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Thomas took it and stared briefly at his own handwriting. “You better not tell me you got lost—”

“Cap…no, sir! I found…Mr. Zachariah Wilson’s…house. That weren’t the trouble. Your lady…she wasn’t there—”

“What do mean, she wasn’t there?”

“She wasn’t there, Cap. Gertie, neither. Weren’t nobody…around inside…or out. The place was shut up tight. Weren’t no lamps lit or nothing. I knocked at all the doors…and I looked in the windows—”

“Bender, she has to be there.”

“No, sir, Cap., I waited at the house. I waited a
time. Nobody ever came back. I never heard one sound come from the inside.”

“My wife is very ill! She has to be there!” Thomas said, realizing the implication of what Bender was telling him. Surely to God nothing had happened to Abiah
while he was gone. Somebody would have come here to tell him, would have sent word if she…

“You didn’t ask anyone?” he asked abruptly, knowing he should try not to scare the boy any more than he already had. Bender had been gone a long time—long enough to make any superior officer uneasy, given the number of desertions since the “mud march.” It would have taken a considerable amount of nerve for Bender to come back at all, much less report that he hadn’t carried out his orders.

“Cap, weren’t nobody to ask. I waited and waited—”

“La Broie!” Thomas yelled, making the boy jump.

“Sir!” the sergeant answered immediately.

“Find out if anybody’s seen Gertie.”

“Gertie, sir? Ain’t no civilians allowed into camp, sir—”

“Now, damn it!”

“Yes, sir,” La Broie said, trotting away.

Thomas knew with certainty that Abiah wasn’t well enough to go anywhere. He wasn’t going to just assume that Gertie was still with her, still taking care of her—but whether she was or wasn’t, he still had no idea where Abiah could be. He glanced at Bender. For a moment he thought the boy was going to cry. He was enough of a child still to want to make some kind of excuse for his failure, and enough of a soldier to know that that was not appropriate.

“Captain Harrigan,” someone called from outside the hut.

“What, damn it?” Thomas said, with little thought to who it might be.

A soldier immediately came inside, regardless of the tone of Thomas’s response.

“Major Gibbons’s compliments, sir. You are to report to the Lacey house immediately.”

“Do you know what for?” Thomas asked, more than a little worried now. He was too far down the pecking order to be sent for without good—serious—reason.

“No, sir. I’m thinking he wants you to hurry it along, though.”

“Get my mount,” Thomas said to Bender.

“Yes, sir!” the boy said, clearly relieved to be given something to do. He brought the horse around quickly.

“Go tell one of the cooks I said to feed you,” Thomas said as he took the reins.

“Yes, sir.”

“And tell Sergeant La Broie where I’ve gone.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said again.

Thomas mounted and wheeled the horse sharply. There was no way he could delay whatever this might be. There was no way he could pretend that there was some urgent military matter that required his invaluable expertise. Even so, he set off at a gallop into the cold night, leaving the message runner who had come to summon him to headquarters trailing far behind.

But his head start did him no good, and it wasn’t until the pickets refused to let him pass that he realized that, given half the chance, he would have gone “by”
the Lacey house in just the manner he’d instructed Bender to do. He would have gone to see about Abiah himself, and Major Gibbons be damned.

Where are you, Abby?

The night was starry and sharply cold. He had to wait until the message runner caught up and could vouch for him before the pickets would let him proceed. He made the rest of the ride more sedately, following the lanterns, lit and hung on cedar posts along the way, until he reached Sumner’s headquarters. But even in the dark, the place would have been easily recognizable.

The house was an incredible hodgepodge of architectural designs. Huge one-story wings had been added to either end of the original two-story structure, and then yet another wing added to those. Nothing was to scale. None of the rooflines matched. The place looked as if it had been the work of someone who had the money to buy the building supplies, but not the blueprints. At this point, nothing could have improved the look of it save burning it to the ground and starting over.

Thomas was passed through quickly and sent upstairs. He stood in the wide hallway while the messenger approached Major Gibbons, who manned a small table near the turn in the stairs. It appeared to take the major a moment to remember what he had wanted with Thomas, but whatever it was, it didn’t require his personal attention.

