Prologue Camp of Apollo Diggings, 1852 California Evelyn Brennan shivered beneath her umbrella and looked down the length of her sleepless body at her boots. She had put them on to keep her feet from getting wet in the rain, but it was no use. The boots, like her toes, were cold and damp. The heavy moisture had collected on the roof of her tent and was making its way inside, steadily drip- dripping on the cot where she lay. When she had turned in for the night, the world was dry but the smell of rain permeated the air. She had prayed against it, had begged the sky to hold on till morning, but she was unsatisfied. The condensation began a few hours after she closed her eyes, leaking through the canvas and wetting her to the bone before inevitably causing her to wake. She had thought of fifty curses before curling into a ball beneath the protection of an umbrella, where she would have to pass the remainder of the night. She did not know the time, but she sensed it was a long way off from morning. Slumber would be difficult, but she had to try. She knew how grumpy she could be when she did not sleep; in the morning, she would hate the world, and she would do everything in her power to let the world know exactly how she felt. She closed her eyes, her hair damp from the rain and her lashes wet as though acquainted with tears, but it had been years since she last cried. Evelyn Brennan was too angry to cry, and she had been angry for a very, very long time. When it rained, she always thought of her father. This also made her angry; not because he was a bad father, but because he was a very good father who was no longer alive. There had been an incident, a grave injustice, and it had been raining then, too. She could almost hear his voice as a chilling breeze snaked through the cracks of her tent. “Evie,” he said, “see how the grass grows green as heaven sheds her tears!” In her anger, she longed for his voice, his thick, Irish burr. He was Emmett Brennan, lord of the great Brennan Mansion on the banks of Loch Dowie. She imagined him there, his wild orange hair licking the sky with wiry corkscrews as he stood in the wind. He was a bear of a man, his eyes half moon squints when he smiled, his cheeks turned up into soft, rosy pillows. Sometimes he would lean down to rub his bulb of a nose on hers and the happiness she felt would make her toes curl. She was his only girl, his only child. In the mornings the two of them would sit in the parlor of their great home and drink tea as they gazed out the windows upon the loch, the cool, morning air creating a mist that rose and blanketed the house in languid clouds of silver. He would tell her stories of trades that happened at the port in Limerick and she would listen hungrily, eager for the day when she might make a name for herself in their great country of Ireland, just as her father had done. As she recalled the sound of his voice, Evelyn tucked her feet further beneath her body to avoid the rain. A wind blew and loosened the tie which secured the entrance to her tent and the canvas flapped free. With a heavy sigh, she considered the exhaustion in her bones and wondered if it would do any good to replace the tie or simply let the fabric blow in the wind. She was already wet. She was already cold. What was one more inlet for the rain? Yet the wind forced the canvas against itself, creating a disorderly type of sound in the already clamorous, stormy air. She rose from her cot and grabbed hold of the ties, allowing her head to poke outside just long enough for a glance. The muddy lane stretched perpendicular to her tent and to the left a warm glow emanated in the distance from within a large, dark building. It was the dining hall, the common camp meeting place for meals, games and socializing. Many of the miners slept within its dense walls on nights like tonight, when the weather made sleep difficult; or in Evelyn‟s case, impossible. The lamps still burned inside and many of the miners were still awake. Sometimes their voices would fill the night air as they laughed or brawled, their energy fueled by the liquor that coursed abundantly through their veins. One of these men Evelyn knew well. He was the reason she was alone in that tent, miserable in the camp of Apollo Diggings, despising the newborn state of California. His name was Lucius Flynn. Ireland Lucius was the son of Banning Flynn, a wealthy merchant and street-savvy scoundrel; Evelyn‟s godfather. Banning had been Emmett Brennan‟s business partner and closest confidant. The two were like brothers; inseparable from the time they were young lads. They grew up together, Emmett the son of an Irish lord, Banning the bastard of a potato farmer. The senior Lord Brennan died when Emmett was barely twenty, leaving his son with a substantial inheritance. Emmett was eager to make his late father proud and used a portion of his money to purchase a ship. Clasping hands with his dear friend Banning, Brennan & Flynn soon became a respectable company whose ships outnumbered the others at port. In the early nineteenth century, God smiled upon Limerick and for the first time, Banning Flynn experienced the sweet, potent taste of prosperity. To accompany his quickly increasing fortune, he married a beautiful English girl who was well known for her pretty face and lack of personality. She did not possess a sense of humor but quickly adopted her husband‟s bristling ambition, thrusting her nose into the company‟s accounting books and learning everything there was to know about numbers and figures. Emmett was proud to see his closest friend rise to success and within a year, he too was married. She was the cousin of Banning‟s wife, the very reason the English girl had come to Ireland. Happily, the two couples spent much of their time together. The Flynns resided in the trade office at port, which they turned into a handsome home, but not nearly so handsome as the Brennan estate which lay just beyond the borders of Limerick. Despite his friend‟s adamancy, Emmett refused to move to port and rather delighted in escaping to his father‟s stone mansion, which stood great and silent, resting apart from the bustling city. The Flynns, dissatisfied with their much smaller accommodations, spent many an evening in the Brennan home, eating the Brennan‟s food and teasing their servants. Before long, Mrs. Flynn was with child, and in the many years that followed her son Lucius‟ birth, the Brennan‟s suffered an inability to conceive. For five savory years, the Flynn‟s enjoyed this small advancement, for Banning‟s jealousy quietly burned over the stars that seemed to align above his friend. Now, Flynn had a son to carry his name, and Brennan possessed nothing but an empty womb. Then, in the spring of 1834, happy news came to the Brennan‟s. Mrs. Brennan was pregnant and soon gave birth to a baby girl, Evelyn. The birth was difficult on Emmett‟s frail wife and her health did not recover. Within a couple of years she passed on, and Emmett was left to raise his little girl alone. The Flynn‟s continued to enjoy the Brennan mansion consistently, allowing their son to hunt on Emmett‟s land, ride Emmett‟s horses, and take advantage of Emmett‟s fine music tutor. The boy Lucius was made to learn violin while Evelyn was brought up on the piano. In the evenings, all would sit in the parlor and Mrs. Flynn would insist Evelyn play while the plump English woman read Lord Brennan‟s books, and Mr. Flynn would have Lucius take up Mr. Brennan‟s fiddle while he smoked Emmett‟s cigars. Banning would breathe deeply as he gazed out the window upon Loch Dowie, his mustache curling up at the edges as he said, “My God, Emmett, your land never fails to captivate a man‟s soul.” Evelyn‟s father would smile and the men would clink glasses, ever drinking to Mr. Brennan‟s fortune and Mr. Flynn‟s jealousy. Apollo Another gale of wind rushed into her tent and she shivered, her braided hair loose in places and stuck to her face from the damp. She closed the canvas doors and tied them fast, returning to her umbrella and sopping bed. Lucius would sleep well that night with his shelter and flowing supply of wine. It was she who would suffer the damp in that pathetic excuse for a house. But it was not a house. It was merely a small wooden box with a pointed, canvas roof, containing all of her possessions in one cramped space. There was a slight desk where she could read and write, a battered trunk with some clothes and one spare set of shoes. And then the cot, barely large enough for one person. All of her tools for cooking, a pan and a coffee grinder and a kettle, were stacked along with her dishes in the corner. The camp was teeming with people during the day, but as she was one of only a handful of other women, she felt very, very much alone. She had never wanted to come here, never wanted to get on that sardine can of a ship from New York to Panama City, from Panama City to San Francisco. She had never even wanted to leave Ireland. But none of her wishes had mattered to anyone since the day of the incident, the day Evelyn Brennan ceased to be a princess of Ireland and was reduced to an orphan. Chapter One The Incident Ireland The incident occurred on a lovely morning in April of 1845. Evelyn was eleven- years-old and eager to learn the ways of her father‟s trade. Lucius went to work with Mr. Flynn and now that she was older, Evelyn felt it was her right to go, too. Emmett had noted all the longing glances his daughter had given the door each morning as he left for port and finally, the day came when he opened that door, held out his hand to his daughter and said, “All right, m‟child, today‟s the day.” They set out for Limerick as the Irish spring air grew heavy with rain. Emmett had plans to share some exciting news with his daughter. He and Banning had agreed upon a favorable arrangement, an arrangement that would bind their families together forever and ensure the longevity of Brennan & Flynn. It would entitle Banning‟s son to Lord Brennan‟s inheritance in the event of Emmett‟s death, but this detail was not lingered upon during negotiations. The arrangement was most assuredly in the young Miss Brennan‟s favor, entirely for her benefit, of course. Banning had been adamant about that and Emmett, in adoration for his daughter, had been swift to bestow his approval. The Flynn boy and the Brennan heiress were to be married upon Evelyn‟s sixteenth birthday. On that day, the Brennan inheritance would be placed into the name of Flynn; Evelyn would have a husband to care for her, and her husband would have a fortune to ensure his position in the world. Emmett knew Lucius to be an ambitious, upstanding young gentleman and he could not have dreamed up a better match for his girl. Neither could his partner, Banning. As the carriage bumped and slid along the muddy, puddle-ridden road to Limerick, Emmett excitedly relayed the news of the betrothal to his daughter. In silence she listened, her mind struggling to accept the information. Betrothed? To Lucius? But he was far older, a young man of sixteen! He was already interested in girls, and those of his own age. He was nice to look at, yes, but his features were terribly English, with blonde hair, blue eyes and cheeks that flushed red with the slightest exertion. In the latter years of their acquaintance, he had ceased to be interesting at all, but would sit like a bore in the Brennan parlor and reject all invitations to engage in conversation. He would sulk if asked to remain in the company of his parents, whom he openly despised, and took every opportunity to retreat outside where he could commence his own adventures and make mischief. He hated being told what to do, was always asking for money and insisted upon being treated as an adult. His mother was often parleying for him, fetching him out of duels and insisting he refuse to engage in brawls. “You have English blood,” she reminded him. “You mustn‟t spill it on Irish soil.” Disgusted, Evelyn would roll her eyes. She could not see the attraction of such an arrangement and wondered what Mr. Flynn had said to dazzle her father into a betrothal. Of course she disapproved. She thought Lucius was a selfish, snobbish pig and had often been embarrassed for him in the presence of her father. Even she, a lass of eleven, had more common sense and self-respect than Lucius Flynn. The boy could pass for a toddler by his behavior, if not for his maturing features. But what could she do? She could not refuse her father. Such a great man was never to be refused. He was kind, yes, and gentle, yes, but he was also a lord. His word was law, especially within the walls of his home and family. Evelyn would not dream of defying him. But to defy Lucius, her future husband, was another matter completely. Her loyalty was to her father, not to her betrothed, and she settled in her heart that it would always be so. It had been a very early morning. Evelyn had turned away from her father to glance out the window and shed a few tears at the expense of her independence. She glanced at the horizon and watched as the color changed from a deep, velvet purple to a lighter, softer gray. The clop-clop of horse hooves and the creaking of carriage wheels filled the thin air, resonating within her ears as a mournful kind of melody. And then, there was something else, a shrill, wailing kind of sound. A painful cry, a splitting squeal. In a moment all was pandemonium. The horses whinnied and jolted, the carriage toppled and split. Wood splintered and snapped as Evelyn and her father were dragged some paces down the road in the overturned vehicle, their bodies twisted and jostled about. Mud and water spilled in through the cracks and windows, soiling their clothes and soaking into their pores. When at last the carriage came to a stop, one of the horses reared and there was a frightful snap as one of its hooves broke through the carriage body. In the dark, Evelyn could not gather her wits, could not rightly see what had happened. All she knew was that dreadful noise, and then, silence. Now free, the horses screamed as they dispersed, their fearsome voices fading in the darkness. Her body shaking, Evelyn felt around, her hands maneuvering through the mud and gingerly picking their way to avoid shards of wood. When at last she discovered her father, he was unmoving and quiet. As pale light overcame the dreary sky, she could discern the scarlet color of his blood from the brown of the earth. With dry, unbelieving eyes she searched his face for life and found none. The man in the carriage was not a man at all, was hardly a human being. He was a mass of mud and injury, with empty eyes that peered white through the darkness of the soil upon his skin. Unthinking, she crawled her way out of the wreckage and began to walk, one foot in front of the other, unconscious of her calm and somewhat eerie resolve. I must get to Limerick, was all she thought. The rain was falling hard now, cleansing her from the mud and seeping heavily into her clothes. After a short time the incident settled upon her and in her mind she saw her father, lifeless in the mud, a hoof print oozing red from his once gentle face. Her breaths caught somewhere in her chest and she began to tremble fiercely. With a frail, breathy cry, she collapsed in the grass that grew tall beside the road. A frightened pig had darted into the lane and disturbed the horses. The authorities believed the incident had been contrived; a rouse created by someone who had felt cheated by Lord Brennan and wished him dead. The criminals could not have known that Emmett‟s daughter was with him, that Evelyn‟s life had been jeopardized, but they had succeeded in their mission and no one thought Evelyn was in any further danger. She was told not to worry. The worst was over. But that was not true, not for Evelyn. She was taken into the care of her godfather, Banning Flynn. A short time was allowed for mourning, but not time enough. All too quickly, the girl became the ward of Mrs. Flynn, who insisted Evelyn learn how to account for the company as the English woman was growing old and fat and would not live forever. Evelyn was uprooted from Brennan House and made to live at the docks with the Flynns, where she rose early and went to bed late, her schedule consumed with new duties. For a portion of the day she would study figures with Mrs. Flynn, then her tutor would arrive and for hours she would practice her French and piano. Before bed she was required to read a book of the Bible, which was described in an essay before breakfast. Mrs. Flynn said that this kept Evelyn a moral girl, that it encouraged prudence in the young woman who was to marry their son. “I daresay her father did little to improve her character,” the English woman prattled. “Did you read her words on Moses, Mr. Flynn? The girl has not been churched in her life!” That was false, as Evelyn had been churched. The Flynns had attended mass with the Brennan‟s regularly, but of course Mrs. Flynn was all too happy to dwell on her malice towards the girl. It did not matter that her ideas were falsely contrived. Sometimes as Evelyn watched the woman keeping ledger in the company books, she imagined taking the quill right out of Mrs. Flynn‟s hand and stabbing her through those enormous breasts, straight to the heart. She smiled inwardly and knew that no amount of scripture could squander the satisfactory image. In the wake of Lord Brennan‟s death, Lucius assumed his place in the trade and what was once Brennan & Flynn was now Flynn & Flynn. Lord Brennan was rarely spoken of and Evelyn was glad of it. She hated the Flynns and to hear them speak of her dear father felt insulting. They had not loved him, not truly. Banning had never been anything more than a leech upon the successes of a greater man. If anyone had cheated, if anyone had proven false, it was Mr. Flynn and him who should have met his end, not her father. Sometimes Evelyn wondered if it was not Mr. Flynn himself who had planted the frightened pig and murdered her father. The man certainly had the advantage in such a situation. With Lucius betrothed to Evelyn and Evelyn heiress of the Brennan estate, Banning had much to gain. As Evelyn‟s godfather, he had only to kill Emmett, marry his son to Miss Brennan and use the money as he wished. Lucius knew that Evelyn had money but he did not know how much. As executer of the will, Mr. Flynn knew just what Lord Brennan‟s daughter was worth. His wife may think the girl needed morals and his son may think that all he gained was a pretty face, but Banning knew the truth, and he reveled in it. Brennan House was shut up, not to be opened again until Lucius and Evelyn were married. But in the autumn of 1845, something came to Ireland that made Evelyn believe she might never see that beautiful estate again. Her country was ravished with famine; a disease swept through the potato fields, rendering Ireland‟s staple inedible. Nearly a third of the crop was destroyed that year, and by the following winter, potatoes were almost non-existent. Foreign trade demanded other foods which were in less supply and the remaining produce was barely enough to feed the Irish people. The British, who ruled most of the land, failed to receive rent from those poor farmers who had nothing to sell and little strength left to work the land. The starving unfortunates were run out of their homes and given up to the elements and poor houses, where typhus, dysentery and scurvy threatened what remained of their lives. The poverty of those most impacted by the famine was largely blamed on the English, who rented out the land at astronomical prices while only providing enough earth to grow potatoes. When there were no more potatoes, there was no more food, no more income and no more rent. The Irish were left to starve and die. The English had taken everything. Though much of Limerick and its surrounding communities were devastated by the blight, the Flynns were fortunate to lose very little. Banning was optimistic and intent upon waiting out the ordeal, but only until the threats began to pour in from those who wanted revenge upon the British. The people of Limerick knew that Mr. Flynn had married an English woman and produced an Anglo-Irish son, and they wanted rid of them. In late 1846, Mrs. Flynn went to the market and never came home. She was found with a simple note pinned to her ample chest. It read, “Next the lad.” The note was all Banning Flynn needed to leave Ireland and head west. He sailed with Lucius and Evelyn to New York where he changed his name to Doyle and the name of his company to Doyle Trade. There were enough Irish emigrants in the United States to cause paranoia, even away from their native country. Banning did not want to take any chances. Evelyn was secretly pleased that her tormenter had been eliminated, but Mrs. Flynn‟s demise was hardly worth the cost of losing Ireland. When her father died, Evelyn had been taken from her dear house on Loch Dowie. At the time she could not imagine any punishment more terrible; now she was utterly destitute. She possessed nothing; not a father, not a home, not a country. In America, she was nobody. Evelyn‟s knowledge of the trade and its accounts were quickly put to use in the absence of Mrs. Flynn. Her life consisted of money and numbers and little more, as she was rarely allowed to leave the house. It seemed as though Mr. Flynn, or rather Mr. Doyle, was punishing the girl. For what, she was uncertain. She assumed that he felt threatened by her. That because of her worth, she was to be isolated and constrained. She was maturing, growing in knowledge and beauty. He saw the life and wisdom growing in her eyes and it frightened him. She was a quiet girl who spoke through looks and glances, her stares intent upon knowing the thoughts of those she beheld. And she was angry; he could see that. Indeed there was little for her to be happy about. She had reason enough to be angry, after all the poor lass had been through. Not only had she lost her father; the man who was now her steward had seen to Lord Brennan‟s destruction. Could Banning Flynn be blamed? There was a place for him in the world, of that he was certain; but that place had not been secured. Even now, with the girl in his own house, the inheritance was not his. Not yet. The money would not be accessible for another two years. He was fortunate enough that the girl could not speak. She had been a mute all her life, so there was no chance of her telling Lucius about the fortune. Lucius was not a stupid boy; naturally he would assume the girl was worth a penny or two. But the amount eluded him, and Banning would make sure it always would. On their wedding day, Lucius would be clueless. The dowry given would seem adequate enough and his father would be the only one to know that it was not everything. The only one besides Evelyn, who could not utter a word. She could write, certainly; but what was a dumb girl‟s scribble against the word of a powerful and respected merchant? Once the money was his, he would purchase new ships and send them to Africa to bring back slaves; a fresh market for the Flynns that promised high return. Lucius and his young wife would move to New Orleans to oversee this new development while Banning returned to Brennan House in Ireland, where he could read, ride and smoke to his heart‟s content. Banning would be swimming in the profits, and he could hardly wait. It was high time he came into his destiny. He had always known Emmett Brennan‟s life should have been his and now, the universe was finally being put to right. The Flynn‟s potato farm was the nearest homestead adjacent to Brennan House for miles. Emmett Brennan had discovered the dirty, scowling face of Banning Flynn while riding his horse along the borders of his father‟s land. The boys, very near in age, first engaged in an argument concerning the privileges of the rich and the destitution of the poor, for the less fortunate boy was quickened to jealousy at the presence of one so independently rich as Emmett Brennan. It was not common for Irishmen to be lords of their own land in those days. Most landowners were English and dealt with their Irish affairs from English soil. Some never even set foot in Ireland. Banning assumed that the young Brennan boy and his father must somehow be in league with the devil- or the English- to have such abundance. Ireland was not a land of abundance. The petty feud was settled with a brawl. The good-natured Emmett was quick to bloody the pugnacious Banning, as Emmett had learned much about fighting from his household servants and Banning knew nothing apart from his quick and sloppy temper, and afterwards the two became fast companions. Banning was at first hesitant to set foot in Brennan House as his pride could barely stand to be affronted by such extravagance, but he was soon enamored with the mansion. It possessed him. At every opportunity he found himself there, his relationship with Emmett a convenient excuse to pretend that he, Banning Flynn, was lord of the estate. As the lads grew into men, Banning‟s relationship with Jealousy progressed from a trifling flirtation to a passionate marriage. He dreamt about Emmett‟s land, thought about it during the long hours plowing the fields of his father‟s farm. He considered his station in life, knew it must be a mistake. He was not born to be a potato farmer; no, there was more to him than that. He would rise, by God. He would be a great Irishman, even if it meant