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Authors: Debra Diaz

Tags: #romance, #suspense, #mystery, #espionage, #civil war, #historical, #war, #virginia, #slavery, #spy

Shadow of Dawn (6 page)

BOOK: Shadow of Dawn
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The door closed.

 

Catherine went to her room, thinking that one
of these days she was going to have words with Mrs. Shirley.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

T
he next morning
after church Andrew consented to allow Catherine to read to him.
She hurried to get her copy of
A Tale of Two Cities
, then
ran back to his room, holding her skirts high. She almost slipped
on a rug and fell laughing into a chair. Andrew made a wheezing
sound that resembled a chuckle.

 

“So much excitement over a book,” he
said.

 

“Oh, but it’s such a wonderful book!”

 

“I would have thought you’d be more
enthralled by Sir Walter Scott.”

 

“Oh, no, Mr. Dickens is much better, don’t
you think?”

 

He gave a noncommittal nod as they seated
themselves and Catherine turned the pages. “Book the First:
Recalled to Life.” Mr. Lorry, the Dover road, the night shadows—all
seemed to leap off the pages and into the room. And at some point
during the course of her reading, she began to mentally compare her
husband to Dr. Manette, the old gentleman who had suffered so long
and so harshly.

 


You know that you are recalled to
life?”


They tell me so.”


I hope you care to live?”


I can’t say.”

 

She stopped in the middle of a sentence.
Andrew had suffered probably more than she would ever know, and in
a way he had been recalled to life, too.

 

Catherine had a sudden vision of herself
fifty years from now, sitting in this very chair, reading the
latest novel of some popular author, her voice tremulous with age,
her eyes faded and bereft of joy, childless, friendless, having
lived her entire life sharing the burden of a man wrecked in body
and wounded in spirit. And as before when on the verge of
self-pity, she was appalled at her thoughts, despising herself for
her lack of compassion.

 

She didn’t know if Andrew really wanted to
live, but he was alive, and it was up to her to make his life as
pleasant as possible. Lucie had done that for Dr. Manette, her
father. But Lucie, she thought, had Charles.

Andrew had turned his face toward her. “What
is it?”

 

She blinked, jerked back in a twinkling from
that distant and dismal future. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll just finish
this chapter.”

 

When she closed the book, Andrew said, “You
read very well.”

 

“Thank you.” Catherine cleared her throat.
“Is there anything I can do for you, Andrew?”

 

He shook his head. “I think I’ll rest now.
Thank you for reading to me. I’ll look forward to the next
installment.”

 

“Andrew, do you ever think of going out in
public?”

 

There was a long pause, and then he said,
“Why do you ask?”

 

“A friend of mine is getting married on
Friday. I don’t know what to do…won’t you go with me?”

 

“Of course you must go,” he said at once.
“You must never turn down any sort of invitation because of
me.”

 

“But I hate leaving you alone.”

 

“Mrs. Shirley will be here.”

 

“Yes, I know, but—”

 

“Catherine, I can’t go out. Maybe I’m a
coward. Maybe someday I’ll be able to. But please don’t ask it of
me now.”

 

“I didn’t mean—”

 

The door opened abruptly and Mrs. Shirley
came in. “It’s time for your nap,” she announced.

 

Andrew stiffened. It seemed some sort of
silent communication flashed between the two. Then Andrew gave a
sigh.

 

“You may go, Catherine. Thank you again.”

 

Catherine gritted her teeth and left the
room, finding out just how swiftly she could go from ruefulness to
rage. She decided to go downstairs and sit on the porch to cool the
blood that Mrs. Shirley had set to boiling. That woman acted as if
she owned the house and everyone in it.

 

As she passed the formal parlor she saw the
door was closed; from within came the low murmur of men’s
voices—Bart, no doubt, with his card-playing cronies. Sallie
deplored the fact that Bart played cards on Sunday, but this was
one matter in which she seemed to have no influence with him. And
for once Martin, too, failed to side with his wife. “A young man
must have his diversions,” he’d said.