“You are to go down there, sir,” the messenger told
him. “Down to the last room on the left at the end of the hall.”

Thomas felt the wind go out of him. This was it then. Something had happened to Abiah and they were going to tell him in private.

He stood there for a moment, then nodded. He had to force himself to go in the direction the messenger indicated, stepping over sleeping soldiers and unattended weapons and haversacks along the way.

He took a deep breath and reached to open the door. The room was dimly lit and smelled of cigar smoke. He didn’t see the other man immediately, not until he spoke.

“All right. What have you got to say for yourself?”

Thomas looked around sharply. His grandfather stood near the window. It took Thomas a moment to recover, to remember that he was a grown man now and beyond the judge’s intimidation. He had long since resigned himself to the fact that he could never please the old man, and the pain that had caused him as a boy had now translated into a kind of muted sadness at the loss to them both. Thomas still wanted to believe—did believe—that, had he not had to play the scapegoat for his father’s wrongdoing, he and the old man could have at least maintained a mutual and satisfying respect. But it was too late now.

“Not much,” he said lightly. “Why?”

“My God! You think this is cause for humor?”

“Well, hardly, sir, since I don’t even know what ‘this’ is.”

“Your behavior is an abomination,” the old man said.

“And what behavior is that? I can assure you the recent misadventures of the Army of the Potomac are
my fault.”

“You have no regard for this family whatsoever. You are your father’s son. There is no doubt about that!”

“So you’ve told me many times, Grandfather. Did you miss your favorite sport so much you had to come all this way to say it again?”

The judge ignored the remark.

“You have hurt your mother deeply. I trust you realize that.”

“Sir, I don’t know what—”

“A Harrigan will not drag the Winthrop name through the mud again. I will not have it!” the old man interrupted, his voice rising, likely to the appreciation of everyone on the second floor. Thomas could hear movement outside the door, either the curious or the concerned trying to ascertain exactly what was transpiring in here. But he wasn’t about to acknowledge any wrongdoing until he specifically knew the charge. He had no interest in this repeat of an all-toofamiliar scene from his boyhood. He had to find out what had happened to Abiah.

“Exactly what is it you think I’ve done?”

“You’ve proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’ve been right about you all along. And now you have proved it to your mother, as well.
heard about your entanglement on the steps of the church
after the Sunday service. Did you honestly think you could carry on as you have with this rebel harlot of yours and the scandal wouldn’t reach our ears?”


“Have you gotten this girl with child? If you have, you needn’t think a bastard of yours will ever lay claim to a Winthrop inheritance. And you needn’t think that I won’t speak to your commanding officer—”

“And have him do what? Put me in the front lines? I’m there often enough without your help.”

“I can assure you there will be consequences!”

Thomas stared at him. He was so weary of this, too weary to even attempt to explain. “You know, I do wonder how you’ve stayed a respected jurist when you are always so anxious to rush to judgment.”

“Rush to judgment? No, indeed. I simply have no interest in hearing your excuses!”

“Good. I have no interest in making any. If that’s all, then I’ll take my leave. I have more pressing matters to attend to than this.”

“I am not finished here! Did you honestly think you could flaunt your whoredom and no one would dare challenge you?”

“Sir! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“I know enough! Have you nothing to say about this?”

“No. I don’t.”

“Then you leave me no alternative but to tell your mother you are completely unrepentant.”

“While you’re at it, tell her I send her my fondest regards. Safe journey home, Grandfather.”

Thomas headed for the door, but someone knocked just before he reached it. When he opened it, the same message runner who had fetched him here waited in the hall.

“Sir, you have somebody asking after your whereabouts,” he said.

“Who is it?”

“Well, sir, I, ah…” He lowered his voice. “The person won’t say.”

Thomas frowned. “What am I supposed to do? Guess?”

“There’s a bit of a fuss, sir—about the money.”

“What money?”

“She says you owe her, sir.”