purging the land of its rightful lord. When Lord Brennan perished and Emmett proposed a business partnership, Banning‟s dreams of prosperity took a morbid turn. How easily wealth transferred in the wake of death! By grasping hands with Emmett, the ambitious Mr. Flynn became all but next of kin; he was like a brother to Emmett Brennan and had only pray against a Brennan heir. Then, however, that silent brat Evelyn was born. Banning had to secure her fate or watch his years of planning turn to rubbish. Banning had learned to be patient. He waited, year after year, slowly sewing seeds of ambition and waiting for the right moment to reap his harvest. Once he made his proposal, the ever-trusting Emmett was quick to oblige. By giving his daughter‟s hand to the Flynn boy, the ignorant fool had secured his own fate. Banning had everything he wanted; now all he had to do was eliminate the final obstacle: Emmett Brennan himself. His daughter suspected something; that much Banning Flynn understood. Her eyes said it all. As often as he could manage, the conniving wretch avoided her. Although he ordered her to dine with him during mealtimes, it was merely out of principle. He would be given the proper honor he deserved, but he did not engage her in conversation, nor would he look at her. At all other hours she was forced to remain in her office, where she was a diligent slave to Doyle Trade. As she grew in beauty, Banning insisted she dress like a Puritan. Her hair was to be worn in a simple style; there were to be no curls, no adornments. She was to be plain. She was to be silent. She was to be invisible. And if ever he met her eyes and saw the slightest obstinacy or disregard for his authority, he was quick to threaten. “A silent lass like yourself would be the perfect addition to any brothel,” he sneered. “Imagine a girl who could satisfy twenty customers a day without a single protest or cry of discomfort. Your madam would be far more pleased with you than I.” Her mouth would tighten into a straight line of fury and she would challenge him with an unbroken stare. He hated this about her. After all those years of leading her father around on a string, there was nothing he could do to fool Evelyn Brennan. It was a good thing her tongue was useless; otherwise he could imagine himself ripping it out. The day she married Lucius would be a celebratory occasion indeed. Banning Flynn was anxious to be rid of her; to return to Ireland and never lay eyes on that wild colt again. She would be Lucius‟ to manage, and Banning wished him luck. Chapter Two Lucius and Evelyn New York Since the announcement of his betrothal to Miss Brennan, Lucius Flynn became suspicious of his father‟s devious plan. A mute girl? Lucius could do better than that. Since he was fourteen he had met many a fine temptress in the loft of her barn. Those girls had no fortune to speak of and were certainly unfit for marriage; but he had intended to sow his wild oats before the time came for him to settle down. And when that day arrived, he imagined an English landowner‟s daughter; some gorgeous, gold-headed girl whose fortune would make him an earl or a duke. Perhaps then he would travel to the Orient or India; none of this nonsense of sitting at port and watching everyone else have all the fun. He wanted adventure and beauty. Evelyn was beautiful, yes, but she was far too young and quiet for his taste. He liked it when a girl could laugh at his jokes or speak in sultry tones and lure him into dark corners. His betrothed was like a sister to him, for God‟s sake. He had held her when she was a baby! And after all their time together, after all those summers swimming in Loch Dowie and playing music in the parlor of Brennan House, she had never once tried to seduce him. She was always looking adoringly at her father, the one man she loved in all the world. How could his father wish Evelyn Brennan upon him? How, indeed? When Lord Brennan died, Lucius guessed that it was no accident. Emmett had never been unfair to anyone; there was only one person he could imagine benefitting from the man‟s death, and that was Lucius‟ own father. It was all too convenient: the betrothal, the incident. Evelyn all but belonged to the Flynn‟s, and with her came her father‟s money. The man was independently wealthy and although Lucius did not know just how wealthy, he knew Evelyn‟s inheritance must be greater than his own. All these years Lucius had watched his father lust after the Brennan estate and now his opportunity had come to claim it. Banning Flynn was not a moral man. His eyes were quick and his ears finely tuned to catch the slightest whisper of advancement. Since he was old enough to recognize this, Lucius had despised his father. Ambition had murdered a good man in Emmett Brennan, and stupidity had been the fall of Lucius‟ mother. After all the unrest among the Irish people, how could she have justified leaving the house? How could Banning have allowed it? And now to take that poor orphan girl and treat her like a servant when she had no voice to defend herself… Lucius grew nauseous at the thought. Evelyn Brennan was just a child. She had lost everything, and she deserved better than anything Banning Flynn could offer. The man was a monster. Lucius stayed away from the house in order to avoid him and distracted himself with earthly pleasures to keep his mind from pitying the poor Brennan girl. There was nothing he could do to save her; not yet. But he swore to himself that once they were married, he would use her inheritance to somehow make a better life for them both; far away from Doyle Trade, and far away from Banning Flynn. Evelyn Brennan smoothed her hair, took a deep breath and stole a glance out the window. It was raining in New York City and the world outside was washed in gray. Heaven cries for me, she thought dismally. In a great sigh, she released the air from her lungs and looked down at her desk. The company‟s ledger book was open before her. Its numbers had been her constant companions for the last two years and in some ways, she was grateful. These figures had occupied her mind and time since the death of her father, keeping her thoughts trained and steady. But lately, it had become difficult to focus. Already Mr. Flynn had come to her office on two separate occasions to accuse and berate her for mistakes. But how could she help it? She was getting married tomorrow. A girl should be allowed to think in the days leading up to her wedding. She tried to imagine Lucius and what he must be doing. She had rarely seen him since they moved to New York. When the young man wasn‟t at the docks, he was making his way about town, stopping in his favorite pubs, betting on his lucky cards and frolicking around with Trixie or Rosemary or whichever girl suit his fancy that week. Sometimes she saw him as she glanced out the window before going to bed. He would be returning for the night, a new slut on his arm holding him up from the weight of his drinking. They would be laughing, and he would pull her into the shadows of the doorway before telling her goodnight. Evelyn knew it should bother her, but it didn‟t. Lucius had been carousing about since she was a small girl. She had always seen him with girls and it would have been unnatural for him to simply come home after a day at the office to eat dinner and carry a decent conversation. Lucius detested his father and had little to say to his mute bride-to-be. After tomorrow he would be bound by the ties of marriage. Lucius and Evelyn would be stuck together for the rest of their lives and she had no illusions that he would be faithful. If anything, their marriage was a business arrangement. The Flynns wanted her father‟s money and the only way to do that was to kill her father and marry her to Lucius. She had realized this from the very beginning and had no fairy tale illusions that the situation was otherwise. Lucius did not love her and would not love her and likewise she refused to love him. If everything worked out, they would not consummate the marriage. He could take some of her money while she filed for an annulment and returned to Brennan House in Ireland, alone. That was her plan and she was quite certain Lucius would agree to it. He would lose out on the estate, yes, but Lucius had never seemed too taken with Brennan House. It was his father who wanted the mansion, and it was his father that Evelyn wished to disappoint. If all went according to plan, she and Lucius would live happily ever after with their own, separate endings, and Banning Flynn would be cheated out of his diabolical con. As she imagined herself sitting at the old piano in her father‟s parlor wearing anything but those loathsome Puritan clothes, tears welled in her eyes. Her father would be proud on that day, the day she became the rightful Lady of Brennan House. Nobody would take her birthright from her. She would see to that. Lucius may be a foolish Don Juan, but she did not think him heartless. He would let her go home if she would only set him free to live the life he pleased. Evelyn blinked the moisture from her eyes and took up her quill when there was a knock at the door. She turned to see her dark servant, Mira, entering with a large box spread across her arms. Mira‟s full lips were pulled back into a gorgeous grin, her bright teeth shining like pearls in the dimly lit room. “Da masta sent me to da tayla‟s. I come back wit your bridal gown. It is finished.” Though excitement stirred within her nearly sixteen-year-old body, Evelyn adopted a cool look of approval. She rose from her chair, her bottom aching from the hardness of the wood, and approached the older woman. Evelyn may not be ecstatic about her groom, but after years of wearing nothing but brown and black, the idea of a wedding dress was thrilling. Mira, who had grown to love the young woman before her, kept her emotions veiled until the child should dispose of her silly rigidity. It was not necessary for Evelyn to pretend as though she felt nothing. Mira knew better. Neither of the women fancied Lucius, but a gown was certainly something to smile about. As the young woman drew near, Mira closed the door behind her and knelt on the floor. She pulled the lid free from the box and set it aside, taking the shoulders of the gown and lifting them up. Evelyn pulled a handkerchief from her apron to cover her ink- stained fingertips and gripped the fine, brilliant silk. She held it out for a moment, allowing her eyes to travel its length in a long, savory glance. It was weighty. There were yards upon yards of fabric, hundreds of buttons, thousands of frills, enough lace to cover the downstairs dining table. The collar was high; would reach halfway up her neck. The waistline was cinched so thin she could barely imagine her body fitting into it; but then there was a corset and embroidered chemise to wear beneath. That corset would pull her body into any shape she wanted and she would have to forget how to breathe while it squeezed her ribs into place. “You will look like an angel,” Mira smiled. Despite her attempts at regality, an influx of giddiness swept over Evelyn and she giggled. She would look beautiful in that dress. If only her father could see her when she wore it; if only his blood had not been spilt to purchase it. The following morning, the dawn of her sixteenth birthday, the sun had not yet broken the horizon when there was a subtle knock on her door. Evelyn started awake, the sound shocking her from sleep. At first she was not certain it had not been a dream. She waited to hear the sound again. It came. She expected Mira to enter for rarely anyone but Mira came to call. But it was not her servant who opened the door; it was Lucius. Candle less, his features were vaguely apparent in the dim light of dawn. Startled, she had never been alone in a room with him before, much less a room void of proper lighting. She drew her blankets closer, pulling them to her throat. With one hand she attempted to correct her nightcap; the other trembled slightly beneath her chin. Lucius moved silently towards her in the dark, the only sound either of them could hear in the stillness was her breathing. Evelyn tried to soothe the rapid beating of her heart, to calm herself despite the unexpected presence of her betrothed. She sat up straight, lifted her chin to peer questioningly down her nose at him. Lucius almost snorted at her immediate adoption of defiance. This, their wedding day, was the first time they had been in the same room together for weeks. “I‟m sorry to wake you,” Lucius whispered gradually, one of his hands held out in an effort to put her at ease. “Forgive me if I have caused a disturbance.” He waited stupidly for some kind of response, but she did not give him one. Instead she watched him, her eyes unblinking in the fading dark. Lucius scratched his head. Since he had walked through the door to her room, his resolve had wavered. He fumbled for words, suddenly struggling to remember why this encounter was so important. Why had he come in the first place? Evelyn, shocked from sleep by a man she hardly knew, wondered the same thing. “I know it isn‟t proper for a man to see his bride before the wedding,” Lucius continued, “but I wanted to speak with you before the ceremony. I imagine you are quite frightened by this whole ordeal, and I assure you I am not at all at ease, myself. The truth is I have dreaded this day since I was informed of it. Not by any fault of yours, of course. But you see, I never aimed to marry, yet you can understand the responsibility I have to my family, and to yours.” She studied him, wondering where this speech was going. His eyes had dropped to the floor as this made it easier to speak. When he looked at her, her gaze caused him to stumble. He had never seen her like this before; hair a little askew and braided to one side, cheeks flushed, eyes bright from awakening. “I know you and I haven‟t known much of each other these past few years. But we were like brother and sister once, growing up together the way we did. And to be promised to one another just before your da passed away… well, that was a terrible thing that happened. To him, I mean. Well, to the both of you. I truly respected him, you know. He was a good man, and I want to do right by him. He would have wanted the best for you and as much as I have fought it, that responsibility has fallen to me. Today we must marry.” He set his jaw firmly, as if this statement was the closing verdict of an argument he had with himself. “I wanted you to know that there was no other option for you,” he told her. He pulled a chair beside her bed and seated himself. “This is the way of the world, and we all must accept it. I have to be honest and tell you there were times I tried to fight it. My father would hear none of it, of course. He swore to send you out on the street if I refused you. I may not be sinless man, but I have my principles. I wasn‟t about to have you in the gutter or strutting on the corner like a hussy. You were bred for more than that. You are a lady of Ireland.” The room brightened as the sun began to rise. Lucius‟ face was washed in a pale blue, his eyes luminescent in the slowly growing light. Evelyn wondered if he could see her stunned expression. Her heart thundered against her chest; she could feel it beating through the sheets. Lucius had never spoken to her this way. It was almost endearing. “I have a plan,” he said then, his voice lowering to a soft whisper. She could barely hear him and struggled to watch the movement of his lips as they formed the words. “No doubt you have heard talk of the gold discovered in California?” Her eyes shifted slightly, telling him she had. The servants could be heard whispering about it from time to time and every week the papers carried stories of young aristocrats heading west to seek adventure. Three years ago, the New York Herald had announced the abundance of this precious mineral in the fields and rivers of California and through the ensuing years, millions of dollars were dug out of the ground, inspiring thousands from all over the world to pursue wealth in the golden hills. The western population grew so ferociously that civil government became a pressing need and statehood an imminent possibility. Just in the last year California had been admitted into the Union as a free state. Lucius had mistakenly broached the subject of gold with his father once. Here was a great adventure, and one that paid handsomely! Banning, however, was intent that his son take over Doyle Trade and expand to the South to profit on slaves. California gold was alluring; but it was an unrealistic dream. Slaves, opium and tea were the real gold of the United States. Banning Flynn rejected any notion of his son becoming what the newspapers had mockingly referred to as a “greenhorn”. “The Flynns do not gamble,” Mr. Flynn had decreed. “We only pursue what is real. This gold is a passing fancy. Soon there will be nothing left to find and California will be naught but an empty land full of abandoned towns, whiskey bottles and ghosts. No, Lucius, we‟ll stick to where the trade winds are always certain to blow: across the Atlantic and over the Indian Ocean.” Lucius Flynn leaned closer to his bride in the pending light of dawn. “Today you will be my wife,” he murmured, growing bolder as he spoke, his gaze steady on hers. The word wife caused Evelyn‟s breath to catch in her throat. “And as such, all your earthly possessions become mine.” There it was. Earthly possessions. Evelyn had suspected this secret meeting had something to do with money. She sat up a little straighter and narrowed her eyes at him. “We will have a fortune together,” Lucius went on, “and with fortune comes the need to invest wisely. I have decided where we should put our money, and it is not with Doyle Trade. I have been in the company with my father since I was nine-years-old. I want adventure, and I won‟t find it here in New York or across the sea in Ireland. No, California has what I want, and I mean to take it for my own.” California! With her inheritance! She should have known the moment he crossed the threshold to her room that Lucius Flynn would be motivated by only one thing: ambition. He was more like his father than she gave him credit for. She set her mouth in a straight line. The room was bright enough now for Lucius to see her displeasure and it disturbed him. “Don‟t pretend you don‟t know what‟s going on here,” he spat. “Today Brennan money becomes Flynn money. My father will leave us here to run the company while he flees to Ireland to claim Brennan House for his own. He takes me for a fool; thinks he can satisfy me with a penny for a dowry while he takes your fortune for himself. We both know he had your father murdered and that he has waited for this day all his life. He wants everything that belonged to your da, Evelyn. Everything. He is a cold, ruthless man. If we don‟t run now, he will spend every last dollar of your inheritance on ships to bring slaves from Africa. Is that what you want? Is that what your father would want?” She bit her lip at the mention of her father. She was so angry she could go downstairs that very moment and run a dagger through Banning Flynn‟s skull without a moment‟s hesitation. The soulless man deserved it. “Don‟t be upset, Ms. Brennan,” Lucius said, his voice becoming smooth as he calmed himself. “This is for the best. I understand you want to go back to Ireland. It is my home as well. But we cannot go back. Not now. The people are hungry and there is unrest. If word spreads that I have returned, our lives will be in danger. I still have English blood in me and the English are still out of favor. Would you want to see Brennan House burned to the ground? I didn‟t think so. We must wait out the famine and the Flynn name must be forgotten. My father is a fool for thinking he can take your father‟s land, but that is exactly what he will do if we stay here and give him the opportunity to leave. If we go to California, lass, my father will be forced to remain in New York to see to his ships. If he leaves then, he will lose everything. You and I will make a fortune of gold, wait out the potato blight and return to Ireland when all has been put to right.” He pulled a paper from his pocket and smoothed it out, then handed it to Evelyn. It was a newspaper clipping with the name Steam Rose decoratively printed on the face. “For Panama” it read. “Sails 23 March 1851”. Her eyes darted to Lucius‟ face. The twenty-third of March was tomorrow. “Once your funds are transferred to my name, we are leaving this place,” Lucius said. “We‟ll make birth in Central America, then find a ship for San Francisco. It‟s the quickest route to California. I‟ve told my father that I am taking you to New Orleans to look into purchasing more ships. A Flynn‟s idea for a honeymoon, I dare say. He hasn‟t a clue that tomorrow morning, we‟ll be sailing towards a whole new world of possibility. Stupid man, to have wasted two years in this drab city while other merchants are snatching up gold left and right in Coloma and Nevada City! Men of my father‟s caliber are making triple his profits in San Francisco. The dolt! I‟ve waited long enough to find my own way in this world. You‟re sixteen today, lassie,” he addressed her again, touching her nose with his fingertip. She flinched and moved away from him. “You‟re my ticket out of here.” She could have slapped him. So that was it, then. They were to be married and Lucius Flynn was to take her as far away from Ireland as he could. The stupid ass just wanted to run away. That was the truth of it. She could not imagine he actually cared about her father or his estate. She saw the way his eyes glistened as he spoke of the gold in California. He was to be her leech and she was his bank account. A business arrangement, just as she had thought; except this was much worse than she predicted. She was to be dragged across the continent without the slightest hope of seeing her home again. Who could say the famine would ever end? Or that Lucius would ever be safe among his own people? But if she could only return alone, her lands would be safe. She could use some of her father‟s money to feed her countrymen. She could be a heroine, could make her father proud! But no, Lucius‟ plan allowed for none of that. Lucius‟ plan asked for everything she had left. Lucius rose and crossed her bedroom to the door. “We‟ll be richer than we ever dreamed,” he whispered. “Just imagine, Ms. Brennan. No more sittin‟ at a desk gazing out the window at the world below. You may be my ticket, but you‟re profiting from me as well. I‟m your chance. This will be an adventure for the both of us, I promise you.” California The brightness of day turned the insides of her eyelids bright red. She threw her arm over them to create the pretense of night once more, but the bustle of the stirring camp was difficult to ignore. The rain had ceased and the sun was out. It was growing hot already and she could feel the moisture of the night collected in her joints and sticking to her skin. Someone‟s fingers slipped through the canvas entrance and untied the door. Quickly, she pulled her blanket over her ankles, which she had kicked free a moment ago. Lucius stumbled into the tent, his hair a mess and his eyes pink from lack of sleep. She was repulsed at the sight of him and wondered why he still refused to ring the bell she had dangled outside. She could have been dressing. Did he care nothing for her propriety? “I overslept,” he announced. The other miners had gone to the mine half an hour ago and Lucius was rushing to join them. Lucius hated rushing. “Where are my boots?” Evelyn sat up, careful to keep the blanket pulled modestly to her chin. Lucius had worn his boots to the hall last night and had lost track of them after a few drinks. He glanced around, then sighed and lifted his heavy eyes to Evelyn. If he wanted an answer he had to watch for one. She shrugged in response. Did he think she was his mother? He wasn‟t a child. He could find his own boots. “Have you seen them?” His voice was on edge. He had no patience for Evelyn this morning. Indeed, he rarely had patience for her anymore. She shook her head no. He slammed a fist down on her cot, infuriated. Why must he be yoked to this woman? She did not even try to speak. Her silence was exasperating, especially when last night‟s alcohol sat ill within his belly. His stomach lurched as he leaned forward, thrusting his face close to hers. “Where-are-my-BOOTS?” he whispered sharply. She winced from the smell of his breath. “Speak to me, you dolt! Use your tongue!” She raised her chin at him. She didn‟t need to speak in order to make a point. He grunted and straightened himself, smelling foul of liquor and sarsaparilla. He looked down at his bare feet and cringed. Some of the miners worked without shoes because they could not afford them. He, however, was a gentleman, and he would be damned before he went to work with naked toes. The idea that damnation was near made him babble angrily. “Useless woman,” he muttered gruffly. “Sometimes I wonder why I don‟t let the other men have their way with you.” Evelyn stared at him, eyes wide. Slowly, Lucius lowered his gaze to match hers. He had regretted the words before they emerged from his lips, but there was no way to retract them. He did not mean it. Evelyn knew that, didn‟t she? He was just hung over and he COULDN‟T FIND HIS DAMN BOOTS! Lucius would never seriously