to fill a last-minute spot. I would like
that young actress to be you."
Katherine grinned in a most unsophisticated way and then remembered her poise. "I
would be honored to join your company sir," she said properly, but her green eyes were shining.
"And I promise that you won't be disappointed with my work."
Katherine noticed her grandmother staring at her intently, as if gauging the depth of her
desire. But Phoebe shook her head. "I know how much you want to be an actress, Katherine,"
said Phoebe. "But I'm not sure that this is a good idea. I've been explaining to the director that
you only turned sixteen last month. What about school?"
"What do you think, Grandmother?" Katherine asked Vanessa.
The marquesa gazed at her steadily. "Your mother might be right," she said. "There will
be plenty of time later for a life on the stage. You're only sixteen once. And an education is so
Sir Lancelot Smythe sat back quietly, his hands folded in his lap, as the women debated
their decision.
"But I so hate school!" Katherine complained. "The teachers are dreadful, and the
students are immature." She thought with disgust of the silly, empty-headed girls in her own
class andeven worsethe gangly, leering boys from the boys' school next door. "I learn ever
so much more here in the theater. And imagine touring Americawhat an education that would
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your
philosophy," Vanessa said, quoting Hamlet to Phoebe. "The child has a point. Traveling with a
touring company was the best education I ever hadin acting and in life."
"But she's so young!" Phoebe exclaimed.
"Katherine, darling," Vanessa asked, her eyes an intense brown. "Is this something you
really want to do, more than anything in the world?"
"Oh, yes, Grandmother," Katherine said. Her voice was soft but full of emotion. "It's a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. A dream come true."
"Then Phoebe, I think she must do it," the marquesa decided. "No parent should stand in
the way of a daughter's dream."

Katherine jumped up and kissed her grandmother on the cheek. "Thank you," she
whispered into her ear, knowing that Phoebe would bow to the marquesa's wishes.
Phoebe didn't disappoint her. "All right, Katherine. I can't say that I'm enthusiastic about
the plan. But I will allow you to go if you want it that badly."
After the director had left, the three women erupted in a flurry of decisions about
Katherine's wardrobe and travel arrangements. The touring company would be leaving for
America in only two weeks.
"Katherine," her grandmother said, rising from her armchair like a queen from her throne.
"There is something I want you to take with you. I always assumed I would pass it on to your
mother." She turned to Phoebe. "But you've always been so practical, Phoebe. I daresay you'd
find it sentimental nonsense. And I believe Katherine has greater need of it right now."
Katherine stared at her grandmother. "What in the world is it?"
Vanessa pulled the plain silver band from her finger. "You've heard the story of how this
ring was presented to my motheryour great-grandmotherby her true love. She passed it on to
me as a reminder to follow my own dreams. Now I want you to have it, Katherine."
"Oh, Grandmother," Katherine breathed. "I couldn't possibly"
"You most certainly could!" the marquesa insisted. "Hasn't anyone ever told you it isn't
polite to argue with eccentric old ladies?"
Phoebe laughed. "You're hardly old, Mother. Or eccentric." She turned to her daughter.
"But your grandmother's right, dear. Take the ring. If nothing else, it will be a reminder of where
you've come from."
"And where you're going!" Vanessa added.
"I'll try very hard to live up to it, Grandmother," Katherine vowed. "I promise I will."
Katherine loved America. She missed her family, of course. But she loved America's vast
open spaces, its freedom from the stultifying structures of British society, and its hearty, goodnatured swaggering. She had to admit that she also loved the way Americas audiences loved her.
She'd been playing Ophelia to standing ovations and rave reviews, and she'd received more
compliments in the past three months than she'd ever had in her lifeand even a few marriage
proposals from smitten fans. The whirlwind tour was exhausting, but Katherine was happier than
she'd ever been. And she was learning more about acting than she had dreamed possible.
What Katherine did not like about America was the weather. The company had arrived in
Kansas City on the noon train. Now Katherine was strolling down dusty, treeless Main Street to
see the town. But the August day was sweltering, even in her coolest gown. The lacy parasol she
carried was better suited to cool English gardens than to the blazing afternoon sun of the
American West.
The street began to waver in front of her. A buzzing filled her ears. Katherine fell against
the side of a faded yellow-painted frame building. She leaned there, fanning herself with a linen
handkerchief and praying that she wouldn't faint.
Suddenly a tall glass of lemonade appeared before her eyes. For a moment she thought it
was a mirage, brought on by sunstroke. Then she heard through the buzzing a kind, deep voice.
"Here, drink this. It will make you feel less peaked."
The blurry stranger lifted the glass to her mouth, and Katherine drank gratefully. Slowly
her eyes began to refocus.
"The western sun can be right ornery, miss, if you're not used to it," the man's voice
explained. "Better now?"

Katherine looked up as her head cleared. The glass of lemonade was attached to the most
handsome boy she had ever seen. He was about her age, with a tall, strong build. His hair was as
black as onyx, and his eyes were a lovely grayish blue. The expression on his face was serious,
unlike the stupid grins she was accustomed to from the boys she knew in England.
"Thank you for the lemonade," she said softly. "I believe I would have fainted." In
England no young lady of her breeding would speak alone with a boy she hadn't been properly
introduced to by her parents. But in the American West, she had learned, young people were
more independent.
"I'm glad I could help," said the boy. "But: if you don't mind my asking, where are you
from? You don't talk like you're from around these parts."
"London," Katherine explained. She pointed to a circular tacked to the wall of the
building next door. "I'm part of the Royal Shakespeare Company that's putting on Hamlet at the
Opera House here for the next two weeks."
"You're acting in Hamlet?" he asked, clearly impressed. "Bully for you! Acting must be
an exciting life. Where do you travel to next?"
"We're nearing the end of the tour," she explained. "After Kansas City we'll be a week in
New York. Then we return to London."
"What role do you play?" he asked. "If I were a betting man, I'd wager it's Ophelia."
Katherine was intrigued. Few Americans seemed to have the grounding in English
literature that was so basic to the British. "You know Hamlet?"
His chiseled features colored. "I've always liked to read better than just about anything
when I could get hold of books," he admitted. "But I've never seen Hamlet performed."
"Then you must come to opening night," she said. She opened her mouth to introduce
herself, but a greasy-looking man appeared behind the handsome boy.
"Your break's over, boy!" the man called. "We got customers waiting!" He disappeared
around the front of the building.
"I work here at the Grand Emporium saloon," the boy explained hurriedly, pointing to the
yellow building. "I reckon I'd better get back to it, if you're all right by yourself now."
"Yes, I'm fine," Katherine said with a grateful smile.
The boy smiled back, and Katherine felt something special pass between them. "Goodbye, miss!" he said, tipping his hat before he rounded the corner of the building. A moment later
his face appeared again. "My name's John Patman," he said. "You come see me if you feel
poorly again, and I'll fix you up with another lemonade."
"I just might do that," she replied.
A few hours later Katherine took her final bow with the rest of the cast and retreated
backstage after the opening-night performance of Hamlet.
"You were excellent tonighttruly inspired," said Sir Lancelot Smythe, kissing her on
the cheek after the curtain fell. He placed a hand on her shoulder and pulled her aside. "But was
there a problem in act one, scene three? You seemed to hesitate a tad before replying to Laertes."
Katherine colored. "I apologize, Sir Lancelot. I feel terrible about that. I've never missed
a cue before. But I suddenly noticed someone in the audiencesomeone I, uh thought I
knew. For an instant I broke concentration and couldn't remember the line."
The director nodded. "Don't fret, young lady," he said. "The audience never knew the
difference. Just see that it doesn't happen again."

Sir Lancelot walked away, and Katherine hurried into the dressing room she shared with
Aurora Layton, the actress who was playing Queen Gertrude.
"I heard what Sir Lancelot said to you out there," Aurora said with a smile. "Don't worry,
Katherine. We've all been through it."
"Thanks," Katherine said apologetically. "I shouldn't have" She stopped, noticing a
vase of crimson roses on the dressing table. "Gracious!" she breathed. "Those roses are exquisite!
Who sent them to you?"
Aurora laughed. "They're not for me, Kat. The card is addressed to 'Miss Ophelia.' "
Katherine raised a hand to her mouth. "I can't imagine who they're from," she said, not
daring to think that they could be from the only man she had met so far in Kansas City.
"Well, I can!" Aurora said, handing her the small envelope that had been delivered with
the flowers. "I was standing in the wings, only a few feet away from you, when you missed that
cue. I saw who you were watching in the audience. A good-looking chap about your ageblack
hair, perfect bone structure. You can't fool me, Kat. Who is he?"
Katherine sat on the chaise longue. "His name is John Patman," she said. "He gave me
lemonade when I nearly fainted from the heat this afternoon."
"A gentleman?" Aurora asked. "He doesn't look the type."
Katherine shrugged. "It's hard to tell with Americans. Anyhow, it doesn't seem to matter
here the way it does at home. John certainly has the manners of a gentleman. And the
generosityI'm certain he couldn't really afford those flowers."
"He sounds like a romantic," Aurora said. "What does his note say?"
Katherine's heart pounded harder in her chest. "He says he'll meet me backstage as soon
as I've had time to change my clothes. But Aurora, I barely know him!"
"I daresay you'll soon know him better," Aurora said sensibly. "And from the look in
your eyes right now, I'd guess that's exactly what you want."
Katherine quickly wiped off her stage makeup and changed her gown. As she did she
thought of John's gray-blue eyes and thick, straight hair. She had kissed boys onstage before, but
never for real. What is it like, she wondered, when you really care for the boy? What would it be
like to kiss John?
She imagined spending the next two weeks with him. They would drink lemonade
together in the afternoons, side by side on the porch swing at the hotel where she was staying. He
would sit in the front row at every performance, watching her with love and admiration in his
eyes. And the day she was to leave for New York, he would rush to the train station with another
dozen roses, begging her to stay.
Katherine stopped her daydreaming, chagrined. She realized that she was gazing at the
roses as if she expected them to burst into song. And Aurora was eyeing her with an amused,
knowing smile on her pretty face.

John sighed behind the bar of the Grand Emporium saloon. For two weeks his life had
been perfect. He had seen Katherine alone for at least a few minutes every day. And each night
he had sat, enthralled, watching the play unfold onstage. Her scenes were his favorite ones. Her
dark brown hair, huge green eyes, and delicate features made her the perfect Ophelia. As many
times as he'd seen her perform, she could still bring tears to his eyes in her final scene as she
sank into madness and sang, childlike, of flowers and herbs.
Last night, as always, he'd met her backstage after the play. They had strolled out onto
the starlit prairie, and he'd kissed her for the first time. To his joy, she hadn't pulled away. She
had kissed him back with an ardor that matched his own, her lips sweeter than elderberry wine.
"I asked for another shot of that tarantula juice!" complained a customer who was sitting
at the bar.
"Sorry, sir," John apologized guiltily, realizing he'd been lost in thought while the man
waited for his refill. John poured another shot of whiskey into the glass and returned to his
The flowers he'd sent Katherine on opening night seemed to have moved her. Since then
he had arrived backstage after each performance with a different gift. One night it had been
lemons and sugar for lemonade. Another time he brought a tiny cottonwood figure of a prairie
dog he'd carved because she thought the little varmints were cute. He'd even given her a genuine
American cowboy hat to keep the sun off her head.
Tonight was the Royal Shakespeare Company's final performance in Kansas City. The
actors would be leaving town directly afterward on the eleven o'clock train. All except Katherine,
John hoped. He reached into his pocket and pulled out tonight's giftthe gift that would make
her stay. It was an engagement ring. He smiled at it, sparkling in his hand. The ring was gold,
with a tiny pearl glowing softly on each side of an emerald as green as Katherine's eyes. The ring
had taken every last penny of John's savings. But it was worth it if it would convince Katherine
to stay in America and be his wife.
John sighed again. He was sure Katherine loved him. He could see it in her eyes. But
would that be enough to make her give up London? He checked the clock on the wall. He would
know soon enough. He had to leave for the Opera House in another two minutes. He looked
around the room to see if his replacement had arrived. Sure enough, Lulu, a dancer from the late
night floor show, was hanging her jacket on a hook near the door. She'd be filling in as bartender
until eleven, when James's boss arrived to take over.
John gazed down at the ring again, trying to imagine the look of pleasure on Katherine's
face when she saw it.
"Don't anybody move!" yelled a rough voice. John jumped. A man with long, scraggly
blond hair was swaggering into the saloon, pulling two gleaming pistols from their holsters.
John glanced around nervously. Only three other people were in the roomthe whiskey
drinker from the bar, Lulu the dancer, and a bearded man so drunk he could barely keep his seat
on a bar stool.
"Put your hands in the air!" the man with the pistols yelled. "All of you!"
John obeyed, one hand still clenching the emerald ring. Around him the others raised
their hands, even the drunkard, whose chin kept falling toward the bar.
A dark-haired man in a black Stetson sauntered in behind the first man. He grinned and
pointed a Colt directly at John's face. "Good boy," the man said. "You keep doing just like me
and my partner says. First I want you to open up that cash register and empty it out into this here

bag." He threw a satchel onto the bar, and John reached for it to follow the instructions. The man
in the Stetson grabbed his hand. "And what have we here?" he asked, prying the emerald ring
from John's fingers.
"Whatcha got, Carlos?" asked the scraggly blond man.
Carlos tossed him the ring, and the blond man caught it expertly in one hand. He held it
up to the gas chandelier and nodded.
"That's real purdy boy," the blond man remarked, shoving the ring into his pocket. "Well
just keep that as a down payment."
"You can't have that!" John yelled. "It's an engagement ring for"
Carlos rammed the gun barrel into John's temple hard enough to draw blood. "Am I
hearing you right, boy?" he asked. "Did you tell us what we can and can't have? What d'ya think,
Luke? Has this boy forgotten who gives the instructions here?"
"I think you done reminded him," Luke replied with a snicker. "Make sure you get his
keys too."
John felt a trickle of sticky blood running down the side of his face. He took a deep
breath, opened the cash register, and began emptying it into the satchel.
Twenty minutes later John sat in the storage room of the saloon. A bandanna was tied so
tightly around his mouth that he thought it would cut through his tongue. His arms and wrists
were tied behind him, bound to the back of his chair. His feet were laced to the chair legs. And
the dancer, the drunk, and the whiskey drinker were in similar predicaments, with the backs of
all four chairs tied together.
"Thank y'all kindly for the money watches, and jewelry," Carlos said with an evil grin,
swinging the heavy satchel. "We'll be going now."
The gunmen pushed open the door and strolled out of the tiny, windowless room. John
heard a key turn in the door. They were locked in! And the only other person who had a key
wasn't expected for three hours. John tried to yell through the gag on his mouth, but he could
barely make a croak. Around him he could hear Lulu and one of the bar patrons trying the same
thing. The drunken man had probably passed out.
John couldn't see a clock, but he knew it was after eight. Katherine was giving her last
performance in Kansas City. Even now she might be stepping onstage to see an empty front-row
seat where John should be. What would she think when he didn't show up?
Business at the saloon would be slow tonight on the drama troupe's last night in town.
People were bored; the whole town would go to the theater just for the diversion. So there was
little chance of rescue until John's boss arrived at eleven.
But Katherine was leaving town on the eleven o'clock train.
Katherine threw herself into the part of Ophelia that night with a passion that. surprised
everyone. When Hamlet rejected Ophelia and denied the love letters he'd written, grief and
betrayal washed over Katherinespringing, it seemed, from the empty seat in the first row. She
took her bows mechanically at the final curtain call, barely noticing the crash of applause that
followed her off the stage.
"I had tears in my eyes, Katherine," Sir Lancelot Smythe exclaimed. "Do you know how
many years it has been since an Ophelia has done that to me? Nobody since your dear
But Katherine was barely listening. She allowed herself to get jostled away from the
director in the backstage crowd. "I'm overreacting," she told herself. "Maybe he simply got off

work too late to come tonight. He's probably waiting in my dressing room right now, desperate
to apologize."
She pushed open the door of the dressing room, but only Aurora was there.
"I saw the empty seat," Aurora admitted. "He didn't show up backstage?"
Katherine shook her head, trying to blink back tears. "I was hoping to find him in here,"
she said in a small, dismal voice. "Is there a note?"
Both women scrambled around the room, searching. But there was no note.
Finally Katherine sat down on the chaise longue, despondent. "I allowed myself to dream
that he would ask me to stay," she whispered.
Aurora crossed her arms. "You told me that silver ring from your grandmother is a
reminder not to give up your dreams without a fight!" she said. "It seems to me you're giving up
on John a bit prematurely."
Katherine nodded and jumped to her feet. "You're absolutely right!" she said. "If I leave
now, I can run over to the Grand Emporium to confront him and still be at the train station by
eleven. I'll see you then."
Katherine raced out of the room, hampered by the heavy costume she still wore. In a daze
she wormed through the throng of well-wishers who had come backstage for the final night of
the engagement. It seemed that every person she passed wanted to take her hand and compliment
her on her amazing performance.
"I'm sorry," Katherine murmured over and over again, though she doubted anyone heard
her. "But I can't talk just now. I have to find someone."
As she reached the door a stronger hand pulled her back. She whirled, expecting to see
John. Instead she saw Sir Lancelot's gray hair and portly figure.
"Katherine, I'm glad I caught you. I must discuss our New York engagement with you
immediately." He pulled out a pocket watch. "Sakes alive, look at the time. Our train leaves in
minutes. I'll walk you to the train station and we can talk on the way."
Katherine opened her mouth to protest, but the director's arm was around her shoulders,
and he was steering her out the door. "Oh, don't worry about your belongings. The wardrobe
mistress has been instructed to pack the rest of your things."
"But Sir Lancelot" Katherine choked out as the director walked her toward the train
station and away from the Grand Emporium.
"I'm afraid you'll have to change your clothes on the train," he barreled on. "The train
leaves in ten minutes. And it's running exactly on time for a change."
John cursed when he heard the train whistle. His boss had finally arrived. After John and
the other captives were untied, he'd sprinted out of the saloon like greased lightning, ignoring the
sheriffs questions about the gunmen.
Now John was running down Main Street faster than he'd ever run before. He had to
reach the depot before the train left. He had to talk to Katherine, to explain the delay and beg her
to be his wife, even without the ring.
The train whistle blew again, and he heard the unmistakable chugging of a train gaining
"No!" John shouted into the night.
When he arrived at the track, the train was already disappearing into the distance and
dark. Billows of smoke rose above it, blacker against the black sky. When the whistle blew one
last time, nothing had ever sounded so mournful.

John was too late. Katherine was gone.

Katherine idly selected a newspaper from a table in the lobby of the New York hotel
where the theatrical troupe was staying a week later. The Illustrated Police News wasn't her
usual choice of reading material, but that didn't matter. Mostly she just needed something to do
with her hands and to occupy her thoughts.
"Anything scandalous?" Aurora asked, lounging in a nearby armchair. "I love acting, but
I abhor the hours of waiting between rehearsals and performances."
"I suppose I'm not very good company lately," Katherine said with a sigh. "Playing Juliet
this week should make me the happiest girl in the States. But I can't stop thinking about him."
"All this moping isn't accomplishing a blessed thing," Aurora told her. "Come now. Bead
aloud some real-life crime stories. There must be something amusing in that paper. There's a
headline about a nationwide spree of saloon robberies. That sounds like jolly fun."
Katherine dutifully bent over the newspaper. "Police in Springfield, Missouri, have
apprehended two men responsible for a string of at least seven saloon robberies throughout the
West," she read aloud. She skimmed ahead and then gasped. "Oh, no!"
"What is it, Kat?" Aurora asked. "Don't skimp on the gory details."
"Carlos Estevez and Luke Handly were identified from descriptions given by four
witnesses who were held hostage at the Grand Emporium saloon in Kansas City," Katherine
read, her voice rising. "Aurora, the Grand Emporium holdup took place the night we left Kansas
City. John didn't come to the performance because he was tied up in the back room of the
saloon!" She jumped up from her chair.
"What are you doing?" Aurora asked.
"I'm catching the next train back to Kansas City!" Katherine said. "Alert my understudy
that she's to play Juliet for the rest of the run. And tell Sir Lancelot I won't be accompanying the
troupe back to London."
A few days later Katherine's heart pounded as she stood in front of the door of the tiny
house John Patman had been renting in Kansas City. An errand boy at the Grand Emporium had
said that John quit his job at the saloon a week ago. She prayed that John would be at home. She
didn't know where else to look for him.
She smoothed back her hair and tried to calm her breathing. For luck she reached into her
purse and rubbed the tiny wooden figure of a prairie dog that John had carved for her. Then she
lifted her hand and knocked at the door.
The door opened. And for a split second Katherine recognized John's gray-blue eyes.
Then the illusion vanished. The man at the door had the features similar to John's, but his mouth
was drawn into a leer that made Katherine decidedly uncomfortable.
"I'm Katherine Richmond," she said in a hesitant voice. "You must be John's brother,
Brewster. Is John home? I must speak with him."
He grinned broadly, but there was something mocking in his eyes. Katherine knew that
Brewster and John were only a year apart. But somehow Brewster seemed much older. "Well, if
it ain't my little brother's actress sweetheart!" he said. "For once he was right. You are a pretty
little thing. Come in and make yourself at home, darling. John's not here, but I'd sure like to get
to know you better."
"Where is John?" she asked, trying to ignore Brewster's suggestive tone. "When do you
expect him back?"

"I don't rightly know," Brewster said, his eyes tracing her figure from head to toe. "He
left town the day after you left. Didn't say where he was heading."
Katherine leaned limply against the doorjamb. "You must have some idea" she cried.
"None at all," he interrupted without a twinge of regret. "But who cares? I'm the better
Patman brother by a long shot. Whyn't you have supper with me tonight, and you can see for
Katherine ran from the house, disgusted that Brewster could think she'd so easily trade
one brother for the other. She trudged toward Main Street, trying to decide what to do. There was
no reason to stay in Kansas City. John could be anywhere in the country by now. She took a deep
breath. She would return to New York and then to London. The love of her life was gone. But
she still had her family, the theater, and her memories of John.
Katherine took a hansom cab from the train station to her hotel in New York. She stopped
at the front desk to let the clerk know she had returned. His face clouded over as soon as he
recognized her.
"Miss Richmond," the clerk said in a shaky voice. "You have a telegram."
Her first, irrational thought was that John Patman had tracked her down. But that wasn't
it. She looked from the clerks sympathetic eyes to his trembling hand as he held out the slip of
paper. Something was terribly wrong. "What is it?" she whispered.
She took the telegram from the clerk and stepped away from the counter to read it. Her
parents' theater in London had burned to the ground. Her entire family had been killed in the fire.
Katherine threw the slip of paper to the parquet floor and ran from the hotel. For hours
she paced the streets of New York, trying to stem the tears that kept threatening to overflow from
her eyes. When she finally looked up, the electric lights of Broadway were blurred and spidery
through her teardrops. With John and her family gone, acting was all she had left, she realized.
There was nothing waiting for her in London. In that instant Katherine knew she would never
return to England.

October 1890. A rodeo in El Paso, Texas.
The crowd cheered. John Patman held tight with his knees as the piebald bronco beneath
him bucked and snorted in an effort to throw him. John swung one hand in the air and whooped
the way the rodeo judges and audience expected him to. He knew he'd already been astride the
bronco longer than any of the other cowboys had lasted on their mounts. Certainly he would win
the hundred-dollar prize for first place.
For four years John had traveled the West, working as a wrangler when he needed the
money to move on to the next place. He spent his days taming horses, helping with cattle drives,
and riding long distances into the desert. At night he kept to himself, living in bunkhouses or out
on the range and reading when he could get hold of a book. Sometimes he'd carve figures out of
wood when he could get a piece, but every one reminded him of Katherine and the prairie dog
he'd carved for her.
Occasionally John sent a note to his brother, Brewster, in Kansas City or to his parents,
James and Clarissa Lattner Patman, in St. Louis. But he never bothered with a return address. He
didn't stay anywhere long enough for that.
Since Katherine, John had sworn off love. Women would break your heart every time. He
still could hardly believe Katherine had left him like that. After everything they'd been to each
other, she could have at least stopped by the saloon before she left town to see what had kept him
away from her last performance in Kansas. No doubt Katherine was the toast of the London
stage by now, keeping company with handsome, sophisticated actors. She'd probably forgotten
his name by the time she reached England.
Horses and cattle are simpler, he thought as he slid off the back of the piebald when his
time was up. The crowd whooped appreciatively, and John could almost feel the hundred-dollar
prize in his pocket. But the competition wasn't over yet. One last cowboy still had to take his
The last rider was small and thin. "Heck," John mumbled as he leaned against the fence
to watch. "He ain't no more than a pint-size boy!"
But the boy was good, John noticed immediatelyat least as good as John himself. The
rider grasped the rope with a strength and stamina that belied his stature. John nodded, more
impressed with the boy's skill than distressed at the thought of coming in second. This kid moved
like greased lightning. John watched him carefully, trying to determine who the mystery rider
was, but the boy's Stetson was pulled down low over his eyes. A bandanna hid his mouth.
"Hoo-whee!" called a nearby cowpoke. "That boy could whip his weight in wildcats!"
Sure enough, the small, thin cowboy won the first-place prize. After John collected his
own fifty dollars for second place, he looked around for the boy, eager to meet such a skilled
rider. He finally spotted him near the stables, saddling a white stallion. Next to the huge horse
the boy seemed even more childlike.
"Hey, pardner!" John called. "That was a mighty impressive ride."
The boy murmured something under his breath, but he didn't look up from the bridle he
was adjusting. He had removed his bandanna, and his mouth looked soft and vulnerable without
it. Close up, John saw that he was even younger than he'd thoughtnot even old enough to
shave. The Stetson still covered the small cowboy's eyes, but a glint of golden hair peeked out
from beneath it.