“It’s one of the, ah, women, sir. You know.”

Thomas didn’t know at all—at least not precisely. He could feel his grandfather’s attentiveness behind him.

“We aren’t sure how she got in here, sir. There have been strict orders ever since we got back—absolutely no civilians in camp, much less strolling right into headquarters. Half of Falmouth has been trying to get up here to see a general so they can make some kind of complaint, but the pickets aren’t supposed to let anyone pass—unless they come in like your grandfather, with enough passes to get into Jeff Davis’s front parlor.”

“Where is she?”

“Lieutenant Noah had her detained where—where…”

“Where what!” Thomas said impatiently.

“Where she’s not apt to run into anybody in authority, sir. The lieutenant says to tell you it’s a belated wedding present.”

“Show me,” Thomas said, and he left without saying anything more to his grandfather. The old man would think the worst no matter what, and this latest development, whatever it was, couldn’t help the situation.

The woman had been forcefully invited to wait in a room at the very end of the last addition to the lengthy house. There were a few soldiers about, but most of them were sitting around the walls, asleep. Thomas had been half hoping it would be Gertie, though he couldn’t think of any reason why she wouldn’t give her name. This stranger was much older than Gertie, and had the hard look of someone who had been in her line of work for a very long while. Everything about her seemed to be in disarray. She was sitting on a washstand near the outside door, ignoring pointed remarks from the soldiers still awake, while she intently inspected her fingerna ils.

“My compliments, ma’am,” Thomas said, and she looked at him sharply, he supposed for some veiled sarcasm on his part.

“You took one of my best girls,” she said after a moment. “You—” she added, pointing a finger at his chest “—cost me a lot of money.”

“I don’t see how,” Thomas said easily. “This army never gets paid.”

She continued to stare at him, then abruptly laughed.

“Now that’s the God’s truth—but you better have a dollar or two on you now, deary.”


“Why? Because I got me a grievance and you got to settle it.”

“I think not, ma’am,” Thomas said, turning to go.

“I know what’s become of the Reb girl,” she called after him loudly.

Thomas looked at her. She smiled.

“It’s going to cost you,” she assured him.

“You couldn’t possibly know anything about that.”

“Couldn’t I? Try me, deary.”

“You tell me what you know, then we’ll see.”

She laughed. “I get the money up-front, Captain Harrigan. I
get the money up-front.”

“Not this time,” Thomas said. Once again he turned to go. “Send her back wherever she came from,” he said to the message runner. “And tell Noah I appreciate his…consideration.”

“I talked to Gertie,” the woman said, still bargaining. “Yesterday,” she added as a selling point.

And a very fine selling point it was.

“All right,” Thomas said, capitulating. “Where is she?”


“No, damn it!”

“Oh, you mean the Reb girl.”

Thomas took a step in her direction and she hopped off the washstand.

“The money, Captain,” she said, holding out her hand.

He reached into his uniform pocket and brought out a coin—a silver dollar he could ill afford to part with—and tossed it to her without even looking at it. She caught it easily and made a great show of trying to decide if it was genuine. Then she dropped it down her cleavage.

“Now,” he said. “Where is she? And keep in mind that there is a whole roomful of men here who would be delighted to do whatever it takes to get me my money back.”

The woman hesitated, possibly calculating whether or not she could escape out the door.

She apparently decided against it and smiled. “She’s gone home to Mama.”

“Her mother is dead,” Thomas said.

mama, Captain.

Chapter Five

id you find her?” Thomas asked, trying to get as close to the fire as he could without setting his blanket ablaze. It had been raining again, heavily enough to seep through the pine-bough-and-canvas roof and drip onto his head. He was half-sick with what the surgeon loftily called “catarrh.” Thomas’s head ached. He couldn’t breathe through his nose. He couldn’t hear. And he was in no mood to be thwarted.

“Yes and no,” La Broie said.

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Sir, it means Gertie is still here someplace in Falmouth, but I can’t find her. I reckon she’s hiding.”

“Why would she be hiding, for heaven’s sake?”