consider allowing another man touch the girl. He had gotten frightfully close once; it was out of anger, of course, but he had almost gone insane with jealousy. It seemed he could not even punish Evelyn without feeling like the culprit himself. He began to say he was sorry, but changed his mind and babbled incoherently. Hellfire, he didn‟t want to apologize. He was still angry! If she would just open her mouth and say something, all of this could be settled. He would not have lost his head. Really, it was her fault. She could be so goddamn stubborn. “Look, Miss Brennan. You know I didn‟t intend to-” Evelyn swung her legs around the edge of the cot, to hell with modesty. She stood before Lucius, the blanket falling around her ankles. She gripped her nightcap and threw it to the floor, chest heaving. Lucius stared, mouth agape. Without all of her hoops and petty coats, Evelyn‟s body looked so small, so real. Unlaced by a corset, he could see the actual size of her waist and the way it bloomed into the curves of her hips. The sensuality of her standing before him with only one layer of clothing to veil her naked skin forced the breath from his lungs. She noted his surprise and returned his stare for an instant, then blew past him like a storm into the sunlight. Down the lane, May Westerly dropped a bucket of corn seed and emitted a high- pitched gasp at the sight. Professor Johann Spitz hit a sour note on his harmonica. Evelyn marched towards the dining hall, threw open the doors and those sitting down to a late breakfast stopped eating to stare at the mute in her nightgown. Several men whistled. The bartender leaned across the counter to get a better look. Evelyn blew a stray hair out of her face and began her brief search. She spotted Lucius‟ boots hiding under a bench beneath the blacksmith, Toby. As she stormed towards the man, he fell to the floor in a heap of bewilderment. Snatching the boots, she nodded towards him and departed as abruptly as she had arrived. Lucius was standing just outside her tent and flinched as she fervidly threw the boots at his feet. Feet planted, she stared at him with eyes full of spite. That morning, there was nobody in the world Evelyn Brennan hated more than Lucius Flynn. There was a clucking at her ankles. One of her hens had escaped again, the mischievous one that always managed to find its way out of the coop. In her fury, Evelyn leaned down and snatched up the bird, closing a palm around her face. She twisted hard, pulling the animal‟s head free. She tossed it at Lucius‟ bare feet, keeping her gaze steady as it landed inside one of his boots with a small, hollow thud. Lucius watched the spectacle in disbelief. Evelyn was mad! Soiled with the hen‟s blood, she made her way to the little space behind her tent where she could pluck feathers in her nightgown and cool her temper. Lucius, heart racing, stood still a moment while May Westerly returned to her corn seed with a shake of her head and across the lane, the Professor lifted his harmonica to his lips, the instrument‟s melancholy sound filling the air once again. Chapter Three The Arrangement New York Evelyn took a few moments to calm her nerves and steady her breathing. She listened as Lucius‟ footsteps fell silently down the hall to his rooms. Once she could no longer hear him, she rang the bell for Mira to bring her breakfast. Presently the servant joined her with a toothy smile and an aromatic tray of coffee and croissants. Evelyn picked at the pastry before ignoring it altogether and settled on the coffee. Its rich smell filled her senses as she closed her eyes to breathe it in. “Today is da day,” Mira whispered, eyebrows raised to receive a reaction. Evelyn sighed before opening her eyes. She stared into the deep blackness of her drink and nodded her head, the conversation with Lucius replaying in her mind. Yes, today was the day. Mira seated herself beside her mistress, hands clasped in her lap. The women sat in silence for a moment until the elder reached over to touch the younger one‟s arm. “Are you frightened?” she asked. The girl was slightly trembling. Evelyn did not enjoy dwelling on her emotions, nor was she apt to divulge them. She had learned to quiet fear and sadness by blocking the connection from her heart to her mind. It was an easy disconnection when she was reading French or adding numbers, but her piano playing had suffered. She had sacrificed emotional intuition for practical thinking and even now, on the dawn of her wedding, she could barely correlate the shaking of her hands to the beginning of a loveless marriage. As her eyes bore into her coffee she could feel nothing but anger, but that was nothing new. Perhaps she was frightened, but not in the way most virgin brides might be frightened. After all, Evelyn was not about to allow Lucius to touch her. A ring and vows would not give him the authority that only selfless love could bestow. No; if Evelyn Brennan was frightened, it was because a marriage to Lucius Flynn would prove a greater sacrifice than she was prepared to give. When Mira did not receive an answer, she felt great compassion for the child. Lucius Flynn was not the man she would have chosen for the lovely girl. The servants had become well acquainted with the habits of the young Flynn; his sneaking in and out through the kitchen door, his all-night vigils, his debt-collectors on the front steps and empty bottles strewn about the house. It was obvious the man was miserable, that he sought to fill bottomless voids with impure pleasures. What kind of husband could he be for a girl who had no voice? How could he be sensible to the needs of a wife when he could hardly care for himself? He was right to say that it was the way of the world. Children were often married for the social and financial advancement of their families. Evelyn Brennan was no exception and Mira pitied her for it. The island woman may be a freed slave who continued to serve those above her class, but she was her own master. The poor Irish girl was being sold into slavery at the highest cost to herself and there was nothing she could do about it. “I got somet‟ing to cheer you up, child,” Mira told her. “T‟e household staff put t‟eir wages toget‟er,” she explained. “T‟ey wanted you to have t‟ese.” Mira produced a small box from within the folds of her apron and within were two perfect ivory pearls, one for each ear. Evelyn put her hand to her throat and searched Mira‟s eyes. It had been a long, long time since the girl had received a gift. “For t‟e bride,” the older woman smiled. Evelyn squeezed her servant‟s hand and stared at the pearls for a long time. When she finally lifted her eyes, Mira could see a fading glimmer of tears. “Don‟t be gettin‟ soft on me now, Miss Brennan. You got a reputation to uphold.” Evelyn laughed a little. “T‟ey is for today,” Mira explained, “and t‟ey is for t‟e honeymoon, you see? No more o‟ t‟is.” She plucked the shabby nightdress on Evelyn‟s arm. “We get you proper clothes for t‟e journey. T‟e masta commissioned me to purchase some new dresses for t‟e bride and I do t‟at. I make t‟e Misses Do‟le look mighty fine, just you wait, child. Mighty fine and proper.” Mira had ordered dresses unlike any Evelyn had ever worn, dresses fit for royalty compared to the likes of which the poor girl had suffered for the past five years. The boring grays, mournful blacks and unbecoming browns were forgotten and shades of delicate blue, velvet purple, romantic green and luscious red were discretely purchased with the pocket book but without the consideration of Mr. Flynn. The man had given Mira a budget and trusted her to clothe her mistress in a manner appropriate for the new bride. While selecting the various fabrics, cuts and styles, the servant had not been thinking of modesty but of all the years Evelyn was robbed of tastefully presenting her womanhood. The girl‟s curves and beauty had been forced into hiding the moment they tried to appear. To her regret, Mira would not get to see Evelyn in her new attire; but she could envisage the matchless loveliness the garb would inspire. The servant was content to witness the girl‟s transformation into a bride and leave the rest to the imagination. As the time came for that transformation to take place, Mira helped Evelyn into the many folds of fabric. She smoothed and frilled the yards of silk and lace. She fastened the corset and slipped the dozens of buttons into their corresponding holes. When the young woman was fully dressed, Mira worked her hair into a perfect arrangement of curls. A little rouge was applied to her cheeks and lips and Mira took a stitch of black paint to line the tips of her eyelids. Evelyn was keenly aware of herself as her girlhood bowed to dominating maturity. She could feel an inner alteration as her hair was dressed and her face made up. Despite the weight of the gown, she could feel her back straighten, her shoulders roll back, her chin lift, her arms adopt a graceful position at her sides. As more folds and layers were applied to her body, she paradoxically felt as though she were being unveiled. All this time, the prudish, girlish humility had been nothing but a façade. Now, as a bride, Evelyn‟s greatness was being unleashed. Her fingertips tingled. Her belly tightened. She smiled to herself as a small victory came to her: after the arrangement was settled, she would no longer be the ward of Banning Flynn. Today, she would leave his house and never suffer his presence again. If nothing else, she would leave New York tomorrow with that small sense of triumph. She had to, lest she despair. The ceremony was waiting for her in the parlor downstairs. The household staff was gathered along with a couple of important figures Banning Flynn wished to impress. He had sent warning to Evelyn; it was incumbent upon her to make a respectable impression as Lucius‟ bride. Banning‟s reputation among the elite of New York would be influenced by his selection of a daughter-in-law. Perfection was Evelyn‟s only option and as she made her way to the top of the stairs, she caught her reflection in the hallway mirror and smiled. Perfection was not a difficult standard to achieve. The sixteen-year- old woman looking back at her was a goddess, fully equipped to bestow a divine enchantment upon the fortunate souls waiting in the room below. She would impress them, yes. She would make them fall in love. There was one person in particular she wished to influence with her new appearance: the groom. If she could only captivate him, she will have won. After all, her beauty was all she had left for revenge. Today, the Flynns would have succeeded in confiscating everything else. As a woman, she possessed something that could never be taken: the ability to make Lucius feel strong and the cruelty to make him powerless. She would lure him, would fuel his desire and make him burn; and then, she would snuff him out. The scoundrel deserved nothing less than her cunning and empty seduction. The wedding party looked to the stairs as a concerto was performed on the piano. With confidence, she glided to the staircase. Mira in her wake, train aloft, she floated down the steps towards her future husband, her lord Mr. Flynn and the few others who had gathered. A hush engulfed the room as she drew near. There were a few whispers. Some exhalations of wonder. She kept her eyes trained on the floor but as she drew nearer her groom, she coyly lifted her painted lids to meet his own. His body stiffened as his breath caught in his throat, his blue eyes flared in surprise and desire. He had not expected this, had never seen a woman so transformed. He stared at her in disbelief, the dread and uncertainty leading up to this moment giving way to sudden intrigue. Was this the same Evelyn Brennan he had held as a child? The same girl he had arranged to accompany him to California? He was transfixed, and his response was everything she had hoped for. She would use this reaction against him for the rest of their lives together, promising herself that she would never look at him the way he was looking at her now. She would never bring herself to grace him with a touch, a kiss, a caress. She would never lie with him, would never desire him or bear his children; and above all, she would never, ever love him. Revenge was hers. Evelyn did not need her voice to sing a Siren‟s song. She had only to reveal enough to hook Lucius‟ desire, then disappear beneath the surface of cold indifference. He had grown accustomed to the commonality of their acquaintance; but on their wedding day, Evelyn Brennan became a complete mystery. He suddenly felt the urge to ask her name, to make her laugh, to invite her to dinner. But as he offered his arm and led her from his father‟s house, he remembered that this woman was now his wife and his nerve abandoned him. He knew how to speak to prostitutes, to wanton daughters of aristocrats, even to other men‟s wives. But to Evelyn Brennan, he was dumb as she. She acknowledged his fear with an occasional smile. She never knew power was so easily taken. A little swish of fabric and a stitch of color had taken her from the shadows of unimportance and thrust her into the light of influence. She had only to blink her eyelids and she could feel Lucius stumble. The change over him was tangible. She could sense his heart race at the sight of her. After the ceremony, she had gone to her office and scribbled a quick note to Banning Flynn. She gingerly put her accounting books in a drawer and shut it quietly. She rang the bell for Mira and the two women bundled Evelyn‟s previous wardrobe in a rice sack to be given to an orphanage. Mira helped her mistress undress and replaced the ivory gown with one of scarlet. A matching hat with a wide, tipping brim was placed atop Evelyn‟s head and as she felt the weight of it, she breathed an elongated sigh. It felt like a coronation. That night, Banning Flynn sat back on his plush chair before the fire and watched the smoke of his cigar abscond lazily into the air. He could not get Miss Brennan‟s face out of his mind; the way she had descended the stairs with the air of one victorious, the way she had avoided his gaze as if he had somehow lost importance. Her transformation from a prudish hermit-child into a married woman had been staggering enough; but there was an air of confidence that emanated from her that reminded him of her father. As soon as she left his house, Banning had gone for a drink. His hands were shaking. He felt as though he had seen Emmett Brennan rise from the grave. That evening, he went into her old office to look around. The honeymoon was not meant to last long; soon she would return to her rightful place as the minion beneath his thumb and he would rise to his as lord of Brennan House. That name, however, would have to go. He had puzzled over what to call it, had made a list of various titles. His favorite thus far was a strong name; one he accredited to his accomplishments in life. Risen Flynn, he muttered, his breath releasing a new plume of smoke. He said it once more, a little louder this time, in case Emmett‟s ghost had indeed come to haunt him. Brennan must know of his demise. He must know that Banning‟s final quest had triumphed. Evelyn was married to his son; the Brennan name was lost and the Brennan estate plundered. All now belonged to Banning, as it should. He poked through Evelyn‟s desk and found the company‟s accounting books. He wanted to make sure she had finished her duties before philandering with his son. He opened the ledger and found a small piece of paper with a few words etched in Indian ink. Next the estate. For a moment, he did not understand, yet he felt he should. He had seen a note like this before, but it had concerned his son and born a different script. That note had inspired terror then; now, that familiar sensation crept from a deep, hidden place and began to tingle down his arms and into his fingertips. He watched the paper begin to ripple with the trembling of his hands. She had written it to mock him; after all, the heartless wench had heard about the note pinned to his wife as she lay murdered. Everyone heard; the servants had callously circulated the news when it happened. He should have expected such vile jesting from the Brennan girl. It would have been a happy play of irony had she met her end in the same incident as her father. Her monetary worth alone had kept her alive these past few years. It had taken Banning every ounce of self-control he possessed to stay his hand from claiming her life. How cruel of her to remind him of his wife‟s untimely demise! Whatever could she hope to gain by this foul reminiscence? For several moments his feet remained planted, his back bent by an invisible weight. Evelyn did not strike him as the kind of girl to engage in foolery. She was much too deliberate. Next the estate… She knew he had her father killed. He had seen it in her eyes. How else could he justify how he had punished her, had avoided her these past years? She must suspect his reasons. Was it possible she might plan to use this marriage to her own advantage? Could she convince Lucius of his father‟s scheming? Would she unveil his plot and sabotage everything he had worked for? Banning Flynn spat a pernicious curse. He was a fool to think the mute harmless. He was mistaken in assuming that because she had no rattle, she would not strike. She would tell Lucius what she was worth. She would whet his appetite for wealth by dangling pretty figures before his wanting eyes. After all of his careful planning, Banning‟s lifelong ambition had willingly danced into his son‟s open palm. Lucius was his blood; Lucious would take everything and Banning had signed the check. The elder Mr. Flynn began to laugh. It crept upon the silent room as a slight chuckle, then erupted into a wild wail of hilarity and torment. Downstairs, the servants lifted their eyes to the ceiling in alarm. As his mirthless laughter died away, Banning Flynn screamed after the long dead. “Damn you, Emmett Brennan! Damn you to hell!” Lucius and Evelyn had business to attend. Evelyn‟s inheritance had to be removed from its current holdings and secured elsewhere in order to ensure Banning did not lay a finger to it. Lucius had a friend in banking who was eager to assist in the handling of the young couple‟s livelihood as well as equip them with the proper finances for their upcoming adventure. The arrangements took the greater part of the day and when all was accomplished, Lucius hired a carriage that was not under his father‟s employ to take him and his bride to an inn beyond the city limits. In case Banning caught wind of Lucius‟ plotting, his son wished to ensure their safe departure from New York. They could not take too many precautions to remain beyond the reach of Mr. Flynn‟s wrath. The inn was a small, dark place, cold and damp from the moisture of the sea. It sat in the woods a short ride from their port of call and was not a location one might consider idyllic for a honeymoon. Should Banning come looking for them, Lucius was certain they would not be discovered. Once in their room, a dreadful, still silence settled between the young couple. The busyness of the day was over, their preoccupation dismissed. Evelyn sat by the dark window, Lucius on the bed. For a moment, they remained stiff and uncomfortable. Evelyn persisted in her defiant posture, chin lifted and lips tightly secured, but exhaustion was apparent in the way her eyelids hung low and heavy. Lucius studied her a moment while she pretended not to notice, then he sighed and sank back on the poky straw mattress. “You‟re pissed as ever, I imagine,” he said presently. He watched for a reaction, noted the slight rise of her chest with a deeper intake of breath. “Besting my father is not enough to cheer you, eh? I‟ll bet he‟s pissed his britches by now. Realized his son isn‟t as stupid as he hoped. „E‟s probably gone to the bank to cash out his dreams only to realize they‟ve slipped out from under him.” The edge of her mouth twitched a little and he knew she was struggling against a smile. It gave him courage. He rose from the bed and took a few careful steps in her direction. There was a small fire in the hearth and the light of it danced upon her rigid features. By God, she looked gorgeous. “We did it together, you know,” he told her, his tone practiced and alluring. “Just like old times. You remember, don‟t you? The duets in the parlor? We complimented each other then. We compliment each other now.” He lifted a finger to push a stray tendril of hair from her face but she jolted away. In an effort to calm her, he emitted a shushing sound, then grimaced inwardly as it sounded idiotic. You couldn‟t shush a mute. He decided to pursue the one-sided conversation, wanting desperately to impress her and feeling exhilaration at the birth of such desire. He was good with desire. He had always made it work to his advantage before. “Do I frighten you?” he asked. The audacity of the question forced her to look at him, her brows furrowed and her expression incredulous. He flattered himself with the idea, she knew. Men loved to feel they had such power over women. He almost laughed at her reaction but restrained himself. He did not want her to feel as though he considered her a child to be teased. She needed to know that he saw her as a woman. “I am glad of it,” he continued, “because I am not to be feared. You know me, Evelyn. Perhaps better than anyone. And I know you, though not as well as I should like.” She could feel her body responding to the sound of his voice and it startled her. She had not expected him to sound so genuine. She had anticipated calling his bluff, resisting his game. But he was smooth and she found herself wanting to believe him. “You looked stunning today,” he told her. This time as he lifted his hand she did not resist. He gently touched her skin as he smoothed the hair away from her cheek and glided a finger along the line of her jaw. She was soft to the touch, but not yielding. He rather enjoyed her frigidity. It challenged him, making him want her all the more. “As I saw you come towards me this morning, I thought I had never seen a lovelier creature. You have transformed, Evelyn. Today you bloomed before my very eyes and I have not been able to take them from you since. Come, let me look at you. Indulge me.” He held out a hand, encouraging her to take it and rise. She looked up at him, her eyes skeptical, but she found she could not refuse his request. The idea that he wished to admire her was flattering. Her pride could resist him no further. She watched as his gaze licked up and down her body. His eyes inspired tremendous sensation as she stood before him like a statue of Athena, proud and lovely to behold. “My God,” he gasped. “You are a goddess. I have always thought you beautiful, Evelyn, but today… you are the very portrait of grace. And you know it, don‟t you? You are not blind to the way I am looking at you.” As he spoke she considered his sentiments. Indeed, she felt emboldened. She was beautiful. He needn‟t tell her, but she was not about to stop him. She narrowed her eyes at him, willing him to tell her more. It would not harm her plan to know what he thought of her. He mistook her invitation to continue as an invitation to something more. She was easier to seduce than he had planned. This was pleasing to his ego. He slipped a hand around her waist as the other traveled upwards to the base of her bosom. “This dress,” he spoke lingeringly, as if it were indeed the gown he was admiring. “It must make it impossible to breathe. Shall I loosen it for you?” She stared at him, frozen. He had spoken too forwardly. He knew it the instant the words left his lips. He had lost her. How many women had received this line and believed it inspired by their own unique beauty? How many had he lured in this fashion? The spell was broken. Angry that he had the audacity to use his tricks on her, his bride, Evelyn‟s resolve was solidified. She turned, listened to the quickness of his breathing as his practiced fingers worked to loosen her corset strings. When she felt the release of her ribcage as the corset fell to the floor, she nonchalantly stepped away and grabbed her dressing robe. She draped it about her shoulders as she made her way to the bed, slipped beneath the covers and turned on her side to sleep. Confused, enraged and dumbfounded, Lucius watched in disbelief. Was this a sort of game that innocent girls played? Did Evelyn somehow believe this was sexy? He was hesitant, but presently Lucius removed his clothes and slipped into bed beside her. Uncertainly, he lifted a hand and gently slid it over one of her hips. She was quick to react by kicking him in the shin. He grunted and in his anger exclaimed, “Miss Brennan, you are my wife! Will you refuse me?” She pretended to be asleep, encouraging his anger further. He thought about forcing her to indulge him, considered pinning her on her back and taking what she refused to offer, but he found he no longer wanted her. She could play her self-righteous games; he would have nothing to do with them. If she wished to use her purity against him, he would throw it back in her face. She had not changed. She was still the plain recluse his father had created, even if she no longer looked it. Let her keep her virginity! In a few days‟ time she would recognize her mistake and she would long for him. He would make her beg. He had inspired such humility