"I gave you a compliment, boy!" John exclaimed, anger rising irrationally within him. He
realized he was jealous of the boy's skill. And he was mad at himself for being so petty.
"Thanks," mumbled the boy, his face still hidden.
"Look at me when you're speaking to me!" John demanded. He grabbed the boy's thin
shoulder and turned him so they were face-to-face. "You can at least do me that courtesy!"
The boy jerked away. But he pulled too hard and stumbled against the side of the stable.
His hat fell to the ground, and a long mane of golden hair tumbled out like a waterfall.
"You're a fine one to speak of courtesy," remarked the rider, steadying herself. "Is that
any way to treat a lady?"
John stared as the beautiful woman swung herself into the saddle and galloped away,
leaving him standing there with his mouth gaping.
That night Samantha Parker sat on the corner stool at the Texas Tavern in El Paso,
drinking the worst cup of coffee she'd ever tasted. The saloon was bustling that night, with loud
piano music and men coming and going and carrying on. It was a perfect setting for anonymity.
And that was just what Samantha needed. Her long blond hair was hidden under her black
Stetson, and her slender figure was concealed beneath a loose shirt, denim pants, and chaps.
She thought about John Patman, the cowboy who had taken second place in the bronco
riding contest that day. One thing was clear from the look on his face when he realized she was a
womanJohn Patman had a powerful attraction to her. Well, his infatuation didn't matter to
Samantha, not by a jugful. She reckoned he was handsome, with his unruly black hair and
intense eyes. But Samantha sure wasn't about to let him know that. Every cowboy she'd ever met
already thought he was the biggest toad in the puddle. They were all conceited as blazes. And
she'd be crazier than a peeled rattlesnake to get herself involved with one of them.
Love and marriage are a right good deal for a man, Samantha reflected. But they're no
life for a woman. A woman stupid enough to fall in love lost her freedom and her identity. And
that wasn't about to happen to Samantha.
"Mind if I sit here?" a voice asked. John Patman was standing behind her, pointing to the
empty stool beside her.
Samantha wondered how in tarnation he had tracked her down. But she hid her surprise
behind a shrug. "It ain't any of my funeral," she drawled.
"You know, I've been searching for you high and low for hours," John said.
"Looks like you done found me," Samantha said to her empty coffee cup. "Must be your
lucky day."
"Can I buy you another cup of coffee?" he asked.
"I reckon not," Samantha said with a grimace. "That stuff's strong enough to peel the hide
off a Gila monster."
"How about a whiskey?"
Samantha was about to refuse, but a free drink was nothing to spit a quid at. "Make it a
double," she replied, still refusing to look at him.
"Look, Miss Parker"
Samantha whirled on him, hissing. "Keep your Miss to yourself!" she whispered, her
hand on her derringer. "I can shoot you in the eye quicker'n you can spit and holler howdy. And
I'll do it tooif you let any of these vaqueros know who I really am."
"Sorry," John apologized. He ordered their drinks and sat facing the bar, not looking at

"How'd you know my name anyway?" Samantha demanded.

John shrugged. "I asked after you at the boardinghouses around town until I found a
landlady who knew you."
"You aiming to tell anyone the truth about me?"
"I got no reason to," John assured her.
The bartender set their whiskeys in front of them, and Samantha downed hers in one
swig, secretly watching John's eyes grow wide. That's it, she told herself. Always keep the upper
hand. "Why'd you come looking for me?" she demanded.
"I just wanted to talk to you," John said hesitantly. For a moment she nearly smiled at the
appealingly serious way he spoke. She had originally guessed him to be her agetwenty-two.
Now she wondered if he might be a few years younger. He suddenly seemed almost childlike.
Then she chastised herself for softening toward him. After all, this man was a cowboy. And
cowboys weren't to be trusted.
"Talk about what?" she asked suspiciously. "If you're looking for romance, you'd best go
on looking. I don't keep company with no cowpokes."
"You've got a chip on your shoulder so big, it's a wonder you don't tumble off your
horse!" John exploded.
"Nobody's forcing you to stick around," she pointed out. "I already told you I'm not
interested in courting."
"Who said I'm hankering to court you?" John retorted. "For your information, I gave up
on love and romance a long time back. I just wanted to talk to you about, uh busting broncos.
But forget it! I can have a more pleasing conversation with my horse!"
He threw a few coins on the bar and stalked out of the saloon. Samantha shook her head
in frustration as his back disappeared through the swinging doors. She'd never met a more
annoying human being than John Patman. And she'd be as happy as a cow in clover if she never
set eyes on him again.
The sunset burnished the Arizona desert in shades of copper and salmon. John slowed his
gelding to a walk so he could watch the play of colors on the buttes. He shivered in the chill of
the January evening. A campfire would feel real good about now, he thought. But he decided to
keep traveling at least until dark. On the move he'd have a better chance of spotting some game.
He scanned his surroundings automatically. But not so much as a jackrabbit moved in the
still landscape. John seldom packed much in the way of supplies, figuring he could hunt for food
along the way to wherever he was going. But he hadn't counted on such slim pickings on this trip
through the Arizona Territory. With no meat to supplement his meager store, he was almost out
of food. As he rode he sucked on his last piece of pemmican and wondered if he had enough
frijoles left for his supper. If not, he'd just have to tighten his belt a notch and keep going.
Sedona was only two days away. He had a powerful hankering for some meat. But he could
make do without. He always did.
John relaxed again into the familiar, rolling movement of Hamlets broad back beneath
him. He'd named the horse in a moment of weakness. Later he'd thought to change the name,
which still reminded him of Katherine. But the roan seemed to have taken to it, so Hamlet it
stayed. Lately the pain of losing his first love had subsided to a dull ache, deep inside. Instead it
was Samantha he'd been thinking about, ever since the night they'd argued at the Texas Tavern
three months earlier. He'd left El Paso in a hurry that night, riding like a posse was at his back.

He wondered for the tenth time that day if Samantha would be at the rodeo in Sedona.
Surely a rider of her skill would show up for one of the biggest events of the season. He thought
of her golden hair tumbling from her Stetson as she rode toward him, a dazzling smile on her
face. Then he shook his head. He wouldn't know what to say to her if he did find her. They'd
probably just end up arguing again.
Night was falling over the desert now. The evening star kindled to light and then one
more star, big and low on the horizon. John blinked and realized it was a campfire, a welcome
sight on the vast, silent desert. Maybe the man who'd built it had food to spare.
"Halloo!" he called as he approached the campsite. He sniffed. Sure enough, some kind
of meat was cooking on the fire. He dismounted and took a step toward the figure seated in the
middle of the camp. Then John's mouth dropped open. For once destiny seemed to be on his side.
"Samantha?" he exclaimed.
"You were expecting Calamity Jane?" she replied, stirring the fire with a great show of
"Mind if I share your fire?" he asked.
"It's a free country," she answered. Her tone was breezy, but he thought he saw signs of
strain on her pretty face.
"I'll need to take care of my horse first," he said, looking around. "Where do you have
yours tethered?"
Samantha dropped her stick into the fire. "The stallion's dead," she said softly.
John stared. "You're out here by yourself without a horse?"
"I didn't plan it that way," she said with a shrug. "A rattlesnake startled Diablo. He
stumbled and broke a leg. I had to shoot him this afternoon. Buried him near that butte over
She spoke with little emotion, but her eyes glittered with moisture in the firelight. He
didn't know how he'd handle it if he ever had to shoot Hamlet.
"What were you figuring on doing?" he asked.
"I reckon I'm hoofing it," she said sharply. "I don't allow as I've got much choice in the
"You can ride out with me tomorrow," he offered. "It isn't too much farther to Sedona.
Hamlet can carry us both."
Samantha opened her mouth as if to protest. But then she closed it and nodded silently.
John knew how difficult it was for her to accept help, especially from him.
"I'd consider it an even trade if you'd share your supper with me," he continued. He
thought she'd find it easier to accept a business arrangement than outright charity. Besides, he
was starving. "I'm plumb out of grub."
"There's plenty for both of us," she said, still not meeting his eyes.
"What kind of meat is that?" he asked, sniffing the air.
Finally she looked at him and grinned. "Rattlesnake," she answered.
An hour later John sat near the fire, his stomach full. He pretended to stare into the
flames, but every muscle in his body was completely aware of Samantha, sitting almost close
enough to touch. She'd removed her hat, and her hair was as bright as firelight.
Samantha leaned forward to stir the fire's embers with a stick, and her arm brushed
against his. That simple touch sent a tingle through every nerve in John's body. He turned to look
at her and found Samantha staring at him with a longing, yet terrified expression in her eyes.
From there, a kiss was the most natural next step.

John stood near the altar in a tiny chapel in Sedona, in the Arizona Territory. It was six
weeks after his encounter with Samantha in the desert. And he was certain that their meeting had
been arranged by destiny.
He was dressed in a new broadcloth suit, and he'd spent an hour polishing his boots to
make them gleam. He held his hat in his hand. The room smelled of incense and tallow candles.
In the back two men draped in scarlet serapes played a Mexican tune on a guitar and a violin.
John thought he should be nervous. But he was calm. Marrying Samantha and settling
down together was the first good decision he'd made in the years since he'd left Kansas City. A
part of him would always love Katherine, but now he could look back at that time without
bitterness or longing. He'd told Samantha all about Katherine. She was sympathetic, but she
explained that you just can't hitch a horse with a coyote. And that sums it up, John thought. He
and Katherine were just too different. He sincerely hoped she was happy, wherever she was. But
that part of John's life was over.
Today his future would begin. He and Samantha had pooled their money and filed a
homestead claim on a patch of land in Texas. They'd raise cattle and horses and maybe try their
hand at farming. He still thought Sam was the most ornery woman he'd ever known. But she was
also the most spirited. And he finally admitted to himself that he'd loved her since the day they
The music slowed and swelled, and John looked up. Samantha was walking down the
small aisle of the adobe church. She wore a white blouse with colorful embroidery, a new white
Stetson, and a full cotton skirt that looked Mexican, over white boots. With a start he realized
he'd never seen her in women's clothes. He grinned at her, and Samantha winked.
The future had never looked so good.
Standing in his wheat field in July 1893, John felt like a potato baking in the fierce sun of
central Texas. It was still morning. But the heat was dry and scorching, like a brushfire. And it
was quickly shriveling up the wheat crop and everything else in the arid, dusty landscape.
John shaded his eyes and scanned the near-dead fields of grain. Then he scanned the sky.
Not a single cloud floated in its tired blue expanse. He sighed. There hadn't been a cloud in
weeks. The drought had already killed most of his livestock. At least, it had killed most of the
animals that hadn't already died of a mysterious virus in the spring. Now the dry weather would
probably destroy his crops too.
John looked through shimmering heat waves toward the tiny frame house he and
Samantha had built. From where he stood, he could see her lithe figure standing beside one of
their few remaining mares as she held up the horse's hoof to inspect its iron shoe. Nearer to the
claim shanty their midday meal cooked over an outdoor fire. There was a fireplace inside the
house, of course. But cooking indoors made the house unbearably hot. So Samantha had set a
small campfire safely away from the shanty, not far from the windlass that stood over a new well
John was digging.
He smiled at the sight of his beautiful, golden-haired wifewearing men's clothing even
nowworking on the horse. After two and a half years of marriage, John loved Samantha more
than ever. And their family had expanded. John Jr., sixteen months old, toddled around his
mother on his chubby legs, trying to help but mostly getting in the way.

"They sure make a pretty picture," John said aloud, his heart swelling with pride as he
watched his wife and baby. He wished he could capture their images in a photograph, to carve
later into wooden figurines.
He hated the thought of leaving them here alone so he could make his way to San
Antonio to find work. Sure, Samantha could handle the few remaining horses and cattle by
herself. She was better at ranching than he was. But she shouldn't have to do the work of two
people. If the wheat crop failedand he reckoned it wouldthe family would have nothing to
live on all winter.
John shook his head sadly. There was no other option. He would have to leave his family
to find work. Samantha was waving her arms to signal that dinner was ready. With one last look
at his parched wheat, John trudged back toward the house to tell her his decision.
After a meager dinner of beans and tortillas John sat on a blanket on the parched earth,
watching Johnny dig in the dirt with a stick. Samantha had never seen her husband so depressed.
"What's on your mind?" she asked finally. "You look about as hopeless as a snowball in
"You mean about as hopeless as our wheat crop," John replied.
"I figured as much," she said. "Stop your fretting, John. This bronco hasn't thrown us yet.
We have some cattle and a few horses left. We'll squeak by."
"I don't see how," John said, shaking his head. "We still owe money on the mowing
machine and binder for the wheat and on the building supplies for the house. Johnny will need
shoes this winter, and we all have to eat. Your garden hasn't fared much better than the wheat."
"We'll sell some horses," Samantha decided.
John shook his head. "That won't bring in enough to see us through the second half of the
"Then we'll sell a few cows too," Samantha said, a little impatiently. "We'll be right as
rain. We've been through hard times before, and we've come out smelling like a cactus flower,
only twice as thorny."
"We didn't have a little one to support then," John replied. "There's only one way I can
see out of this"
Samantha shook her head. "Absolutely not!" she said. "No way in tarnation am I letting
you leave this ranch to find paying work. You just try it, and I'll raise a ruckus that'll wake
snakes! We're a family now, and I reckon we're going to remain a family."
"But Sam, honey," John protested, "we're plumb out of other choices!"
"If you set one foot off this claim, then your son and I are coming too," she vowed. "I can
make money as well as you can. A couple of rodeo prizes, and the notes on the plow and the
house will be paid off."
"You know you can't come with me," he reminded her. "The government says someone
has to live on this land for five years so we can earn the title to the homestead claim."
"Then we'll all live on it together, cozy as muskrats," Samantha said. "You tell me
different, and I'll buck like a new colt."
"But Sam"
"This family is sticking together," she insisted. "Where there's a will, there's a way."
By the following morning John had made a decision. He'd stay on the homestead for one
more month. If their luck didn't change by harvest time, he swore he'd set out to find work.

Maybe he could help bring in someone else's cropsif there were any crops left in the state.
Until then he'd work extra hard to make the Patman ranch a success. If Samantha had the
courage to face uncertainty without fear, then he would find the courage too.
This morning was even hotter than the day before. The baby was napping in the shade of
the house. And John decided it was high time to work on the new well he'd been digging.
"No, John," Samantha objected. "You should be doing what you can to save the wheat."
John shook his head. "The wheat's hopeless. And we need the water. The old well is
almost dry."
"We can make do all right hauling water from the river," she said. "It's only a mile away."
"I started digging this well weeks ago," he replied, "but I've been too busy with the crop.
Now it's about time I finished the job." He didn't tell her he wanted to have the new well dug
before he was forced to leave the ranch. He'd be damned if his wife had to tote water a mile each
way while he was gone. "Besides," he added, "the river's only a trickle now. A deeper well is our
best bet, and we've hit rock beneath the old one."
"All right, let's finish digging that new well," Samantha agreed. "You must be near the
water table. If we work on it together, I reckon we'll hit a reservoir by sundown."
The well was now too deep to climb in and out of easily. Two buckets hung from the
windlass on the ends of a stout rope. John shimmied down the rope, holding a spade, and filled
each bucket in turn with earth. As he did, Samantha hauled up the full buckets, dumped them,
and sent them back down to be refilled. They worked that way all morning. When John felt the
sun baking the top of his head, he stopped to wipe the sweat off his forehead.
"It's nearly noon," Samantha called down. "And you're plumb tuckered out! Let's knock
off for now and fix ourselves something to eat."
"Just one more bucketful," John replied, looking up at her face, framed in a halo of light.
As he did he plunged the spade into the earth once more. Suddenly it sank up to the handle, as if
sucked down from below. A great whoosh swelled out from the ground at his feet, and an acridsmelling liquid mud began welling up around him. Within seconds his pants were wet to the
thighs, and the viscous brown liquid was rising quickly.
"Pull up on the windlass!" he yelled to Samantha. But the sludge was expanding faster
than she could crank him up. He grabbed the rope and climbed it, hand over hand. A moment
later he lay panting on the ground.
"What in tarnation is that stuff?" he asked. "It ain't like any water I've ever seen!"
Samantha's grin was dazzling. "That's our future!" she cried, throwing her arms around
him. "We just discovered oil!"
John's eyes widened. He turned from his wife to the well opening where the thick, oily
mud was still rising in iridescent swirls. Samantha was right. There was no mistaking the smell.
"Eureka!" he yelled, lifting her in his arms and twirling her around and around. Johnny
stared at his parents, his blue eyes as big as saucers under his dark brown hair. A finger was in
his mouth. "Our troubles are over, son!" John called to him, still holding Samantha. "We're as
rich as Fort Knox!"
The little boy smiled at their excitement, still sucking on his finger.
"Put me down, you rascal!" Samantha cried to her husband, laughing. "I have something
to tell you. Something that'll make you happier than a mosquito in a cattle drive!"
John set her down gently and then grabbed her hand and ran beside her to the front door
of the shanty. He swung his son up into his arms. "It'll have to be mighty exciting news to beat
discovering oil on our claim!"

Samantha smiled broadly at him, one hand on her stomach. "It is," she announced. "We
couldn't have found the stuff at a better time. I'm expecting another papooseanother child."
"Hurrah!" John yelled. His voice softened as he looked at her, standing there with tears of
joy in her eyes. "Our life is perfect," he said softly. Then John grabbed his wife and kissed her,
long and tenderly, with little Johnny cradled between them.
"Perfeck!" Johnny echoed.

September 1924. Boston, Massachusetts.
"Gee whiz, Freddy!" William Patman complained to his roommate as he drove his
Mercedes-Daimler up a fashionable Boston street. "You've been trying for three years to turn me
into a society dandy"
"Unsuccessfully, I might add," Frederick Kestler put in.
"So give it up!" William urged. "Why do we have to keep going to these stuffy parties?
We're seniors nowit's time to kick back and enjoy our final year at Harvard."
Frederick shook his head. "Trust me," he said. "You'll enjoy your final year much more if
you get to know the right people. And this party is where you'll meet them." He gestured to the
country club up the hill.
"You ever notice that the right people are always as dull as Lubbock on a Saturday
night?" William asked.
"You know what your problem is, don't you?" Frederick asked.
"I reckon you're about to tell me."
"You're the youngest of four siblings in a sinfully wealthy family," Frederick reminded
him. "You're used to being coddled. You've never had to take responsibility for anything. That's
why you coast through life so easily."
"That's me," William said gleefully, "old Willy-nilly Patman, partying from coast to
"You don't take much of anything seriously, do you?"
William pretended to be shocked. "I'd sooner wrestle a porcupine in a cactus patch."
"Do your best friend a favor and try to make a favorable impression on the people you
meet at this party," Frederick begged. "My mother and her social committee have been planning
this soiree for weeks. Just behave respectably."
William lolled out his tongue and scratched his midsection. "You mean you don't want
me to act like a Texas hick?" he asked with a thick twang in his voice.
Frederick pretended to be annoyed, but, he couldn't hide his grin. "You are a Texas hick,"
he said. "It's part of your unique charm."
"It's in my nature to be socially unacceptable!" William reminded him. "We Texas boys
are rude, crude, and obnoxious. Emphasis on the crudeas in oil." He winked. "And the right
people that come to these stomps of yours never seem to mind if I'm a little rough around the
edgesas long as I've got the cash to back it up. I just hope this one isn't as dull as the last
shindig you dragged me to."
Frederick glanced at his roommate out of the corner of his eye. "Actually," he added
casually, "I hear that a dozen Wellesley girls have been invited to this particular shindig."
"Yee-haw!" William whooped. "Why didn't you say so sooner? Let me at them fillies!"
"Now that is just what I'm talking about," Frederick pointed out. "Maybe that kind of
language goes over well in San Antonio. But in Boston girls get huffy when you refer to them as
"In Texas horses are a sight more valuable than women," William said with a grin.
"Those city gals ought to see it as a compliment!"
Frederick shook his head. "You're hopeless."

"Hopelessly handsome," William said, checking his smile in the side mirror as he parked
the car. As usual his teeth looked perfect. He pulled a comb from the pocket of his doublebreasted blazer, whipped off his hat, and meticulously smoothed his straight black hair.
"Hurry up, old sport," Frederick said as he jumped out of the car. "Helena should be here
by now. You don't want to keep her waiting."
"Helena who?" William asked, suddenly wary.
"Helena Howard," Frederick said. "She's a senior at Wellesley. Her family owns a place
in Newport near my parents' summer home. Don't worryyou'll love her! She's quite elegant
and sophisticated, and she has a devastating wit."
"What does this Helena Howard look like?" William asked suspiciously.
"She's a beaut," Frederick assured him. "She's small and slim. And she has black hair and
blue eyesquite like yours. But on her they actually look good."
"If she's such a beaut, then why are you foisting her off on me?" William asked as they
climbed the grand staircase at the country club's entrance. "Why not woo her yourself?"
Frederick shrugged. "I've known Helena since we were children. It would be like courting
my sister! Come on, Will. Just promise that you'll dance at least one dance with Helena. I think
you'll like her. Besides, it would make my mother happy."
"All rightanything for dear old Mumsy," William agreed. "But you owe me for this!
And if Helena looks like a horse, I'm out of there like greased lightning!"
Frederick owes me for this, Helena Howard thought an hour later, rolling her eyes in
annoyance as she danced with William. She didn't know what her elegant childhood friend saw
in this roommate of histhis Texas person who held her awkwardly in his arms and tripped over
her feet. He was so nouveau riche. She sidestepped to avoid William's clumping gait. Her
straight-cut dress of beaded netting whispered against her silk stockings, soft as a breeze.
"You waltz divinely, darling," William said in an affected accent, like a country hick
trying too hard to sound sophisticated.
"Yes, I do waltz divinely," Helena agreed. "But this isn't a waltz I'm doing. It's a foxtrot!
I couldn't say what you're doing."
"We don't have a lot of foxes trotting around out on the ranch," William said, his fake
eastern accent evaporated. "So I reckon I'm doing an armadillo trot. Except that armadillos don't
trot, exactly. They skedaddle."
Helena pursed her lips to keep from laughing aloud at the image. William was watching
her with such navet that she wondered if it was for real. Could anyone who'd been three years
at Harvard still be so unsophisticated, or was it all an act? Scrutinizing him, she decided that
William's pretentious eastern accent had definitely been a joke. He was using it only to mock
heror to mock what Frederick so obviously wanted him to become.
She had to admit that there was something inexplicably charming about Williamas
long as he kept his mouth closed. She couldn't help but admire the bright blue of his eyes. And
he certainly cut a fine figure. He was tall, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. It was
unfortunate that such a handsome man was so utterly graceless. He stomped painfully on her
foot, and Helena bit her lip as she assured him it didn't hurt a bit.
"Patman," she mused aloud, searching for something to talk about with such a hayseed.
"Are you any relation to Amy Patman, who used to attend Wellesley?"
William grinned as wide as Texas. "Well, don't that beat all!" he said. "You know my big
sister, Amy?"