“Don’t know, Cap, but I think she is. Somebody may know where she got to, but they ain’t saying.”

“Well, keep looking. I want to know how the hell Abiah ended up in Maryland.”

“We ain’t sure she is there, are we, sir?”

Thomas didn’t answer. That was true enough. All
he had was the word of a camp follower, and he’d had to pay a bribe for that.

If Abiah was somehow at the Maryland homestead, the judge certainly didn’t know it. Thomas didn’t even want to think about what it would be like in that house when his grandfather returned and found he had a new houseguest.

“You reckon she’s all right, don’t you, Cap?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“You think she ain’t?”

“I think she wasn’t in any condition to make that kind of trip. Damn it all! Did you find out what happened to Zachariah Wilson, at least?”

“He took his wife off to her relatives—on account of she can’t stand no more battles going on around her—but don’t nobody know where that is exactly. Cap, I’m thinking maybe this is my fault.”

Thomas looked at the sergent. For the first time since Thomas had known him, the man fidgeted under his gaze.

“Go on,” Thomas said.

“Well, Cap, see—Zachariah Wilson—he sort of knew Gertie.”

“You mean he was one of her customers,” Thomas said bluntly.

“Yes, sir. I figured he wouldn’t want nobody knowing what he’d been doing with his spare time, so when I suggested he give Gertie and Miss Abiah a place to stay—”

Thomas held up his hand. Some things he was better off not knowing.

“No, this is
fault,” he said. “For thinking I could leave Abiah with a camp follower and there wouldn’t be any consequences.”

“I told you, Cap. Gertie is a good girl.”

“La Broie—”

“Sir, I’m thinking the money you was paying Wilson just wasn’t enough to hold him that’s all. We was desperate for someplace where we could get Miss Abiah in out of the rain that night. There weren’t no other place. You know that, sir—”

“All right! The plan was just fine given the circumstances—except now my wife may be in absolutely the last place on this earth I would want her to be, and who knows where the hell Gertie is.”

“I reckon she’ll hear I’m looking for her, sooner or later.”

“It had better be sooner.”

“Yes, sir, Cap.”

“The mail come in?”

“No, sir. No mail. No furloughs, either.”

“You sure about that?”

“That’s what I hear, Cap. Ain’t nobody leaving winter quarters to go home. Too many desertions since the ‘mud march.’ And I hear we’re getting a new general.”


“My guess is Hooker, sir. He’s been working hard to get the job—tattling back and forth to Washington like a crazy man. He’s got friends in high places, they say. ‘Course, the way Burnside keeps shooting himself in the foot, Hooker don’t need no outside help. Hell,
sir, the way things is been going lately, even I got a chance at it.”

Any other time, Thomas would have appreciated his sergeant’s droll wit. But not today. Once again he was caught. He was desperate to know what had happened to Abiah, and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t leave camp—to do so would be pointless when he had no idea what to do or where to go. And even if Gertie was still in Falmouth and wanted to find La Broie, she couldn’t get past the pickets—unless she had the same kind of leverage the other woman had had.

I want my wife, damn it!

He wanted Abiah here, safe, but even as the thought came to him, he realized how absurd it was to think a town that had essentially been a battlefield was preferable over the Winthrop house. But it wasn’t just the matter of her safety. It was a matter of his pride. He simply didn’t want Abiah knowing firsthand how little his grandfather thought of him, and he didn’t want her suffering on his account—which she would. His mother wouldn’t—couldn’t—stand up to the old man on Abiah’s behalf.

“Haul the boys out,” he said abruptly to La Broie.


“Haul them out, La Broie. You know what Napoleon says.”

“Ah, no, sir, I can’t say that I do.”

“He didn’t believe winter quarters were good for his army, La Broie. He said the idleness promoted disease. We might as well drill, don’t you think?”

“Sir, ain’t he the one that got most of his army froze to death in Russia—”

“Haul them out!”