in greater women. He rose from the bed, taking the blanket with him. He fell heavily before the fire, where he silently fumed as Evelyn tightened her robe and curled her legs beneath her body. The following morning, they departed before the rising of the sun, setting out for their port of call. They were silent; Lucius did not try to make conversation with a woman who would not only refuse him speech, but would not sleep with him either. He was still brooding over the night before, cursing Shakespeare and Byron and all the others who elevated love and marriage. Much ado about nothing, indeed! He was much happier lousing about New York with a woman on his arm whose name he had not even learned. There was no forlorn sense of commitment in those situations. He merely took what he wanted and the girls were all too happy to give. They had loved him. Evelyn Brennan was too proud and indeed he thought her rather childish, like a girl destined for a nunnery. Let her be a saint, for all he cared. He could flirt with the women aboard the Steam Rose and once they were in California… well, he had heard of the women there. Dark-eyed Hispanics, exotic, slant-eyed females of the Orient, strong-handed, hard-eyed beauties from Oregon. Now he was only reacting. He sneaked a glance at his wife, sitting with a long, gracious back held straight as a rod in an elegant gown of lavender, with a bonnet of straw and ribbons to match. His stomach turned and he cursed under his breath. Evelyn Brennan had never before inspired such physical disruption in an otherwise cool and collected body. Few women did. But his wife, in all her seasoned disdain was quick to remind him that he was, in fact, the loser in this current game. She sat, postured and demure in her newly acquired radiance, careless to the painful effect she bore on Lucius. He despised her self-righteousness. In twenty-four hours she had become altogether interesting and she would not allow him near her. Selfish girl. Did she not see the lengths he had taken to save her from an otherwise ruined existence? He had secured her father‟s house, for God‟s sake! He, her most dutiful husband, had ensured that Evelyn‟s inheritance remained untouched by any other and had promised to shelter and protect her when his own father would have tossed her out on the street like an urchin. Apart from him she had nothing. Nothing! And now, here she was toying with him, like a cat with a mouse. He could blow steam from his very nostrils for the fire in his belly. But he must remain calm. That witchy girl was probably watching for signs of her enchantment. He would not give her the satisfaction. He must not. Lucius Flynn tipped his favorite hat over his eyes for the remainder of the journey. The Steam Rose was a seasoned old girl. Since 1848, the year she was born, she had faithfully carried the letters of California dreamers, California bullion and California adventurers to and from Chagres, Panama. Its shining wooden body revealed battle scars from unfortunate altercations with the sea, its progress sometimes prolonged off the coast of its destination due to lamentable conditions. Chagres was a fickle port, its temper apt to change at the slightest whim. It was common for ships to be stalled due to her bipolar nature. If the waters were unkind, passengers would achingly watch the land as it mocked them from afar. They sat miserable, tossed by the sea, their legs eager to touch the earth and their patience worn to threads. Though they had received this adventure with palms open for fast fortune, all who traveled to California soon learned that their sanity depended upon their ability to wait. Three months at sea, three days at port, three weeks pitching tents in Panama City waiting for passage to San Francisco. The idea of getting rich quick became a nasty, insufferable notion. It was, on all accounts, a wretched lie. This deceitful conception still wore a veil of appeal to Lucius Flynn as he gazed upon the Steam Rose for the first time. Lucius was no stranger to ships; throughout his lifetime of exposure to their simplicity and grandeur, their faults and efficiencies, he had developed a fraternal affection for them. The Steam Rose was not unlike the ships he sent to and from the Orient and India; she bore two masts, each equipped with three square sails, and a steam stack rose black and looming between them. Her beam, the widest part of her body, stretched fifty feet and from stern to stem she ran two hundred and thirty feet in length. A good size, Lucius noted with approval. He was excited to pass the next three months sunning on her decks and gambling in her billiards room. (Should there not be a billiards room, he was certain there must be a drawing room, which would be a handsome if not adequate substitute to a billiards or smoking room. If anything there must be a saloon, and in this, his hopes were not disappointed.) Evelyn watched as deckhands and passengers alike scurried about their business. She had heard that ships like the Steam Rose were accustomed to over-maximizing their passenger capacity since the Gold Rush began and worried that she might be forced to share a stateroom with more men like Lucius. She did not expect to see many women; in 1849 it was terribly uncommon for a woman to travel to California. Throughout the ensuing years, the appearance of a female became a little more ordinary, but the ratio still tipped drastically in favor of the males. After last night, she knew she would encounter Lucius‟ wily approaches again and would be happy if her problems were restricted to her new husband. Her situation was more satisfactory than she had hoped. Lucius had paid extra to ensure he and Evelyn had a room alone; but the price did not afford a marriage bed. Instead, there were two berths, or sleeping arrangements, in their stateroom; one for each of them and neither large enough to accommodate another. When Evelyn saw this, she smiled to herself. For this part of the journey, at least, she would be left to sleep on her own. Once settled in their room, Lucius and Evelyn took leave of each other to explore the ship. Without a word, Lucius exited into the hall and turned right and Evelyn decidedly went left. She knew Lucius would find the nearest saloon for cards and alcohol and settled not to follow. She was pleased to be rid of him and pretended to be a woman of independence as she passed others in the hall and on deck, smiling and nodding towards them with the brim of her bonnet. She was eager to catch sight of another woman but found herself enjoying the many men who stopped in their tracks to acknowledge her. This was not an indulgence she had ever been allowed: to strut about in the glory of her womanly figure and attractive appearance. The amber shade of her tresses was enough to inspire a second glance; but the soft curve of her jaw and the length of her eyelashes made it difficult not to stare. She had been blessed with a small nose and full lips and though a couple of her teeth overlapped in places with an ever-so-slight gap in the very front, the effect of her smile was untainted. She found herself baring it broader and broader with each gentleman who tipped his hat or whistled in exhalation as she passed by. She wandered from deck to deck, stopping at steerage to turn around and return to the top of the ship where she might catch some fresh air and watch the hands cast off. More passengers had begun to crowd the halls as they searched for their staterooms. The Steam Rose would be bursting with travelers ere she set sail. She was built to accommodate three hundred passengers, but already Evelyn could see that number had been exceeded. The Panama Star Line, to which the Steam Rose belonged, would meet their excess goals with this vessel, as they had succeeded in doing since the beginning of the Gold Rush in 1849. The miners were not the only ones benefitting from the gold. An intelligent businessman‟s chances of increasing his fortune with the foolishly wasted finances of a greenhorn were exponentially greater than those of the greenhorn himself. Most of the young men who set out for California were between seventeen and twenty-five-years-old, with fairy-tale expectations of discovering the goose who laid golden eggs and careless as to how much money they spent to find her. The truth was the golden goose did not exist. Instead, there was a rugged, uncivilized land with smoldering summer days and frigid winter nights, territorial natives and fearsome wildlife, venomous snakes and debilitating diseases. The Panama Star Line did not care whether her passengers survived the jungles of South America only to perish in the woodlands of the Sierras; its only concern was that each forty-niner pay an astronomical fee to meet such a glorious end. Evelyn maneuvered through the many people onboard and eventually found her way to the main deck. Shouldering through an excited crowd, she went to the railing where she was able to peer over the edge into the water. It was a murky gray and she found herself looking forward to the blue Atlantic stretching ahead. A small piece of Evelyn succumbed to intrigue. The expedition from Ireland to New York had birthed an unlooked for love of traveling in her as a child that now began to stir in her as a woman. The unknown was daunting, certainly, but it was also a little enticing. What waited for her in Chagres? In Panama City? She had never been to such an exotic land. And California, what would it hold? Would Lucius keep his word by discovering a wealth of gold and take her back to Ireland, where the two of them could sit in her father‟s parlor and speak of their adventures in America? Would their lives submit to such simplicity? Evelyn bequeathed herself a moment to ponder on her husband. Last night, he had lied when he said she knew him better than anyone else. If that were true, she would understand his very thoughts and motives behind the façade he wore. Had he been honest in insisting this California adventure was for her own good and for the good of her inheritance? She could not decide. After all, Lucius Flynn had never done a selfless thing in his life. Why start now that he was married? She had no such expectations of him and he should not have them of himself. He was still just a child. At sixteen, she was more mature than him at twenty-one. Lucius was unrealistic, juvenile, pampered and flamboyant. He could make fifty companions in an evening of raucous debauchery and go home without a single friend to lean on in times of trouble. He was senseless when it came to money; he threw it away on momentary pleasures and somehow expected it to run on into eternity. Evelyn predicted he might soon have seen the bottom of the barrel had he not married into her inheritance. And what was to happen should California prove disappointing? What then? Was Lucius to gamble his last, drink his last, spend his last, dream his last? Would he be defeated by his own ambition? She could hardly bare the thought. Though she loved him not, she did not wish to see her childhood companion brought to nothing. She was not so heartless as that. And should Lucius lose in this gamble, she would lose as well. Yesterday had confirmed that. What was hers belonged to him and vice versa. They were yoked together, for better or worse. A cold breeze smelling strongly of salt caught the curls around her face and made her nose burn. She turned from the powerful gust and saw Lucius, already making friends with a couple of gentlemen on the opposite end of the deck. He caught her eye and suddenly embarrassed, she turned quickly away. Her heart thumped at a painful speed and she took a deep breath to steady it. In an attempt to rid herself of any other such incident, she progressed towards the bow of the Steam Rose. Something in Lucius had leapt when Evelyn looked at him, though the sensation was quickly diverted as he watched her flee, that rebellious chin thrust into the air. She really was quite the spoiled brat. For a moment, he was grateful she could not speak lest she spit her thoughts at him. If her body language was any indication, he could only imagine the indiscretions of which she was capable. He shuttered at the idea. Lucius despised confrontation; it made him angry, which also made him acutely uncomfortable because his father was prone to anger and he wanted nothing to do with his father. Lucius had lived his life running away from anger; yet here he had acquiesced to marry a young woman as predisposed to anger as anyone he had ever known. The thought, in consequence, made him angry. He raised his nose a little and returned his attention to the conversation at hand. The Steam Rose cast off in the afternoon, the sun high and white overhead. It was warm for March and Evelyn found herself breathing deeply. She was gliding into the unknown, her heart tumultuous with various emotions. There was fear, yes; fear of the dangers she may encounter, fear of Lucius‟ foolishness in this endeavor for riches. There was a touch of excitement and a little stab of glee for her victory over Banning Flynn. By now she was certain he had gone to claim her money and been gravely disappointed to find it no longer in his reach. She could almost see the look on his face and wished she had been there to witness his reaction. That alone would have been worth all those years of reclusion, when Banning Flynn punished someone else for the crimes he had so heartlessly and knowingly committed. Now he had met the end of his scheming, and Evelyn was hesitant to consider Lucius‟ hand in her triumph. She had not, could not have done it alone. As the Steam Rose pulled away from New York, Lucius‟ thoughts were bent upon the many opportunities that lie ahead. What might California look like? What kind of camp should he look for; what might he find? Ever since he had set his mind to traveling to the gold fields, he had done extensive reading on the subject. He had learned of the various methods for discovering gold; of digging, panning, sifting, exploding. He liked the sound of dynamite. To see an entire mound of red earth blown to smithereens at the hand of man! And to discover endless veins of glittering gold within! It was all a dream; a tantalizing, fantastical dream. Might he encounter Indians? Rattlesnakes? Might he be asked to engage in a duel in the center of a quiet, dusty town? He could almost clap his hands at the many glorious images. The idea of his father was a distant one; only once or twice did he consider Banning. After all, there were many other important things to think about. Lucius‟ father was a wretched man whom Lucius‟ had despised since he could remember. A treacherous weasel of a man. Good riddance to him, Lucius thought. And good riddance to New York City! He was a man on his way to the Wild West. All else be damned! There was only one thing that could distract him from his precious California and he would not bring himself to linger upon her at the moment. She was standing afar off at the ship‟s bow, hair blowing in the ocean breeze, lavender folds of silk billowing about her alluring body. He would not think about how beautiful she was, how mysterious and how maddening. What good would it do to think about her anyway? She despised him and he was pretty sure he despised her, too; a fact which paradoxically made him lust after her attention. It was ridiculous really. If he got close she would only push him away. So why did she have to dress like that? He had never taken Evelyn for a tease. Lucius puckered his lips, then smacked them apart. Evelyn was his wife. His wife! Oh dear God. Whatever was he supposed to do with a wife? For many uncomfortable weeks, he did nothing at all. The married couple rarely saw one another. Though the Steam Rose was an easy place to see the same face numerous times a day, Evelyn and Lucius developed an unofficial system of avoidance. He spent much of his time in the saloon or drawing room; she kept to the stateroom on rainy days and the deck when the sun shone. She only had a handful of books to read; but she found pleasure in developing judgments of character for the conversations she overheard in the presence of other passengers. She would bring parchment and charcoal to sketch the faces she found most intriguing and many hours would be gone before the sun began to descend and she discovered she needed a shawl. Drawing was of great comfort to her and had been since she was a little girl. It was a place of solace and refuge, an opportunity to capture and hold the good and beautiful things forever in an image. She had taken to drawing two characters in particular. They had originally piqued her interest for their peculiarity aboard the Steam Rose. It was rare enough to see a woman; rarer still to see a woman with a small child. Evelyn had gathered that the woman‟s name was Adele; or rather, “My Dear Adele,” as her husband called her. But her husband was not often present. Evelyn did not know where he hid, but she assumed it was among the same company as Lucius. Adele did not seem to mind, for her world was entirely wrapped up in the child. In the many sessions of sketching the mother and her son, Evelyn had not learned The Boy‟s name, but had endearingly labeled him Patrick in her thoughts. The name reminded her of Ireland, and as the child was young and strong, he served as a small but present comfort to her. My people will be strong again, she thought, and when they are strong I will be returned to them. Evelyn was absorbed in perfecting Adele‟s hand wrapped around The Boy‟s chubby fingers as he took determined but wobbly steps across the deck. By the look of him, he had not been walking long but had discovered the power of independence that came from this new ability. Adele‟s laughter was often heard as she chased after him, The Boy‟s little feet caring not whither they tread but only that they were taking their own course. “You‟ve captured us well,” a bright, cheerful voice said from behind. Evelyn had not seen the woman move behind her. She was a tall woman with dark, spiraling curls bursting untamed from the loose bun on her head, her eyes dark squints against rosy cheeks that threatened to disappear beneath the breadth of her smile. Adele had a lovely smile, with red lips and teeth that grew bold and uniform, a trait uncommon for one with an accent such as hers. She was undoubtedly English. “I‟m curious why you chose us when our surroundings are like something from a dream.” Adele looked whimsically beyond the ship, where palm trees burst like fireworks against the warm, blue sky. The Steam Rose had made birth in Havana to receive and deliver mail and goods. The Boy‟s finger, which had been shyly secured in the wetness of his mouth, was removed with a pop and pointed at Evelyn‟s drawing. “Mama!” he exclaimed, the brightness of intelligence shining forth from his now smiling eyes. He looked to his mother for validation. “Yes darling,” Adele affirmed. “And who is that there?” she asked, pointing to the child‟s likeness. He had no verbal reply, but brought his hand to his chest and patted it. His mother kissed his little forehead in approval. “Forgive our intrusion,” she begged Evelyn, “but I have seen you here for the past several days and my curiosity had to be settled by an introduction. My name is Adele Whitfield, and you are quite the artist.” Evelyn nodded her gratitude and leafed past her current drawing to another sheet of paper, where she wrote her name. Adele‟s smile faded slightly. “Oh, my dear Evelyn, I am so sorry. Are you unable to speak or is there some soreness of the throat?” Beneath her name, Evelyn scribbled the word, Mute. There was a short moment of silence when Evelyn encountered something like fear. She was unaccustomed to making friends and found she desperately wanted to secure Adele‟s affection. Should the kind woman suddenly lose interest on account of her disability, Evelyn fought to gird herself with indifference. There was no need. Presently Adele‟s smile returned to its full form and she said, “No matter, then. You are in good company, for the boy has but one word in his vocabulary and I‟m afraid I have enough to compensate for you both. It is such a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Flynn, for I have been desperate for a friend.” Evelyn started at the reference to her married name, for she had not become accustomed to hearing it aloud. Lucius, on the few occasions he was provoked to speak to her, had called her by her maiden name. Though she had no desire to part with her father‟s name, the omission had been meant as an offense, a disownment; and despite herself, she had received it. “My husband is a writer and spends much of his time locked away in our room,” Adele continued. “The boy and I see little of him, for he is not to be disturbed. He has endeavored to catalogue all of our adventures to and within California and wishes to write a book. He has talked about it for years, you know. Since the beginning. We saved all of our money, sold our house, let all our servants go and here we are! As we had to fire the nurse, I am now bestowed with that occupation. I am nanny, I am governess, and by Jove I am exhausted!” At this, she emitted a silvery laugh. “But I am grateful. Few English women spend as much time with their children. I feel that by embarking on this journey I have adopted a story that shall be told to my children‟s children, that I shall be remembered when other women are not. After all, my dear Evelyn, how many others do you see on this ship? I have counted six women on board. At this very moment we make up over thirty percent of the female population! And when we get to California, I daresay that percentage will change very little. We must stick together, you and I. Do you have any children? I venture to guess you don‟t, otherwise you would not be here day after day, enjoying the sun and the daily romps of mother and child. You would find us fairly less interesting if you had your own children. Women do not care much for the young ones of others when they have their own to adore. You are married; newly, I presume? I shall endeavor to ask questions of the yes or no categories, as to make it easier for us to communicate. Do you and your dear husband wish to bear children soon?” Evelyn had never heard Lucius broach the subject of children, but as she had taken every measure to keep their marriage from being consecrated, she shook her head. There would be no Flynn babies, not from Evelyn‟s womb. Lucius had been less demanding than she had expected, especially after their first night together. She had anticipated him coming to her again and again, but it seemed he was waiting for her to make the next move. As she was asleep before he returned to the stateroom at night and late to rise after he had already departed for the day, she was no more likely to advance upon him than the luggage in their room. His disappointment in her calculated avoidance of him had evolved first into anger and then into complacency. They no longer saw enough of each other to inspire much emotion. Their marriage had become a quiescent rhythm of independent existence. But for listening to him enter and leave the stateroom each night and morning, she could almost forget he was her husband. The Flynns had become little more than polite roommates. Adele did not seem to mind that Evelyn was not a mother. Adele‟s existence was not limited to motherhood and for this, Evelyn was grateful. She had little understanding of children. “That‟s all right,” Adele told her. “Babies come when babies come. Stephen and I were married two years before we got pregnant. Canniest thing, I‟ll tell you, because we weren‟t trying to avoid a pregnancy. But oh dear! I am guilty of impropriety. Does this kind of talk make you uncomfortable?” Evelyn almost laughed and shook her head no. “Good, because I am prone to talking before completely thinking through what it is I am talking about. Drives Stephen mad when we are in public. How old are you, my dear Mrs. Flynn?” Evelyn dipped her head and began leafing through paper again when Adele stopped her. “Dear oh dear, I‟d quite forgotten. Please forgive me. I must guess your age, mustn‟t I? It‟s all right. Is it nineteen? No? Am I close? Down a little bit. Eighteen? Seventeen? My, my, you are young aren‟t you? A mere sixteen and embarking on this dreadful voyage.” Evelyn nodded towards The Boy. “Why yes, he is young as well, isn‟t he? But he has me to look after him, and I am one-and-twenty. I have seen a few things in my lifetime, I assure you. I, for one, am no greenhorn, despite what the papers say. Just two years ago, Stephen and I were in Africa. Yes, I said Africa! Can you believe it? Imagine me in such a place! Stephen was writing a book and he knew some missionaries in Tanzania who were happy to receive us. We intended to stay for a few years but something… or rather, someone… happened.” She lit up with a smile and jostled The Boy a little on her hip. “I was along some months as we made the voyage home to England. It was a sickening ordeal, I assure you. Anything but pleasant. But all that time, I planted images in my mind of my favorite heroines and that helped me to endure. Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Elizabeth the First, even the Virgin Mother (though I daresay she is not a virgin anymore, ha ha!) kept me company on that long ordeal. I bound myself with courage and I bind myself yet again! But it shall be easier with a friend alongside, as you have now become. We shall have fun together, will we not? “And where, you might ask, do Stephen and I find the capital for such fun? Not through my blood, I assure you. My father is a parson and my mother a French winemaker‟s daughter. Both of my grandparents, on my mother‟s side, are still alive, and it is because of them that I have been cultured in the French arts. Indeed, I do love a good French poem. You as well, my dear Evelyn? Why, we should read together! Or rather I may read to you and you may listen, as I daresay you are very accustomed to listening and have quite a talent for it (I mean no offense, of course!). At the conclusion of my tale I shall fetch a volume of Phillipe Desportes. “My husband is the reason we are able to travel, monetarily as well as because of his vision. I sometimes wonder how in the world I obtained such a man. His father was a great military man and landowner and all of his wealth was bequeathed to Stephen, who certainly takes advantage of it. My husband has seen the world, and I am obliged to him for sharing it with me. Our son here will reap much of the benefits as he is not to be left at home. You may think us careless, you may think we are rebels of society, and perhaps we are. I for one do not want my boy to become a rich, sniveling English brat. I desire that he should be reared a worldly, cultured, humble young man of principle, with knowledge and experience no textbook can teach.” Adele Whitfield certainly had enough to say for the two-thirds of their party who could not speak at all. Her ability to carry a seamless one-sided conversation impressed Evelyn, who had never met someone like Adele in her life. The English woman‟s tendency to prattle was at first daunting, but soon became a delight, as her heart was good and she certainly had no end of interesting topics to discuss. From Cuba to Panama, her company was highly valued and the majority of Evelyn‟s days were spent at her side. The Boy was shared between them, Evelyn playing or bouncing him about while Adele read her French poetry, and Adele colored with him while Evelyn drew her pictures. Some days Evelyn took the child while Adele remained with her husband for the morning or an afternoon. The Boy would clasp Evelyn‟s finger in his tiny palm as he led her about the ship with his chubby legs and feet, his eyes wide and hungry to receive what their small, Atlantic world had to offer. Evelyn felt a kinship with the wee lad, for though they possessed not words, they communicated in other ways. There was much pointing, much giggling, much shaking or nodding of the head. When she held him she sometimes buried her nose in the crook of his neck and shoulder and breathed in the soft smell of new life. In those moments Evelyn grew somewhat homesick for an existence she never intended to live, and her sadness would make way for anger towards Lucius, for he was close enough to blame. He was not the type of man who could raise a child as innocent and beautiful as this; he was too selfish, too proud, and it was because of him that Evelyn refused to have a child of her own. She gripped The Boy a little tighter, for right now, she had only him. Since the death of her father, she found herself connecting with someone, albeit a little someone. The clouds were changing from white to gray to marbled pink as Evelyn sat with The Boy on the poop deck, flipping through the pages of a picture book. Stephen Whitfield had called his wife away to assist him with his writings, leaving Evelyn and the child alone. The family was scheduled to reunite in the dining hall for dinner in an hour and Evelyn was invited. She had not yet had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Whitfield and looked forward to making the acquaintance of her friend‟s husband. She had observed him on the rare occasions he emerged from his stateroom; a tall and quiet sort of man, with kind, gray eyes and a full, black mustache. Always he spoke in gentle tones with his wife, his gentleman‟s hands ever upon some surface of her body, be it her arms, the small of her back or lightly caressing the tips of her fingers. In the few and fleeting moments she had born witness to his character, Evelyn deemed him a sensitive match worthy of her friend‟s affection. Stephen Whitfield was, it seemed, a true English gentleman. A chorus of male voices erupted into laughter behind Evelyn and The Boy and they looked around to survey the scene. The group of men had formed a clique nearby, her husband among them. As Evelyn turned to see him, a lock of hair fell out of her braid and caught the wind, furling out like a banner on the breeze. For an instant, he cocked his head as if to admire her, as if she were someone other than his willful bride. He motioned for his friends to follow him and they approached the bench. Evelyn protectively placed a hand on The Boy‟s head and pressed it to her shoulder. She had not held a discourse with her husband in some weeks and his presence alarmed her. Lucius Flynn had become something of a stranger. “Who ya got here, Miss Brennan?” Lucius asked. When he saw her sitting with that child, something like joy came to his heart, as if he were seeing an old friend after a long absence. He almost had a mind to ask if the child were hers! In an instant all their troubles seemed the occurrences of a past lifetime, as if he had read about them in the newspaper some months ago. Evelyn bounced The Boy a little. Shyly, he stuck a thumb in his mouth and gazed cautiously up at Lucius. Lucius smiled at him and returned his gaze to Evelyn. She looked so pretty sitting there, the ocean breeze causing her eyes to water a little and her cheeks to flush pink. And she looked young, like a girl unaccustomed to difficult circumstances. Though a little on guard, she was not conniving to slip away or play at defiant airs. With the child to think of, she had almost forgotten herself. “Gentleman,” Lucius announced, turning slightly towards his friends though his eyes were fixed, “this is my wife, Evelyn.” Surprised by the forward manner of his introduction, she nodded her head and tucked the loose strand of hair behind her ear. This was the first time in her life that Lucius had acknowledged her to anyone. The men lifted their hats and smiled at her. The night was young and no scent of alcohol followed them. Lucius was unexpectedly sober. One man rocked back on his heels and commented, “She‟s a lovely lady, Mr. Flynn.” The other, “A fine lady, indeed.” Lucius smiled. “Aye, she‟s a ruby of the finest sort.” They locked eyes for a moment. She had no idea what to think of Lucius‟ behavior and he was struggling to remember why this sort of pleasant encounter was not more recurrent. Were they not childhood friends? Did they not share the same past, the same present, the same future? Evelyn was such a beautiful woman, and Lucius had always had an affinity for beautiful women. He was not a bad sort of chap himself. He thought he was rather handsome, and a fine sport at that, as well as generally likable, intelligent and lively. Evelyn may not have much to say… indeed she had nothing to say… but she was spirited, certainly. And she had the ready approval of his friends, Brock and Bartholomew, who were now with him. Why in hell was it so difficult for the two of them to get along? Lucius had a sudden and overpowering desire to make amends. He was feeling fine, and it was a beautiful night; the sun was setting on the blue horizon, the stars were becoming visible on the opposite end of the hemisphere. Evelyn‟s hair was coming loose about her face, something Lucius found damn sexy. Whoever that child was, Evelyn seemed to like him, and that was a good quality in a wife: to admire children. After all, she would give him a son one day, wouldn‟t she? Perhaps their situation was not really all that bad. What kind of man could complain about embarking on the adventure of a lifetime with a girl as pleasing to the eyes as Evelyn Brennan? She was stubborn as an ass, to be sure, but there was nothing wrong with a little bit of passion. No, it was rather a good quality in a woman, especially in certain intimate situations. “My dear wife,” he addressed Evelyn, “you will dine with us tonight.” A look of bewilderment crossed Evelyn‟s face, inspiring a mixture of hope and fear in Lucius‟ chest. Was that a positive expression of surprise? His discernment told him no. “Mrs. Flynn,” he coaxed, “I should greatly enjoy your company.” Brock and Bartholomew exchanged a look of confusion over Evelyn‟s sudden change of title. Evelyn pulled a pocket diary from the folds of her skirt and began to write. I am to dine with the Whitfields. Lucius glanced at The Boy. “To whom this child belongs, I presume?” She nodded. “Have you somehow come under their employ?” Indeed I have not. They are my friends and it would be most rude if I cancelled our dining arrangements. Please, Lucius, do not ask it of me. She did not share his present temper of graciousness, it seemed. It was well, for he knew what might inspire her to see how gracious he could be. He leaned forward to speak softly into her ear. “It is my wish to dine with you. Please inform the Whitfields that I should very much like to make their acquaintance over dinner. I will meet you in an hour.” He touched her cheek with the back of his finger and departed. Evelyn stared ahead, her face tingling from his touch, breathless. The Steam Rose was not an elegant vessel by any means. The past couple of years of packing almost double her capacity had taken its toll. In her short life she had become an old woman of the sea, battered and used, tired but resilient. Her dining room, though once designed with modest glamour, was now anything but glamorous. At meal times she burst with diners, built only to suit one hundred but squeezing many more. As these diners were mostly men, they had given up shaving and cleaning their fingernails weeks ago. When Evelyn Brennan walked into the room, she expected to find it a raucous den of smoke and whiskers. That is exactly what she found; however, as she had dressed to impress that evening, the scene seemed to alter unexpectedly. A noticeable hush claimed the room; the smoke continued to ascend quietly while the whiskers turned in her direction, some more slack in their bewilderment than others. The attention, though somewhat anticipated, was overwhelming; even for one such as Evelyn, who was proud and quick to deflect moments of embarrassment. She had the slightest notion to flee, but was swift in reclaiming a sense of nobility. She was a lady of Ireland, after all. Why shouldn‟t the men stare? Lucius, who had punctually arrived, stood, the back of his legs causing his chair to scrape noisily out of the way. The Whitfields were not yet seen, but Brock and Bartholomew were present, themselves gaping. Brock was a barrel-chested, red-faced man of approximately six-foot-two, with dark hair, a sharp nose, thin lips and an accent to betray his Australian roots. Beside him, Bartholomew was decidedly less attractive, his eyes and lips hidden well behind thick, round spectacles and a silver bush of a mustache. He was an older man, stout and hairless on the top of his pink, shining head. “My good fellow,” he leaned towards Lucius, “your wife is a most remarkable creature. Where, in God‟s name, did you find her?” “In Ireland,” Lucius replied. “By Jove,” the older man sighed. “I daresay Ireland is not a waste of land after all.” Brock leaned forward against the table. “There‟s more that comes from Ireland than tracks of land and rotten potatoes, Barty. I‟ve got family that‟s Irish. Friends, too.” “Criminals, the lot of „em,” Bartholomew chuckled. “Your country is populated with the refuse of others.” “And a jolly lot of refuse I find „em.” Evelyn found her way to the gentlemen‟s table and the men rose to receive her. She blushed despite herself and sat down. The others followed suit, Bartholomew asking, “How „de do this evening, ma‟am?” while Brock and Lucius remained silent. The Whitfields soon joined the company, Adele singling out Brock as Evelyn‟s husband before introductions were made. “You must be my dear friend‟s other half,” she exclaimed, offering a hand. “Pleasure‟s all mine, to be sure.” Brock‟s eyes shot to Evelyn and she caught them unwillingly before he shook his head. “You are mistaken, madam. This is the man,” clapping his large hand on Lucius‟ back, “who has had the privilege of marrying your friend. This is Lucius Flynn.” Adele recovered quickly as she was accustomed to such blunders. “Oh dear, I am so sorry. Forgive me, Mr. Flynn.” She extended her hand to Lucius, who took it with a smile. “All is forgiven. I presume you are the Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield of whom my wife is so fond?” Stephen Whitfield merely smiled as his wife fanned herself with feigned humility. “Oh, it is we who are ever so fond of her. Evelyn is indispensable to me, I assure you.” The men quickly tired of Adele‟s affectionate speech and continued discussing the issue of convicts in Australia. Mr. Whitfield had brought a notepad to record any conversation that might enrich his writings, which he promptly produced and began to scratch with a pencil. Adele, who had left The Boy with another female companion for the duration of the meal, whispered some complementary remarks to Evelyn concerning the handsome and admirable countenance of Mr. Flynn but was soon drawn into the topic at hand. “Australia!” she proclaimed. “You, sir, are from Australia?” nodding towards Brock. Brock responded with a stern, “I am.” Evelyn regarded him as a personality who did not mix well with those whose social bearings were akin to Adele‟s. With a character contradictory to that of her friend, Evelyn found Brock strangely fascinating. He was older than her husband; nearing thirty, she guessed, and bore a rugged countenance that, when coupled with Lucius‟, made her husband look like an adolescent. The Australian had a strong jaw and thick eyebrows, with arms, she noted, roughly the size of the two masts on deck. “But haven‟t you heard, sir,” Adele continued, “that Australia is possibly as chock-full of gold as California? Perhaps even more so? It has only recently been discovered.” “I‟ve heard the rumor, yes.” “Pardon the inquiry; but why are you not sailing for home? Would you not do better scouring your own country than that of a foreign land?” All eyes turned to Brock, as Mrs. Whitfield proposed an interesting question. “It must seem horribly unpatriotic to a gentle English woman such as yourself.” “On the contrary,” Adele argued, “my husband and I understand that there are good and worthy things outside the limits of one‟s own soil. Just two years ago we were in Africa, of all places! So please don‟t misunderstand me. I meant nothing against your character, Mr.-” “Just Brock, ma‟am.” “Right. Mr. Brock, I only meant to question why you would forsake the comfort of your home to risk the whims of the ocean, disease, pick-pockets and God knows what else to visit a place you know nothing of, when your chances of making a fortune are just as good if not better in Australia.” “As you are not a man, Mrs. Whitfield, I‟ll forgive your assumptions that I am missing the comfort of home, as you say, and that it is merely fortune I seek. You have not bothered to inquire into my intentions for leaving my country, an act that was committed some ten years ago, before gold began springing up from the ground. There is more to California than her precious minerals. There is land that has not been cultivated, roads that have not been built, horses that have not been tamed. I am a man of the world, Mrs. Whitfield, and as you are acquainted with the wild sensations that are born of stepping into the unknown, you will understand that it is the power of discovering what has not been discovered that I am after.” Adele smiled and looked around the table. “A happy lot of adventurers we are,” she said. “And by what means do you chase your adventures, Mr. Brock?” “I‟m an inventor, ma‟am. I discover needs and offer solutions. I make life easier for other people, and they make life easier for me.” “A traveling inventor. How suitable for a man who wishes to tread ground that has never been tread, to touch what has never been touched.” Brock‟s eyes fell fleetingly on Evelyn Brennan. She felt them, grew hot and turned her attention to the wall opposite. “Right you are, ma‟am.” Stephen Whitfield continued to scribble, Bartholomew announced he was getting another drink and left the table, Adele shifted her attention from Brock, who fell silent, to Lucius, who was eager to learn more of the Whitfields. Adele‟s husband was finally inclined to join the conversation as he was asked to explain his latest work while Adele and Lucius interjected intermittently with witty remarks. Evelyn and Brock ate silently, ignoring the playful banter and abandoning themselves to thought. When all had eaten their fill, Adele expressed her apologies and rose to collect her son and retire for the evening. Evelyn followed suit and as the night air was pleasantly warm, she did not go immediately to her room but instead wandered on deck, where the stars bedazzled a velvet ceiling. A moment or two passed before she heard someone approaching and turned to see a dark silhouette against the heavens. As the figure advanced, the soft light of a nearby lantern fell upon his face and Evelyn knew him for the Australian. “You mean to snub cigars and a hundred filthy men for a paltry view like this?” he asked as he took his place beside her. “You couldn‟t even lower yourself to say goodnight. I might be offended if I didn‟t know your secret.” She examined him. What secret was that, she wondered? “My sister is a mute,” he explained. “She stopped talking after we lost our parents in a flood. Poor girl never recovered from the tragedy. What tragedy has fallen that you should cope so dramatically with silence, Mrs. Flynn? Or do you simply despise your husband and wish to avoid conversation?” Brock did not strike Evelyn as a discreet sort of man. She believed he sought wild horses because he was an untamed stallion himself. His comment did not surprise her, nor did she find the flirtation in any way attractive. Lucius was her own to scorn; as of yet she did not intend to share him. Brock smiled to himself and turned his gaze to sea. The black expanse was silent this evening; the only clue to its presence was the soft rustling of the wake and the occasional splash of water against the ship. Evelyn‟s companion did not speak again for some time. It was her observation that others were accustomed to expressing their pity by overcompensating for her inability. Because she could not speak, they endeavored to speak too much. Brock‟s silence was not common but it was welcome. “He was arranged for you, wasn‟t he?” he spoke presently. “I can tell when a man has not been seasoned for marriage. He did not choose you for a wife, nor did you choose him for a husband. And yet you are linked together. Am I right?” She studied the large man in the dim light of the lantern and slowly nodded her head. “I‟ve gotten to know Lucius,” Brock continued. “He hasn‟t had the opportunity to grow into a man. He‟s been sheltered and spoilt his entire life and now‟s his chance to prove himself to the world. He‟s not in a place to take care of a woman, not even if he wants to be. He‟s got to have his great adventure, and for him that‟s California. In Australia, when the Aboriginal boys are on the verge of becoming men, they venture into the outback to defeat the nature of their adolescence. It‟s called a walkabout; it‟s like a rite of passage. This is Lucius‟ walkabout, and you‟re going with him; but until he makes some of the journey on his own, you‟ll weigh him down like an anchor and he‟ll drive you mad.” He smirked. “It‟s already happening, isn‟t it? The only thing he can stand is the sight of you, and I don‟t blame him. But as for company, I‟ll venture to guess the two of you fail each other miserably.” Despite herself, Evelyn laughed. She need not say a word for Brock to understand her mind. This encouraged him further. “You‟re a little more difficult to read,” he told her. “You‟re young and full of vigor. You view opportunities in life as a means to an end, and leading up to the marriage you believed you could somehow make it work to your advantage. But things haven‟t gone according to plan, and now you‟re here when all you want is to be somewhere else. You hate the idea of California; it seems like a waste of time to you, so you‟re dragging your feet the entire way. Lucius is the nearest target for all your anger and frustration, and granted he has merited some of it of his own accord. But you‟re angry about something else, and you feel cheated out of your dreams in pursuit of your husband‟s. Am I right?” Evelyn did not realize she had been holding her breath. She let it all out in one long, slow exhale through pursed lips. “I have you pegged, don‟t I?” Brock grinned. She returned the expression and nodded. “I think California will be good for you,” he told her. “If there‟s a woman who can handle it, it‟s you. That ain‟t no circus show out there. The land is mean and it‟ll make claims that your dowry can‟t afford. Lucius thinks he will step ashore and find the hills sparkling with gold dust, but you know better. Your husband is a tenderfoot. He doesn‟t have what it takes to protect you. But if you stick with me, I‟ll make sure no harm comes to you. This world would be a much more dismal place if bereft of your lovely face.” Evelyn was quick to understand the Australian, and his meaning was dangerously attractive. She had made a lawful promise to belong to Lucius, but God knew her heart was not ready to be tendered to a man any more than Lucius was ready to be burdened with a wife. Their vows were the result of a wicked man‟s plotting; not holy, not destined. Here was a real man who seemed to desire her, to understand her, who would not drag her along as Lucius had done. It was hardly fair that she should be tethered to a Flynn, when it was a Flynn who had destroyed the Brennans beyond the possession of a name. But how was Evelyn to remain with Brock? Would he simply follow her and Lucius around California under the pretense of being a friend? Or did he earnestly desire Evelyn to somehow abandon Lucius? The idea sat like coal in her chest and tasted of bitterness. Lucius was not Banning Flynn. Should he be punished as though he were? He might be a simpleton, but she did not think him cruel. Could she be so heartless towards him? Her confidence wavered. Evelyn had never intended to destroy her husband; she wished merely to be free of him. However, if Brock were right, she was only weighing Lucius down. She was holding him back from becoming a man. She did not want that for him. It was not fair. She thought of how he had regarded her on deck earlier that evening, how he had whispered in her ear and touched her cheek. If not passion, there was some trace of affection, though it was fleeting and scarce. Had Lucius fallen in love with her after all? And if he had, was she vindictive enough to abandon him? He could simply be trying to seduce her. After all, he had attempted it once before. “Evelyn,” Brock‟s voice retrieved her into the moment. Their eyes caught and held each other. Her heart raced. She thought him painfully handsome. He was smart, weathered and mysterious; he was so much more a man than the boy she had married. “You deserve better,” he told her. His large hand brought hers to his lips, where he bestowed a lingering kiss. “Goodnight,” he said, and turned and walked away. When she returned to her stateroom, she found Lucius sitting on his cot, reading a newspaper that had been circulating the ship, dated the week before. His presence startled her, as she was always the first to return for bed. Upon her entry, he smiled a little nervously. “Evelyn,” he said. “I thought I would meet you here. Where have you been?” She took out her pocket diary, but he spoke once more. “Never mind that. By the slight tousle of your hair I can see you were on deck. Was the air nice? Are you refreshed?” She was uncomfortable and he could see it. He rose, disregarding formalities. It was play-acting to be formal with Evelyn. She was stiff as he stepped towards her, stretching out an arm to touch the shawl about her shoulders. “Let me help you get comfortable. My God, Evelyn, I‟m your childhood friend, not the devil. You needn‟t act so haughty with me. Let down your guard. I‟m not going to hurt you. I didn‟t inherit my father‟s black heart.” Her shoulders softened a bit, but she was still tense. He removed the shawl, draped it on her cot as gracefully as he could manage. To help her relax, he took a step back and placed a tender hand on her arm. “There. You see?” As she looked at him, he allowed his hand to fall at his side. She did not move. “If you will not let me touch you without acting as if I am an apparition, will you at least let me talk to you? I‟m afraid we‟ve gotten off to a bad start. We have to stop acting as if the other does not exist. I want you to look at me as if I exist, Evelyn.” Her countenance did not change and he could feel his temperature rising. He had intended to meet her in this room, to tell her how beautiful he found her, to woo her; if not into bed, then at least into good standing. She mocked his intentions by standing there, still and cold as a