"Amy Patmanthe Amy Patmanis your sister?" Helena asked, staring up at him
incredulously. Nothing she'd heard about brilliant, sophisticated Amy reminded her in the least
of William, except that they shared a home state and a last name. "No I mean, I've never
actually met Amy. She graduated years ago. But she's a bit of a legend at school."
"Amy's nine years older than me," William said. "She's sure enough smarter than a barrel
of whips. I guess all those lady professors at Wellesley are still hootin' and hollerin' their
admiration for little ol' Amy."
"Few women in this day and age are so highly placed in a company as big as Patman
Oil," Helena said. "I hear she'll be president of the firm someday. That would be remarkable for a
woman. Is it true?"
William nodded proudly. "Oh, it's true, right enough. As I said, Amy's got a passel of
brains for a female. We'uns always knew she'd take over the oil business from my daddy. My
brother Rogerhe's three years younger than Amyis already working with my mother on the
"And you?"
"I reckon I never was too all-fired interested in oil or livestock," William admitted as he
led her off the dance floor. Mercifully the song had ended. "I haven't figured out yet just what
I'm aiming to do. But it'll be something grand, I assure you."
"I thought Amy had an older brother," Helena said. "I remember hearing about him
coming up from Princeton often while she was at Wellesley."
A shadow passed over William's face. "Johnny died in the war in 1917," he explained.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said politely, agonizingly aware that she was running out of
subjects to discuss. What were westerners interested in? Buffalo? Cactus? Cow pies? She didn't
know anything about any of them. And frankly, she didn't care to learn. Luckily Frederick
suddenly appeared at her elbow, ladling himself a glass of punch.
"This Prohibition is for the birds, now, ain't it?" William said, jostling his roommate's
arm. "I know a guy who's got some homemade brew we could add to this stuff. Good southern
Helena smiled archly to see that Frederick couldn't suppress an exasperated sigh. It serves
you right, she thought at her old friend. Sticking me with this uncultured cowboy.
"It's been delightful, William," she said politely, holding out her cool, slim hand. "But I'm
sure Frederick wouldn't be pleased if I monopolized you. Perhaps we'll see each other again
another time." She swept away so quickly that she felt a breeze against her fashionably short
Behind her William was launching into a discourse on square dancing, despite Frederick's
desperate attempts to change the subject. She couldn't help hoping that William would continue
to embarrass his roommate all night long.
William trudged into the dorm room he shared with Frederick. For the last two weeks, to
his chagrin, he'd been able to think of nothing but Helena.
He reminded himself for the hundredth time of one of his mother's sayings, "You can't
hitch a horse with a coyote." But then he remembered the way Helena's sparkling earrings
dangled against the delicate curve of her neck, the way the gaze of her pale blue eyes flowed
over his face and shoulders like silk, and the way her back felt, warm against his hands as they
danced. Helena was as graceful as a Thoroughbred. And he was as wild and funny a pest as a

coyote. She exuded style and class as if they were a perfume. And he knew she considered him a
complete and utter dolt.
He tossed his tweed cap onto the bedpost, shrugged out of his wool jacket, and yanked
off his V-neck sweater before hurling it to the rug. Then he sat down heavily on the bed with a
loud sigh. "I saw her again," he announced to Frederick.
"Must you always be so melodramatic?" Frederick asked unsympathetically.
"Understatement is one of the most important arts of being a gentleman."
"So is compassion," William reminded him.
Frederick rolled his eyes. "I suppose her is Helena. You've been mooning around ever
since that party at the country club. You're really stuck on that girl, aren't you?"
"Stuck like the spots on an Appaloosa," William said. "She was at the football game
today. Why didn't you warn me her brother was on the team from Rutgers?"
"You didn't ask me," Frederick said dryly. "Who won?"
"You ever seen a sheep shearing?" William asked. "Think of Harvard as the sheep. They
done clipped us good."
"Spare me the down-home metaphors," Frederick said. "Did you talk to her?"
"I sure enough did," William said. "And in less time than it takes my mama to rope a calf,
I planted both cowboy-booted feet squarely into my mouth."
Frederick stared. "Your mother ropes calves?"
"Fifty-six years old and still one of the best cow-punchers in the Lone Star state,"
William bragged. "Do you think it would impress Helena if I told her that? She was impressed
about my sister running the oil company. So far it's the only thing that's impressed her about
"If I were you, I'd keep the part about roping calves to myself for now," Frederick
advised. "A little eccentricity is allowed, if you're wealthy enough to get away with it. But I'd say
that your family pushes the edgeat least among the Beacon Street crowd Helena's grown up
"So what can I do?" William wailed. "You've known Helena all your life. How can I
make the little filly take a cotton to me?"
"For starters, don't call her a filly, for goodness' sake!" Frederick warned. "You're
actually quite an amusing chap once one gets to know you."
"Helena sure hasn't noticed," William complained.
"And she never willunless you give her a reason to want to. Try learning about the
things she's interested in. You have to be able to get along in polite society."
"What's wrong with the way I get along now?" William asked.
"Nothing's wrong with it, exactly," Frederick said. "In fact, for some unfathomable
reason women seem to find you quite appealingin small doses. You just have to know when to
turn off the, uh local color."
"And you think that'll leave Miss Helena a-hankering to be my sweetheart?"
"Not entirely. I saw you two dancing that night at the country club. We've got to teach
you to waltz and to foxtrot. And a crash course in classical music and opera wouldn't hurt. Those
are the kinds of things she'll expect you to be able to talk about. Then there are table manners for
fancy parties, etiquette for coming to call on a lady"
"Gee whiz, Fred," William protested. "My brain's not big enough to hold all that

"Don't play the dumb country boy with me, Will!" Frederick said. "You've got a B
average in your classes. And it could be an A if you'd spend more time studying and less time
painting the town red. You're not dumb by a long shot."
"I'm a lot dumber than I look," William assured him.
Frederick laughed. "Come on, old sport. Do you want Helena to like you or not? I'll be
your coach."
William nodded uncertainly. "I reckon I need all the coaching I can get," he agreed.
"Where do we start?"
Frederick strode to the Victrola, selected a record, and positioned the needle. "We start
with the waltz," he said. He slid a chair from the center of the room and kicked William's sweater
under the bed to clear a space. "Listen to a few bars of the music first. This is the 'Blue Danube.'
It's by Strauss. I'll have to lead the first time through. Take my hand like this."
William shrugged, grasped his roommates hand, and began to stomp around the room. "I
sure am glad there's nobody here to see us," he muttered.
"You're not the only one," Frederick said. "All right, now. On the beat: one-two-three,
one-two-three "
William wheeled his tandem bicycle from the horse trailer Frederick had borrowed from
his parents. Frederick had expressed some doubts about his roommates plan. But now he gave
William a thumbs-up sign from the driver's seat for luck. Then William watched while his best
friend drove away, leaving him alone with his bicycle near the front entrance to the campus at
He took a deep breath of the warm spring air and rubbed his sweaty palms together.
Tonight was the night. In one more day William would graduate from Harvard. The following
day would be Helena's graduation from Wellesley. "It's now or never," William said aloud. "And
I'm about as nervous as an armadillo in the headlights."
He checked the bouquet of daisies that lay in the bicycle basket. Then he straddled the
bike and steered down the familiar lane toward Helena's dorm. He had to push down hard with
his feet to propel the vehicle, which was meant for two riders. But he hoped he wouldn't be
pedaling solo for long.
It had been eight months since William first saw Helena at the country club dance. Since
then he'd won her over gradually, helped in part by Frederick's amused coaching in the finer
points of society life. Eventually the coaching had become unnecessary. Since New Year's Eve,
William and Helena been considered an item by the society folks who made such
determinationsthough William still had only the vaguest notion of who those people were.
And he was almost certain that Helena had grown to love him. At least a little bit.
He jumped off the bicycle in front of Helena's dorm and wheeled it up the front walk.
The dorm monitoran upper-class student with a formidable figure and a face like a buffalo
held out a hand to stop his entrance. Then she smiled.
"Oh, it's you, William," she said in a syrupy voice. "It's so nice to see you again. But you
know it's dinnertime. Visitors aren't allowed in the dining hall without written permission. I'd
like to make an exception in your case, especially with Helena's graduation so soon. But I'm
really not allowed"
"And you, Nancy, are looking as lovely as a Texas sunset," William said. "I was hoping
you would see fit to bend that rule just this one time. I sure do need to talk to Miss Helena."

"Oh, William," Nancy replied, looking down the hallway toward the dorm mother's room.
"I'd sure like to, for you. But I can't let you take that bicycle in there"
He drew a daisy from the bouquet and handed it to her. "Please, Nancy?" he asked,
flashing her the smile that Helena said was his most endearing feature.
Nancy smiled back, eyelashes fluttering. "If the dorm mother asks, I didn't see you."
Helena sat at one end of the dormitory's crowded dining hall beside her roommate,
Abigail. Seafood bisque was on the menu, and it was perfectly dreadful. "The food is one thing I
will not miss about this place after we graduate," Helena announced.
"I bet I know what you will miss," Abigail teased. "It's about six-foot two and has a
Texas drawl."
Helena felt a hollow ache inside when she thought about William. After graduation he
had a job with a financial firm lined up in New York City, beginning the very next week. And
she'd be back in Newport with her family, waiting out the long, lonely summer before graduate
school. She was afraid it meant the end of their relationship. It felt like the end of her life.
Helena knew her friends found William amusingand quite handsome. But she also
knew they were mystified by her deep feelings for someone who was so different. She didn't
blame them. She was a bit mystified herself.
She'd initially thought William rude and uncivilized. But then he tried so hard to learn
how to foxtrot and talk about Puccini and use finger bowls. William would always be about as
graceful on the dance floor as a longhorn steer. But he'd more or less mastered most of the
important skills of getting along in societyor at least he'd learned to fake them. What had
changed Helena's mind about William was the fact that he worked so hard at winning her
affection. Her approval mattered so much to him. And as she'd gotten to know him she'd decided
that his honest, unsophisticated way of expressing himself was quite refreshing. And that came to
matter more than etiquette or social graces.
And now they would be separated, probably for good. Abigail was staring at her
curiously, no doubt waiting for Helena to break down and cry in front of everyone. Instead
Helena smiled coolly and took another dainty sip of her bisque. "Oh, William and I will no doubt
run into each other from time to time," she said nonchalantly, "perhaps at Frederick's summer
place in Newport."
Suddenly the chatter in the crowded dining hall began to fade. Girls rose to their feet,
facing the entrance at the far end of the room. Abigail and Helena stood too and craned their
necks to see who had entered.
Helena gasped. William was riding toward her through the dining hall. He was on one
seat of a tandem bicycle, and the vehicle was wobbling frantically from side to side.
"Daisy, daisy, give me your answer, do!" he sang in a loud voice, more enthusiastic than
"William!" she cried. For a moment she wanted to sink into the floor.
William continued his song: "I'm half crazy, oh, for the love of you," he sang. "It won't he
a stylish marriage. I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built
for two!"
William jumped from the bike, leaned it against the wall, and grabbed a bouquet of
daisies from the basket. Then he fell to his knees in front of her. "I love you, Helena!" he called
out, gesturing dramatically with the daisies. "Please say you'll marry me."
Helena opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She sat down limply in her chair.

"I know!" William said, "you want me to sing again. Am I right?" He threw his arms out
to his sides and belted out, "I want to be happy, but I won't be happy till I make you happy too!"
Helena blushed, mortified. Nobody had ever made such a public spectacle of her before.
But she looked at William's eager face and saw how frightened his eyes were, despite his flashy
smile. He would be devastated if she rejected his proposal. And she would be just as devastated
if he rode out of her life on his silly, wobbly bicycle.
He laid the flowers in her lap and took her slender hands in his big ones. "Helena, if you'd
agree to marry me," he said, "I'd be about as happy as a possum eating a yellow jacket. And I'd
do everything I can to make you happy." He lowered his voice to convey great sacrifice. "Even .
.. the foxtrot."
Every eye in the room was on Helena. And every ear strained to catch her reply.
She couldn't hold back her grin. "Yes!" she called out, loud enough for her dorm mates to
hear. She leaned forward to kiss her fianc. "I love you, William Patman. And I will marry you,"
she said happily. "But first I want a ride on that bicycle."
As Helena and William pedaled toward the door, the room erupted in cheers.

December 31, 1926. New York City
Helena couldn't stop shivering with the cold. Then pain stabbed through her abdomen,
white-hot. She clenched her teeth as she doubled over in the front seat of the Mercedes-Daimler.
"Hold on, honey," William said from the driver's seat. His face was as white as the snow
that was caking on the windshield. "We'll be at the hospital quicker than falling off a horse.
We're almost there now."
"Where are we?" Helena whispered. Tears, pain, and whirling snow blurred the lights of
the city into colored blots, obscuring familiar landmarks.
"Almost there," he repeated in a strained voice.
Helena bit her lip. The contraction began to fade, and the biggest array of colored lights
outside the car window arranged themselves into words: "Katherine LeMov stars in The Beggar's
Opera." A theater marquee. That meant they were only at Broadway. With traffic slowed to a
near standstill by the blizzard, Helena feared they would never make it to New York Hospital in
time. They'd known the trip was risky when they set out, but there had been no other option. The
blizzard had cut off telephone service. And there was no time for someone to drive out and bring
a doctor back.
"It'll be all right," William said in a voice like a prayer. "Everything's going to be fine and
It's not going to be all right! Helena wanted to shout. It was too early. The baby wasn't
due for a month.
Another contraction screamed through her body, and her husbands voice blurred into the
shifting lights and blowing snow. She could no longer make out his words, which had long since
ceased to reassure her. But she held on to the sound of his voice as if it were a lifeline. She
prayed that her baby would live.
Helena's face was as pale as William had ever seen it. He wished she would scream or
cry; it might bring her some release. But she gritted her teeth and bore the pain as if she were
afraid of scaring him by giving into it. It was the same way she'd endured eight wretched months
of pregnancy.
Throughout the harrowing drive William had reassured her that the baby would be fine.
But neither of them felt that certain. He longed to reach out to her, to hold her hand or stroke her
hair. But the storm was intensifying. Keeping the Daimler on the road took all his concentration.
Snow blew wildly, sleet pounded at the windshield, and other cars kept appearing out of nowhere
and then vanishing into the howling dark. It was early evening, but the night was as black as oil.
The car stalled in a snowdrift. William swore as the wheels spun. He rammed his fist
against the steering wheel and then regretted his show of emotion. Helena needed to see him
calm and in control. He parked the car and leaned over to pat his wife's shoulder. "Hang on,
darling," he said in a gentle voice. "This will only take a minute."
He opened the door carefully to avoid letting in too much of the whirling snow. The
interior of the car was already too cold for Helena. He dug out the stuck wheel, stamped down
the snow with his boot to create some traction, and jumped into the car.
Helena's contraction had stopped. She nodded, her skin fragile and translucent, when he
asked if she was all right. Then he started the car again and headed once more into the blinding

By the time they reached New York Hospital, it seemed to William that he'd been driving
for days. Helena screamed for the first time as a doctor and two nurses lifted her onto a stretcher.
William ran along beside the stretcher, holding his wife's hand. At the delivery room door a
gray-haired nurse gently pulled him away.
William paced across the waiting room, six steps in each direction. Helena had been in
labor for hours, and he hadn't heard a thing about her condition or the baby's.
"Is this your first one?" asked a voice.
William spun on his heel. He hadn't noticed the young blond man who was now sitting on
a couch, nervously bouncing one foot. "Yes," William said, "it's our first." His voice was barely
above a whisper.
"Me too," the blond man said. He introduced himself as Henry something, but William
barely heard him. The doctor had just walked into the room and was staring at them from the
"Mr. Patman?" the doctor began.
"My wife?" William croaked out.
"You can go in now for a few minutes to see herand your new son."
"Are they all right?" William asked.
The doctor nodded. "I'm afraid your wife had a rough time of it. She'll need some bed
rest, but she should be up and around in a few weeks."
"And my son?"
"He's small, but he's perfectly healthy as far as we can tell," the doctor replied with a
smile. "He was born exactly one minute past midnight. I guess that makes him the first baby of
William's relief was so enormous that for a moment he thought he would actually faint.
But the dizziness passed, and he rushed by the doctor toward his wife and baby.
Helena was more exhausted than she'd ever been. Every inch of her body ached. But none
of it mattered. The only thing that mattered was the tiny baby boy in her arms. He seemed so
delicate. But the doctor said he was healthy. And he looked absolutely perfect. For the fourth
time she counted his fingers and toes. She traced the line of his delicate ear, like a seashell. And
she ran her finger over a small pinkish birthmark on his upper right arm. She smiled. The
birthmark was shaped a little like the state of Texas. William would like that, she thought
William. He was standing at her bedside, looking more proud and radiant than on the day
of their wedding. He leaned over to wipe the dark, damp locks of hair from Helena's forehead.
Then he kissed her gently on the cheek.
"Meet your son," she murmured, holding out the small, soft bundle.
William reached a tentative finger toward the baby's gauzelike skin. "Gee whiz!" he
whispered in awe. Then his eyes narrowed in concern. "He's bald!"
She wanted to laugh, but she was too tired. She managed a weak smile. "Don't worry,"
she said in a low voice. "He'll have hair in no time. I promise."
"What's his name?" William asked.
"They're not born with labels on them, silly!" she said, wondering if he was playacting
another version of his old country-hick routine just to amuse her. If he was, it was working. She
felt her heart overflowing with love for her husband and child. For a moment she wanted to
freeze time so that the three of them could remain together, exactly like this, forever.

"What do you want to name him?" William tried again. "It's your choice. You did the
hard part."
"Paul," she decided, her eyelids beginning to flutter. She felt the middle-aged nurse take
the baby from her arms. "Let's name him Paul," Helena said again. "You pick the middle name."
"Howard," he said decisively. "For your family. This little colt is a joint production."
"Paul Howard Patman," Helena said, liking the way the name felt on her tongue. "It's
perfect. He's perfect."
"We're perfect," William corrected as she sank toward sleep. "All three of us. But
especially you."
Six weeks later Helena and William stood by Paul's crib in their New York City
brownstone, watching the baby sleep. The infant was peaceful enough, but every muscle in
Helena's body tensed. "He's too quiet!" she said, her voice low with alarm. "Is he breathing?"
William smiled. "Yes, he's breathing," he whispered, calm and reassuring. "You need to
relax, darling. Of course he's as quiet as a fence post. He's asleep!"
"Do you think his color is all right?" she asked. "He seems flushed to me. Maybe he's
running a fever." She leaned over to feel the baby's forehead. "It feels normal," she admitted,
surprised. "But I still have this terrible suspicion that something is wrong, something we can't
"You're just being overprotective," he said into her ear, wrapping an arm around her
slender shoulders. "The doctor said a lot of new mothers are that way the first time. He told me
that by the time most women get to their second one"
Helena winced, and he squeezed her close.
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "That was a plumb rotten thing to say."
Helena tried to smile but didn't succeed. "Don't apologize," she said. "I'll just have to get
used to the idea that I'll never have another child. The doctor said I was lucky to be able to
deliver this one, with all the complications"
She bit her lip and clenched the railing of the crib. She had always planned on a big
family, and now it would never happen. She turned her head from her husband long enough to
blink back her tears. William had been sweet and supportive through her whole ordeal. She
couldn't bear to see him so worried. "I'm fine," she said, responding to his unasked question. She
turned back to the infant, ruffling the fringe of soft blond hair that had begun to grow a few days
after Paul's birth.
"If we can only have one colt in the litter, then I'd say we got a fine one," William said,
stroking his son's soft little arm. "Paul is the best darn baby this side of the Rio Grande. I reckon
on the other side too!"
Helena nodded, her eyes following her husband's gaze to the baby's arm. "Funny how that
little birthmark faded after the first few days," she mused. "I rather liked the idea of Paul carrying
a little piece of Texas with him wherever he goesthe same way you carry it in your heart."
"He doesn't need a Texas brand on his arm," William said. "He'll know where his folks
come from: Texas, Boston, and now New York. We'll make sure of he knows."
The baby shifted position, and Helena leaned in to see if he was still breathing.
"He's fine," William assured her. "Don't be so nervous. Come on, let's let him get his
beauty sleep." He steered her toward the door.
Helena turned one last time to look at her sleeping infant. Paul cooed softly in his sleep
and moved one little foot. He looked like a normal, healthy child. And William and the doctor

kept assuring her that he was fine. But deep inside, some maternal instinct warned her that
something was wrong. With another glance behind her she switched off the lamp and followed
William out of the room.
Something jostled William's arm. "Daddy, Daddy!" cried his son. No, William thought.
That couldn't be right. Paul was only six weeks old and no bigger than a crawdad. Then William
was in Texas, and Helena glided by on a bicycle built for two with a bouquet of daisies in the
basket. "I'm going to check on the baby," she said.
William opened his eyes, and the dream dissipated. "Huh?" he asked, gradually
recognizing the darkened master bedroom in their New York City brownstone.
Helena was standing near the door, her white nightgown bright in the shifting shards of
moonlight. "I said I'm going to check on the baby," she repeated softly.
William's head cleared. It was cute, the way Helena was so overprotective of little Paul.
But she was still weak and delicate from her difficult pregnancy. She needed her sleep. "Honey,
you don't have to check on him twelve times a night," he told her gently. "He'll cry when he's
"I know, but I have to make sure," she said obstinately.
"Get back in bed. I'll go."
"No," Helena said. "I'm already up. I won't be able to sleep until I see him."
William nodded, defeated, and lay back against the pillow. He wished his mother were
here. Sensible, take-charge Samantha was exactly what Helena needed to help her through these
first few months. Surely his brother Roger could run the ranch alone for a while. William
resolved to call his mother in the morning and ask her to come east.
My mother the rodeo queen, here in New York City. Now there was an interesting
thought. As his mind drifted toward sleep he saw Samantha roping a steer in the middle of Times
Helena's scream shattered his half dream.
William raced into the nursery, where he found Helena clutching the bars of the crib, her
body trembling. "No!" she whispered over and over again. Paul was lying still. Too still.
"He's not breathing!" William gasped. He lifted his son in his arms. But he knew right
away, as Helena had known, that it was too late. The baby was dead.
Helena's knees buckled, and she collapsed to the floor.