The doors were scarlet—all three of them. Abiah lay in the high bed, fully awake now and carefully inspecting her surroundings. She had once thought that the doors in that “house” in New Orleans where Guire and Thomas had gone might be red, but there was nothing inappropriate about this room, even with the rather startling portals. It was large and airy and quite beautiful, the white walls and mantel contrasting sharply with the red doors.

A fire popped and hissed in the marble fireplace. Every now and then she could smell wood smoke. Two brass candlesticks sat on the mantel at the end of a row of small, blue-and-white porcelain dogs. A framed painting of some kind hung just above them—perhaps storm clouds over a shoreline and tall cliffs; she couldn’t quite tell. A small rocker sat in front of the fire with a pedestal table next to it. She looked upward at the crocheted bed canopy above her, and then to her left, but she couldn’t quite see the window.
What a wonderful bed,
she thought, savoring the lavender scent of the sheets.

It was a bright, sunny day outside—she could tell that much, and she could tell that it must be windy and cold. She could hear the wind moaning around the corners of the house. She moved to sit up, surprised at how much her head ached in protest.

“Ah,” someone said. “Awake at last.”

She looked around sharply, and the pain in her head escalated. A woman sat in a nearby window seat. She had a knitted red afghan around her shoulders and her embroidery in her lap.

“Where is Gertie?” Abiah asked.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said kindly. “I don’t know who you mean.”

“She was with me—Thomas hired her. She has to be here.”

The woman gave a small shrug. “No, I’m sorry. She isn’t. Are you feeling better, my dear? You’ve had a long sleep. I trust it has helped.”

“I—yes,” Abiah said, completely bewildered. One moment she was out on the street in the rain, and the next moment…

She gave a sharp sigh. What had happened to Gertie?

“Are you all right?” the woman asked, coming closer. “Should I send for the doctor?”

“No,” Abiah said. “No, I just…” She sighed again. “I seem to keep waking up in strange places. It’s very…unsettling.”

“I dare say,” the woman said. “But it’s not surprising you don’t remember the trip here. The .doctor ordered that you be given quite a lot of laudanum, I believe. You’ve only just now really awakened.”


“He thought moving you would be less injurious to the present state of your health if you were given something to make you drowsy.”

“I see,” Abiah said, not seeing at all. “Gertie didn’t come with me?”

“No, my dear, I don’t believe she did. Perhaps there was some trouble about that. A lawyer and his spinster sister accompanied you here. A Mr. and Miss Staunton. They had no instructions about anyone else, you see. It may be that they didn’t think they should allow this Gertie, is it?…to come with them.”

“She wasn’t to blame.”


“It was me. I did it…” Abiah closed her eyes. She felt so…bereft suddenly. The emotion was a nowfamiliar aspect of her illness. Profound despair and being completely incapacitated seemed to go hand in hand, somehow. And, of course, there was the fact that Thomas had gone marching off with that inept general and she might never see him again.

“You mustn’t let yourself get upset, my dear. Try to rest now.”

“I don’t want to rest. I want to know what’s happened. What about Thomas? Is he safe? That general, Burnside—”

“Every effort has been made to send Thomas word of your whereabouts,” the woman said—which didn’t quite answer the question.

“And where exactly is this? Who

The woman laughed. “Did no one tell you what was taking place?”

“I have no idea,” Abiah said truthfully.

“Well, then, we’ll just have to remedy that. I am Clarissa Harrigan.”

Abiah stared at her. “Thomas’s…mother?”


“You’ve come all the way to Falmouth?” Abiah asked, thinking the woman must really object to Thomas’s marriage to have made such a trip.

“No, my dear.
come all the way to Maryland.”

“Maryland! But I…how? How can that be?”

“The lawyer in Falmouth, Staunton, sent me a telegram telling me that you were very ill and had no place to go—because the recent battle had left everything in such turmoil. Aside from that, I knew your brother, Guire, you see. We must have spoken at length every time I went to Boston to visit Thomas when he was at Harvard. Certainly I could not leave you’homeless. It’s a very unpleasant situation to be in. Believe me, I—” She abruptly stopped and smiled again.

“What about Zachariah Wilson?” Abiah forced herself to ask. “The man who owned the house where I was staying.”