block of ice. “I, for one, made the decision to look at you. And do you know what I saw earlier? I saw a lovely woman sitting in the poor light of dusk, quiet and alone, and all I wanted was to sit beside her. You don‟t ever have to speak a word to me, Evelyn. You don‟t ever have to take my hand or come to my bed but by God, would you at least treat me like another human being? You regard me as though I have no soul; but I do, and it‟s wounded by your cold disdain. Am I really so repulsive to you? I tip toe around this boat for your sake when all I‟d like is to take a walk with you every now and then. Everyone else knows your pretty face better than I do. They see you every day; they‟ve come to know you, to remark on how sweet and considerate you are. But I don‟t know that girl. Every once in a while I catch a glimpse and I am stunned. I have to steady myself on a railing and remind myself that here is Evelyn Brennan, the lass I married no more than a month ago. But the second I come too close, the instant you catch a hint of my presence, you turn to stone. You won‟t even give me the chance to be better for you. To live up to your standards. I don‟t even know what they are! How could I? What am I to you, Evelyn? Who am I in the court of Princess Evelyn? for I sure as hell know I‟m not the prince. Am I a jester that you laugh at me? A subject that you rule over me? A soldier that you command me? Tell me, o great lady, that I may know how best to win your favor.” His speech had at first shamed her, now she felt humiliated. Her cheeks flushed an awful red, her ears burned and she had to cast her eyes upon the floor. “Tell me plainly, Evelyn,” he continued, “do you blame me for your father‟s death?” She hesitated, then shook her head no. Of course not. She did not think Lucius capable of murder. That was his father‟s deed; not his. “Do you blame me for my father‟s treatment of you? For your office within the company that required much of your human strength? For your reclusion and forced, puritanical humility?” She could not hold his father‟s wrath against him; however he might have acted justly on her behalf. He might have exercised some authority in allowing more leniency. But Lucius was always gone; how could he have known how harsh her existence was made to be? Again, she shook her head. “Do you blame me for my English heritage? For the ruination of my name in a land we both love, a land ravished with hunger and poverty, with a people who long to rise up against their English oppressors?” No. She could not hold his name against him. It would be foolish to do so. “Then lastly, wife, do you blame me for taking you and your fortune to California, a land where my father‟s reach does not extend, where we may wait out the unrest of our country in safety and prosperity?” Her pride was ruined. In defeat, her head trembled back and forth a last time. She thought of Brock, of his interpretation of Lucius‟ character, and she had difficulty reconciling it with the likeness before her. Lucius made a strong case for himself; he did not seem so silly now. “Then your quarrel is not with me,” Lucius told her, his voice softening. She could hear his breathing quicken as he closed the space between them. His fingertips brushed against hers. She looked up at him and saw the expectations he would not vocalize. As he leaned over to kiss her, she found she could not face him and turned away. He was silent a moment. In truth he was not surprised by her rejection. A part of him expected it. He had been too hasty with her, and yet he felt wounded. She owed nothing to him; still he felt cheated. “I see,” he whispered presently. “Your objection is to my character. Then I am not a jester, a subject nor a soldier, but a leper to be cast outside your walls, to be mutinied for the quality I cannot change. I am grateful for your honesty, Miss Brennan. Good night.” Things became much as they had been before. The following morning when Evelyn rose from sleep, Lucius was already gone. She did not see him that day, nor would she see him about the ship again until they neared their destination in Panama. His hours were spent in the saloon, drinking and gambling, while hers were in the company of Adele and The Boy. Adele had much to say about their meal together, as she had found Mr. Flynn and his friends most delightful and capable of stimulating conversation. The passengers of the Steam Rose were warned to pray against foul weather, as the Port of Chagres was only days away. The ship would anchor a mile beyond port, as the waters were too shallow for berth and passengers had to be ferried ashore. If a tempest blew in, the waters would be too dangerous for the ferries to operate and the Steam Rose would be forced to bide her time. Rations on the ship were running low, so the sooner they reached land, the less anyone would have to go hungry. Evelyn was updating her diary on the progress of her journey when a large man seated himself beside her. Adele and her son were in their stateroom for a midday rest so she was alone. “Are you writing about me?” he asked with a charming grin. Evelyn smiled and turned to the next page, which was blank. If I was I wouldn’t tell you. She wasn‟t. Brock pulled out a cigar, struck a match and puffed. The sweet smell of tobacco and wood filled Evelyn‟s nose and she found her eyes threatening to close from pleasure. The fragrance was reminiscent of her father. Brock inhaled and pulled the cigar from his lips, offering it to Evelyn. She had never tasted tobacco before, had never had the opportunity. Gratefully, she accepted it and was careful not to suck the aromatic air in too swiftly. She dragged slowly, keeping the smoke in the cavern of her mouth. She allowed it to sit for one second, two, then gradually and smoothly released it into the air like steam from a kettle. The taste lingered, however; making its way into the bridge of her nose where it remained for some time. She returned the cigar regretfully and hoped Brock would offer it again. “Has anyone told you about Chagres?” he asked. She shook her head no. He hesitated a moment and she wondered if he was waiting for her to write an answer. She did not know what to write so she simply watched him. “I‟ve heard about it,” he said presently. “And if what I know is true, we‟ll have to be quick about our business and get out of there as soon as possible.” He looked at her to make sure she was listening. If she understood the dangers ahead, she would be more inclined to remain with him. “No doubt your husband has taken every precaution,” he mocked, “but if he‟s got insurance, it don‟t cover Chagres. Not for more than twenty-four hours; and if you stay in that town as long, you‟re good as dead. You drink the water, you‟re dead. You eat the food, you‟re dead. We‟re not to linger. “Panama City is where the ships are to San Francisco. To get there from the Port of Chagres, we‟ll have to travel upriver to Los Cruces and over land from there. Now these men know about Chagres,” he nodded to the other passengers on deck, “and they are just as disinclined to spend the night. It‟s gonna be a race, Mrs. Flynn. The moment we get ashore, we must secure a bungo up the Chagres River. That‟s a canoe, and they only hold three or four people. There will be a rush; not everyone will have a seat, and some will be forced to take the jungle route. I say „Good luck‟, but that won‟t be us. I‟m not about to wrestle a croc outside my own country. “Your husband won‟t know how to survive out there. He may have done his research but he hasn‟t got the experience. You stick with me and I‟ll make sure you get out of Chagres without a scratch, all right?” Evelyn listened with growing anxiety. She took up her pencil and scribbled, I have known Lucius all my life. I cannot just leave him in Chagres to die. “He can tag along if he can keep up. I am quite fond of the bugger myself, but you are my priority.” And what of the Whitfields? Surely we will help them too? “Cranky, it‟s just like a woman,” Brock muttered. “I‟m sure Stephen Whitfield is more than qualified to see to his own family. They may be white as cream but they have been abroad. I don‟t think you need to worry about them.” Evelyn stared at the Australian, his frightful information turning into horror stories in her imagination. She did not wait for him to offer again, but instead reached out and took the cigar from between his lips in the middle of a drag. She stuck it in her mouth and puffed the hell out of it. Brock chuckled and offered a hand. “Partners?” She received it. She didn‟t think she had a choice. Partners. The sky was cloudless. The wind was but a breath. The Steam Rose dropped anchor at eight in the morning off the coast of Panama as her passengers crowded her decks, laden with luggage and eager to be among the first to board the ferries into Chagres. “You best expect your pocket book to remain open from now on,” a crewman told Lucius as he shouldered through the crowd. “The last three years have turned all the natives into entrepreneurs. Ten dollars used to get you up the Chagres River to Las Cruces. Now, you won‟t find a native willing to take you aboard a bungo for less than fifty.” Lucius barely heard the man. He was looking for Brock, for he knew that as long as he stuck with the Australian, he and Evelyn had a chance of making it to Panama City. But where was Evelyn? She had been in his wake as he left the stateroom, but the hallways were over crowded. Perhaps he had lost her in the chaos. It was not a good time for the two of them to be separated. As his wife, she was his charge, his responsibility. He could not lose her in Chagres. He would not. “Damn it,” he muttered as his focus altered. Brock would have been easy to locate; Evelyn was another story. Brock stood a head taller than everyone else while Evelyn was a tiny thing. He looked for her red hair. Lucius spotted the white hat of a woman and called out. He managed to reach her, but instead of Evelyn, it was Adele Whitfield. The Boy clung to her neck, a bonnet on his head to shield it from the harsh sun. Stephen was nearby, one hand latched firmly to that of his wife. “Mrs. Whitfield,” Lucius shouted, as the ruckus of the many travelers was almost a roar, “have you seen my wife?” Adele greeted her friend‟s husband with one of her brilliant smiles. “My dear Mr. Flynn, I do believe I saw her! Can you believe all of this excitement? I can scarcely catch my breath!” “My wife,” Lucius recalled Adele to the topic at hand. “Oh yes! I saw her with your friend, Mr. Brock.” Lucius was somewhat relieved. It would not be difficult to find her now. He thanked Mrs. Whitfield and scanned the crowd once more. There was an outburst of shouting and applause as someone announced the ferries were drawing near. Another commented on the scandalous attire of the natives. A few men burst into laughter. Adele led her husband after Lucius as he searched for his wife and friend. Brock was seen first and as Lucius drew near, he noticed his friend had placed his body protectively around Evelyn, to keep her from being flattened from the pressing bodies around them. When Evelyn spotted Lucius, she started. She had lost sight of him in the hall outside their stateroom and believed it may be for the last time. How easy it had seemed to lose him. He was there one moment, gone the next, and then Brock had appeared, gripped her firmly by the arm and pulled her on deck. Her sight, her smell, her orientation was completely overwhelmed by the handsome brute. He was to take her ashore; she would follow him to California. In a sweep her decision was made for her; Goodbye Lucius. It felt wrong. It must be wrong, and when she saw him approaching through the wave of passengers, she knew it was not meant to be. A smile threatened to overcome her lips and there came the strongest urge to go to him. And then he spoke, and it was like Ireland itself had found her. “Thank you, my friend,” he said to Brock, “for seeing my wife to safety. You will help us, then? In Chagres?” Brock nodded a stern reply. Moments later the ferries arrived, and there was a general hubbub as passengers fought and squeezed their way aboard. Brock pushed Evelyn from behind and Lucius and the Whitfields followed. In the process, Adele was elbowed in the face and given a bloody nose. As she was unable to fetch her kerchief, she bled out over The Boy and her white dress. Her son was frightened by the ordeal and emitted a wail, refusing to be subdued until all were settled aboard the ferry. An eerie calm betook the crowd once they stepped off the Steam Rose, as if catching their breath before the coming tempest. Evelyn offered to take the child while Adele‟s husband came to her aid, pulling his own kerchief from his chest pocket and holding it to his wife‟s face. “Tilt your head back, there you go. You are so very brave, my darling.” Evelyn and Lucius watched, themselves curious and somewhat shamed by the attentiveness of Mr. Whitfield and the resilience of his wife. Mrs. Whitfield, though obviously shaken, managed to laugh. “Dear me,” she babbled from beneath the hanky, “I‟ve managed to make such a mess of myself! How embarrassing. Mr. Whitfield, as we are not in England, do you think it would be terribly uncouth if I adopted the native attire? I daresay all the women here shall be bare-breasted!” At this remark, all eyes on the ferry turned to Adele. Lucius laughed aloud. “It won‟t do to run about like this,” Adele continued. “I may frighten people!” “It may be to our advantage,” Stephen Whitfield smiled. “But I daresay you attract attention wherever you go, my darling Adele, nose-bleed or not.” “How is my boy?” she wondered, head back and eyes closed with one hand securing her great white hat from falling into the sea. The child had calmed and was occupied with staring at the dark native rowing the boat. Evelyn slightly jostled him on her knee and ran her fingers through his short, fine hair, his bonnet lost in the fray. A bit of his mother‟s blood had spotted his cheek, which Lucius noticed and decidedly licked his finger to blot away. As he gently cleaned the child‟s face, Evelyn regarded him with veiled interest. “He‟s fine,” Lucius told his mother. “I think you‟ve ruined him for adventure already, Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield. He‟s quite taken with Central America and we have not even run ashore.” Adele chuckled. “He is so like his father.” “On the contrary,” Stephen argued, “he is fascinated by all things fearsome and queer. Intrigue has married him to the cultures of the hidden world. He is very much like you, my dear.” Adele gripped her husband‟s hand. “I married no such culture. I married you.” Uncomfortable, Evelyn turned her attention from the tender scene, kissed The Boy‟s head and watched the shore draw ever nearer. Another ferry had already beached and its passengers were running into the foliage. “Prepare yourselves, mates,” Brock uttered quietly. “The Rush is about to begin.” Two natives ran towards the ferry to pull it ashore. As they approached, Brock reached over to take Evelyn‟s hand. Startled, her eyes darted to his. “Don‟t let go,” he whispered. “Remember what I told you.” She nodded, unblinking, and beside her Lucius watched in confusion. But there was no time for him to contemplate the scene before him. Before the ferry had come to a stop, her passengers began jumping off the sides, luggage in tow. The boat rocked violently, threatening to capsize. Evelyn‟s grip on The Boy tightened in fear. What transpired was a frantic blur of motion and adrenaline. The boat ran ashore and Brock half-dragged Evelyn from it, The Boy still situated on her hip. She did not have time to return him to his mother, but instead ran, her skirts twisting about her legs as the others followed. Lucius called after her, Adele called after The Boy. They rushed forward in a state of near-insanity; the Australian determined in his progress, the others somewhat frightened and bemused. Surrounding them were others who shared the same goal: to secure a seat up the river Chagres. It was a matter of survival. A crowd was gathering at the banks of the canal, where the natives had readied their cayacas to row travelers up to the river Chagres and onward to Los Cruces. Some were already slipping away, passengers aboard. Brock barged like a juggernaut through the crowd, dragging Evelyn to the front with the others close behind. Protests arose and there was a good deal of pushing and shoving. The crowd swelled as men attempted to swarm the bungos. The natives, their frustration rising, pushed back and attempted to save their canoes from becoming over-laden with the eager travelers. The white men, in their determination, would not heed and continued to drive forward. Brock had withheld a bargaining chip he now decided to play. He pulled a revolver from his belt and thrust its cold steel against the forehead of a native. “Take us upriver, mate,” he demanded. The effect was somewhat muted. The native‟s face remained stoic, statuesque. Still the crowd grew, still it throbbed, still it threatened. A shot cracked through the hot, humid air and immediately, silence ensued. The Australian withdrew the barrel and turned to see what had transpired. He had not fired. Another native, some ways up the canal, had witnessed Brock produce the revolver. His patience exhausted, he produced a weapon of his own, fired and missed. Stephen Whitfield, who stood only a short distance from Brock, received the blow to his chest and fell to the earth in a crumpled heap. The crowd was subdued, the native pleased to withhold any more acts of violence. Adele looked unblinkingly at the collapsed form of her husband, her mouth set in a straight line. Slowly, ever so slowly, she noticed the absence of his hand in hers and reached down to reclaim it. He lay unmoving, oblivious to her touch. The statuesque native had not moved in the course of events that transpired. He stared unbroken at Brock and said, “Now. You give me weapon. You get in boat.” Brock settled that his revolver was perhaps the only form of payment this man would be tempted to receive. Behind him, the growing crowd of gold seekers watched in silence. The Australian parted with his weapon, his eyes narrowed at the man. “You drive a hard bargain, mate.” The native holstered the revolver in the animal skin around his waist. “You offer,” he retorted. Brock stepped forward into the cayaca, his grip firm around Evelyn‟s wrist. She was hesitant; her feet dragged with each step as her eyes were locked on her friend, the widow Adele. The Boy cried; more from the loud crack of the native‟s gun than from the life it demanded. She tried to shush him, but her attempts were feeble. Lucius came beside Adele to check for her husband‟s pulse. It was for her sake, really; the man was obviously dead. As he suspected, there was no sign of life. Lucius stood, his mind settled that the poor woman not be left behind. “Mrs. Whitfield, we must go,” he told her, his voice struggling to remain firm for threat of pity. Adele did not move. “He should be buried,” she said quietly. Indeed, he should be buried. But to remain another moment would mean forsaking passage upriver. It would mean risking Chagres; it would mean death to them all. As Lucius had no heart to argue with the English woman, he quietly bent down to gather her into his arms. To his surprise, she did not resist him; nor did she help him. She was entirely limp. When all were seated in the bungo, the statuesque native and another pushed off into the canal and the journey upriver began. Evelyn wrenched free of Brock, who seemed not to notice, to attend to her friend. For the first time since they were introduced, Adele was silent. Not hysterical, not belligerent, but silent. Everyone thought it strange, for though the woman was more pale than usual, she was eerily collected. After three miles, the canal emptied into the river Chagres. Hills rose up from either bank, the foliage grew dark and dense, the song of birds filled the air and insects flitted about with insufferable consistency. They were flicked and swatted at first, but after many hours were completely ignored. The bungo passengers hadn‟t the energy to confront these pests any longer. Though the temperature had been stifling on shore, it dropped dramatically as the company advanced deeper into the jungle. Shivering, Evelyn produced a shawl from her day bag. She studied Adele, but the woman‟s appearance had not changed. She remained still and cool. Evelyn caught Lucius‟ eye; he looked confused and shrugged. His wife tugged on her shawl to intimate her request. Comprehending this, Lucius dug into his own bag and pulled out a jacket, which he draped about Adele‟s shoulders. She received it, moving for the first time in hours. “Thank you,” she said quietly, as if waking from a trance. Her lip trembled as she sighed. “I did not realize the tropics might grow so cold. It makes sense, however; the sun is quite veiled, isn‟t it?” The trees loomed overhead, their broad leaves forming a canopy across the inverted valley of sky. The light of the river hall through which they passed was muted and dim and all seem washed in shades of deepest blue and darkest green. Adele looked at Evelyn, whose eyes were soft and compassionate. The mother reached out her arms to receive her son, who had fallen asleep in his caretaker‟s lap. “Will you give me my son?” Adele asked. “See how his skin responds to this cool air! I shall wrap him up in this coat with me. For God‟s sake, Evelyn, don‟t look at me like that. I can hardly bare it.” Adele took The Boy and snuggled him into the folds of Lucius‟ jacket. “There, there,” she cooed at him, “Mummy‟s got you, dear.” Lucius could not bare the woman‟s calm resolve. She looked like death itself yet she did nothing to relieve the pains in her heart. She had just left her husband to rot in the jungle. Was she mad? Had the incident caused her to slip into lunacy? Lucius felt nauseous. Stephen Whitfield had been a good man, a gentle man, and his wife had loved him most ardently. That day, the series of events were quite horrific; on setting out for California he had calculated many expenses, but this cost he had not considered. If Adele had responded to the tragedy in a natural manner, perhaps the repercussions would be easier to bear. As it was, Lucius was nearly mad with confusion. He wished to help the woman but he saw no way in which he could. Her posture did not call for comfort; her countenance read that perhaps nothing had happened at all. It was most unnatural. Lucius turned from Adele Whitfield and managed to keep her out of his sights for the remainder of the day. Evelyn, who struggled with feelings similar to Lucius‟, wanted only to reach out to Adele, to hold her, to soothe her. But the widow‟s bearing did not invite such acts of benevolence. For the first time since Evelyn had known her, Adele wished to be left alone. The sky imparted a few drops as a warning; then the torrents fell. Heaven‟s floodgates opened wide and in an instant, all below was sodden through. Brock, the Flynns, Adele and her boy trudged silently up the muddy river bank and towards the two mangy huts, standing dark and unwelcoming against the jungle foliage. A few travelers had already arrived and others would be there presently. Food was prepared and as the company was ravenous, everyone ate as soon as their bags hit the floor. Adele did not eat. As more and more travelers arrived, the huts filled; bodies pressed in until there was barely room to sprawl and the supply of food was wasted. Those who arrived last did not eat at all and there was much cursing and grumbling. A few arguments ensued; fights broke out. The clamor was alarming to everyone except the widowed woman, who seemed to notice nothing at all. Sometime passed midnight, stillness prevailed. The voices of man grew quiet and the song of night began. It sounded of rain; endless rain. The drops pelted against the thick mud walls, falling like a chorus of steady drums. Adele Whitfield sat awake, listening to the music, her son breathing the heavy breath of sleep upon her lap. There was a rustling beside her; Evelyn stirred, her eyes open and shining faintly as she gazed upon her friend. The poor woman sat still as a ghostly pillar, but Evelyn sensed a tension in the air, as if change were brewing. She sat up and scooted close to Adele. Evelyn was unfamiliar with affection, but was inspired to reach for the woman‟s hand. Adele showed no sign of recognizing the touch. After some moments, Adele sighed. Her breath came in unsteady waves. It sounded a struggle, like a woman fighting off emotion. Evelyn tightened her grasp on the porcelain hand. “My faith has left me,” Adele whispered. Evelyn waited for more. It did not come for a long time, for Adele was searching for the strength to speak. “And yet,” she finally continued, “I have seen it fulfilled. Stephen told me he could not see himself growing old by my side, that one day his life would be left in some foreign land. It was how he wanted to die. He prepared me for this, you see. This jungle is his Elysium.” Adele nodded to herself. “And yet- and yet I was not prepared. On the contrary, I always hoped he was wrong. Or that somehow we would one day reach an age where I knew I could part with him. Perhaps the color of his hair would change or lines would dig around the corners of his eyes and I would look at him and know the time had come. We could walk into the jungle together; I could look into his eyes and see them begin to fade away. I could tell him goodbye and know he was happy. His prophecies had come to pass and his dreams- his many dreams of death come upon him. He would be aware of the glorious moment and for his joy I would know no grief. I suppose I thought I would see him pass through; that before I lost sight of him, I would catch him somewhere between heaven and earth. “But this is unexpected. This is not how I imagined it would be.” Adele turned her eyes to the young woman beside her; Evelyn saw them glisten in the dark. “I‟m not ready, Evelyn. We have a child, you see. He‟s so little. He hasn‟t had time to know his father. Stephen did not get to see his son grow; never heard his son speak. I thought we would have more children. I always imagined us with a lot of children.” At this she leaned over her son and kissed his forehead. She sniffled; a tear slipped down the curve of her cheek. “In Africa, we saw strange things. I cannot begin to describe them in their entirety; but I can tell you they caused me to question everything the western world has ever taught me about God. In Africa, there is no noise. There is nobody telling you what to believe or what you should pray. And when you settle in your heart to listen, God speaks very loudly. He tells you to ask, to ask whatever it is you want of him. When there is no food, he wants you to ask for food. When there is no water, he wants you to ask for water. Do you see what I am saying? In Africa, there are needs. Great needs, Evelyn. Needs that are not hidden behind pride, poise, finances or social class or feigned propriety. Emptiness is not tucked away. Voids are not covered up. Cripples want to walk. The blind want to see. And the dead…” Adele choked, took a deep breath. She whispered, “One night a man we knew was beaten beyond recognition and killed. Our friends went to him and the following morning, that same man sat at our table, alive. Naturally, this revelation went against everything I ever thought I knew. Again I heard God say to me, „Ask! And it shall be given you.