June 1941. New York City.
"To Cassandra!" said Katherine Richmond LeMov, raising a glass of champagne to the
New York skyline.
Her husband, Damon, stood beside her in their Manhattan penthouse, gazing out over the
city at sunset. "To our daughter!" he agreed. "The best thing to happen to medicine since rubber
They strolled onto the balcony and settled comfortably on the wicker love seat. "It's odd
to think about," Katherine mused, "but when I retire, it will be the end of nearly a hundred years
of tradition. Since 1851 three generations of women in my family have been actresses."
Damon nodded. "You're not sorry to see Cassandra get her medical degree instead, are
"I'm so proud of her, I can hardly bear it," Katherine assured him. "It just seems strange
to think there will no longer be one of us on the stage."
"But all the world's a stage," Damon quoted. "Cassandra's just found a different role to
play. And she's going to play it well. She'll be a marvelous doctor. I've never seen anyone so
dedicated to her workexcept for you, of course."
Katherine squeezed his hand. "I'm glad we waited until so late in life to have a child," she
said. "If Cassandra had been born when I was twenty-two instead of forty-two, she might have
never had the chance. Even now, in these modern times, she's had to work so hard as a woman to
be taken seriously in the sciences."
"But she's accomplished everything she ever set out to do," Damon reminded her. "Just as
you have. Of course, I never doubted you'd still be the toast of Broadway at the age of seventyoneacting and directing."
"It helps to have a husband who's a producer," Katherine said modestly. She twirled on
her finger the silver ring her grandmother had given her. "But the real credit belongs to my
mother and grandmother," she said. "I still get misty-eyed when I think of them and my father,
dead in that fire in London. I hope Cassandra never feels so alone in the world."
"She's twenty-nine years old, brilliant, and full of life," Damon said. "She'll find love and
happiness wherever she goes. Besides, I plan on sticking around for quite a few more curtain
calls myself."
Katherine took a sip of her champagne. "So do I."
"Do you regret remaining here after that fire?" Damon asked. "You had friends back in
England. Things might have been easier for you there."
"I might have had more help building a career in a place where people knew who my
mother was," Katherine mused. "And life would have been kinder if I'd known right away that I
was a very wealthy teenager. I was the sole heir to both my mother's and my father's family
fortunes and titles. It was months before I realized I was a marquesa and a countessnot that
titles meant much in America."
"Maybe you should have gone back to Britain," Damon suggested.
"No," Katherine said. "I have no regrets." She thought briefly of John Patman and the
precious weeks they'd spent together in Kansas City so long ago. But she remembered him now
with affection, not with bitterness or longing. "I wouldn't trade my life for anything," she told her
husband. She gazed contentedly at the city lights that were twinkling on, one by one, under the

purple sky. "And my greatest achievementour greatest achievementis a certain new surgeon
who's about to take the medical world by storm."
"I just spoke with my friend at Mount Sinai Hospital," Damon said. "He was impressed
with Cassandra's transcriptsand with her internship in emergency surgery. He wants to
consider her for a position there if she's interested. Sinai has an excellent record of employing
women physicians."
"Her professor said St. Vincent's might hire her as well," Katherine said with a smile.
"I'm glad Cassandra will have some options."
Suddenly the apartment door slammed. The subject of their conversation raced into the
room behind them, her long black hair flying. "Mother! Father! I have the most terrific news!"
Cassandra called.
Katherine and Damon joined her inside. "Have you found a position already?" Damon
asked. "My contact at Mount Sinai says"
"You're sweet to try to help me, Dad," Cassandra said, bouncing on her toes in her
excitement. "But I've got a plan of my own. I still can't believe they accepted me on the spot!"
"Who's accepted you?" Katherine asked. "St. Vincent's?"
Cassandra took a deep breath. "The British army's Voluntary Aid Detachment!" she
announced. "I'm going to be a doctor at a military hospital near the front in Europe! I'll be
stationed in France."
Katherine paled. "Darling, you don't have to do that! I know how difficult it is for a
woman to find a position as a doctorespecially a surgeonbut you have excellent prospects
"Don't you see, Mom?" Cassandra said. "This is what I've been dreaming of doing. I'd be
helping in the war effort, in a place where people really need me. I'll handle everything from
dysentery to amputations. It's what practicing medicine is all about!"
"Surely there are military hospitals farther from the front," Damon suggested. "Why must
they send you so close to the fighting?"
"I requested a post near the fighting," Cassandra said, looking from one parent to the
other. Her voice deflated. "I hoped you would be happy for me."
"We're happy that you've found something that excites you," Katherine said carefully.
The effort to hold back tears was taking all her acting ability. "But I can't bear the thought of my
daughter in a war zone. People are dying over there!"
"That's why I'm needed there, Mother," Cassandra said quietly. "This is something I
really want to do." She smiled at her parents, suddenly filling with pride. "This is something I am
going to do."
A hand on her shoulder gently shook Cassandra awake. She blinked, surprised to find
she'd fallen asleep in the cubicle that served as her office, in the corner of the recovery ward.
Cassandra looked up into the sympathetic brown eyes of nurse Mary Lee. Mary was ten years
younger than the doctor. But as the only two Americans on the staff of the Allied hospital, the
women had become close friends.
It was May 1943, and Cassandra had been in Europe for nearly two years. In that time
she'd felt more needed and more alive than she'd imagined possible.
"How long was I asleep?" Cassandra asked, still groggy. She brushed a strand of hair
from her forehead.

Mary fumbled with her nurse's cap, which always seemed to slip down her smooth, light
brown hair. "Only twenty minutes, Doctor," she replied. "It's still midmorning."
Cassandra stood and stretched.
"I was tempted to let you sleep," the nurse continued. "You've been on duty twenty-four
hours. But I hoped I could convince you to go to your tent and get some real rest."
Cassandra shook her head. "I'm fine," she insisted, still drowsy as she poured herself a
cup of what passed for coffee in wartime. "Anything new on the ward? Has there been any word
on the American I operated on two days ago?"
"Intensive care just sent him back down to us," Mary said, smiling. "It looks like you
were right about the surgery. You managed to save both legs!" She handed the patient's chart to
Cassandra. "His name is Spencer Light. Did you realize he's from New York City, just like you?"
"I didn't notice," Cassandra said as they began walking together down the long, narrow
aisle between rows of beds. "He'll be here for some time, recovering. It'll be great to talk to
someone from home."
"Another patient told me Lieutenant Light was injured saving the lives of four other
soldiers!" Mary said.
Cassandra's eyes widened. "What a brave man," she said quietly. "I'm eager to meet
Mary gestured toward a bed where a light-haired man of about thirty was lying, his eyes
closed. "Dr. Cassandra LeMov, meet Lieutenant Spencer Light. Of course, he's still
"Yes, they taught me to recognize that in med school," Cassandra said lightly as she
checked the man's pulse. "But his breathing's improving. I think he's waking up. Mary, you'll
need to get some fresh bandages and replace the dressing on his legs as soon as I'm finished
As Mary scurried off to find the dressings the patient moved his head and mumbled
"Easy there, Lieutenant," Cassandra told Spencer. "You'll dislodge all these comfortable
tubes we've got sticking out of you."
Lieutenant Spencer Light's eyes fluttered open. They were an intense, deep brown,
startlingly dark beneath the blond hair that curled across his forehead. "Are you a nurse?" he
"I'm Dr. LeMov," Cassandra told him.
He smiled, and Cassandra thought she'd never seen such a wonderful grin. She reminded
herself for the umpteenth time about the importance of maintaining her professional detachment.
"I've never had a lady doctor," the lieutenant said, still grinning. "I think I like it."
She smiled back. "That's lucky," she replied. "Because you're stuck with me."
"You sound American," he said with surprise. "You even sound New York."
"Manhattan," she explained, checking the flow of fluid through his intravenous tube.
"I'm Staten Island," he replied. "Wait a minute! You said LeMov. Are you related to the
actress and the producer?"
"They're my parents," Cassandra said, proudly raising her chin.
"No kidding!" he said. "How's New York? Have you been home recently?"
"Probably not as recently as you," she said. "It's been two years since I've strolled down
Broadway. But you shouldn't try to talk too much right now, Lieutenant."

"Call me Spencer," he said. "Two years? How did you manage to join up before Pearl
Mary returned with the bandages as Cassandra put her finger to her lips to remind her
patient to rest. "We'll talk later," she promised him. "Now get some sleep."
"One more thing, Doc!" Spencer insisted, his face suddenly younger and paler. "My
legsare they going to be OK? I, uh was afraid I'd lose them."
"As far as I can tell, the surgery was a complete success," she assured him. "You may be
with us for a few months of recuperation; we have physical therapy facilities on the premises.
With a little work I believe you'll recover full mobility."
Spencer graced Cassandra with another smile, but he was too tired to speak again. As he
sank into sleep Cassandra turned to the nurse. "Make sure his body temperature is monitored
around the clock," she instructed. "And alert me instantly to any signs of infection. I'll be in my
tent getting some rest."
A knock sounded at her dressing-room door, and Katherine looked up from her script.
Her husband peeked around the corner of the door. "It's me, dear," Damon said, "with a letter
from Cassandra. Do you have time to read it before the performance?"
"For a letter from our daughter? I'll make time!" Katherine said.
It was August 1943, and The Trojan Women was about to open on Broadway, with
Katherine LeMov directing the production and starring as Hecuba. But curtain time was still two
hours away. She took the envelope from her husband and tore it open. Cassandra had been in
Europe for more than two years. All that time Katherine had watched the news-reels and listened
to radio reports on the war, praying that her daughter was safe. Every letter from Cassandra was
an answer to one of those prayers. At least Katherine knew her daughter was alive.
"Dear Mother and Father," Katherine read aloud. "I apologize for springing momentous
news so suddenly. I know how much you would have wanted to be here. And telephone use is
restricted to military business, with the fighting so close."
Katherine bit her lip, tears welling up in her eyes at the thought of her daughter in a war
zone. Damon patted her back and gently took the letter from her.
"I feel guilty about being so happy in the midst of such suffering," he read. "But I've
never been this ecstatic in my life. What I'm trying to say is that I was married today to a dear,
brave American officer, Lieutenant Spencer Light."
"Married!" Katherine gasped. "Our baby is married!" She pulled the letter from her
husband's hands and scanned it frantically.
"What does she say about our son-in-law?" Damon demanded.
"He's from New York. She met him when he was her patient," Katherine summarized.
"They fell in love this summer, and the hospital chaplain married them!"
"He was wounded?" Damon asked.
"Yes," Katherine said. "After recovering, he chose to stay in Europe and continue
fighting the Nazis." She resumed reading aloud. "Now that Spencer is well and we are husband
and wife, we'll have one week together of wedded bliss. Then he'll ship back to the front, and
we'll count the days until his leave in November, when he can come back to me."
"He must be an extraordinary young man," Damon said.
Katherine nodded, her eyes still wet with tears. "Yes, he must be," she said. "Cassandra
writes she's keeping the name LeMov for professional reasons."

"I suppose it's easier that way, now that she's built a reputation as a physician," Damon
Katherine took a deep breath and continued reading. "Please forgive me for marrying so
impulsively. I'd have consulted you, but there was no time. Just believe that I love Spencer more
than I can describe. I promise you'll love him too." Katherine stared at a framed photograph of
Cassandra on the dressing table. But her daughter's words brought to mind even more clearly
Cassandra's joyful smile and shining eyes.
"Someday this insanity will be over," the letter concluded. "And we will all be together at
home and safe. I promise I'll write more about Spencer next week after he has left here. Love
always, Cassandra."
Katherine finished the letter and pressed it to her chest. Tears of joy and loss trickled
down her face. "I hope she always stays this happy," she whispered
"I hope he stays safe," Damon said.
"How do I look?" Cassandra asked as she dressed in her tent. Three months had passed,
and Spencer would arrive in an hour on his first leave since their marriage. "Maybe I should
wear my hair up instead. Short hair is more stylish. I should have cut it."
Nurse Mary Lee stood behind her, scrutinizing Cassandra's image in the mirror. "Don't
even think about bobbing your hair!" Mary admonished. "Men go crazy for long hair like
yoursSpencer included. You've got what all the Gothic novels call raven tresses. I should be
so out of style."
"What about the dress?" Cassandra asked. "It was sweet of you to lend it to me, but do
you think it's too tight? I hate being fat. Why can't I be slim and willowy like you?"
"Doctor Cassandra LeMov Spencer, you are not the least bit fat," Mary told her. "And the
dress is not too tight. You look gorgeous."
"Do you think Spencer will think so?"
"After three months away," Mary said, "Spencer will take one look at you, and you'll
both spend the rest of his leave right here in this tent. Should I drop a tray of food by now and
"Not if it's from our mess tent," Cassandra said, slipping on two different shoes to see
which one made her legs look longer. "I always used to wonder why they call military dining
halls 'messes.' It's not hard to figure out now that we have to eat in one. What about jewelry?"
"You want to eat jewelry?" Mary joked. "If our cook got hold of some, the emeralds
would turn brown and the diamonds would wilt into a shiny little puddle of mush."
"I mean should I wear my pearls or your rhinestones?"
"Pearls go better with khaki," Mary said, gesturing toward the drab walls of the tent.
"Honestly, Cassandra. I've watched you cut into a man's skull with a hand as steady as a rock.
But today you're as jittery as a teenager on a first date. It's refreshing to see that you can be
nervous too, like ordinary mortals."
"It's a big day for me!" Cassandra said, dabbing some French perfume behind her ears.
She'd paid an outrageous price for it in a black market bazaar in the nearest village. But for
Spencer it was worth it.
"I know you miss your husband," Mary said. "But you're about to start bouncing off the
wallswhich can be dangerous when they're canvas. Sit on the bed a minute and get a grip on

Cassandra sat down obediently, but Mary laughed at the way she fidgeted on the hard,
thin mattress. "Mary, you know I have reason to be nervous. It's more than just missing Spencer.
How in the world will I give him the big news? I haven't told anyone yet!"
"You told me," Mary reminded her.
Cassandra shook her head. "That was different. I needed your help with the lab test. What
do you think he'll say when he hears we're having a baby?"
Mary raised her eyebrows suggestively. "I think he'll grab you and kiss you like you've
never been kissed before."
"I hope so," Cassandra said with a grin. "Do you think he'll be mad that I didn't tell him in
my letters?"
"He'll be too excited to be mad," Mary assured her. "Besides, I think you were right to
wait and tell him in person."
"Oh, gosh! Do you see the time?" Cassandra exclaimed. "Spencer could be here any
minute! How do I look?" she asked again.
"You look radiant," Mary said. "And that's my cue to clear out so I don't spoil the big
reunion. I'll expect a full report!"
"Don't count on it!" Cassandra shouted after her. When Mary had left, she jumped up and
inspected herself in the mirror again. Lipstick. She'd forgotten her lipstick. She fumbled in her
seldom used makeup bag for her tube of Pink Passion. Then she quickly outlined her full lips and
filled them in with color. Finally a knock sounded on the door. Cassandra jumped, smearing a
dab of Pink Passion on her chin. "Just a minute!" she called as she frantically wiped it away.
She tossed open the door, ready to throw her arms around her husband's neck. But a U.S.
Army officer she didn't know stood there in a dress uniform. He held his hat in his hands and
wore a grim expression. "Dr. Cassandra LeMov?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied, confused. "Can I help you?"
"I'm Major Evan Washington," he said.
Cassandra gasped. "Spencer's commanding officer!" she whispered. She squared her
shoulders and tried to control her breathing. "He's been wounded, hasn't he?"
The officer nodded sharply. "Lieutenant Light was hit by mortar fire the day before
yesterday as he tried to carry a wounded civilian to safety," he said. He spoke in a monotone, as
though reading the words from an official report. But his eyes were full of grief. "By the time
somebody got a medic to him, it was too late."
"He's dead?" Cassandra whispered, willing herself not to cry.
"I am so sorry, ma'am," the major said, fidgeting with his hat. "Spencer was one of the
finest officers ever to serve under me and a friend. He died a hero. Pie saved that civilian's life."
Cassandra felt a crushing pain in her abdomen, as if she'd been punched. She staggered
backward and sat quickly on the bed.
The man's hand felt cold on her arm. "Are you all right, ma'am?" he asked. "Is there
anything I can do?"
"I'm fine," she insisted, holding up a hand. She took a deep breath and tried to remember
that she was a doctor. "What were Spencer's injuries like? Was he in much pain?"
"No, he wasn't in pain. His best friend, Lieutenant Peter Vanderhorn, was with him when
he died," the major said, pulling an envelope from his uniform pocket. "Peter couldn't
accompany me here, but he sent you this letter."
"Spencer spoke well of Lieutenant Vanderhorn," she told him, hardly knowing what she
was saying. "And of you, Major." Pain gripped her abdomen again, and Cassandra cried out.

"What is it?" he asked, his eyes frightened.

"I'm nearly three months pregnant," she gasped. Then Cassandra bent forward, her head
to her knees. She felt blood on her legs, soaking into the borrowed dress.
The officer ran to the door. "Get a doctor in here!" he yelled into the compound. "Now!"

New York City. May 1945.
Cassandra signed a purchase order for penicillin and tossed it into the out-box on her
desk. She glanced out the window of the New York City charity hospital where she had just
begun work as the chief resident physician. The tenement building across the street was obscured
by a veil of slow, gray rain.
Cassandra sighed. In the two years since Spencer's death and her miscarriage, she'd
chosen to remain with the British army. She'd worked on through the war, telling herself all
along that her depression would lift when the conflict was over.
The war in Europe had ended a few weeks earlier, though fighting still continued in the
Pacific. Cassandra returned from France after Germany surrendered. But her life still seemed
void of meaningexcept when she was working.
Treating patients filled Cassandra with a tremendous sense of purpose, whether they were
the casualties of war in Europe or of poverty and despair in New York. It didn't matter that the
pay was low and the surroundings cheerless. The people of the tenements needed her as
desperately as the soldiers had. Polio, unsanitary conditions, and violent crime were rampant in
this part of town. Here she knew she was needed.
A man in a U.S. Army uniform appeared at the open doorway of her office. For a
moment she stared wildly. It was Spencer. She blinked and the illusion was gone. The man was
about Spencer's size and build. He even stood and moved like Spencer. But his rank was captain,
not lieutenant, and he looked slightly younger than Spencer would have been. His hair was
brown, not blond. And his eyes were blue. But there was a striking similarity nonetheless.
"May I help you?" Cassandra asked when she recovered her composure.
"I'm sorry I startled you," the young officer said. "Are you Dr. LeMov?"
Cassandra nodded, her heart heavy. "What can I do for you?"
"My name is Peter Vanderhorn," he introduced himself.
Cassandra drew in a sharp breath. "Spencer's friend!" she whispered.
"We served together in France," he said. "I promised him I would look you up if anything
happened to him. I wanted to find you sooner, but I was promoted and sent to Italy shortly after
Spencer's death."
"Thank you for your letter," Cassandra said faintly, tears welling in her eyes. "It meant a
lot to me."
He took her hands in his, and Cassandra saw that Peter's eyes were moist too. "Spencer
meant a lot to me," he said.
For a moment neither spoke, and the hiss of the rain outside filled the room.
"I miss him so much," Cassandra whispered finally. She fell against Peter and began to
cry in earnest. And Peter's shoulders heaved with sobs as he held her.
Central Park was bright with August foliage, and the air was filled with birdsong. The
people who strolled and biked around Peter and Cassandra seemed happier than anyone he'd seen
in a long, long time. Japan had surrendered a few days earlier. The war was finally over. It had
ended in tragedy for many. But the pall that had shrouded so much of the world for years had
evaporated like mist.

Peter was happy too. Cassandra's hand was in his, and the lilt of her voice was like music.
They'd spent much of the summer together. At first their shared grief had brought them close.
But gradually they understood that more than Spencer's memory linked them.
The Cassandra whom Spencer had bragged about was vivacious and high-spirited. The
Cassandra Peter had come to know was lovable too. But she was quieter, subdued by loss. Lately
Peter had begun to see glimmers of the liveliness that had captivated Spencer from the day he
met the young surgeon. Peter and Cassandra would never forget Spencer Light. But he hoped
she'd healed enough to find happiness again. He planned to help her find itbeginning that
August morning in Central Park.
"I need to talk to you about something," Peter said. He pulled Cassandra off the path
toward a familiar patch of trees and wildflowers.
"What is it?" she asked as they sat in the shade of their favorite oak tree.
"You must know by now that I love you," Peter said. His hand shook as he pulled a small
box from his pocket. "And I think you love me too. So I want you to have this."
"What is it?" Cassandra asked, eyes wide.
"An engagement ring."
For a split second pleasure lit her face. Then tears came to her eyes. She shook her head.
"No, Peter," she begged. "Please don't"
"If it's Spencer you're worried about, you shouldn't be," Peter said quickly. "Falling in
love again isn't disloyal. Nothing would please Spencer more than seeing the two of us happy
Cassandra was still shaking her head. "It's not that," she said, jumping to her feet. "Peter,
I can't"
As Peter stared, mystified, Cassandra turned and fled through the park as if nothing
mattered more than getting away from him.
The doorbell rang a few hours later as Katherine lay reading in a chaise longue on the
balcony of her penthouse. She sighed, resenting the interruption. She had one more hour of
relaxation before she had to head to the theater for the evening's performance of The Trojan
Women. Now in its third season, the play was proving to be one of the biggest hits of her career.
But directing and acting was tiring, especially at her age. Lately she'd found herself hoarding free
afternoons like gold.
She rose reluctantly to answer the door. A frantic, disheveled young man trembled there,
his blue eyes overflowing with pain and confusion. His slacks were grass stained, his collar was
crooked, and his brown hair stood on end. Katherine wondered how he'd made it past the
"Mrs. LeMov, I have to speak to you!" the man exclaimed. "I have to know what I've
done! I have to know why!"
"Peter Vanderhorn, isn't it?" she asked in surprise. She barely recognized him as the
cheerful, reasonable young man her daughter had once brought to dinner. She opened the door
wider and ushered Peter in.
A few minutes later he sat at her kitchen table, ignoring the lemonade she'd placed in
front of him. He seemed embarrassed about his outburst and his appearance.
"Tell me what the problem is, Peter," she prompted. "Is it Cassandra?"
Peter nodded. "I love her, Mrs. LeMov. More than anything! I thought she loved me. But
I just tried to give her this"

He pulled out a box and handed it to Katherine, who opened it and nodded,
understanding. "An engagement ring," she said. "I assume she turned you down."
"She started to say something, and then she just jumped up and ran away. I was too
stunned to follow her. I've tried her apartment and her office, but I can't find her anywhere!"
"I wish I could help you," Katherine said. "But I haven't seen Cassandra in several days.
She hasn't called here."
"Then tell me why!" Peter begged. "You know her better than anyone. Do you think she
loves me?"
"Yes, Peter," Katherine answered truthfully. "She hasn't said so explicitly. But I believe
she does."
"Then why won't she marry me?" Peter asked, his eyes full of pain. "What's going on in
her head?"
Katherine rose and paced across the room, her back to the young man who slumped at her
table. She thought she understood her daughter's reasons for refusing his marriage proposal. She
disagreed with Cassandra's logic. But to tell him would betray a confidence. Her daughter might
never forgive her.
She whirled and studied Peter's downcast face. He truly loved Cassandra. And Katherine
believed he could make her happy.
"All right, Peter," she decided. "I'm going to tell you why Cassandra didn't accept your
proposal. My daughter has been keeping a secret from you. Once you know the truth about her,
she believes that you won't want to marry her."
Peter shook his head. "I can't imagine anything I could learn about Cassandra that would
change my mind."
"I know you're sincere," Katherine said. "But this is a serious matter. It would make a
difference to a lot of men. So think about it carefully. Then you can decide what you want to do."
"What is it?" Peter asked.
"I didn't know any of this myself until May, when my daughter returned from the war,"
Katherine began. "But when Spencer died, Cassandra was pregnant with his child."
"She never told me!" Peter said in a stunned whisper. "What happened?"
"The news of her husband's death was too much of a shock for her," Katherine continued.
"Cassandra miscarried the baby, with some serious complications."
"She must have been devastated," Peter said, tears running down his face. "First she lost
Spencer, and then she lost his child as well."
"She very nearly lost her life," Katherine said, her own eyes shining with teardrops. "Of
course, she did recover. But the specialists told her she would never again be able to conceive a
"Poor Cassandra!" Peter said. "And she would have been such a wonderful mother."
"Cassandra loves children," Katherine said. "She always said she wanted two of thema
girl and a boy. She once told me that you love children too."
"I do," Peter said. "I always planned to have a family. " Suddenly he closed his eyes
and hid his face in his hands. "That's it, isn't it? That's why she doesn't want to marry me!"
Katherine nodded. "You're what? Thirty? Thirty-one? She thinks you deserve a woman
who can give you children. I'm sure she's afraid to tell you the truth. She thinks you'd be too
much of a gentleman to withdraw your offer. She doesn't want you to marry her out of
"So what do I do?" Peter asked.

"I can't make the decision for you, Peter," Katherine told him. "Take some time and think
about it. If having children is that important to you, then the kindest thing you can do for
Cassandra is to let her get on with her life. If that's your decision, I won't even tell her I saw you.
The choice is yours."
Peter stood up slowly, as if his shoulders carried a heavy weight. He walked out of the
apartment without another word.
Cassandra stopped at a patient's bed in a huge ward room of the hospital. Peter's proposal
that morning had stunned her. She loved him, but she knew she couldn't accept. Heartsick, she'd
come to the hospital to find healing for herself in the healing of others. It was supposed to be her
day off, but the charity hospital was always overcrowded and understaffed.
She tried to put Peter out of her mind as she checked the woman's chart. "She's still not
responding to the treatment," she told the nurse. "Give her another unit of blood." As Cassandra
turned away from the patient she froze. Peter had just stepped into the bustling room and was
walking resolutely toward her.
"Peter," she began in the most professional voice she could muster, "I appreciated your
offer this morning, but I can't accept. Please don't ask me to explain."
"Cassandra, I love you," he said, reaching out to touch her arm.
Conversations around them hushed as doctors, nurses, and patients listened in. Cassandra
wondered if this was how her mother felt onstage, acting out a scene for a roomful of strangers.
She lowered her voice. "Not here, Peter," she said in a whisper, terrified of bursting into tears in
front of everyone. "This isn't the place for it."
"Then where is the place?" he asked forcefully. He took her hand. "I don't care that you
can't have children," he whispered. Cassandra gasped. "My life means nothing without you," he
Peter fell to his knees right in the middle of the ward. "Marry me, Cassandra," he said in
a loud, clear voice. "Nothing else matters except having you as my wife."
She gazed into his pale blue eyes. "Are you sure?" she asked quietly.
"I've never been more sure of anything."
Cassandra smiled. "Then I am too," she said. "I will marry you!"
Peter jumped to his feet and grabbed her in a big bear hug. Around them their audience
burst into wild applause.
Dr. LeMov generally preferred standing over a hospital bed to lying in one. But today she
adored being a patient. She never dreamed she would be one in this particular wardthe
maternity ward. Her eyes, like Peters, were on the blanket-wrapped bundle in her arms. Never,
since the day of their wedding, had she been happier. "Do you want to hold your daughter
again?" Cassandra asked.
"I still can't get over how small she is!" Peter marveled as he accepted the one-day-old
"She's exactly right," Cassandra said happily. "Our miracle baby."
"The doctors said it wasn't possible," Peter said. "But you proved them wrong."
Cassandra shrugged. "Doctors!" she said, rolling her eyes. "What do they know?"
A nurse slipped into the room, carrying an enormous bouquet of peonies. "These are
addressed to little Marie LeMov Vanderhorn;" she said with a smile.