Mrs. Harrigan frowned. “Oh, I assume he and his wife arrived at their destination safely. Poor woman! I can only imagine what she—and you—must have endured having two armies do battle on your very doorstep like that. But I trust she will recover fully now that she’s away from all that and safe in the bosom of her family—as you will, my dear. Luckily, Lawyer Staunton is a very resourceful man. He got you here very quickly, considering the railway situation these days.”

“I don’t want Gertie to suffer on my account.”

Mrs. Harrigan gave her a quizzical look, but she didn’t ask Abiah to elaborate. “The doctor should have come up to see you by now,” she said. “I’ll go find out what’s keeping him. Is there anything you need? Anything at all?”

Abiah needed Thomas, but she didn’t say so. “Nothing, thank you,” she said quietly. It would have been appropriate for her to thank Mrs. Harrigan for bringing her here, but for the time being, even in the wake of having shot Zachariah Wilson, she would reserve judgment about that.

Someone rapped sharply on the door, and Mrs. Harrigan hurriedly answered it.

“The judge is back, ma am,” the maid whispered urgently, and the effect the announcement had on Thomas’s mother was nothing if not profound. Clearly, this was not good news.

“What kind of mood is he in, Bonnie?” Mrs. Harrigan asked lowering her voice so that Abiah wouldn’t hear. Fortunately, hearing was about the only function Abiah had that hadn’t been affected by her illness.

“I don’t like to say, ma am,” the girl answered.

“All right. Tell him I’m coming, but don’t say where I am.”

“Yes, ma am.”

“Hurry now.”

“Yes, ma am—”

“Clarissa!” a man’s voice bellowed from somewhere down the hall.

“I’ll be back to see you shortly, my dear,” Mrs.
Harrigan said brightly to Abiah. Then she slipped out the door and firmly closed it behind her.

Abiah moved to the edge of the bed and sat up. If she could summon the wherewithal to shoot a man, she could surely find the strength to eavesdrop. She cringed inwardly at the memory of that last night in Zachariah Wilson’s house. He wasn’t dead, thank God, if he’d taken his wife someplace away from Falmouth.

She was about to put her legs over the side of the bed, but she got no chance to do any spying. The door burst open, and an elderly man strode in, with Thomas’s mother following anxiously on his heels.

“Father!” She protested. “Father, please—”

“So this is the girl,” the man said.

And this must be the judge, Abiah thought, but she could see no family resemblance to Thomas at all. Yes, she did. They were both tall and lean, but there the resemblance ended. Ever since she was a girl, she had noted the kindness in Thomas Harrigan’s eyes. She saw no such thing in this man. He felt himself the victim in this situation, and he was not about to be kind.

“I fear, young woman, you will rue the day you put your trust in a Harrigan,” he said. “I think you should know I spoke to Thomas the day before yesterday evening, and he made no mention of
whatsoever. None. How do you explain that?”

Abiah had to dig deep to keep her promise to Thomas and not let herself be intimidated.

“He doesn’t like you,” she said simply, and the man immediately grew red in the face.

“There, you see?” he said to Thomas’s mother. “You see how your son maligns me—”

“No, he doesn’t,” Abiah interrupted. “You have asked me a question, sir. I have answered it according to my own opinion. Thomas was a guest many times in my mother’s house. I don’t think I have ever heard him even speak your name. In fact, he rarely mentioned his family at all.” She immediately regretted her last remark, because she glanced at Mrs. Harrigan in time to see a fleeting expression of pain cross her features.

“But you still insult me to my face and then expect shelter in my house,” the judge said.

“No, indeed, sir. From you, I expect absolutely nothing.”

“My dear, please, don’t upset yourself,” Mrs. Harrigan said, still trying to intervene. “You need your rest—”

“Be quiet, Clarissa!” the old man snapped. “Who else have you told about this so-called marriage to my grandson?”

“I haven’t told anyone. Who is it exactly you want kept ignorant?”

“You are a very impertinent young woman!”

BOOK: Cheryl Reavis
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