‟ And then this morning-” Adele wept freely for a few moments. “And then this morning, Stephen‟s life was taken right in front of me and I had no words. Evelyn, I could not ask. Everything in me wanted to ask and yet my voice failed me entirely. And I wondered if it would be fair, you see. Here my husband had met his glorious end. Would it be selfish of me to take it from him? I do not know. I cannot know, and it tears me up inside. And now I weep, yet I know not if I should weep! Everything is now called into question and it is here my faith falters. Without Stephen to lead me, I know not where to go. God is silent, Evelyn. He is so very silent this night.” Adele shed the last of her tears, sighed a great sigh and rested her head upon Evelyn‟s shoulder. Evelyn kissed it, and after a time the women finally drifted into sleep. The following morning, the rain ceased, but the air was still dense and sticky. The thickness of the humidity made everyone feel hot and claustrophobic. The natives refused to commence upriver until the heat of morning began to wane. They would travel by dusk. It was a miserable day. Mercifully, Adele slept for the majority of it, for she was exhausted and famished after eating nothing the previous day. Evelyn watched over The Boy and took him exploring around the twin huts. They found enough plants and bugs to keep them occupied for hours, while Brock and Lucius played cards with a few other men. During the morning, they were generally quiet; everyone was in a foul mood. But by afternoon, the drinking began and spirits rose. Someone produced a harmonica and singing ensued. The company set out as the sun descended. The jungle quickly grew dark; torches were lit to aid their vision. The natives rowed in silence for many hours, the moon rose white and heavy in the night sky. As nocturnal creatures woke and roamed the surrounding hills, their exotic music filled the air. Some were pleasant, chirping sounds; others were louder, deeper, more frightening. All were mysterious and foreign. The Boy was soon asleep in Adele‟s arms. She had received him upon departure, relieving Evelyn of her valuable assistance. Evelyn was exhausted, for she had little exposure to children before embarking on this journey to California. The Boy had required her attention for the whole of the day. As much as Adele adored her son, Evelyn had wished to give her time alone. The poor woman had needed rest, and Evelyn was only too happy to take the child in allowance for sleep. Now, however, as the moon hung languorously overhead, the younger woman felt her eyes grow heavy. The company was quiet; no one spoke for some time. Evelyn‟s head began to nod and soon drooped to her chest. She slept. She did not know how many hours had passed when a strange noise startled her awake. The moon, she noticed, was no longer visible, but the landscape was still in shadow. At the narrow bow of the cayaca, the stone-faced native chattered in his indigenous tongue. Though she could not understand the language, the tone sounded anxious. She leaned forward to see what was happening. Brock sensed her alarm and in the darkness, he turned and placed his hand on her thigh. Lucius, who sat behind Evelyn, was oblivious to the gesture. “There are trees in the water,” Brock told her, his voice low and hushed. “No need to worry.” There was a loud crack as the cayaca was jarred against another protrusion. Everyone braced themselves against the sides of the canoe. “No need to worry?” Lucius reiterated. “I‟m glad you said that, Brock, because I‟m a little worried.” “What‟s going on?” Adele asked, her first words all day. The Boy had woken and begun to cry. The rear native began shouting things to the other. The stone-faced man shouted back. Thus they communicated, their passengers feeling all the more uneasy. “We‟ve hit a bit of an obstacle course, it would seem,” Lucius told Adele. “Hold fast to the child!” Adele tried to shush The Boy, but the cayaca jolted once more. The shouting continued. Evelyn reached forward and grabbed Brock‟s arm to steady herself. “I wonder if our rear man is trying to convey to our navigator that in order to avoid these dastardly collisions, we might row a bit slower,” Lucius said. “Going‟s too strong, mate,” Brock refuted. “We‟re going upriver!” “They can‟t see the trees, ya bloody galah. We go fast or slow, it‟s a fair go this bungo‟s gonna take some damage.” As they advanced, they could hear the underwater foliage scrape along the cayaca. Evelyn wondered how the small raft would hold up should it be impaled from below. Had their guides prepared for this? Was the wood of the canoe strong enough to withstand this natural onslaught? Or would their company soon be forced to swim ashore, the bungo sunken at the bottom of the river? What would happen to their belongings? The Boy? Evelyn turned to catch a glimpse of the child and his mother. Adele was holding The Boy tightly, her eyes betraying a slight sense of fear. Had she encountered dangers like this in Africa? Evelyn wondered. When the Whitfields decided to come to California, did they realize the risk? Did they know what was at stake? Evelyn, for one, had not imagined this. Lucius sat between Evelyn and the English woman. When his wife turned to look at Adele, he found himself studying her in the muted light. An air of courage had settled on the young woman‟s brow and as she glanced back at her friend, she smiled slightly. The gesture was meant for Adele, but Lucius received it for himself. He felt his mind ease a little. Apart from The Boy, Evelyn was the youngest and least experienced of their company. She had spent the first half of her life being pampered in an Irish mansion and the second half locked up in a dreary New York office. She knew nothing of adventure, yet how well she held up! She put the rest of them to shame, Lucius thought. Evelyn Brennan, though certainly stubborn, was also quite admirable. As she turned her body forward, Evelyn‟s eyes caught Lucius‟ for the briefest of seconds. He had been watching her. She held his gaze for a fraction longer than she intended, then lurched forward as the raft was impacted yet again. Evelyn found herself waving frantic arms in search of some security, but instead discovered a surreal sensation of floating nothingness. There was no wood beneath her feet, no rail to steady herself, no sturdy human form to cling to. In a blur of confusion she realized she could not breathe but was lost in a thick swirl of moving water. She had fallen into the river with nothing below, nothing beside and nothing above to give her leverage. She struggled, but in what direction she advanced, she did not know. Was she sinking? Was she ascending? She clawed at the water but found no form of resistance. She tried to swim, but the current seemed to scoff at her attempts. She was tossed against the old stump of a tree and the impact forced the remaining oxygen from her lungs. A foreign pressure sank against her chest as her heart threatened to stop. She thought she heard a muffled cry and wondered if it had come from somewhere inside of her, and then something touched her; something solid, something like a hand. It found its grip around her arm and lifted her up, up to the surface of the river and out of the water‟s clutch. Lucius and Brock worked together to bring the girl into the canoe, her long dress heavy from the weight of the water. She coughed, the pressure on her chest lessening with every sputter but her ribs aching from the collision with the tree. Her senses were a bit muffled. She could hear Adele worrying over her, could hear Lucius calling her name and Brock insisting that there was no harm done. She would be all right. Her wet clothes inspired a deep and racking chill. Lucius noticed her shivering and quickly pulled the shirt from his back to drape about her shoulders. When she showed slight reciprocation, he ran his fingers through his hair. “My God, Evelyn,” be breathed. “We nearly lost you.” She looked at him, nodded slightly and pulled his shirt a bit closer. Their wits were exhausted by the time they emerged in clear waters. Their bodies were racked, their spirits worn. Evelyn was still cold and damp, Lucius remained stiff with the idea that his wife had nearly drown and Adele was praying softly in a foreign language. Brock produced a bottle of rum and passed it all around. “Cheers, gentlemen,” he said. “Drink up.” Lucius was hungry for the taste of alcohol. He enjoyed a good drink, but tonight he felt as though he actually needed a drink. He was grateful to receive the bottle and took several swigs. The beverage burned as it went down, but it went down fast and he chased it with another and another. When he had taken his fill, he turned to Adele and offered. She declined. Should more obstacles rise out of the water, she would be in her right mind to protect her son. The others did not have the energy to worry about future perils, nor did they have the self-discipline to abstain. Lucius called to Brock to pass him the bottle, not bothering to offer any to Evelyn. She was a good girl, he reasoned, and he was feeling rather fond of her at the moment. After all, they had just survived a great ordeal together! He did not want her to be spoilt by a poor man‟s escape. Brock accepted the bottle, took another sip and held it out to Evelyn. “Your husband isn‟t feeling generous,” he told her. “But it‟s my bottle, and I‟m at my leisure. Have a swig, girl. It‟ll do you good.” The alcohol was taking effect. Lucius felt fine and light, but he thought he should take offense, so he responded accordingly. “I am very generous,” he argued, his words a bit slurred. “I was simply protecting Miss Brennan‟s innocence.” Brock smiled crookedly at Evelyn. “If she can smoke cigars, she can take a shot. Ain‟t that right, Evie?” “Cigars?” Lucius asked. Since when did Evelyn smoke cigars? He wished to inquire further but found the words too difficult to muster. He satisfied himself to watch as the Australian handed Evelyn her first bottle of rum. Brock treated the married girl like an independent woman and she was flattered. She accepted the bottle with a flirtatious smile of gratitude and took a confident swig. Upon first taste, the beverage was potent and smooth, but quickly turned hot and sharp as it passed through her throat. She had foolishly taken a mouthful and consequently, some of the liquor got caught on its way down. She began to cough, but chased it down with another drink. Brock raised his eyebrows and laughed. “Good onya, mate.” Turning to Lucius, “Your girl can take her grog.” Lucius waved him off. He was getting irritated with the Australian and did not know if it was because of the rum or because he really didn‟t care for the man. There was something off about the way Brock looked at his wife that set Lucius on edge. Evelyn‟s body relaxed; she grew warm and felt more at ease. She and Brock continued to pass the bottle and when Lucius was offered the last of it, he declined. His mood was darkening, so he sat brooding while Evelyn listened to stories of Down Under. Brock was a great storyteller when he had a bit of rum in him, and Evelyn felt as though she had gone into a trance. Though her body was sore from her mishap in the river, she hardly remembered it. The night was beautiful, the jungle alive and exotic. She felt heavy but light, her head swam and she was felicitously happy. Somehow everything Brock said was either fascinating or uproarious; she found herself nodding her head and laughing incessantly. She decided that she liked him. He was an intense character but at the moment, that quality made him incredibly sexy. She quite forgot about Lucius as she listened to the Australian‟s alluring accent, her heart swollen with the way his eyes devoured her in the dim moonlight. The giddiness eventually wore into sleepiness, the lightness gave way to weightiness, and soon Evelyn found her head beginning to droop. Brock had ceased telling his tales and all on the cayaca surrendered to silence. The jungle noises were like a lullaby that Evelyn could no longer ignore. She was lured into tranquility and allowed herself to fall forward, her head resting against the Australian‟s strong and welcoming shoulder. But she did not remain there long, for a hand grabbed her from behind and gently pulled her back. A voice asked if she was cold. She lazily shook her head no. The hand moved across her forehead and applied a little pressure. She succumbed for she had not the strength to resist, and soon she was resting against another man‟s chest. When she took a breath, she inhaled the smell of him. It was a pleasant smell; not sweet, not really attractive, but nostalgic. It was reminiscent of something she had known a long time ago. A place, perhaps. The smell claimed her thoughts, sweeping her away to the garden path that led to her father‟s house. The smell was like the dust of the earth, the wooden front door, the crushed grass beneath her feet as she ran to the loch. If she could just turn her face into it, perhaps the smell would envelop her. Perhaps it would become the place; perhaps the more she pressed into it, the closer she would be to home. Lucius cursed himself for a blind man. When he witnessed Evelyn‟s body fall into Brock‟s, something snapped. He did not want Evelyn to touch that man, to look at that man, to waste any more time listening to that man. Yes, Lucius was jealous, and the liquor made him bold. He reacted, somewhat worried that if he pulled Evelyn away from Brock she would resist, that she would slip from his grasp like the other times he had tried to close the distance between them; but the rum had softened her. She even seemed to welcome the change. He had cradled her head against his chest and she had turned into it with a contented sigh. Something like gratitude swelled inside of him and he closed his eyes for a moment. His chin fell softly against the crown of her head, the course hair of his unshaven jaw tickling her skin. The sensation roused her and as her lids opened, her eyelashes brushed against Lucius‟ neck. His breath caught in his throat and he swallowed hard. Evelyn was comfortable for the first time in hours; her back no longer ached from sitting straight in the cayaca. She watched the dark shoreline as they glided past, imagining strange forms dancing in the blackness. Then Lucius moved a little and her peace was interrupted; she found his arms wrapped about her and as a hint of sobriety set in, she blushed and tried to move away. His arms tightened, so she turned her face to look up at him. He sat still, gazing steadily upon her, his eyes soft and inviting. At once she felt a flood of relief, though she could not comprehend why. “Evelyn,” he whispered, and could whisper no more. She was driving him mad. It was a wonder he had kept his sanity this long. Legalities aside, Evelyn Brennan need only look upon a man to make him burn with desire. This was not the freckle-faced ginger he had played with as a child. This was a queen who knew her power and had used it to rule over him these passed months. He wished to conquer her, yet paradoxically wished to serve her. She had toyed with him, had led him about on a string, and as much as the chase thrilled him, he was desperate to close in on the kill. Evelyn Brennan may be his wife, but she no more belonged to him than she belonged to any other man. Lucius needed to secure her affections before someone else did. He peered past her at Brock, who had fallen asleep. Evelyn had entered into a subdued state of drunkenness. As she sat gazing at Lucius Flynn, she could no longer remember her list of imperfections regarding him. She knew she must endeavor to hate him, but she could not remember why. In the months since they had embarked from New York, his skin had darkened, his hair brightened, his eyes sharpened. He seemed less inclined to remain her indifferent partner than a man who commanded her affection, and there was something in this new sense of resolution that was somewhat appealing. Lucius had given chase, but he had not been a fool about it. When he got too close, she would shun him and for a time, he would ignore her. He refused to follow her around every bend in the road. Instead he cut corners, bursting through hidden hedges and demanding her submission, as he was doing now by the way he looked at her. On this night, she was not so sure she wished to break away, but was rather tempted to surrender. Lucius felt her waver, sensed her defenses go down. He pulled her face to his. His lips found hers and fiercely, hungrily claimed them. She responded, her mouth joining an unconscious rhythm with his, moving passionately in response to his pursuit. Her hand reached up and clasped his hair, her fingernails tracing patterns against his skin. As he exhaled she breathed him in; she could taste the rum on his breath, an amber richness both sweet and bold. He pressed a broad hand to the small of her back, closing any physical gap between them. She sensed his hunger and allowed herself to reciprocate. Her insides twisted and ached in a way that was completely foreign. But then a change came over her and she pulled away. “What is it?” Lucius whispered. At first, she was not certain. The rum was wearing off and though her body still felt peculiar, her mind was clearing. She was kissing Lucius. Lucius Flynn. The man she had sworn to loathe. The man she had been tempted to abandon. She could be an independent woman! The lady of Brennan House with no man to command her, no man to uproot her, no man to mislead her. The Australian who offered Evelyn freedom was seated at arm‟s length before her. He could get her safely away from Lucius, could help her reclaim her inheritance, could put her on a ship to Ireland. Couldn‟t he? Evelyn began to feel cold pins of suspicion. She turned from Lucius, trained her eyes on Brock. He had never sworn to help her with anything. Indeed, she had never asked. She had assumed that his plan was to help her, but now her discretion was called into question. Brock had never said anything of the sort. He had only tempted her to leave Lucius, to follow him into an unknown future. Brock was heading the same direction as her husband: California. He was a gold digger just like every other fool. She had almost deceived herself; had almost believed that Brock could be her ticket home. But he was no more the answer than Lucius Flynn. Evelyn closed her eyes in shame. She was a mouse caught between two ambitious felines. And she had played right into their claws. The men had toyed with her, intoxicated her, taken advantage of her. Lucius was just as drunk as she; his affections were not the fruit of passionate love. No, with Brock just three feet away, her husband was probably responding to his own jealousy. Lucius tried to pull her back to him, but she writhed from his grasp. “No,” he insisted. “What is the matter? There is nothing wrong with this, Evelyn. We are married. You are my wife.” Evelyn burned with self-reproach. It seemed only moments ago she had been swooning over the Australian. She had drunk too much, had forsaken her decency, her propriety, her ambition. She was no better than a common whore, and she hated herself for it. No, she would not allow Lucius near her again. Nor Brock. She was done with these men. They had forced her to abandon all self-control; she could not trust herself with either of them. She embraced her body with her own arms, stared into the darkness and isolated herself. Lucius cursed with vehemence. Yet again, he made himself the refuse of a cruel and vengeful goddess. Three times he had been rejected. As a man, he was sorely belittled. And by whom? A girl of sixteen! A rich, scheming, orphaned brat! Her lovely face was a poisonous trap; he had fallen in one too many times and now he swore to himself that he would not fall again. He would not be her Samson, ever succumbing to her deceitful charms. Evelyn Brennan would not be his demise. By law, she belonged to him. She was fettered to his side; he could make her life as easy or as difficult as he wished. It was time he took the upper hand. She had won this round; but her prize was his disdain. California The day grew hot as the hours dragged. Evelyn sat on a rock and watched passers- by, her chicken boiling in the pot and the smell of it rising into the air. Her stomach churned for want of its taste. She rubbed her forehead, perspiration dampening her sleeve. She felt sick. Pondering her actions of this morning took her deeper and deeper into a foul mood. In her tantrum, she had killed one of only three hens, limiting her supply to two layers. There was little money left to purchase another. Lucius had nearly drained her inheritance on travel luxuries and alcohol with no recompense to show for it. His luck with gold was a joke. Sometimes he would go a week before he found the slightest trace of yellow in a bed of brown. His wife resented his foolishness and his stubborn desire to remain in Apollo Diggings. They had exhausted many other camps before winding up here, and now they had no choice but to stay. Lucius had no intention of giving up. He was determined; yet each day that passed he grew more sullen. The deeper he sank into depression, the more he drank, the more he gambled, the more he lost. If he continued like this, they would die as paupers in this hell hole. Evelyn would be buried in the cemetery on the hill next to a baby or a Chinese immigrant named Yun and no one would remember her. Perhaps they would place her beside her husband and as the next generation inherited that land, the young ones would believe she and Lucius had been lovers. They would not know Lucius for a drunk and her for a mute. They would not know that they were only married by law, that in reality they despised each other. Their tombstones would be made of wood and within a few decades, their names would be washed away with age and time. The next generation would die and their wooden planks would spring up from the ground, overshadowing the others and leaving their small lives to be great mysteries for all eternity. Her legs were restless. She had read all of her books more times than she could count and all of the women of Apollo seemed to keep to themselves. She wondered if they thought her a fraud, that she was faking her handicap to avoid their camaraderie. Most of them were dancers or prostitutes and because Evelyn was a woman of elevated society, they lifted their noses when she passed by. In their eyes, they were working class women, respectable and independent. She was just a silly heiress from Ireland who wouldn‟t know how to flaunt an ankle or twist a wrist to attract a man. They had been in Apollo for two weeks. She had already explored the establishments of the community and was weary of them. She had no money to spend on new fabric, much less a sewing machine or other nice things. So when she could, she avoided walking into town where she might be judged or threatened by discontentment. Instead, she spent her days rereading the books she had memorized, thinking and drawing on what materials she could find. Later that afternoon, she went to the dining hall in search of a discarded newspaper. After reading it through a couple of times, she began tearing it into different shapes, amusing herself as best she could. The bartender was a man named