Peter laid the infant beside Cassandra on the bed before he accepted the card. "They're
from your mother," he told Cassandra. "And there's something else inside the envelope." He
handed her a tiny, tissue-wrapped packet.
"Read the card first," Cassandra urged.
" 'Dear Granddaughter,' Peter began reading. "This is strange, Cass. The rest of the note
paraphrases from what she says is a George Bernard Shaw play. Do you have any idea what your
mother means by this: 'Dream things that never were, and say, Why not?' "
Cassandra unwrapped the tissue paper, and a plain silver ring fell into her hand. "Yes,"
she said with a smile. "I know exactly what she means."

Los Angeles, California.
The bell on the door jingled, interrupting "Sentimental Journey" on the radio. Reginald
Alexander Rainer, age nineteen, slid his copy of The Grapes of Wrath under the counter of the
market where he worked after school and on weekends.
"Reading on the job again?" teased a kind, elderly voice.
Reginald looked up, and a smile flashed across his face. "Mr. Gonzalez!" he exclaimed.
The old man came into the Corner Market every day for his evening newspaper. And when
business was slow, he usually caught Reginald reading or working algebra problems at the cash
"What's on your reading list today?" asked Reginald's favorite customer.
The young man pulled out the book. "Steinbeck," he replied. "It's required for all collegebound seniors."
"College bound!" Mr. Gonzalez mused, "I like the sound of that, muchacho. Have you
heard from Harvard yet?"
"Not yet," Reginald said, "but I expect a letter any day now. I'm keeping my fingers
crossed about that scholarship. I've got some money saved up from my after-school jobs for the
last three years, but I can't go to college this fall unless the school helps me."
"You'll win the scholarship," Mr. Gonzalez predicted as he laid a newspaper and a dollar
on the counter.
"I hope so!" Reginald said. "I want to go to college more than anything. It's so unfair that
only rich kids can afford it! And all those GIs back from the war."
"What's fair?" the old man asked philosophically. "My wife Liseta's been dead fifteen
years, leaving me alone and childless in my old age. Is that fair? Of course not. Rut you don't see
me complaining. Be thankful for what you have, son."
"But I have nothing!" Reginald complained. He stared glumly at the money in the cash
register as he pulled out the old man's change. Under straight black bangs that were a little too
long, Reginald's blue eyes flashed with resentment at the circumstances that made an education
so hard to attain.
"You have nada? Nonsense!" Mr. Gonzalez exclaimed. "You have brains, good looks,
your youth, and a family that loves you."
"Don't you have any family at all?" Reginald asked.
"Not any more," said the old man. "Not a single relation. Now, don't you feel positively
luckywhat with two parents, two little brothers, and that rascal of a sister of yours? I envy you,
"Maybe you're right," the boy conceded. "But I'd feel a whole lot luckier if I won that
scholarship from Harvard!"
"Have faith, son," Mr. Gonzalez said. "You'll win it."
That night Reginald let himself into his family's house through the kitchen door. He
stopped, surprised. His entire family sat around the table, although dinner must have been over
for two hours. As always, Reginald was struck by how much alike they all looked. Both his
parents, Henry and Cecile Rainer, had blond hair and freckles. So did thirteen-year-old Marcus,
six-year-old Nicholas, and three-year-old Olivia. Reginald was the exception. His ivory

complexion and jet-black hair always brought good-natured teasing. But tonight his coloring
wasn't the issue.
"Reggie got a letter!" sang Nicholas as soon as he caught sight of his oldest brother.
"My letter!" demanded Olivia. Her white-blond curls swung around her face as she
grabbed at an envelope in the center of the table. Her mother whisked it out of her reach and
handed it to Reginald.
"A letter?" Reginald squeaked out, his hands shaking. "Is it"
"It's from Harvard, Reggie!" Marcus exclaimed, bouncing in his chair. "I bet you got the
scholarship. I bet you did!"
"Open it, son," Henry urged, still wearing a stained uniform from his workday at a local
factory. His face was drawn with exhaustion, but he found a smile for his oldest child. "I'm too
old for this kind of suspense!"
Reginald took a deep breath. His family watched in silence as he tore open the envelope
and slowly drew out a letter. He scanned it frantically. A smile lit his face. "They've accepted
me!" he called out. "And they've offered me the partial scholarship!"
"This calls for a celebration!" Henry sang out. "Who wants to make ice cream?"
"I do! I do!" screamed Olivia.
"I'm going to Harvard!" Reginald kept repeating, hardly believing it was true. "I'm going
to Harvard!"
"Zip-a-dee-do-dah, zip-a-dee-ay," sang the radio at the Corner Market on the following
afternoon. Reginald had to restrain himself from joining in on the next line: "My, oh my, what a
wonderful day!" It was a beautiful, clear day in April. But even a thunderstorm wouldn't have
harmed Reginald's mood. He felt as if his feet hadn't touched the ground since he opened the
letter. Now, as he shared the news with Mr. Gonzalez, he found himself growing even more
"That's the best news I've heard since Japan surrendered!" Mr. Gonzalez exclaimed.
"Congratulations, boy! But it doesn't surprise me. What do you plan to major in?"
"Business," Reginald said instantly. "That's where the money is."
"Youth is wasted on the young," Mr. Gonzalez lamented. "Money isn't everything."
"No, it isn't," Reginald agreed. "But it makes everything possible."
"Promise me you'll take a few classes just because they sound like fun," the old man
Reginald grinned. "I promise!"
The door jingled, and Reginald's brother ran into the store, panting. Tearstains streaked
his face.
"Marcus! What's wrong?" Reginald asked, his voice filled with alarm. "Did somebody
hurt you?"
The thirteen-year-old shook his head as he tried to catch his breath. "You have to
come home," he gasped finally. "Daddy collapsed at the factory. The hospital said it was a heart
Reginald's good mood vanished. "How is he?" he asked, fumbling with the strings of his
apron. "Is he all right?"
Marcus bit his lip, but he couldn't keep from sobbing. "He's dead, Reggie!" he wailed.
"Daddy is dead."

On an overcast day in June, Reginald hoisted a crate of soap powder onto his shoulder in
the stockroom at the Corner Market and carried it onto the sales floor. He set it on the floor and
began unloading the boxes, one by one, onto the shelves. Reginald preferred working the cash
register, where there were people to talk to and books to read between customers. But he'd
begged the manager for extra shifts this summer, and he had to accept the work that was
The bell on the door jingled, and Reginald looked up out of habit. Mr. Gonzalez walked
into the store and caught sight of him.
"Reginald, my boy," the old man said as he came down the aisle, "I need to speak with
you. Can you take a break?"
Reginald glanced up at the clock on the wall. "Sure," he said. "I'm due for a break."
After telling the cashier he'd be back in a few minutes, Reginald followed Mr. Gonzalez
out of the store, curious. Generally the two spoke as Reginald carried out his duties. What could
be so important that the man needed his undivided attention?
"Let's walk down the street a ways," Mr. Gonzalez suggested. "Public places make for
private conversations."
Reginald shrugged and fell into step behind him.
"I know you're disappointed about not going to Harvard," Mr. Gonzalez began. Funeral
expenses, family debts, and the loss of Henry Rainer's income had forced Reginald to give up his
dreams of college. His mother needed all Reginald's savings, as well as both their incomes, to
support the family.
"Disappointed doesn't come close to describing it," Reginald said glumly. "I'm crushed,
devastated, demolished"
"I understand," the old man said with a sympathetic smile.
"I knew I had to give up Harvard," Reginald explained. "But at first I hoped I could go to
a local school, somewhere cheaper, as soon as we had some money saved." Tears sprang to his
eyes, and he scrubbed at them, embarrassed. "But it's not going to happen, is it? I never knew
how hard it is to support a family! Mom and I together can't make what Dad was bringing in.
There's no way she can do it without me! I'm stuck at the Corner Market for the rest of my life."
"Maybe not," Mr. Gonzalez said.
"And maybe the tooth fairy will leave a thousand dollars the next time Nick loses a
molar," Reginald replied.
"I'm an old man, Reginald," Mr. Gonzalez began. "I've lived a long and full life," the man
continued. "And I've managed to save quite a nest egg for myself through the years. It's more
than I'll ever use. And you know I have no family."
"Yeah, I know," Reginald said, wondering what all this had to do with him.
"Reginald, my boy, you plan to major in business."
"Planned to, you mean," Reginald reminded him.
"I want to make you a business proposition. I'm prepared to invest money in a certain
start-up operation known as Reginald Rainer and Family. I want to give you and your mother
enough to meet basic expenses and pay for your education. It won't make you rich, but it will
make your lifeand your dear mother's lifea lot easier."
Excitement was rising in Reginald's chest, but he couldn't believe the old man meant it.
"But but why would you do that?" he stammered.
"Because I don't have a family of my own to invest in," Mr. Gonzalez answered shortly.
"There is one condition. And on this point I will not negotiate."

Reginald's face fell. "What's that?" he asked, expecting the worst.

"You must go to Harvard," Mr. Gonzalez replied.
Reginald grinned, his heart so full of happiness that he thought he would burst. Instead he
grabbed Mr. Gonzalez's hand and pumped it wildly. "Thank you," he told his favorite customer
and new patron. "I can never thank you enough."
Reginald had done well at Harvard. He knew his mother and Mr. Gonzalez were proud
that he'd made the dean's list and completed his business degree. But Reginald understood that
the degree was only a beginning. To repay the old man's faith and to prove he was worth the
investment, Reginald had to find a job. So the week after graduation he was in New York for two
days of job interviews. And walking down Wall Street was making him more nervous than his
first stroll through Harvard Yard had made him four years earlier.
He checked a building number against the address he'd scrawled in his notebook. He took
a deep breath of the stifling June heat, pushed open the door of the building, and rode the
elevator to the twelfth floor.
When Reginald reached the quiet, richly appointed offices of Patman Investments, a
secretary ushered him through a door with a big brass plaque: William Patman, President.
Reginald wasn't sure what to expect. The man had a reputation for being brilliant but eccentric.
He tried not to stare at William Patman's huge, lavish office. It was pleasantly cool. And
somehow the very air smelled like money. The carpet underfoot seemed as thick as a mattress.
Huge windows offered a view of the street below. A desk of polished mahogany held importantlooking stacks of papersand, incongruously, a vase filled with fresh daisies.
The president of Patman Investments was a tall man with broad shoulders and a
thickening waistline under his impeccably cut suit. His thinning hair was dark, and his eyes were
a brilliant blue.
"Howdy!" said William Patman, shaking Reginald's hand in a crushing grip. "I'm happy
to meet you, son," he said. "As happy as a pig in a puddle!"
"Uh, hello, sir," Reginald stammered. He had forgotten that William Patman was part of
the same family that owned Patman Oil. He should have expected him to talk like a Texan. He
suddenly understood why people called the man eccentric.
"Don't be shy, boy," said William. "Pull up a seat and make yourself at home!" He
winked at Reginald and then sank back into his own huge chair. Its worn leather looked out of
place in the plush, streamlined office. He leaned back and pulled his feet onto the desk. Reginald
smiled when he saw that the man wore cowboy boots. He realized that he liked William Patman
and felt completely at ease with the man.
As the company president talked about Patman Investments, Reginald began to notice
some personal items around the room. A crude wooden carving showed a horse and a coyote
hitched together to a wagon. In a large photograph on the wall a smiling blond cowgirl rode a
bucking bronco. Another photograph showed a petite, elegant woman with jet-black hair and a
beautiful, sad face. A horseshoe hung over the door.
"That horseshoe's for luck, son," William explained, noticing his gaze. "You hang it with
the ends pointing up. That's so the good luck doesn't run out! It's worked for me," he added,
smiling. But a shadow of pain flitted across his face. "You're a westerner, aren't you?" he asked.
"Actually I was born here in New York City," Reginald told him. "But my parents moved
to California before I started grammar school. I understand you're from Texas."

"Deep in the heart of Texas," William said with a grin. "It's the greatest state of all,
pardner! If you've never been, I recommend a look-see."
"I'll do that, sir," Reginald answered. He'd already decided that he wanted to work for this
quirky, brilliant businessman. William Patman seemed like a man from whom he could learn
everything he needed to know.

The offices of Patman Investments were closed Thanksgiving Day, but William dropped
by to pick up some files to work on over the long weekend. He was surprised to see a light on. A
typewriter was humming in the office of his newest financial analyst.
"Reggie, what in tarnation are you doing here?" William asked, poking his head in the
open door. In the last five months Reginald had impressed him with his drive and his eagerness
to please. But working on a holiday was way beyond the call of duty.
"Howdy, Mr. Patman!" Reginald replied. William smiled to hear his favorite greeting
spoken by a boy who'd never been outside a big city except when sitting on a train. "I want to
have that analysis of the plastics company on your desk Monday morning," the young man
explained, holding up a file.
"Well, if you don't beat all!" William replied. "I sure appreciate your hard work, Reggie.
But there's no call for totin' barges and liftin' bales on Thanksgiving! Why aren't you out hooting
and hollering with some other young folks?"
Reginald shrugged. "I haven't had time to get to know many people," he admitted. "I've
been too busy working."
"What about that young filly you've been a-courting? May, isn't it?"
"May Chandler," Reginald said with a sheepish grin. "We've only been out a couple of
times. Besides, she's out of town visiting her folks."
"Then I reckon you'll have to come home with me for a real Thanksgiving dinner,"
William announced.
"Aw, Mr. Patman, you don't have to do that," Reginald protested. "Besides, this plastics
"Plastics will be around for a good long time, son," William said. "But this is the only
Thanksgiving dinner you'll likely get this year."
"I couldn't," Reginald said. "It's an imposition."
"Truth to tell, I'd be plumb grateful if you came," William said. His face lost its usual
easygoing grin. "Holidays are hard for my wife, Helena," he confided. "We had a baby boy
oncehe'd be just about your age now, if he'd lived. Helena's never gotten over his death. It
would make the little woman happier than a rattlesnake on a rock to have a young person around
for Thanksgiving."
William said the last line glibly, but he still felt a stab of pain when he remembered his
first sight of Paul's cold, still little body. Helena had never been the same since that night. She
flawlessly filled the role of society hostess, but her fiery spirit and easy wit had been subdued.
Helena had closed herself off. William hoped Reginald's presence would cheer her up. At the
same time he wondered if the reminder of Paul would drive his wife deeper into depression.
A half hour later Helena sat in the parlor of the Patmans' brownstone, Thanksgiving
dinner completed. Cooking wasn't part of her usual routine. But now and then she enjoyed
whipping something up in the kitchen. So Helena gave the housekeeper the holiday off and threw
herself into creating a sumptuous feast, even if it was only for her and William. The house was
filled with the tantalizing aromas of turkey, cornbread, and pumpkin pie. But it felt emptier than
ever before.
Helena stared into the fireplace and tried to remind herself of the things she was thankful
for. She had a wonderful husband, this elegant town house, and a beautiful country home in
Connecticut. But what she really wanted was the one thing she could never have.

It had been more than twenty years since Paul's death, and Helena had moved on with her
life. She organized charity drives, threw lavish parties for the most important people in town,
attended the theater, and served on the board of directors of a local hospital.
Most of the time she could ignore the grief and pain. But holidays were tough. She
always imagined family celebrations as they would have been if Paul had lived. She could
imagine him at ten, with eyes like William's lighting up in his face as he spied his Christmas
bicycle. At fourteen he would beg his parents to let him light the Fourth of July fireworks. Now
Paul would have been nearly twenty-four years old. Perhaps William would hand him a knife at
the dinner table and instruct him in carving his first turkey. Helena sighed and tried to put the
image out of her mind.
She glanced out the frost-edged front window. William was walking up the front steps,
accompanied by another man. Both were bundled up tightly against the cold.
"I suppose it might be a good idea, having another person around for Thanksgiving
dinner," she decided aloud. "It might just get my mind off my sorrows." She drew herself up to
her full height of five-foot-two, squared her shoulders, and marched to the foyer to greet them.
"Howdy, darling!" William called, enveloping her in a big bear hug. Helena kissed him
on the cheek. William seemed so excited to see her that Helena grinned back at him, feeling her
gray spirits brightening.
"And who do we have here?" she asked, reaching for the gloves of William's companion,
obviously a much younger man.
"This here is the best thing to come out of California since John Wayne!" William said
enthusiastically. "Helena, darling, meet the financial analyst I've been raving about these past six
months, Reggie Rainer."
Helena had always thought William's eyes were as blue as a man's eyes could get. But
Reginald's were blueror at least they looked that way above the indigo muffler that protected
his nose and mouth.
"Happy to meet you, ma'am," Reginald said, his voice blanketed by the thick wool. His
cold fingers fumbled on his coat buttons until Helena smiled and helped unbutton them.
"I'm glad you could join us for Thanksgiving dinner," she said as she helped him pull off
the coat. "Having company makes one feel more like celebrating, don't you think?"
"It sure makes me feel like celebrating!" William said, patting his stomach. "Let me at old
Mr. Tom Turkey. I'll fight you for the giblets, Reggie!"
"I won't fight back," Reginald promised, laughing as he unwrapped the scarf from his
face. Helena was pleased to see that the young man enjoyed her husband's eccentricities as much
as she did. She was sure the three of them would get along famously.
Helena blinked as Reginald's face was uncovered. Something about the line of his jaw
seemed familiar. She tried to remember if she could have met him before, perhaps at a company
function. Then the young man pulled off his knit cap, and a headful of straight black hair
tumbled out.
Helena's smile froze. Seeing Reginald Rainer was like meeting William a quarter century
earlier. He was the spitting image of the man who'd proposed to her at the handlebars of a
tandem bicycle. Helena leaned against the nearest wall.
William scooped, the men's overcoats and gloves from her arms. "Sorry, little darling,"
he said. "Looks like we've loaded you down heavier than a pack mule. Let me take those for you.
You OK, honey? You look a mite peaked."
"I was just remembering" Helena stopped in confusion.

"Remembering what, darling?" William asked.

Helena set her face in a gracious smile. "I just remembered that the pumpkin pie is still in
the oven," she told him, hoping her voice and manners were under control. "I should check on it.
You gentleman enjoy a drink in the parlor while I spend a few minutes in the kitchen."
From behind the door she watched as her husband and his young employee sauntered into
the next room. They even moved the same way, with a coltlike awkwardness so unselfconscious
that it passed for grace. She closed her eyes and clutched the doorjamb for support. The
resemblance between them was uncanny. At least it seemed that way to her. William had known
Reginald for half a year. He'd never mentioned that the new analyst was a younger reflection of
himself. Helena decided that her melancholy mood was conjuring up ghosts from the past.
"When I look again, I'll see that I was mistaken," she whispered to herself. She opened
her eyes and peered back into the parlor, feeling like a spying child. William and Reginald were
standing by the fireplace, warming their hands. They turned to each other and grinned like
coconspirators. And their smiles were exactly the same.
Two weeks later Helena was staring across the table at Reginald, so intently that he felt
his face growing pink. He hoped nobody else at the Patman Investments holiday party would
notice his blush. Luckily the restaurant was fashionably dim.
Reginald liked Helena, but he hadn't felt instantly at home with her as he had with
William. He guessed she was at least forty-five, but she was still a lovely woman. Her dark hair
was cropped stylishly short, her strapless gown was the height of elegance, and jewels glittered
at her neck. He knew she came from an old-money Boston family that traced its roots back to the
Mayflower. She was smiling and making easy conversation, but her voice carried a note of
shrillness, as if she wanted to cry. He wondered if its source was the death of the baby son
William had mentioned.
Reginald had noted the same sense of barely suppressed sorrow when he'd met Helena on
Thanksgiving Day. Then, as now, she had taken an intense interest in Reginald, as if they were
the only two people at the table. At Thanksgiving she'd bombarded him with questions about his
life and family. William had drawn Reginald aside later and explained that it was Helena's way
of imagining what her own son's life might be like if he'd lived. William felt sorry for her. And
he found her attention uncomfortable, but strangely flattering.
"My husband tells me you were born here in New York," Helena said.
"That's right," Reginald said. "At New York Hospital."
A hint of pain knitted Helena's eyebrows. Rut it was gone so quickly that Reginald
wondered if he'd imagined it. "What a coincidence!" she said smoothly. "I'm on the board of
directors at New York Hospital. It's so important to make a contribution to the community, don't
you think?"
Reginald glanced at his girlfriend, May Chandler, who sat beside him. The interrogation
was leaving him disconcerted. It seemed that Helena wanted something from him, but he
couldn't imagine what.
"You are so right, Mrs. Patman!" May chimed in, her red-gold curls bobbing.
"Community service"
"Your hair is such a lovely color, May," Helena interrupted. "Was your mother's hair that
same strawberry blond?"
"No," May said. "My mother's hair was almost as dark as yoursor Reggie's. I inherited
my father's coloring."

"I imagine that Reginald inherited his father's looks as well," Helena told her. She turned
to Reginald. "Your father was probably tall, dark, and handsome. Am I right?"
Reginald laughed. "Actually, no," he said. "My father was short and wiry, with blond hair
and a lot of freckles. Same goes for my mother, my two brothers, and my little sister. I'm sort of
an anomaly in the Rainer family."
"Then you must look like a grandparent or an aunt or uncle," Helena prompted.
Reginald shrugged. "Probably, if you go back a few generations. But nobody in my
family can remember anyone who looked like me."
"How interesting," Helena murmured, as if to herself. "How very interesting."
A few days before Christmas, Helena glanced down the hallway to be sure nobody was
watching. Then she slipped into William's study, chiding herself for her melodrama. William
wasn't even at home. He had taken some friends out to the family estate in Connecticut for the
day to choose and cut down Christmas trees. Helena had opted to stay in the city, though it meant
passing up another chance to see Reginald.
For the past month Helena had taken every opportunity to learn more about her husband's
employee. Initially she convinced herself that her interest was purely altruistic when she urged
William to invite over "that poor young man whose family is so far away."
At first she'd accepted William's theory that she was learning all about Reginald in order
to fill the void left by her own son's death. But now a new theory was growing in her minda
theory so outrageous she couldn't bring herself to voice it. At least not until she had more
William's briefcase lay open on his desk. Inside was a stack of personnel files. This was
her chance to learn more about Reginald Rainer without giving anyone further cause to question
her stability. She knew Reginald and his girlfriend already found her intensity on the subject a bit
unsettling. But she had to know the truth.
She leafed through the employee files until she found the one she wanted. "Rainer,
Reginald," she read aloud. "Financial analyst." Reginald's mother, Cecile Rainer, was listed as
his emergency contact person, with a Los Angeles telephone number. Helena scribbled down
that information, thinking it might come in handy. Her mouth dropped open when she read
Reginald's birth date: January 1, 1927. "Paul's birthday!" Helena whispered. Her heart began to
pound in her chest.
Reginald had said he was born at New York Hospitaljust like Paul. Suddenly Helena's
suspicion about Reginald Rainer didn't seem so outrageous. Hands trembling, she picked up the
telephone and dialed the number for the records department at New York Hospital.
"Hello, this is Mrs. William Patman," she told the young clerk. "I'm on the hospital board
there, and I need some assistance for a research project on babies born in the last quarter century.
Would you look up some old records for me?"
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Patman," the clerk said, "but patient records are confidential."
"Of course they are," Helena said. "I'm not asking for any information of a private
naturejust some basic facts."
The weather was warm for April. Reginald sat with May on a Saturday afternoon under
their favorite oak tree in Central Park. The remains of a picnic lunch littered the blanket in front
of them. All around them a field of wildflowers was beginning to bloom.