 

Catherine settled herself in a rocker on the
porch. The maple trees lining the edges of the yard had turned
blood red and seemed to glow with an unearthly beauty in the autumn
sunlight. The weather was mild for this time of year; she hoped it
would remain so, for the sake of the soldiers. It must be hard to
fight in the cold and damp, especially when there were not enough
coats, not enough shoes to replace those that wore out so quickly.
Already the agricultural South was experiencing deprivations not
suffered by the industrial North.

 

A pedestrian turned off the street and walked
toward the house. Catherine recognized one of the men who came
regularly to play cards with Bart. She nodded as he tipped his hat
at her.

 

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Kelly,” he said
cheerfully.

 

“Good afternoon, Mr. Galloway. Please go in.
They’re in their usual spot.”

 

“Thank you. I, er, heard about your husband.
I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re pleased he’s home.”

 

“Yes. Thank you.”

 

He bowed stiffly and turned to enter the
house. Catherine was struck by the manner of his bow; some men
jerked like puppets while others seemed to have been born with a
natural grace about them, like Clayton Pierce for instance…

 

She had forgotten to ask Andrew if Clayton
could meet with him. For a moment she thought perhaps she
shouldn’t, perhaps it would be best not to stir up memories in her
husband that he would probably prefer to keep dormant.

 

But then, maybe it would help him to talk. He
had yet to mention the war or his injuries.

 

Something had gone out of the beauty of the
day. The trees seemed dismal suddenly, half bare of their leaves
instead of half full; the air felt chill and she shivered.
Something nagged at her, some thought or feeling demanded
attention, but her mind kept skirting around as if trying to avoid
it.

 

Danger, a sixth sense seemed to say. Too much
thinking can be dangerous.

 

***

 

They hanged at Tyburn, in those days…

 

Catherine unconsciously increased the speed
of her reading, turning ahead to see the end of the chapter. She
must soon begin to get ready for Delia’s wedding and wondered why
she felt so fidgety. Andrew didn’t seem to notice her discomposure,
but was so quiet she wondered if he were asleep. When she finished
she lay the book aside, waited a moment, and when he didn’t speak,
she rose.

 

“Lucie reminds me of you,” he said suddenly,
in his rasping whisper.

 

Startled, she looked at the blank mask over
his face. “Does she? How so?”

 

After another pause he replied, “Her
kindness. Her compassion.”

 

She felt a stab of guilt. He said nothing
more and she murmured, “I’m nothing like Lucie. You’re the one
who’s kind, Andrew, and patient. Are you certain you don’t mind my
going to Delia’s wedding?”

 

“I want you to go.”

 

“Well, then, I must start getting dressed.
I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“I hope you have a good time, Catherine.”

 

She crossed the hallway and sitting room to
her own room. She took the black silk net from her head and looked
at her hair indignantly. Thank goodness, she would have help with
it today.

 

The Henderson’s’ next-door neighbors were
British and employed all British servants, one of whom was
accomplished in the art of dressing hair. She had planned to arrive
at three o’clock; the wedding was at four. It was now almost half
past two. Catherine donned a fresh chemise, stockings and
pantalets, then realized she’d forgotten to tell Jessie to come up
and lace her corset.

 

Martin, Sallie and Bart had all gone to the
theater and planned to dine later with friends. Rather than search
downstairs for Jessie, Catherine decided to ask Mrs. Shirley to
perform the service for her. Not bothering with a wrapper, she
crossed the hall and knocked on Mrs. Shirley’s door. No reply, not
a sound, came from within.

 

Perhaps she was in Andrew’s room. Catherine
knocked on the other door and, after a quick rustling sound, heard
Andrew say, “Who is it?”

 

“It’s Catherine. Is Mrs. Shirley in
there?”

 

The door opened and Andrew stood towering
over her in his black garments. She sensed something almost like an
air of surprise about him, and as sometimes happened when she was
reading, Catherine received the eerie impression that he was
looking at her. She stepped back a little.

 

“I need Mrs. Shirley to help me,” she said,
resisting the urge to cross her arms and cover herself. Of course,
there was no way he could see her with that hood over his head,
even had he not been blind.

 

“She’s…not here. I don’t know where she
is.”