With her finger May traced the shape of a heart that was carved into the tree trunk.
"Cassandra and Peter," she read aloud.
"Anyone you know?" Reginald asked.
"Nope," May said. "I bet they had a terribly romantic love affair. With a name like
Cassandra, she was probably the heiress to some vast fortune. Royalty, I bet. And he was the
poor but honest, um let's see "
"Financial analyst?" Reginald guessed.
She threw a napkin at him. "Chimney sweep," she decided. "Of course, her wealthy, titled
parents didn't approve. But Cassandra defied them and brought Peter home to the country
"Oh, that reminds me," Reginald interrupted. "Would you like to spend a weekend at a
country estate?"
May laughed. "With your wealthy, titled family? Since when are you the heir to a vast
fortune? Or have you been holding out on me, Mr. Chimney Sweep?"
"It's not my country estate," Reginald explained. "The Patmans own a place in
Connecticut. They want us to join them there one weekend in May. As warm as the weather's
been, it should be fine for swimming."
"And for another round of the inquisition," May said. "I sympathize with that poor
woman for losing her baby. But it gives me the creeps the way she stares at you and asks so
many questions. Do you think she'swell, stable?"
Reginald sighed. "When you get to know her better, you'll see that she's a nice person,
even if she's a little odd. Mr. Patman says she hasn't been the same since her son's death."
"The woman is obsessed with you," May said, laughing. "If I didn't know better, I'd be
jealousan attractive older woman like that. And a rich one too."
"I'm the same age Paul would have been if he'd lived," Reginald reminded her. "And I've
got the same coloring as her husband, so she sees her dead son in me. It freaked me out at first,
but if it brings her some comfort to interrogate me about my childhood, then I'll play along."
"Especially if it gets you weekends at a country estate," May pointed out.
"Well, there is that," Reginald agreed. "Will you come with me?"
"Sure," May said, stretching out her arms to inspect them. "My tan could use some
Two weeks later William leaned back in a lounge chair and surveyed the swimming pool
behind the Patmans' Connecticut mansion. The weather was hot for so early in the season. But
everyone looked comfortable and relaxed. Helena poured iced tea from a silver pitcher while
May swam laps in the pool. And Reginald emerged from the cabana, wearing his bathing suit.
"This is terrific, Mr. Patman," Reginald said. "We appreciate your invitation to spend the
weekend here, away from the city."
"Iced tea, Reginald?" Helena asked.
Reginald held up a glass for her to fill. As she did her eyes widened; the color drained
from her face. The silver pitcher slipped out of her hand, clanging against the imported patio
tiles. A wave of iced tea splashed across the patio.
William sat up straight. "Helena?" he asked, alarmed.
Reginald grabbed her arm to keep her from falling. "Mrs. Patman?" he asked. "Are you
all right?"

Helena pointed at Reginald's upper arm. "That birthmark!" she gasped. "It's shaped like
the state of Texas."
William shook his head. "No, Helena," he said gently. "You're imagining things"
"I'm not!" Helena insisted. "Look at that birthmark. That's just what it looked like twentyfour years ago. Remember, William? Don't you remember?"
May climbed out of the pool and slipped an arm around Reginald. "Mrs. Patman, maybe
you should lie down for a half hour," she suggested.
"Now there's a dandy idea," William said. "Come on, little darling"
"I will not lie down!" Helena insisted. "I've suspected it for months. I've been
investigating and compiling evidence. I kept telling myself it couldn't be. But this proves it!" She
pointed to the nickel-size birthmark. "This proves it beyond any doubt!"
"Proves what?" Reginald asked, mystified. "What does my birthmark have to do with"
"Reginald Alexander Rainer was born at New York Hospital in the middle of a blizzard,"
Helena recited. "It was ten minutes after midnight on New Year's Day, 1927."
Reginald and May looked at each other. Reginald slowly nodded. "That's right," he said.
"But how did you know?"
"My baby, Paul Howard Patman, was born one minute after midnight, at the same
hospital, on the same night," Helena said. "He had a pink birthmark shaped like the state of
Texas on his upper right arm!"
May fingered her boyfriend's birthmark. "I never thought of it as being shaped like
Texas," she remarked. "But I guess it does sort of look like it. So it's kind of a wild coincidence.
It's nothing to get upset about."
"It's no coincidence!" Helena insisted. "And it's no coincidence that Reginald looks so
much like William! Can't you all see the resemblance?"
William had never noticed the similarity that Helena kept saying was so obvious. Now he
gazed thoughtfully at his young employee. Suddenly he saw himself on his wedding day, thirty
pounds lighter than now, with his straight, dark hair thick and glossy. For the first time he
realized that Helena was right. Reginald looked remarkably like William had in his twenties.
Enough like him to be his son.
"Our baby didn't die!" Helena screamed, tears flowing down her face. "The Rainers' baby
died. Reginald is our son!"

Reginald took a deep breath and tried to lead Helena to a chair. "Come on, Mrs. Patman.
You don't know what you're saying. The sun is pretty strong. Why don't you sit down and rest a
few minutes?"
"I know exactly what I'm saying!" Helena insisted, her voice rising. "I'm sorry if it's hard
for you to hear. But the people you know as your parents did a terrible thing twenty-four years
"Don't you dare say anything against my parents!" Reginald demanded.
"Calm down, both of you," William urged. "I'm sure we can discuss this in"
"I don't want to calm down!" Helena said. "I want my baby back! They stole him from
me! Cecile and Henry Rainer must have known their son was sickly. They stole my Paul from
the hospital, and they raised him as their own child!"
"They did no such thing!" Reginald insisted. "Cecile Rainer is my mother! Henry Rainer
was my father! And I won't listen to you accuse them of such a thing!"
"You don't look anything like the Rainers," Helena said, her eyes wild. "You look like
usespecially like William. Our Paul had a birthmark just like the one on your arm! We
wondered why it disappeared when he came home from the hospital. Now we know. We had the
wrong baby! Don't you see?"
"Mrs. Patman, you're hysterical," May said. "Maybe your husband should take you
inside" She looked to William for confirmation. But William was staring at Reginald as if he
was seeing a ghost.
"Paul?" whispered the older man.
"Not you too!" Reginald exploded. "I can't believe I'm hearing this! None of it is true. My
parents are good people. They wouldn't kidnap somebody else's baby!"
"They could have other babies," Helena wailed. "And we couldn't! They had three more
babies. And we were all alone, all these years"
William hugged her close as she cried. After a moment Helena pushed him away. "We'll
press charges against your mother," she threatened Reginald. "We'll accuse her of kidnapping.
She should go to prison for what she did to us!"
"Maybe we should leave, Reggie," May urged. "You can talk about it with Mr. Patman
on Monday when everyone's calmer."
"You're damn right we should leave!" Reginald shouted. "But we're not going to talk
about it again. Ever! I won't stand for anyone making accusations against my mother. Mr.
Patman, I quit!"
When May walked into Reginald's apartment six weeks later, he was lying on the couch,
staring at the ceiling.
"I guess your job interview this morning didn't work out," she guessed as she pulled up a
chair beside him.
"They didn't like me," Reginald said. "And I didn't like them. And I couldn't tell them
why I left Patman Investments. What am I going to do, May? I can't afford to pay my rent
through the summer if I don't find a job! Why won't anyone hire me?"
"You might be sabotaging yourself," May said carefully. "You're so depressed all the
time. Some of that desperation must be coming through in your job interviews."
"Sorry I'm not a bundle of laughs," he said bitterly. "If I'm depressing you, you're
welcome to leave."

May balled one hand into a fist and punched the arm of the couch. "That's right. Snapping
at your girlfriend is really going to solve the problem."
"I suppose you have a better solution!" Reginald challenged, sitting up.
"As a matter of fact, I do," she said, tossing an envelope on the table in front of him. "I
picked up your mail on my way up. It's a letter from William Patman."
"Doesn't he ever give up?" Reginald asked. "I've ripped up his letters and his wife's
letters. I don't return their phone calls. I told the doorman not to let them upstairs. They just don't
hear the message. How do you say 'Get out of my life' in Texan?"
"Open the letter," May urged. "You can't ignore the Patmans forever. You're never going
to put this behind you until you deal with it."
"Deal with it?" Reginald asked. "You heard what they accused my mother of! And they
had the gall to suggest that I'm not her son! How could they think such a thing?"
"The evidence is sketchy," May admitted. "But I can see why it would make them
"Don't tell me you believe that nonsense about babies being switched at the hospital!"
Reginald exploded. "That doesn't happen in real life!"
"I know it's far-fetched," May said. "But look at it from their perspective. Helena may be
kind of unstable since losing her baby. She meets you. You're just Paul's age. And you do look a
heckuva lot like her husband. Even if it's all a crazy coincidence, you can't blame the poor
woman for hoping that maybe her own little boy is still alive!"
"But how could she say that about my parents?" Reginald asked, tears in his eyes.
"Open the letter," May urged. "Helena may be hysterical about the whole mess, but
William's a reasonable guy. At least see what he has to say."
Reginald rubbed the letter between his fingers. "I can't," he said finally, handing it to her.
"You open it. Just tell me the highlights."
May skimmed through the letter. "Well, this is a relief anyway. William has convinced
Helena not to go to the police about having your mom arrested for kidnapping."
"Very generous of him," Reginald said. "It's not as if she had any proof."
"William doesn't want you to renounce your parents or anything," May said. "But he says
Helena has collected enough evidence to convince him that you really might be their son. He just
wants to see you to talk to you about it. And he wants to make you his heir! You'll inherit his
fortune and his business."
"I don't care how rich William Patman is. He can't buy himself a son!" Reginald shouted.
"I don't think that's the way he meant it, Reggie," May said softly. "Look, the man gave
you a job and opened his home to you. The two of you were close. All he wants now is to talk to
you. You owe him that much."
"I don't owe him anything!" Reginald argued. "I heard his wife's so-called proof. And I
don't believe a word of her ridiculous story!"
"Are you sure it's ridiculous?" May asked quietly.
"Are you saying you believe the Patmans?"
"No!" May assured him, though she wasn't at all certain. "But you'll feel better if we look
into their story. Maybe we can find some solid evidence to poke holes in Helena's theory and
prove to her once and for all that you're not her son."
"I don't have to prove that to anyone!" Reginald insisted. "The Rainers are my family!"

"Of course they are," said May. "And no matter what comes from all of this, they will
always be your family. They're the people who've raised you and loved you all these years. But
don't you want to know the truth once and for all?"
"I do know the truth!" Reginald shouted, jumping to his feet. "The Patmans are lying. My
parents are Cecile and Henry Rainer, and I won't listen to anyone who says otherwise!"
May watched as Reginald ran into the bedroom and slammed the door. She loved him,
and she hated to see him so unhappy. She knew Reginald was afraid of learning the truth. But he
had to know for sure, or he would never be at peace again. May decided it was up to her. She
would learn what really happened at New York Hospital on New Year's Day, 1927.
Hot sunlight streamed through his bedroom window one morning two weeks later.
Reginald was confused. Sunlight wasn't supposed to be streaming in. He was sure he'd closed the
blinds before he went to bed. He groaned and pulled the sheet over his head.
"Rise and shine, Reggie!" called a voice.
Reginald opened one eye and peered out from under the sheet. May was standing near the
window, her hand on the cord that controlled the blinds. "May?" he asked sleepily. "What are
you doing in my apartment?"
"I'm your girlfriend," she reminded him. "I have a key."
"Come back later," he said, pulling the blanket and sheet over his head.
"Get up!" she ordered. "We have a meeting this morning."
"Jeepers, May," he objected. "It's Saturday. Besides, what kind of meeting could I have to
go to? I'm unemployed!"
"That means you've got plenty of time for it," she said. "Come on. I have an appointment
in Brooklyn this morning. You're coming with me."
"Now?" he asked, wincing at the bright sunshine.
"Now," she affirmed. "I'll go make some coffee. You jump in the shower, shave, and put
on some clothes. I expect to see you dressed and in the kitchen in twenty minutes."
"You're a slave driver," Reginald groused.
She pinched his cheek. "And you love me for it."
Fifteen minutes later Reginald staggered into the kitchen. "So what's this meeting that's
so important? Where did you say we're goingthe Bronx?"
"Brooklyn," she corrected. "Canarsie, to be more exact. You'll find out why when we get
"Why not tell me now?" he persisted.
"I like being a woman of mystery," she replied. "Now drink your coffee and eat some
toast. We have a subway to catch."
An hour later Reginald stood with May in front of a run-down converted brownstone in
Canarsie. "This is it?" he asked. "I was expecting to watch you have your teeth cleaned. Are you
sure this is the right place?"
May checked the house number. "Yes, this is the place," she said. "It's the basement
apartment." She grabbed his arm and led him down the short flight of stairs. The elderly woman
who answered the doorbell was small and gray haired. Reginald guessed that she was about
"Mrs. Umbriano?" May asked.
"You're the one who called me last night?" the gray-haired woman asked. Her eyes were
cloudy with age, but Reginald could see she was afraid.

"I'm May Chandler," May said. "And this is"

"This is the young man," Mrs. Umbriano concluded, staring at Reginald as if she thought
he might strike her.
"Would somebody mind telling me what's going on?" Reginald asked. He couldn't
imagine why the woman feared him.
"Keep your pants on!" May whispered to him as they followed Mrs. Umbriano into her
apartment. "It will all be clear in a few minutes."
Mrs. Umbriano sat them on a brightly flowered sofa. She offered anise-flavored cookies
and coffee. And she settled herself into a rocking chair draped with a half-completed afghan,
which she picked up and crocheted frantically as they spoke.
"So you want to know what happened twenty-four years ago," Mrs. Umbriano began, her
voice quavering. "I always feared someone would find out."
"It's all right, ma'am," May assured her. "Nobody's planning to take any kind of action
against you. We just want to know the truth. Please tell us the story you mentioned on the phone.
This time include every detail you can remember."
"What is this all about?" Reginald demanded, raising his voice without meaning to. May
silenced him with a hand on his arm. He realized he was scaring the old woman even more. But
the mystery was beginning to annoy him.
Mrs. Umbriano sighed. "It happened more than twenty-four years ago," she said, "when I
was working as a nurse at New York Hospital."
Reginald gasped. "I don't think I want to hear this" he began.
"Yes, you do," May said. "You have to know the truth."
"We didn't deliver many babies in those days," the gray-haired woman continued. "A lot
of folks still had their babies at home. But a terrible blizzard raged on New Year's Eve, and two
couples showed up with complicated deliveries. Both little boys were born just after midnight,
the first two babies of 1927."
"No!" Reginald cried, sensing what was coming. "It couldn't happen. The two babies
would have looked different. Someone would have noticed!"
The former nurse shrugged. "A lot of newborns look alike," she said. "One boy was a
little larger than the other, but only by a few ounces. They were both smalla bit premature.
One baby had a little pink birthmark on his arm."
May tugged on Reginald's sleeve to raise it over his elbow. "Like this birthmark?" she
Mrs. Umbriano nodded. "That's the one," she said. "I'd worked three shifts straight
because of the storm. And I was so, so tired. I couldn't remember which baby had the birthmark.
I just couldn't remember!"
May patted her arm. "Please tell us what happened, Mrs. Umbriano," she coaxed.
"It was two days after the babies were born," the woman said. "I was bathing them, and I
found two little identification tags in the bathwater. The tag was supposed to fit around a baby's
ankle. Both boys were so tiny that the tags slipped off in the soapy water."
"Oh, no!" Reginald cried, his head in his hands. May gave him a quick hug.
"Go on, Mrs. Umbriano," she said softly. "You can tell us the rest."
Tears were sliding down the old woman's face. "I know it was wrong," she said. "But I
needed that job! I was afraid my boss would fire me if I told her what I did. But I didn't know
which boy was which! So I picked up the tags and slipped one onto each boy. I had to guess. It
was the only way. From what you told me on the phone last night, I'd say I guessed wrong."

By the time she finished speaking, Reginald was leaning so far forward that he nearly fell
off the couch. "And you never told anyone?" he asked. "The parents didn't know? They didn't
have anything to do with it?"
Mrs. Umbriano shook her head. "The parents had no part in it," she said. "I never told a
soul. I wanted to tell so many times. It's haunted me all these years. But I didn't have the
For an instant Reginald was so angry he wanted to lash out at the old woman. Because of
her, he'd been living a lie for his entire life. Because of her, he had no idea who he really was. He
glared at her, and she shrank back. Then Reginald felt May's hand on his arm. He took a deep
breath and looked at the old woman who sat across from him. She was old and scared, and she'd
had to live for nearly a quarter century with the knowledge of her mistake.
Reginald's anger melted away. He fell back against the cushions, exhausted. For several
minutes nobody spoke. Finally he broke the silence. "So William and Helena were right," he
whispered. "I'm not Reginald Rainer. I was born Paul Patman."
"You are Reginald Rainer," May corrected him. "The people you know as your parents
may not have been your parents by biology. But they're your parents in every way that counts."
Reginald nodded. "Of course they are," he said, still stunned. "At least I know for sure
that Helena was wrong about what happened at the hospital. I can tell her the Rainers are
innocent. They didn't know the babies were switched."
"You'll talk to the Patmans?" May asked.
"I guess so," Reginald agreed. "You're right that the Rainers are still my parents. But so
are the Patmans. I have to talk to them. I have to figure out who I am."
At dusk that evening Reginald and May walked hand in hand through Central Park. May
had never seen Reginald so overwhelmed with emotion as when he tried to describe his meeting
with William and Helena Patman that afternoon.
"So the Patmans are overjoyed to have their son back," she said. "But I guess your own
feelings are mixed."
Reginald nodded. "It will take some getting used to," he said. "My whole life I've thought
one thing about myself, and now I find out it isn't true. I like the Patmans. I've felt close to Mr.
Patman since we met. But I don't know how to take this. I keep asking myself why this is
happening to me. What did I do to deserve this?"
"I know it's confusing," May said. "But look at the positive side of things. You've gone
from pauper to princeWilliam Patman's heir! It's like a fairy tale."
"That part's great, I have to admit," Reginald said. "But the rest is such a shock. It's like
someone pulled the floor out from under my whole life. It isn't fair!"
"Fair?" May asked philosophically. "What's fair?"
Suddenly Reginald heard the voice of his friend and mentor, Mr. Gonzalez, who'd died
early that year. "What's fair?" Mr. Gonzalez had asked years ago. The old man's wife had been
gone for years, and he was childless and alone. "Is that fair? Of course not. But you don't see me
complaining. Be thankful for what you have, son."
"You're absolutely right," Reginald said. The sun was setting over the city, but a light was
dawning in his mind. He saw May staring at him, and he smiled at her. "Both of you are right!"
"Both of who?" May asked.
"An old friend of mine back in California said I should feel lucky to have a family that
loves me. Well, now I have two families!"

"And a big inheritance," May reminded him. "And one of the hottest financial firms in
New York."
"Mr. Patman was telling me the Patman family history," Reginald said. "He can trace his
line back to a stable boy who was deported from England in the 1820s. His name was Henry
just like my Rainer father. He won a Georgia plantation in a poker game!"
"So luck runs in your family," May said.
"It sure does," Reginald agreed, taking her hands in his. He pulled her over to the oak tree
where they'd eaten a picnic lunch that spring. "And the best luck of all was meeting you."
"It certainly was," May said with a grin. "But I consider myself lucky too. Especially now
that I'm suddenly in love with a rich guy."
"Without you I never would have learned about my families," Reginald said. "I still have
a lot of things to figure outthings about myself. And I'm flying to California next week to
break the news to my mom in person. But at least I know the truth about what happened and
where I come from."
"Where you come from is important," May agreed. "But not as important as where you're
"That part I'm still fuzzy on," Reginald admitted. "But I know who I want to go there
with. Will you marry me, May?"
"I don't know," May teased. "Do I get to be Mrs. Reginald Alexander Rainer? Or Mrs.
Paul Howard Patman?"
Reginald shrugged. "Take your pick," he said with a grin. "Seriously, I think I might start
using Patman. I have two brothers to carry on the Rainer name. William and Helena have only
me." He smiled. "But you can go on calling me plain old Reggie."
May grinned. "Not Prince Reggie?" she asked. "What a disappointment. Well, I suppose
I'll marry you anyhowwhatever your name is! Which family should we tell first?"
"We can't tell anybody just yet," Reginald said, shaking his head. "Not until we make the
engagement official."
"And how do we do that?"
Reginald pulled a penknife from his pocket and pointed to the oak tree. "We carve a heart
with the names May and Reggieright underneath Cassandra and Peter, the Princess and the
Chimney Sweep."
A few years later Reginald Rainer Patman burst into the waiting room at New York
Hospital's maternity ward. Two families were gathered there, one dark haired and one fair.
"We have a boy!" Reginald yelled. "And he and May are in great shape!"
"Yippee!" cried his sister, Olivia, her flaxen curls bouncing as she jumped up and down.
"I'm an aunt!"
William Patman reached down and scooped up the little girl in his arms. Cecile and
Helena both hugged their son Reginald at the same time.
"What's the baby's name?" asked Reginald's brother Nicholas.
Reginald reached out to William and clapped a hand on his shoulder. "His name is Henry,
for both my families. Henry Chandler Patman."

Eighteen years later. New York City.
Dr. Cassandra LeMov knocked lightly on the door of her daughter's bedroom. "Marie?"
she called. "How are you feeling?"
"Come in, Mom," Marie LeMov Vanderhorn answered. "And stop worrying. I was just a
little tired this afternoon. But I rested for a while, and I'm fine now."
Cassandra opened the door, and the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love" regaled her from
Marie's hi-fi. As always Cassandra marveled at Marie's ability to find anything in the jumble of
papers and books that always seemed to cover the floor, the desk, and every other available
surface. This evening, clothes, makeup, and jewelry were scattered around as well. And in the
center of it all stood Marie, wearing a long slip that clung to her rounded figure. She slumped in
front of the mirror, a desolate expression on her face.
"Oh, Mom!" Marie cried. "I'm so fat! I'm going to look awful at the senior prom tonight,
and Hank will be sorry he asked me to marry him."
Cassandra smiled. "You're going to look wonderful tonight," she said. "And you're not
fat. RememberI'm a doctor. I know these things."
"Yes, I am fat!" Marie said, pouting at herself in the mirror. "I've eaten nothing but
cottage cheese all week, and it hasn't done a bit of good."
Cassandra shook her head. "I hate to hear you haven't been eating properly. You've been
so rundown lately. Promise you'll eat a decent meal before you leave tonight."
"Oh, Mom"
Cassandra laid a hand against her daughter's forehead. "You're not exactly burning up,
but I think you might be running a low-grade fever," she said. "I wish you had let me give you a
complete physical last week."
"I had exams to study for," Marie said. "Wellesley can still revoke my acceptance if I
don't graduate."
Cassandra laughed. "Honey, you're the class valedictorian. Taking a few hours' break
from studying will not doom you to failure."
"I'll let you poke and prod me to your heart's contentafter graduation," Marie promised.
She scowled at her figure in the mirror. "Can you give me a whole-body transplant?"
"No, I can't," Cassandra said. "But you don't need one. You have a nice figure."
"You have to say that. You're my mother."
"Believe me, I know where you're coming from," Cassandra said. She picked up a
hairbrush and began brushing her daughter's long auburn hair. "When I was your age, I wanted to
be tall and willowy too. And we didn't even have this ridiculous 'Twiggy' look to contend with.
But you're a beautiful girl, and I know Henry Patman thinks so too."
"I just want everything to be perfect tonight!"
Cassandra was surprised to see tears in her daughter's eyes. Marie was usually serious
and intellectual. It wasn't like her to get worked up about her looks. But Marie had been
preoccupied lately. Cassandra had told herself the girl was just overwhelmed by the stress of
final exams, college boards, and high-school graduation. Now she noticed Marie's pallor. And
she wondered if Marie might actually be ill.
"Honey, you don't have to go to the prom tonight if you don't feel up to it," Cassandra
said. "I know Hank would understand. I could fix you two a gourmet meal here, and your father

and brother and I will clear out to give you some privacy. It would be your own private
Marie shook her head vehemently, pulling the brush from Cassandra's hand. "I can't miss
my senior prom!"
"It's only a dance," Cassandra reminded her. "You've never been this concerned about a
school dance."
"This one is different!" Marie insisted. "Hank has been looking forward to it so much,
Mom. Besides, tomorrow night is graduation. And the next day he leaves on his cross-country
drive with his brother for the whole summer."
Cassandra nodded. "Just don't overdo it tonight, honey," she urged. "Sit down when you
feel tired. And don't stay out too late."
"I'll be fine, Mom," Marie said. "Don't be so overprotective."
Marie was grooving. The band played a rendition of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain." And
she was on the dance floor, swaying in Henry Patman's arms. For just a moment the familiar
dizziness washed over her again. She leaned against Hank's broad, strong chest until it passed.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
Marie smiled up at his dark brown hair and handsome, chiseled features. "I'm great!" she
said. "Just a little tired."
"We can sit out the rest of this song," he suggested.
"No," Marie said. "I don't want to stop."
Henry grinned, and his smile sent a wave of heat rushing through her body. "Me neither,"
he said. "I really dig dancing with you. I can't believe I almost didn't ask you out that first time
our junior year."
"We went to the movies," Marie remembered. "And I was so nervous!"
"I had just moved back here after living with my relatives in California for a while,"
Henry said. "I guess I was insecure about fitting in."
Marie laughed. "Henry Chandler Patmaninsecure? Now I've heard everything."
"Yes, I was insecure!" Henry insisted. "I thought for sure you wouldn't want to go out
with me. You were an intellectual. I didn't think you had time for trivial things like Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
"I loved that movie!" Marie said. "But if you'd asked me to watch the weeds growing in
Central Park, I would have said yes," she admitted. "I had the biggest crush on you!"
Henry scratched his head. "And I thought you were so intelligent ," he said, pretending
to be mystified. "What would a smart girl like you see in little ole me?"
"Come off it, Hank. You're one of the smartest guys in our class"
"Not as smart as you," Henry interrupted.
"You're funny, and confident, and good looking," Marie continued. "And you dress better
than any boy at school. Frankly, I was shocked when you asked me to go out with you. I mean,
you're the hotshot student leader. I'm the class nerd."
Henry kissed her on the cheek. "You're not a nerd," he told her. "I'm glad we both came
to our senses and got together."
"Me too," Marie said. She stumbled against him, and Henry grabbed her arm to keep her
from falling.
"You really are wiped out," he said. "I've never known you to trip over your own feet!
Hey, where did that bruise on your arm come from?"

"Oh, I can be a real klutz," Marie said glibly, trying to cover up another wave of
dizziness. "And that bruise is nothing compared to the ones on my legs! I don't even remember
where I got most of them. I guess I'm bumping up against anything and everything lately."
She laughed to show him it was no big deal, but Henry pursed his lips. "That's not like
you either," he said. "I'm worried. You've had a lot of headaches recently too."
Marie shrugged. "I guess my mother's right," she said. "I've been working too hard. That's
"Did you get any sleep last night?" Henry asked.
"Not much," Marie said. "I was editing my essay for Wellesley to see if I can place out of
freshman English."
"Let's sit down for a while," Henry said. "Besides, this sounds like a Jimi Hendrix song
starting up. He's way too funky for me!"
Marie laughed. "Get with it, Hank! You preppie types can be such squares. I guess this
means you won't let me choose 'Purple Haze' for our wedding march."
"My grandmother Helena would turn somersaults in her grave," Henry said. "Speaking of
our wedding, are you sure you don't mind not having an engagement ring until August? We
could go to Tiffany's tomorrow and look for one."
"We have plenty of time, Hank," Marie said. "We're not getting married until after
"But I wanted you to think of me all summer, every time you noticed the sparkle on your
ring finger," Henry said.
"I'll think of you without the ring," promised Marie. "Neither of us has time to go
shopping tomorrow. We'll go to Tiffany's when you get back from your trip westbefore we
head to Boston together."
"And you'll enter Wellesley with a rock on your finger that's big enough to signal ships in
Boston Harbor," Henry promised.
"That would be some rock!" Marie pointed out. "Wellesley isn't anywhere near Boston
"We Patmans don't do things halfway," Henry explained.
"Except study geography," Marie said.
"Well, there is that," Henry admitted. "But I promise I'll learn the route from Harvard to
Wellesley, and I'll burn up the road every weekend in whatever cool car my dad gives me for
graduation tomorrow!"
Henry felt Marie's grip tighten on his arm as they stood in line near the punch bowl. She'd
seemed tired for weeks, and he'd chalked it up to graduation stress. He was certainly feeling
enough of that himself. But now she could barely stay on her feet.
"Let's get you over there to a chair first," he said. "I'll bring you something to drink in a
minute. That ought to clear your head. But Marie, I think I should take you home early. You're
"No way, Hank!" Marie protested as he led her toward an empty table. "We've been
looking forward to this night for months! You're right about something to drink. One glass of
punch, and I'll be fine." She lunged forward suddenly, and Henry grabbed her shoulders to keep
her from falling. Marie's face was dead white, and her forehead was glistening with perspiration.
She opened her mouth as if to speak, but no sound came out.
"Don't try to talk, babe," Henry instructed gently.

Marie nodded. Then her head fell forward. A line of blood trickled from her nose. And
she slumped in Henry's arms, unconscious.
Loud music screeched inside Marie's head. First it was a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. Then
the music faded into a continuous, tuneless noise that gradually focused into sirens. Everything
was dark, but it was growing lighter, like a sunrise in black and white. Marie lay in the back of
an ambulance. Henry sat beside her, his face ashen.
"Was the punch spiked?" she whispered, trying to laugh. "Is that why I feel this way?"
"We never got any punch," Henry reminded her. "But don't worry. Everything will be all
right. You had a nosebleed. And then you fainted."
Marie nodded, and her head felt so heavy she wondered why it didn't sink through the
stretcher she was lying on. Henry held her hand, and his fingers were warm. "I want my mother,"
she whispered, squeezing her eyes shut.
"I'll call her as soon as we get to the hospital," Henry promised.
Marie concentrated on the feel of his hand around hers. Then the feeling slipped away.
The sirens grew louder, scouring the inside of her skull. A buzzing began in her ears and
drowned out everything else before gradually subsiding. And Marie slipped into a silent, restless
Cassandra rushed into Marie's hospital room the next morning, sloshing coffee from the
cup she held. Her daughter's face was pale, but at least she was awake.
"How are you feeling now, honey?" she asked.
"Kind of groggy," Marie admitted. She looked around the room, her dark-rimmed eyes
resting on the brightened windows and the outfit Cassandra still wore from the night before.
"You've been here all night, Mom, haven't you?"
Cassandra nodded. "I went out for a minute to grab some coffee," she said. "Your father
was here all night too. But I made him go home for a few hours of sleep."
"That means it's serious," Marie said. She took a deep breath. "What's wrong with me?"
"I had a specialist drop by this morning to run some tests on you," Cassandra explained.
"We won't know anything until the results are in."
Marie's eyes widened with alarm. "Specialist?" she asked. "What kind of specialist? Can't
you just take care of me, like you always do when I'm sick?"
Cassandra patted her hand. "I asked a hematologista blood specialistto examine you.
But don't worry. Everything's going to be fine."
"A hematologist? Why?" Marie asked, her voice rising. "Mother, what do you suspect?"
"I can't give you a diagnosis until we have the test results," Cassandra said, trying to keep
her voice light. "The lab should call any minute with your blood workup. Then we'll figure out
how to make you feel better."
Henry edged open the door of Marie's hospital room that afternoon. He peeked in, not
wanting to disturb her sleep or interrupt a medical procedure.
Marie lay in a big white hospital bed, looking very small and pale. Dark smudges circled
her eyes, and her skin was nearly translucent. But she grinned when she saw him. "Come in,
Hank," she said. "It's OK."
Henry kissed her on the forehead. "How are you today?" he asked gently. "It's good to
see you smile."

"I'm fine," she said, too quickly.

"I saw your mom in the corridor," Henry said, settling himself into the chair beside her
bed. "She wouldn't give me any details, but she looked upset. Tell me the truth! I need to know
what's wrong so I can help you get better."
"It's not serious," Marie said, but there was pain in her eyes. "You know how mothers
arethey overreact."
"Not your mother," Henry pointed out. "She's a doctor!"
"She's a mother first," said Marie. "It's pretty much what we thought. I'm anemic and
overstressed and exhausted." She grimaced. "A clear case of too much calculus, world history,
and crash dieting."
Henry took her hand. "I'll sit by your bedside all summer if that's what it takes," he
promised. "I'll feed you chicken soup, switch the television channels, and let you listen to any
music you want. Even Hendrix!"
"You'll do no such thing!" Marie protested. "You're leaving tomorrow morning on your
cross-country trip. Don't you dare think of canceling it because of me."
"I'll put it off a while," Henry said, "until you're back on your feet."
"Hank, my mom's a doctor. Within a day I'll be so fed up with people fussing over me
that I'll beg you to stay away. Don't worry! I'm in good hands!"
"I still don't feel right about leaving tomorrow," Henry protested. "My brother won't mind
if we put off the trip for a week or two."
"Yes, he will!" Marie said. "Paul says there are millions of women in the West who've
never had the chance to date him."
"So they'll wait a couple weeks longer," Henry said with a grin. "It'll be agony, but they'll
"I won't let you change your plans," Marie insisted. "You and your brother are leaving
tomorrow, and that's that. Did you get your car?"
Henry pulled a key chain from his pocket and jingled it in his hand. "Sure did," he
bragged. "My graduation present is a brand-new Mustang, candy apple red! I was hoping you'd
ride with me to graduation in it. Maybe I can drive you home from the hospital instead."
"No way!" Marie said. "I'll be here at least a few days. And you're leaving in the morning
to go west, young man."
"Aw, Marie. The West Coast will still be there"
"I mean it, Henry. I want you to go! And I order you to have a good time."
"But you"
"We'll write reams of letters all summer long." She smiled weakly. "We'll be so sick of
each other by September that we'll be glad we're going to different colleges!"
Henry nodded. "All right," he agreed reluctantly. "I'll leave tomorrow. But I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too," Marie said. Tears began spilling from her eyes again. Henry wiped
them away. He felt like a jerk for leaving her, but Marie was so insistent.
She pointed to a small jewelry box on the bedside table. "That's for you," she whispered.
"To remember me by."
Henry turned the box over in his hands. "You didn't have to get me anything," he said.
"I'll be thinking about you all summer as it is."
"Then consider it a graduation present."
Henry opened the box. Inside gleamed a plain silver ring.

"I know it won't fit on your finger," Marie said. "But the ring is special in my family. My
grandmother gave it to me the day I was born. Now I want you to have it."
"I can't take this" Henry began.
"I don't know where the ring came from originally, or who had it first," she said. "My
mom's family has passed it down for generations. It's a reminder to follow your dreams and
remember the people you love."
Henry felt tears in his own eyes now. The gift was too much. But Marie's face was
resolute. "I'll think of it as my engagement ring," he said. "That reminds me. I have a graduation
presentor engagement presentfor you too." He pulled a small flat box from his jacket.
Marie's hands were shaking. "You open it for me," she whispered, falling back against
the pillow.
Henry opened the box to reveal an antique gold locket, heart shaped, with a diamond
sparkling in its center. "This one isn't exactly an heirloom," he admitted, slipping the chain
around her neck. "It's been in my family since last week." He laughed. "My mother helped me
pick it out at an estate sale."
"It's exquisite," Marie whispered, clutching the locket in her hand. "Thank you. I'll put
your picture inside, and I'll always treasure it."
Henry leaned forward to lass her on the cheek. "I'd better let you get some sleep," he said.
"I'll write you every day while I'm gone. And I promise we'll spend Labor Day weekend
Marie watched as the door swung shut behind her fianc. As soon as he was out of sight
her shoulders began to shake with sobs. She gripped the locket like a lifeline as tears flowed
down her face. But love and hope couldn't keep her alive. Maybe nothing could.
Marie had begged her mother to hide the horrible truth from Henry. She didn't want him
to cancel the trip he'd planned for so longeven if it meant she would never see him again. By
Labor Day, Marie could be dead from leukemia.
"At least Henry won't have to watch me die," she whispered. "I can spare him that much."

June. A hotel restaurant in Denver, Colorado.
"Dear Marie," Henry wrote near the top of a sheet of Oxford Hotel stationery. "It's the
last day of our two weeks in Denver. Tomorrow Paul and I will jump back into the Mustang and
head for the West Coast. We'll be at the Grand Canyon tomorrow night and in Los Angeles by
the end of the week."
He checked his watch and rolled his eyes. It was already twelve-thirty in the afternoon.
The waiter would be back any minute with two steak sandwiches, and there was still no sign of
Paul. Henry had dragged his seventeen-year-old brother out of bed at noon to get dressed for
lunch. Until Paul arrived, Henry was writing his daily letter to Marie. He touched pen to paper
and continued writing.
"We plan to stay in southern California for at least a month. I must have told you my
parents bought a lot of land and a canning factory in a small town near L.A. They're thinking of
moving there with my brothers this winter. I guess that makes us the advance guard. Reggie Jr.
has ordered us to research the best surfing beaches for him. And Paul wants to see if the Beach
Boys are right about California girls. As for me, there's only one girl who matters, and she's a
New Yorker, born and raised."
He smiled, thinking of Marie's soft auburn hair and big hazel eyes. Through his pale blue
oxford-cloth shirt he patted her silver ring, which he wore on a chain around his neck, away from
Paul's prying eyes. Henry sighed and went on with his letter.
"I haven't received any word from you since Kansas City. I'm glad you're feeling so much
better. Don't overdo all that tennis and swimming! You don't want to tire yourself out again. And
please drop me a line soon."
Henry chewed on the end of his pen. He'd checked the front desk, but the day's mail
wasn't in yet. Surely Marie had written to him in the last two weeks. He would have to leave the
hotel his forwarding address in Los Angeles.
Paul breezed into the restaurant, looking like a slightly younger, more "mod" version of
Henry. Paul's hip-hugger jeans and colorful polyester shirt made his conservative older brother
cringe. But as usual Paul's timing was perfect. Just before he reached the table, the waiter
whisked two steak sandwiches onto it. Henry folded his letter to Marie, but not before Paul saw
what he was doing.
"Hey, man!" Paul said. "Another letter to the old ball and chain? I can't believe how tied
down you are to that woman. And in the prime of your life too."
"Just wait until you fall in love!" Henry challenged. "You'll see. Though it's hard to
believe any respectable girl could dig that mangy hair of yours."
Paul laughed. "Respectable is not what I had in mind. Besides, chicks dig a guy with long
hair!" he bragged. "Not that you would know. Marie Vanderhorn's two thousand miles away! If
she loves you, she wants you to have fun on your vacation. Denver's full of fun girls."
"I am having fun!" Henry protested.
"I'm sure the guys back home will be knocked out by your thrilling account of the silvermining museum," Paul scoffed. "Man, this is our last night in town. I have a date with a chick I
met in a bar yesterday. She has a sister who's dying to meet you. Becky knows this cool rockand-roll club"
"I don't think so," Henry said.

Paul shook his head. "You're a total failure as a big brother, Hank! You're a year older
than me. You should be showing me the ropes, introducing me to the chicks."
"Eat your sandwich," Henry said.
"Oh, I almost forgot something!" Paul said. He pulled an envelope from the pocket of his
jean jacket. "Todays mail just came in at the desk." He tossed the letter on the table between
them. "This is for you, from the old ball and chain."
Henry dropped his sandwich, grabbed the envelope, and began to rip it open. He stopped
when he saw Paul's amused grin. "Maybe I'll save this to read later, when I'm alone," he decided.
A half hour later Henry sat on the bed in the brothers' hotel room. At last he was alone
with his letter from Marie. Holding her letter made him feel closer to her. Just seeing her precise
handwriting gave him a warm rush. He could almost hear her voice as he read the words.
"Dear Henry," the letter began. He frowned. She always called him Hank. "I'm sorry to
have to hurt you this way. But I've thought a lot about this, and I've decided it would be best if
we broke off our engagement."
Henry gasped. This had to be a joke. For a moment he wondered if Paul could be behind
it. It was just the sort of thing his brother would do. But the handwriting really was Marie's.
Henry forced himself to read on.
"Being apart this summer has made me realize that I'm not in love with you after all.
There's no point in waiting until Labor Day to tell you. You should get on with your life. Have a
wonderful time in California and a wonderful future."
Henry stared at the letter, unable to comprehend. "Why?" he cried aloud, his breath
coming in ragged gasps. "Why?"
He took a deep breath. Through his shirt he touched the silver ring to steady himself.
Then he grabbed the telephone and dialed Marie's number.
That evening in New York City, Marie lay back in her hospital bed, praying for the
nausea to subside. Her mother held a cold compress to her forehead.
"Is it any better now?" Cassandra asked.
Marie tried to nod, but her head was too heavy. "A little better," she whispered. She'd
been in and out of the hospital all summer for painful rounds of chemotherapy and radiation
"Your gums are still bleeding a little," Cassandra said, her voice unnaturally bright. "I
think we can take care of that with a change in your medication. At least you haven't had a
nosebleed lately."
"I'm so tired, Mommy," Marie whispered. She stopped, embarrassed. She hadn't called
her mother that in ten years. But Cassandra didn't seem to notice. "I try to sleep, but I can't."
"I know, honey," Cassandra said. "I wish there was more we could do about that."
"No more drugs, please!" Marie begged, struggling to sit up. "They make me so sick."
Cassandra held her hand tightly. "I know they do," she said. "But it's the best treatment
"It's not a cure," Marie said hopelessly.
"No, it's not a surefire cure," Cassandra admitted. "But the survival rate is getting better
and better. You're going to make it." She reached under Marie's pajama top to feel her abdomen.
Marie saw a flicker of anxiety cross her face.
"What is it, Mom?"

Cassandra smiled and switched to her professional voice. "It's nothing to worry about,"
she said. "Your spleen is still enlarged, but that's to be expected."
The phone rang beside her bed, and Cassandra picked up the receiver. "Hi, Peter," she
said, her voice unnaturally bright. "Yes, she's finished with today's treatments. She's much
better. She'll be at Saks in no time, shopping for school clothes. Yes, she can talk, but not for
too long."
She held the phone to Marie's ear. "It's your father."
"Hi, Dad," Marie said, trying to keep her voice from quavering. "How's everything at
"Your brother sends his love," her father told her. "He has a baseball game today, but he
said to expect a visit from him tomorrow afternoon."
"I can't wait," Marie said sincerely. She and sixteen-year-old Peter Jr. had always been
close. Then her stomach lurched again, and she bit her lip. Her pleasure evaporated. "I hope I
don't throw up on him."
She heard her father's pained intake of breath, and she resolved to be more cheerful for
his sake.
"Marie, you had three phone calls from Henry this afternoon," he told her.
Marie blinked away tears. Henry must have received her last letter. "Did you tell him I
was out playing tennis, like I said to?" she asked.
"Yes, I did," her father replied. "But I wish you'd let me tell him the truth, honey. Henry
loves you. He can help you through this."
"No, he can't!" Marie insisted. "I don't want Hank to see me" She nearly said "die." But
she stopped herself. "I don't want him to see me like this," she amended.
Cassandra squeezed her hand, and Marie saw tears in her mother's eyes.
"Henry sounded upset," Peter continued. "He said something about receiving your letter.
He wants you to call him about it."
"I can't," Marie said. "I just can't!" She closed her eyes and felt her mother gently take the
phone from her ear.
"Peter, she's pretty tired right now," Cassandra said. They spoke for a minute before she
replaced the receiver.
"Marie, what was in the letter you wrote Henry?" Cassandra asked.
Marie opened her eyes and studied her mother's face. "I broke up with him," she
admitted, reaching out one hand to grasp the gold-and-diamond locket that lay on the bedside
table. She'd considered sending it back to Henry with her letter. But she hadn't been able to part
with it.
Cassandra shook her head. "I wish you hadn't ended things with him," she said. "I know
the oncologist and the hematologist weren't encouraging. But we will pull you through this,
honey. You're young and otherwise healthy." She smiled weakly. "And you have a full-time
doctor who's given up all her other patients to be with you."
Marie sighed. "Mom, you've been great. But I can't pretend with you. You know the
prognosis better than I do. I won't live long enough to go to Wellesley or to marry Hank. And I
don't want him to watch me die!"
Tears were running down both women's laces.
"Marie, you're not going to"
"Yes, I am!" Marie said. "You know I am!"
"Henry will find out that you're sick as soon as he's back in town," her mother told her.

"If I'm still alive, it'll be easier for him if he's already distanced himself from me," Marie
whispered, still clutching the locket. "I can't make this any more painful for him. I just can't."
Paul Patman stood in front of the mirror in the brothers' hotel room in Denver that night,
combing his chin-length dark brown hair. Behind him he could see his brother, still lying on the
bed and staring at the ceiling. "Man, you are a real downer tonight!" Paul complained. "I'm sorry
she dumped you. It was uncool to do it in a letter. But it's over. And there's nothing you can do
about it. So let me call Becky and tell her to bring her sister along." He winked. "She's a college
"I told you, I'm not interested," Henry said in a pained voice. "Just go away and give me
some space!"
"Space is the last thing you need, man!" Paul objected. "You should be sitting in a
crowded room, listening to Bob Dylan tunes with some good-looking babes. And just thinkin a
few days we'll be in southern California." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "All those
surfer chicks will make you forget Marie."
"We're not going to California," Henry informed him. "We're turning the Mustang around
tomorrow and heading back east. I need to talk to her in person."
"Wrong!" Paul said. Henry was even farther gone than he'd thought. This called for some
quick thinking. Paul settled himself on the edge of the bed and gestured with his comb. "Listen,
Hank. You tried to phone Marie. She won't answer your calls. Maybe she's the one who needs
some space."
"Space?" Henry cried. "She's got two thousand miles of space!"
"I told you it was a mistake to get engaged at the end of your senior year," Paul reminded
him. "This should be the wildest summer of your life! And of Marie's."
"But we love each other!" Henry said. "Paul, I know she loves me. If I could only talk to
her in person"
Paul nodded. "You will. But not yet."
"It can't wait!" Henry protested. "It's too important!"
"It's too important to rush into," Paul corrected, searching desperately for the words that
would make Henry change his mind and continue the trek to California. "Look at it from Marie's
point of view. Now that school's done, she has time to think about what a heavy thing marriage
is. So she's freaking out. She needs time to get used to the idea."
"And what am I supposed to do while she's getting used to it?" Henry asked.
Paul shrugged. "Go with the flow! Love the one you're with and all that."
"But I love Marie!"
"And she'll still be in New Yorkor at Wellesleywhen you get home," Paul pointed
out. "What's your hurry? You've got the rest of your lives to spend together. In the meantime
they have telephones in California. You can keep trying."
Henry sighed. "All right. We'll keep heading west," he said. "But don't expect me to be
very good company."
"No offense, bro," Paul said, grinning triumphantly, thinking of tall, leggy Becky with the
long blond hair. "But it isn't your company I'm worried about."
Dionne Warwick was singing "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" as Henry parked the
Mustang two weeks later. Henry knew just what she meant. He flicked off the radio, and the
brothers climbed out of the car.