 

“I’m right here,” came a voice from the top
of the staircase. Catherine turned and saw that Mrs. Shirley had
just ascended the stairs and was standing there, watching them. She
looked, for some reason, faintly amused.

 

“You’d best get to your room, Mrs. Kelly. And
you, sir, had best get back to your nap.”

 

Catherine didn’t have time to even consider
reprimanding the nurse for her bossiness as Mrs. Shirley ushered
her speedily into her bedroom and closed the door.

 

“And what is it you need, Mrs. Kelly?”

 

“Will you lace my stays? I’m sorry, but I
forgot to ask Jessie and I don’t have time to go looking for
her.”

 

Without reply Mrs. Shirley snatched the
corset off the bed, placed it around Catherine’s waist, and began
pulling the strings.

 

“I’ll try not to be too late, Mrs. Shirley.
If you need me—”

 

“I doubt I shall have need of you, madam. Go
and enjoy yourself. Captain Kelly will be asleep presently and
won’t stir until morning. There, is that tight enough?”

 

“Yes, thank you.”

 

“You have a very small waist. Mrs. Henderson
would be envious.” That was said with enough of a smirk in her
voice to imply she didn’t care much for Mrs. Henderson. “There,
I’ve tied the strings in such a way that you have only to give a
slight pull to release them. It shouldn’t require anyone’s
assistance.”

 

Before Catherine could answer, the nurse had
slipped out the door. She looked at herself in the mirror. She did
have a good figure, she had to admit, and she had been blessed with
equally good skin and teeth. She wished her eyes were a true green
but they would look darker once she donned her new gown of emerald
green silk.

 

Catherine pulled the voluminous folds of the
dress over her head, realized she had no one to button it for her,
and decided she would ask the hairdresser to do it; Mrs. Shirley
made her nervous. Once she had the gown settled into place over the
mound of petticoats, she looked into the mirror again and promptly
blushed at the low décolletage. She’d asked the dressmaker to alter
it, but the woman was French and seemed to think the neckline
should be even more daring. Apparently she had made only a minimal
change. Well, daring or not, it was too late to do anything about
it.

 

Someone knocked at the door. At Catherine’s
call, Sarah, the neighbors’ diminutive but plainspoken servant,
bustled into the room and set to work with brush, comb, hairpins
and curling tongs. It took a long time and Sarah grew somewhat red
in the face with her exertions, but at last she finished and stood
back to admire her handiwork.

 

She had pulled half the mass of auburn hair
to the crown of Catherine’s head and secured it, leaving the rest
to fall in loose, sectioned curls to well below her shoulders. Tiny
curls had been left to frame her forehead and temples.

 

“Oh, it’s breathtaking you are, Mrs. Kelly,”
she said, in her strongly accented voice. “Breathtaking. Wait until
Mr. Kelly sees you!” Obviously she was unenlightened as to Andrew’s
condition and Catherine said nothing, staring at her reflection and
wondering if the creature looking back at her was indeed
herself.

 

“Here, dearie, let me button that,” Sarah
said, putting the finishing touches on Catherine’s gown. Catherine
thanked the woman, paid her, and when she’d gone, slipped on her
shoes and found a lacy, cream-colored shawl to guard against the
cold. The clock downstairs had already chimed half past three.
Catherine hurried down to find Ephraim waiting; he’d offered to
drive her to Delia’s house, where the wedding was to take
place.

 

“Miss Catherine,” he said, very straight and
dignified, “I may be overstepping my place, but I’ve got to say you
sure do look pretty this evening.”

 

“Why, thank you, Ephraim,” she said,
laughing, feeling suddenly younger and lighter of heart than she
had in a long time. “Thank goodness it’s not raining. Shall we
go?”

 

It was, in fact, a beautiful afternoon. The
air was cold but not uncomfortably so. Ephraim used the covered
carriage, making her feel almost like Cinderella going to the ball.
Already carriages lined the street where Delia and her family
lived. As Ephraim helped her step down, he said, “I believe the
drivers are going to get together in the servants’ quarters off the
kitchen, Miss Catherine. You can send word to me when you’re ready
to leave.”

BOOK: Shadow of Dawn
9.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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