"So this is the College of Southern California," Paul said, gesturing around the sunsplashed campus just outside the town of Sweet Valley.
"It'll be Sweet Valley University in a year or two," Henry told him. "They're expanding
the course offerings and changing the school's name."
"Whatever," Paul said. "Too bad it's summer session. I bet there's more chicks around
during the school year."
Henry shook his head. The boys had come to Sweet Valley to wander through the town
their parents were moving to. As soon as Paul mentioned chicks, Henry knew exactly why his
brother had wanted to see the campus. "Do you really think college girls are dying to go out with
a high-school junior?" he asked.
"You mean senior!" Paul corrected him as they walked toward Fraternity Row. "My class
officially became the senior class the day your class graduated."
"Excuse me!" Henry said. "I'm sure that'll make all the difference to a twenty-year-old
girl. Is this the path to Dad's fraternity?"
"Yep," Paul said. "That's it up ahead, Pi Iota Gamma. Frat boys will have lots of advice
about the best places to pick up babes. You should show more optimism, man! Or at least have
confidence in your little brother's skill with the ladies."
"You've certainly managed to pick up enough of them since we've been in California,"
Henry said.
Paul ran a hand through his hair. "And they have all been so fine," he commented. "As
the Beach Boys said, 'I wish they all could be California girls.' Hey, take a look at these two
babes up ahead. Come on, baby, light my fire."
"It's a good thing they're too far away to hear you." Henry's eyes widened as the girls
approached. They looked about seventeen or eighteen years oldmaybe rising freshmen visiting
the campus. And the taller one had long, white-blond hair that shone like the sun.
"I'm in love," Paul announced for at least the tenth time since they'd left New York.
Henry's own breathing was speeding up. "She is absolutely gorgeous!" he said. "Look at
those long, tanned legs."
Paul stared at him in amazement. "Mr. Lovelorn is waking from his coma!" he said. "I'm
glad you like the tall blonde. The little brunette is mine!"
The girls were only ten feet away now, and Henry was mesmerized by the blonde's
graceful walk and casual style. And he couldn't be sure, but he thought she was studying him too.
"I wanna hold your hand!" Paul sang to the shorter girl as they passed. Henry's mood
shattered. The girls looked at each other, burst into laughter, and continued strolling by.
Henry's gaze was still on the girl's blond pony-tail when she turned to glance back at him.
Her blue-green eyes locked onto his pale blue ones, and she smiled faintly before turning and
saying something to her companion.
"Oh, Alice!" came the brunette's voice in response.
Paul nudged him. "You hear that? The blonde's name is Alice. Go on, man! Go for it. I
can tell she wants you."
For a few minutes Henry had put Marie completely out of his mind. But now her image
came rushing back, and he knew it was no use. Tall, blond Alice was beautiful. But his heart
would always belong to Marie.

A few days later the brothers lay on beach blankets on the white sand of Malibu. "Ah,
this is the life!" Paul said, raising his sunglasses to get a better look at a curvy redhead in a
bikini. "I can see why Mom and Dad want to move to California."
Henry wasn't sure if he could stand another minute of Paul's superficial blathering. "I
doubt their reasons have anything to do with scoping chicks on the beach," he said, annoyed.
"Lighten up, Hank!" Paul urged. "Soak up the rays and enjoy the scenery."
Henry jumped to his feet. "I'm going to the snack bar," he said. "I'll bring you back a
"And a hot dog," Paul ordered.
Henry dodged a Frisbee and hurried toward the concession stand. His real objective was a
telephone booth he'd noticed behind it. Marie hadn't returned any of his calls. He'd finally
stopped trying. But Henry couldn't take one more minute of yearning for the sound of her
voiceand hearing only Paul's.
He grabbed the receiver and placed a long-distance call to the Vanderhorns. He braced
himself to hear her father's voice again. But it was Marie who answered the phone.
"Marie!" he cried into the receiver. "Don't hang up! I need to talk to you!"
"Hank?" she asked. She sounded faint and breathless. "This isn't a good idea, Hank. I told
you in my letter"
"I know what you said in your letter," Henry said. "I've read it so many times I know it by
heart. But I still don't know why!"
"I told you why," Marie said. Her voice was so soft, he had to strain to hear her above the
sounds of frolicking teenagers and crashing waves. "I don't love you anymore. Maybe I never
"I don't believe that!" he said, lowering his own voice.
"You have to believe it," Marie said. "It's better this way. You'll meet other girls, forget
about me. "
Henry leaned his hot forehead against the glass side of the booth. "I can't forget about
you! I'll never love anyone else but you! At least tell me why. Did I do something wrong? Maybe
I came on too strong"
"It's not you, Hank," Marie said, her voice sounding farther than three thousand miles
away. "I never wanted to hurt you."
"Don't end it like this!"
"It's already ended," Marie reminded him.
"If you're nervous about the engagement, I can understand that," Henry said. "As soon as
I get back to town we'll talk in person. We can start back at the beginning if you wantjust
dating, with no strings attached."
"No!" Marie cried. Her voice lowered again. "You won't see me when you come back.
Let's make this a clean break."
The finality in her voice was like a dagger through his heart. Whatever her reasons, Marie
meant what she said.
"Then I'm not coming back east," he decided. "I can't stand being that close and not being
able to see you."
"What about Harvard?"
"I'll go to school here in California," Henry said listlessly. "My folks are moving here in a
few months anyhow. I'll stay at the estate they bought in Sweet Valley and get things ready for

Marie was silent for a moment. "That's probably a good idea," she said. She hung up the
phone before Henry could reply.

Three years later. Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Marie hated blind dates. The young man who'd taken her to dinner had gotten lost on the
way to the restaurant, spilled soda on her dress, and talked about hockey the entire evening. On
the stoop of her apartment building she dodged his good-night kiss. Then she slipped inside and
trudged upstairs.
After her diagnosis with leukemia Marie had spent much of that first summer and autumn
in the hospital. She'd written long, heartfelt letters to Henry, pouring out the whole story and all
her fears. But she hadn't mailed them. She couldn't ask him to share her pain. It was too much.
By the spring of what should have been her freshman year in college, Marie was in
remission, the cancer cells goneat least for the moment. Her parents had agreed that she could
start at Wellesley that September, only a year later than planned. Now Marie was a junior. And
for the first time she dared to think she might be cured for good.
She knew she was lucky. She'd beaten the odds by surviving. But she'd have been happier
if she had someone to share her life with. As she climbed the steps to her apartment she
wondered if she'd been wrong to protect Henry from the truth.
"How did the blind date go?" Peter Jr. asked when she walked into her cluttered living
room. "You're home early. That's a bad sign."
"The whole evening was a bad sign!" she told her brother with a sigh. "I should have
canceled the date as soon as you told me you were coming to visit. I'd have had a much better
time with you. And I know you didn't plan to spend your weekend reading my magazines."
Peter shrugged. "Don't worry about it," he said. He tossed a copy of Abnormal
Psychology onto the coffee table and picked up a half-eaten dish of chocolate ice cream. "You
psych majors have some exciting reading material around. I bet I know more about
schizophrenia now than any other math major at Boston U!"
"Ha!" Marie scoffed. "I've dated a few math majors. And believe methey're experts on
"Was that this guy's problem?" Peter asked. "Or did this Creep of the Week have a
different psychological profile?"
"I wouldn't classify him as psychotic," she admitted. "I would classify him as a drip."
"You still miss Henry, don't you?"
She flopped down on the couch beside him. "Yes," she said softly. "I do. Have you heard
anything about him lately?"
Peter stirred his ice cream as if it was the most important thing in the room.
"You have!" Marie said. "You've been talking to his brother Reggie, haven't you?"
Peter nodded. "Yeah," he said. Reggie, a freshman, was one year behind Peter at Boston
University, and both were on the baseball team there.
"How's Henry?" Marie asked.
"Call him!" Peter urged. "Admit that you're still in love with him. The poor guy never
even knew you were sick. Maybe he'll give up, um, everything in California and come back
when he knows why you broke it off with him."
"I've wanted to call him a million times," Marie said. "But there's more, isn't there? You
always were lousy at keeping a secret."
"Reggie says Henry's dating a girl at Sweet Valley University," Peter said. He took a
deep breath. "Seriously dating."

Marie felt a hollow ache inside her. "What did Reggie say about her?" she asked. "You
might as well tell me everything."
"Her name's Alice Robertson. She's a beautiful blonde, according to Reggie." Peter's
voice dropped down to a whisper. "The truth is," he admitted, "they're engaged to be married in
Paul tugged on one side of Henry's bow tie, trying to straighten the mess he'd made of the
knot. "I don't know about this tux thing, Hank," Paul said dubiously. "They say it drives chicks
wild, but I think the only chicks worth going after are the ones who are already wild. Casual is a
whole lot easier."
Henry's two brothers were with him in his bedroom at the Patman estate in Sweet Valley,
a week after his college graduation. They were supposed to be helping him dress for his
wedding, but they were more adept at getting in the way.
Henry grinned. "You're just jealous because I look like I was born in a tuxand you look
like you slept in yours." Henry hadn't dressed up much in the months since he'd been dating
Alice Robertson, who preferred less formal activities. It felt good to dress up now. He pushed
Paul's hand away, undid the bow tie himself, and retied it expertly.
"That's not why he's jealous," said their youngest brother. Reggie Jr. was sitting on the
bed, drinking Gatorade and looking as out of character in a tuxedo as Paul did. From the open
window behind him came the sounds of a string quartet. Reggie raised his voice slightly to be
heard above the music. "Paul's jealous because you're about to marry a sexy blonde."
Paul whistled. "Sexy is right! And she's obviously a good influence on you." He ruffled
Henry's now longish hair. "Since you started seeing Alice, you look a lot less like a 'Father
Knows Best' throwback."
"What's that the quartet's playing outside?" Henry asked, trying to change the subject. He
listened to the classical music that rose above the cheerful voices of the several hundred wedding
guests who milled around the estate. "Mozart?"
"Moe who?" asked Reggie.
"Do they know any Elton John?" Paul asked.
"You guys are hopeless!" Henry said.
"Now, that's the stick-in-the-mud older brother we know and love," Paul said. "Between
growing your hair longer and marching for civil rights with Alice, you've been a different person
the last few months. Whatever happened to preppie Hank Patman of Pi Iota Gamma, stuffiest
fraternity on campus?"
"I bet the rest of the Pig Brothers are thrilled about your new identity," Reggie Jr. said.
"You went from Joe College to Joe Cool pretty fast."
Henry shrugged. "I don't care what they think," he said. "When I'm at the frat house, I
still get that old urge to watch steeplechases and drink gin and tonics. But when I'm with Alice,
she's the only thing that matters. And Alice happens to be into tie-dye and saving the whales."
"You've got a lot to learn about managing women," Paul joked.
"I've got a lot to learn about managing, period," Hank said, changing the subject again.
Deep down he wasn't sure how he felt about Alice's liberal views and feminist outlook. But he
loved her. He figured she'd outgrow her activism as soon as she was married and living the
lifestyle his family's money could buy her. "Dad wants me to take over as president of Patman
Investments as soon as the headquarters moves here this winter," he continued. "What about you,
Reggie? Have you decided if you're taking that summer job working for him?"

Reggie choked on his Gatorade. "A job? As in work? No way!" he said, shaking his head.
"I transferred to UCLA to live the good life. Office work is for people who don't own
"I'm glad I've got brothers like you two, to teach me about priorities," Henry joked as he
slipped his feet into two perfectly polished black shoes. "Has anyone seen my boutonniere?"
"One white rosebud coming up," Paul said. He reached toward Henry's lapel to pin it on
for him, but Henry grabbed it from his hand.
"I'll do it myself," Henry said. "I saw how good you were with the bow tie."
"What have you got to eat at this wedding?" Reggie asked.
"Why?" Paul asked. "Are you taking notes for your own wedding feast next fall? I can't
believe both my brothers are tying themselves down at such young ages!"
Henry put his hands to his head in mock annoyance. "That's it!" he cried. "You flakes
need to clear out of here so I can get my head together. I'll see you outside soon."
Once he was alone, Henry scrutinized himself in the mirror. The tuxedo was flattering on
him. He thought he looked distinguished, yet dashing. His hair was a little long. He decided
he would have it cut before fall. Alice would understand. After all, she had just graduated from
college too. She knew it was time to start acting like grown-ups.
Henry slid open the top drawer of his dresser and began shuffling through it, searching
for his gold cufflinks. His hand touched a small jewelry box that seemed familiar. He raised the
lid. Suddenly he saw Marie Vanderhorn's beautiful hazel eyes, huge in her ashen face, as she told
him about the silver ring in the box. He had stashed it away years earlier. Thoughts of Marie
were too painful. Now he lifted the simple band in his fingers. The ring's edges were tarnished,
but sunlight from the open window still glinted off the silver, sending showers of sparkles around
the room. He would always keep a special place in his heart for Mariejust as he would keep
her ring forever, even if he never wore it again.
It was Alice he was in love with now. He smiled broadly, thinking of her lively eyes, her
white-gold hair, and her quick mind. He and Alice were going to be happy together for the rest of
their lives.
Henry stashed the ring back in its box and carefully closed the drawer.
An hour later Henry stood on the manicured lawn of the estate, cheerfully accepting the
ribald remarks of his fraternity brothers. His wedding day was perfect. Even after four years in
Sweet Valley he was blown away by the consistency of the climate. After New York it was like
living in paradise. The sky was a brilliant blue. Sunlight poured over men in tuxedos and women
in pastel gownsand, he noted with an amused grin, Alice's friends, in tie-dye and fringes.
Elaborate arrangements of cut roses and peonies adorned the tables. And uniformed caterers
circulated through the crowd, carrying hors d'oeuvres on silver trays.
Suddenly Nancy Robertson stood beside Henry, looking like an older, tawny-haired
version of her sister, Alice. She wore a bridesmaids gown of pink stuff that reminded him of
cotton candy.
"Henry, can I steal you a minute?" Nancy asked, pulling him to one side. "Alice wants to
talk to you," she whispered.
"We're not supposed to see each other until the ceremony!" Henry objected. "It's
"That's what I told her," Nancy said. "But you know Alice. She's not into tradition."

A few minutes later Henry's polished shoes sounded loud against the ceramic tile floor of
the guest cottage. He pushed open the door to Alice's room without knocking.
"Alice, you know we're not supposed to see each other before the ceremony!" he
protested, annoyed. She turned toward him, and Henry gasped at how lovely she looked. Her
white gown was embroidered with pearls. A veil fell over her hair in gauzy layers, accentuating
the blue in her eyes. "But you look so beautiful," he breathed. "God, Alice, you're a vision of the
perfect bride." He leaned forward to kiss her, but Alice stepped away.
"Hank, don't," she said in a soft voice.
"What?" he asked. "You let me see you before the wedding, but you draw the line at
kissing me?"
"Hank, I can't," she whispered.
"Can't kiss me?"
Alice shook her head. "I can't go through with this," she confessed. Her lower lip was
trembling. "II can't marry you, Hank."

One year later Marie Vanderhorn stepped from the elevator of a Los Angeles office
building. She trudged across the lobby. A deadline had kept her working late, and the sky was
already growing dark.
Marie had worked hard to graduate from Wellesley a semester early. Once out of school,
she wondered why she'd been in such a hurry. She had no idea what she wanted to do. And she
had nobody to do it with. Her degree was in psychology. She knew she liked research more than
clinical work. But she couldn't stand the thought of spending years in graduate school.
Then her mother's old army friend, Mary Lee, had called. Mary was the nursing editor of
a medical journal that was starting a new section on psychology, and she recommended Marie
for the job of psychology editor. Cassandra's reputation as a surgeon had cinched the offer.
When Marie heard the job was in Los Angeles, her heart pounded in her chest. As far as
Marie knew, Henry Patman had married Alice and was living in southern California. What if she
ran into them? She told herself she was being silly. Los Angeles had millions of residents.
Besides, she couldn't hide from her past forever. So she'd taken a deep breath and told Mary
she'd accept the position.
Marie liked her job. But tonight she was exhausted. All she wanted was to take the bus
home and soak herself in a bubble bath while reading a romance novel.
Suddenly something jerked Marie's foot. She tumbled forward, her heel caught in a crack
in the sidewalk. She was about to crash face first to the pavement. Then a pair of strong arms
grabbed her, and the world swung back into place. Marie's foot was fine, but the high heel of her
shoe had broken off.
"Are you all right?" a man's voice asked.
Marie caught her breath and turned around. "Thank you" she began. Then she gasped.
The man holding her elbow was Henry Patman.
"Hank!" she croaked out.
Henry's eyes grew round. "M-Marie? I, uh, had no idea you were in California!"
She nodded inanely and tried to find her voice. "F-for five months now," she stammered.
She'd finally convinced herself that she was over Henry. But now just seeing him made it hard to
catch her breath.
"You look great," he told her softly.
Marie tried to smile. "So do you," she replied. And he did. His suit was conservative but
elegantly cut. His hair was still as thick and dark brown as in high school.
"Your hair's shorter," he said awkwardly. "I like it. It suits you."
Marie's auburn hairstill recovering from the effects of cancer treatmentswas shorter
and thinner. She knew it looked normal to most people. But she felt embarrassed to have Henry
see it. "How is your family?" she asked quickly.
"Reggie Jr. got married in the fall," Henry said as they continued down the sidewalk,
Marie hobbling on her broken heel.
"So that makes two of you," Marie blurted. She prayed that her new California tan would
hide her furious blushing.
Henry shook his head. "Two?" he asked.
"I, uh, heard you got married last summer," she stammered.
Henry looked away. "No," he said. "I didn't."
Marie saw a hint of pain in his eyes. "I guess I heard wrong," she said softly.
"It didn't work out," he explained.

"I'm sorry," she said, meaning it.

"Now I'm running my dad's investment firm."
"That's great," she said. "Well, this is my bus stopand that's my bus coming. Uh, it was
good to see you again."
"Yeah," he said with a shrug. "See you around."
Two weeks later Marie paced across the bedroom of her apartment, talking to her cat.
"I can't call Henry!" she said. "That would be too forward after all this time."
Chester groomed his long gray-and-brown fur.
"But if I don't call him, I'll never see him again," Marie lamented. "But what if he doesn't
want to see me?" She sighed, sat down on the bed, and stroked Chester's forehead. He stretched
luxuriously, a purr vibrating through his body.
"If Henry wanted to see me, he would call," she told the cat. "I'm in the phone book."
Chester meowed in his low, gravelly voice.
"You're right," Marie agreed. "He wouldn't call. I was the one who broke up with him. So
how do I know what he wants?"
Chester gazed up at her quizzically.
"I won't know unless I call him," Marie concluded. "I've been trying to get up the nerve
ever since that evening on the sidewalk all right," she decided. "I'll do it."
Chester purred, contented.
"But first, Chester, tell me this," she asked him, smiling weakly. "How crazy is it for a
psych major to talk to a cat? Maybe I should write a journal article about myself."
Chester watched, silent, as Marie reached for the telephone book.
The next evening after work Henry drove up Beachwood Drive into the Hollywood Hills.
He'd been astonished to hear Marie's voice on the phone the night before.
He wasn't sure why she had called. Maybe she just wanted to talk to a friend from home.
He braced himself for the "I'm sorry I hurt you, but we can still be friends" speech. But he knew
he could use a friend too.
Henry had suggested meeting on Mount Cahuenga, near the "Hollywood" sign. It was a
local landmark Marie hadn't visited yet. And the view would be awesome at sunset if the smog
wasn't too bad.
Linda Ronstadt's voice belted out of his car radio. Henry sang along as he wound his way
into the hills. "I've been cheated, been mistreated. When will I be loved?"
He could relate. He could definitely relate. After Alice left him at the altar, she'd started
dating a law student named Ned Wakefield. They were probably married by now. He wanted
Alice to be happy, but he resented the humiliating way she'd dumped him. Not to mention the
way Marie had dumped him first.
Henry was sure that love would elude him forever.
Marie and Henry sat on opposite ends of a park bench near the "Hollywood" sign. She
desperately wanted to close the gap between them, but she didn't know how. It's too late for that,
she realized sadly, eyeing his rigid posture. All she could give Henry now was the truth. He
deserved that much at least.
She opened her mouth and tried to speak, but the story was too painful. The memory of
the long months of chemotherapy was still too close.

"What is it?" Henry asked finally. "What did you want to tell me?"
Marie grappled in her canvas tote bag for a bundle of letters. She fumbled through them
until she found the one she wanted, dated July, five years earlier. "I wrote you this letter when
you and Paul were driving west after graduation," she said, handing it to him. "I wanted to
explain why I had to break up with you." Tears moistened her eyes, and she blinked fiercely to
clear them. "I couldn't bring myself to mail it! Or any of the others I wrote."
Henry stared at her, his forehead wrinkled. "I don't understand!"
"You will," she replied, nodding toward the letter. He raised it to his eyes, and she
watched his mouth drop open as he skimmed the first few lines.
Henry's eyes met Marie's. "Leukemia?" he asked, clearly stunned.
Marie nodded.
"Then you were lying when you said you didn't love me?" Henry asked.
Marie nodded again. "I hated myself for saying that," she admitted. "But I knew you'd
hurt worse if I told you the truth."
"God, Marie!" he exclaimed, his own eyes filled with tears. "What you must have gone
through, all by yourself"
She pulled a chain out from beneath her blouse. On the end of it dangled the gold-anddiamond locket. "When I felt most alone," she said, "I pulled out your locket. I held it tight, like
this. It made me feel closer to you."
Wonder and joy lit Henry's eyes. In one swift movement he slid across the bench until
she felt the strong line of his thigh, warm against her skirt. To her astonishment, he loosened his
tie and reached under his own collar. On the end of a chain he wore her silver ring.
"It's a reminder to follow your dreams and remember the people you love," he said,
repeating exactly what she'd told him about the family heirloom five years earlier. "I never
stopped loving you!" he said in a husky voice. "And there's only one dream that means anything
to me." He slid off the bench and dropped to one knee. "Marie Vanderhorn, will you marry me?"
Marie nodded, too overcome to speak. Then she threw her arms around him. For the first
time in five years she felt that she was truly alive.
Henry and Marie Patman stood over a bassinet in their wing of the Patman estate in
Sweet Valley. They gazed, proud but perplexed, at the round, pink face of their three-day-old
son. Henry felt like an idiot, to be stuck on the choice of a name. They'd had nine months to
come up with one. But now that the infant lay before them, none of the names they'd considered
seemed to fit.
"Why not call him Peter, for your father?" Henry asked for the third time.
Marie shook her head. "That won't work," she objected. "He just doesn't look like
someone named Peter. Are you sure we can't use Reginald, for your father?"
"We're two months too late," Henry reminded her. "You know my brother Reggie and his
wife Ann named their baby Reginald III." He laughed. "Though Reggie says they've already
come up with a nickname for the kid. I bet nobody will ever call him Reginald in his entire life!"
"What nickname?" Marie asked.
Henry rolled his eyes. "Leave it to my flaky brother," he said. "They're calling the poor
kid 'Shred.' I have no idea why."
"Shred?" Marie asked, her eyes twinkling. "Rats! And I had my heart set on naming our
son Shred," she joked. Then her face became serious again. "We could call him Henry Jr.," she

"Absolutely not!" Henry said. "I always hated my name as a kid. I won't stick my son
with it. Forget family names. Let's just think of a good, solid one. What about Andrew?"
Marie shook her head. "I had several horrendous dates in college with a guy named
Andrew. I don't want to think about that jerk whenever I see our little boy!"
"Thomas? Michael? Robert?" Henry asked.
"I don't know," Marie said, twisting her mouth into a frown. "They all sound so generic to
me. What about something a little different? Something slightly unusual?"
"You're not going to go all flower child on me, are you?" Henry asked warily. "Don't tell
me you want to call our son Lake or Goodwill or Ocean Breeze!"
"I said slightly unusual," she reminded him. "You knowfamiliar, but not boring. I want
him to be the only kid in his class with his name. But I want everyone to know how to spell it
"Lawrence?" Henry suggested. "Gordon?"
"Those are closer," she replied, staring at the baby's face. "But he doesn't look like a
Lawrence or a Gordon."
"Bruce?" Henry asked.
Marie smiled. "Bruce Patman!" she said, trying out the sound of it. "That sounds like a
strong, successful guy who knows what he wants. I think we've got it!"
Henry lifted Bruce from his bassinet and smiled into his son's face. "Welcome to Sweet
Valley, California, little Bruce!" Henry said in baby talk, running his finger down the curve of
the baby's soft, warm cheek. "There's a new kid on the block," he announced. "And this town
will never be the same!"

Bantam Books in the Sweet Valley High series

Ask your bookseller for the books you have missed

#62 WHO'S WHO?




The unforgettable ancestors of Bruce Patman
In 1825, sixteen-year-old Sophie, the Duchess of Edmonton, falls in love with Henry Patman,
a dashing stable hand. But Sophie's sister, Melanie, has also fallen for Henry's rugged charm.
And Melanie will do anything to keep Sophie and Henry apart.
John Patman loses his heart to London actress Katherine Richmond. He's too poor to ask for
her hand in marriage, so he swears he'll strike it rich in the oil fields of Texas. But how long will
Katherine wait?
Dr. Cassandra Vanderhorn meets wounded soldier Spencer Light in a World War II veterans'
hospital. After he recovers, they marry, and he returns to the front. Then Cassandra receives a
telegram bearing terrible news.
Marie Vanderhorn has found her soul mate in Hank Patman. When Marie is stricken with
leukemia, she breaks off the relationship and keeps her suffering a secret. Hank vows that he'll
love Marie forever. But then Alice Robertson crosses his path.
Discover the epic, thrilling history of the men and women who made Bruce Patman who he is