Saul and he watched her openly, bored as she. His only customer was a small-framed Oriental woman, and she was sitting quietly with her head dipped over her glass, her fingertip trailing the rim round and round. Saul‟s booming voice filled the hall as he asked Evelyn how she was doing. The noise seemed to echo as it had few ears to receive it, startling Evelyn from concentration. She looked up, caught his eye and nodded to appease him. Not even the trace of a smile, Saul thought. He sighed aloud and started polishing some mugs. “Great,” he said, his Scottish accent rolling the r, “Two dumb beauties in the same hall. What do I do if a patron comes in requesting a song, eh? Are ya gonna make me sing to „em?” He looked at the girl at his counter, grinned and wagged his head. “Scare „em away, I would! Come on, lassies, at least give us a smile?” The girl at the counter turned her face away, lifted the heel of her hand to brush away a tear. Saul looked to Evelyn, his expression hopeful. She could not help but smile and he chuckled to himself. “Well, there‟s one small victory, anyway,” he said. “Another drink, my dear?” he asked the girl. She shook her head no. “And how „bout for you, missy?” he looked to Evelyn. “An ale, perhaps?” Saul filled a mug and came around the counter to bring it to Evelyn. He set it on the table with a thud, the foam sloshing over the sides and seeping into the wooden surface of the table. Evelyn wanted the ale, but she had no money to pay for it. She reached out and pushed it away, but Saul pushed it back. He winked and whispered, “On the house, lass.” Evelyn offered another smile, but it was pained by shame and loneliness. Her pride did not want to receive the gift; her desolation begged for it. She gripped the large cup with both hands and took a sip, the bittersweet taste lingering powerfully in her mouth even after swallowing. She winced a little but continued drinking. Saul watched for a moment, then nodded his approval and retreated to the bar. He was tempted to seat himself next to the poor girl, if only to keep her company; but in his mind he did not think it proper. She had a husband somewhere, he knew. He saw the wretch at mealtimes; a young and slovenly fool he perceived him to be. The men were all young. They were all slovenly, and the women here were not much better. Those who had come to Apollo had been paid to remain in Apollo; Evelyn and a handful of others were the only women in this camp who did not sell themselves and Evelyn, at sixteen, was the youngest of them all. She could be Saul‟s daughter. A quarter of an hour had passed when the Oriental woman rose from her stool. Her dark eyes flitted to the bartender, her slight chin nodded almost imperceptibly in gratitude. Saul nodded back. She sauntered across the hall, her movements trained, her neck long and curved like a swan. She approached Evelyn and sat beside her. Surprised, Evelyn looked at her questioningly, but the woman did not return her gaze. Instead, she reached over and grabbed Evelyn‟s only remaining sheet of newspaper. “May I?” she asked, her English tinted by her first language. Evelyn nodded, still bemused by the other woman‟s abrupt intrusion. As she fiddled with the newspaper, Evelyn watched her, studying her side profile. Her skin was creamy porcelain, powdered but streaked by tears. Her slanted eyes were blackened by charcoal, her cheekbones smeared with rouge. Her hair was piled up in a mess of lusterless black, her clothes immodest and tattered. She was small, very frail, with the hands of a woman who has seen many difficult years. She was no older than Evelyn. Her little fingers, though seemingly aged, worked gracefully at the paper, folding it over and over in various directions. When she was done, she held it up with a faint smile of accomplishment. “You see?” she said. “Crane.” But Evelyn didn‟t see the crane. She only saw the opposite side of the woman‟s face, where the porcelain skin was blackened beneath her swollen, unopened eye. What should be ivory was a sickening hue of bluish green, with surrounding shades of sallow pink. Last night‟s customer had been dissatisfied with her performance, so this morning she was having a drink before returning to work. Noting Evelyn‟s stunned expression, the girl quickly turned away and pointed at the torn shapes of newspaper. “Not art,” she shook her head with a trace of disgust. She tapped the paper crane. “This art. Japanese girl show me. I show you.” Evelyn pitied her. The Oriental prostitutes were no better off than slaves. They had been uprooted from their country and dragged to California, where they were sold each night to lonely miners and their insatiable need of the opposite sex. This girl had no value besides her beautiful face; but today, even that had been taken from her. “You no talk?” she asked. Evelyn shook her head. “You lucky. You no answer to no one. Eveleen, yes? That your name?” Evelyn nodded and the girl scrunched up her face a little. “No like. Hard to say. I call you Evie. Okay? Evie good.” She tapped her chest with her palm. “Jen. That my name.” With that, she stood to leave. “You keep crane. Pretty bird for you, Evie. I go to work. See you.” Evelyn watched her go, then picked up the paper crane and examined it. Slowly, she unfolded and folded it again, memorizing the pattern as she went. Central America Every muscle and bone in Evelyn‟s abdomen ached and her head throbbed at the slightest light. She was grateful for the way the rain clouds hung dark and ominous in the tropic sky. They would pass in a few hours, and hopefully by then so would her headache. They stopped to rest in a small riverside village, but by afternoon they were progressing once more. Again they encountered the river trees, but this time the logs had drifted to the water‟s surface and formed something like a dam. The natives were cunning in maneuvering through and after some time, the company pressed on unscathed. Their last day on the Chagres, no one spoke. Adele Whitfield struggled with the memory of her husband and found she had nothing to say apart from the occasional word of comfort or correction to her son. Lucius brooded, his temper hot towards Evelyn, who refused to look at him. Evelyn, who was naturally silent, carried herself in an unapproachable manner that none could bring themselves to defy. She had visibly removed herself from the company, obviously wanting nothing to do with the men and only occasionally looking at her friend Adele. Brock acknowledged Evelyn‟s sudden change in temperance with cool indifference. She was a woman, and women were prone to moodiness. She would warm to him soon enough. That night, they set up camp at the trailhead and in the morning, native guides arrived with mules, eager for American money. The river navigators, the stone-faced man and his companion, departed in the direction they had come, leaving the company to seek their uncertain futures. They hired a team to pack them and their luggage to Panama City. The rain began to fall in torrents an hour after they set out on the trail and though each of them was miserable, their guides did not seem to notice the weather. Evelyn wore a bonnet and held a parasol above her head, pained at the destruction of the fine fabric. Her boots and skirts were hideously stained with mud and dirt, her gloves greased from the well worn reigns of her mule. Her body revolted against the past several nights of little sleep, the jolting movements of the animal and her encounter with the river, and it was not long before she was having satisfactory visions of beating Lucius senseless. Yet again she was reminded of why she despised him and why she had been loath to embark on this ridiculous venture in the first place. She found herself peering inconspicuously at Lucius from beneath the brim of her bonnet. They were on a narrow path along a steep and rocky ridge. The going was treacherous; even the mules, who were accustomed to this journey, occasionally lost their footing and slipped forward. Each time, the sudden shock of insecurity left Evelyn frightened and breathless. She might very well die this way; might fall to her death with only a dirty, stinking animal to join her. Lucius was just before her; she had only reach far enough forward to grab hold of his shirt, tear him off his mule and take him down, too. The retribution would be sensible, she reasoned. If she was to die on this fool‟s errand, it would only be fair that Lucius should accompany her. Lucius was not oblivious to the apparent odium emanating from his wife; but he could not bring himself to care. Was she miserable? So was he. But unlike Evelyn, whom he had so carefully considered whilst planning this journey, he had every right to bestow punishment. She had none. She was absolutely insufferable; his attempts to reconcile their relationship had mattered nothing to her and now, he was done trying. Let her simmer in her abhorrence. Let her wallow in her loathing. She had brought this upon herself. They arrived in Panama City after nightfall. Their guides stopped just outside the city limits, reined in their animals and abandoned them to find their own way. The moon was full again, shedding insipid light on the decaying city before them. Evelyn watched, mouth agape, as they made their way through the streets in search on an inn, all of which were crumbling and shut up for the night. It was very late, perhaps after midnight. They would have to stay in the American camp, sleeping on the ground yet again. Evelyn‟s bruised body was less than eager to lie once more upon a bed of earth. They wandered for some time before finding the American camp. It had grown quiet with the hour, but there was a saloon and brothel nearby where sounds could be heard. The company meandered through the city of tents until they discovered an open area beneath a large palm tree. The men did not bother to set up tents; Brock collapsed on the ground with a sigh while Lucius set down his own bag and pulled out two blankets. He tossed Evelyn‟s into the dirt, leaving her to fend for herself. He was testing her now. The child, Evelyn thought. Was it impossible for him to act like an adult? She rolled her heavy eyes at him, snatched up the blanket and moved some distance away from both him and the Australian, where she took to assisting Adele with The Boy and their bedding. As Adele managed her things, she suddenly stalled. She froze so unexpectedly that Evelyn ceased arranging blankets to look at her friend. “My purse,” Adele whispered. Her frigid hands began to pat her person. “My purse, Evelyn. I do not have it.” Evelyn‟s eyes grew wide. “I had it here, secured to my waist,” Adele continued. “It is no longer there. Have you seen it? No? Will you help me search?” In the moonlight, the women tore through each of their belongings. Once those were exhausted, they searched the ground in case the purse had fallen. It was nowhere to be found. Evelyn went to Brock and shook him awake. She would not bother waking Lucius. “Cranky, sheila, what do you want?” the Australian stirred. “I can barely open my eyes. What‟s going on?” Adele, who had become somewhat frantic, told him about the purse. With a great groan, he stumbled to his feet and scratched his head. He had been dreaming when Evelyn woke him. Brock retraced their steps into the camp, but told the women to remain where they were. He did not want them wandering after him with the child. He lumbered about in a half stupor, his senses barely functioning for want of rest. After the greater part of an hour had passed, he returned. Adele was in the middle of going through her belongings for the third time when she saw him. “Any luck?” she asked. Evelyn, who sat on the ground rocking The Boy to sleep, looked up for Brock‟s reaction. He shook his head, defeated and tired. “We came a long way, Mrs. Whitfield,” he said. “You could trace that trail for miles. When did you last see the purse?” “I had it with me at the riverfront,” she explained. “I used it to pay for my mule and guide. It must have fallen…” Brock sighed. “Look,” he began, “tomorrow when it‟s daylight, we can have another go. Comb the trail together. But right now, there‟s nothing more we can do. You have to consider the possibilities, Mrs. Whitfield.” She stared at him. “The possibilities, Mr. Brock?” “That you were cleaned out. Robbed.” Adele nearly choked. Her hand came to her chest. “Did you have money stashed elsewhere? Surely you did not keep everything in that purse.” “I have a little stowed away.” “There‟s a good girl. Now you get some rest; we‟ll worry about this first thing in the morning, all right?” But Adele did not rest. When Brock left, she nearly collapsed at Evelyn‟s feet, hot tears stinging her eyes. “Oh, this tastes of bitterness!” she told her friend. “That was my husband‟s purse. Everything in there was to pay our passage to San Francisco. If I have indeed been robbed, The Boy and I shall be stuck in this city. We will have nowhere else to go.” At this, Adele Whitfield burst into uncontrollable sobs. “I have lost my husband; now our very livelihood is forfeit! I shall never get to California. I do not know what the devil I was thinking by not turning around at Chagres and going straight home to England. My son and I shall be forced to remain here forever. Where am I to make money? What am I to do? Oh, I am a dreadful mother, indeed! How could I ever rationalize bringing my child into such a dreadful situation? He has lost his father! And now we shall have to beg for bread!” The poor widow was inconsolable. Evelyn patted her back, moved first by pity, then by rage. Adele Whitfield was a strong, honest, good and courageous woman. How could fate be so cruel? She was being stripped of everything! It frightened Evelyn to think of advancing to California without her friend. Whatever would she do without Adele? The woman was invaluable to her. Evelyn must do something. They slept little that night; Adele for want of comfort, Evelyn for need of resolution. The following day, Brock took Adele to search for her purse along the trail while Evelyn approached Lucius, pocket diary in hand. She thrust it under his nose. We must help Adele. If she cannot find her fortune, she will be destitute. We must pay her passage to California. Lucius was aware of what had happened to the Englishwoman, for Brock had informed him earlier that morning. He was fond of Adele and had already considered the actions he could take should her purse be irrecoverable. But paying her passage to California? It would cost them a fortune. There was no way that amount of money could be spared. Who knew when they might have need of it? He shook his head, touched Evelyn‟s diary and lowered it from his sight. For a second, he caught a glimpse of her face. Her eyes were wide, her features pleading. He looked away. “We cannot spare the money,” he told her, his brow resolute. “I can give her a small allowance; but she shall have to find her own way. There is nothing else I can do.” Evelyn sighed aloud and scribbled once more in the diary. Again she thrust it towards him. You arrogant bastard. She and the boy are good as dead here and you know it. They have nothing. Once you get to California you will have all the riches in the world. You can spare some now. God knows with my inheritance you have enough! “And what then? She‟s just as likely to meet an end in California as here. She is a young mother with a small child. What do you think will happen to her in the land of men, hm? She will be forced to sell herself to feed her boy. Is that what you want for your friend? She is in danger wherever she goes. If you want to plead her case, plead her case to England.” Her husband died to get to California! How can you be so heartless? “And that woman is a fool if she thinks she can survive without him! I am already looking after one life, Evelyn; and what gratitude I get for it! You have been nothing but a thorn in my side since the moment we married. Why should I want another?” Evelyn pitched forward and spit in Lucius‟ face. Damn you, Lucius. If he would not listen, she would have to take action without him. She had not expected charity from Lucius, but she had given him the chance to prove her wrong. Now his greed only served to incriminate him further. All this time she had known him for a scoundrel. Thank God she had never given in to him! If she had not been wise, she could very well be wrapped around his little finger; a weak and helpless victim to his selfish and egotistical whims. The man with the newspaper on the Steam Rose and the man on the cayaca on the River Chagres was a Lucius ruled by yet another deadly sin. He had proved his character in full; it was a trinity of woes, comprised of Lust, Greed and Pride. That was the real Lucius Flynn. If she could remember this, could keep these truths at the forefront of her mind, she would never again be seduced into believing that Lucius was anything else. She could see past his honeyed words and softened eyes and when the proper day arrived, she could leave him without turning to a pillar of salt. That day, it seemed, had come swiftly. Brock and Adele returned to camp empty-handed. Brock was hot and ready for some entertainment, so he quickly parted from the females‟ company. It was a pity the Englishwoman had lost her purse, but he had done all he could; she was no longer his responsibility. The camp was buzzing with activity. In the three years since the Gold Rush had begun, American Camp became a fully functioning town. There were venders, restaurants, churches, various convenience services and fully equipped saloons. Despite the foreign landscape, one was tempted to feel right at home. Lucius had done just that: following his conversation with Evelyn, he promptly found himself in the saloon. He slammed a large note on the counter and demanded his glass to remain full until he was thoroughly satisfied. The man who ran the establishment, Mr. Dupont, grinned crookedly and congratulated himself on the day‟s early business. It was not yet noon. Adele Whitfield had wasted her tears and as she walked back to camp with the Australian, she came to terms with destiny. She had just enough money to survive in Panama City for a month or so, if she was frugal; but she would have to find work right away. Their stay would not be forever, she decided. It would only be prolonged until she could earn enough money to take her son back to England, where they could recuperate from their adventures and start a new life. It might be some years before then, but she did not linger on time. Time was too daunting. Hope was in the fruit of her labors; she did not want to dwell on the toil. Evelyn had cared for The Boy that morning; the two of them spent some hours watching the various characters of camp while intermittently drawing pictures in the dirt with palm fronds. When Adele arrived, The Boy ran to her, and sensing the distress of the past twenty-four hours, wrapped his little arms around her neck for comfort. She received him with a motherly sort of hunger, relishing his affection and finding herself in desperate need of it. Evelyn stood and dusted herself off, then produced her pocket diary which she had prepared for conversation. I want to talk with you, Adele. Adele read the inscription and nodded. “Of course, my dear, of course. But let me have a sit, will you? I am so very tired. All of this worrying has worn me thin, I daresay. Has my boy been good for you?” Evelyn nodded and allowed her friend to arrange herself against the palm tree. Adele closed her eyes for a few moments, her arms wrapped around the child, and prayed. When she was finished, she looked at Evelyn, who had knelt beside her and waited patiently to continue. “All right,” Adele said. “I am ready.” I have a plan to get you and your son out of here. “Indeed?” Adele had little energy to appear excited. “You haven‟t gone to any trouble, I hope.” My father died some years ago. He was a wealthy man and left everything to me. I shall purchase your passage to Ireland, to my home, and there you and your son may live with me in Brennan House. I know this is rash, but I don’t care. I cannot leave you in this city, and I cannot go on to California without you. Adele was overwhelmed. “Dear Evelyn, I am most grateful! This is a grand and generous offer. But why not take us with you to California? I should hate to impose upon your home in Ireland, especially after you have come all this way! And what of your husband? How does he feel about this? Surely it is impossible! Should you be separated? Or together forsake your dreams of California gold?” Indeed, no. Lucius and I have not one dream together. Our marriage was arranged many years ago; we know nothing of love for one another. Our separation is the greatest gift I can give him; better, even, than my wealth. I shall leave him a small amount to continue to California without me, but I shall take the rest. You see, Adele, he holds my inheritance. I have not access to it; therefore, I must take it without his knowledge. This is why I cannot help you to California: the money for your passage must be stolen. Once it is secured, we shall have to avoid Lucius at all costs. I do not believe he will trouble himself much on my account. He will search a little; but California is precious to him. He will choose the land over me, if forced. But if you do not desire to follow me to Ireland (I should understand, for there is a famine) you must continue on to England. You must do what is best for you and the child. Evelyn eagerly watched Adele for a reaction as she read the note. She could see the anxiety returning to Adele‟s face; the good woman‟s soul did not make allowance for treachery. Reclaiming in secret what rightfully belonged to Evelyn felt just as wrong as stealing; separating a man and wife as evil as advocating divorce. “I cannot agree to this, Mrs. Flynn,” Adele responded. “In assisting you with such dealings for my own profit, I should be a terrible friend and no Christian.” You shall be the best friend in the world! You cannot know how I long to return to Ireland, Adele. You simply cannot know! It is my sole purpose in life. Lucius’ family took everything that ever belonged to me. His father had us betrothed, then had my own father murdered to secure my inheritance. My father’s blood sanctified an unholy marriage, one born solely of greed and ambition. That is all that ties Lucius and me together. Our union is neither blessed nor consecrated, and I shall have it annulled at once; but I cannot do it alone, and Lucius’ pride will not stand for it. Adele, by remaining with him I am enabling him; but if I leave him with enough to finance his pursuits, he shall thank me… once his pride has recovered. He shall be humbled, God willing, and we shall be serving his soul with Christian charity. Adele took some moments to recover from this divulged information. “My dear friend, all this time I have known so little about you. You have quite the history; and how terrible! To be robbed of your father and thrust into a purely circumstantial union! How cruel of the senior Mr. Flynn! How can you bear it?” Adele, I cannot bear it. Not in the least. That is why we must fly. By saving you from your present predicament, you save me from mine. Reclaiming my wrongfully obtained dowry is naught but a generous exploit of atoning another man’s sins. Lucius’ redemption may be unsavory to his palette, but it shall be redemption nonetheless. Adele looked down at The Boy, who had returned to his dirt and palm fronds. “All right, Mrs. Flynn. You have earned my support. What must we do?” Lucius‟ throat had a way of rattling when he fell into a deep sleep. Evelyn waited for the sound; when it rose above the surrounding noise of camp, she stirred and woke Adele. Silently, the two women collected their belongings; but some must be left behind, as they had to be light and swift in their escape. The sky was a bright, cornflower blue and there was a gray haze on the horizon. Lucius had returned to camp later than the women anticipated, for he had been many hours at the saloon. It was late when he grew irritable and belligerent; Mr. Dupont had him thrown out into the street. Lucius had not always been a raging drunk. On the contrary, he used to be a fantastic drunk; it was in this state that he made most of his friends. He would become generous and do ridiculous things that inspired songs and laughter. With a bit of brandy, Lucius Flynn became a splendid entertainer. But once Evelyn Brennan got a hold of him, his unchallenged temper turned sour. He became a man of wounded pride, a man rejected. His joviality was deprived to a sulking state of bitterness, and it was this bitter well that sprang from bitter drink. He had tossed about in the mud outside the saloon for an hour or so before finally managing to stand and stagger back to camp. Evelyn had been there, peacefully lost in slumber, and he had sneered at her. She was surely talented, he thought, to be so full of deceit even while asleep. Anybody would think her an angel; so soft and radiant was she in her present state. But Lucius knew better. That girl was the devil. She had listened to his heavy footsteps, had heard him hiss and mutter incoherently as he passed her by. It was difficult not to laugh at his ridiculous disposition. She had never known a grown man to be so juvenile. The sun would rise presently; it was incumbent upon the women to act quickly. Though Lucius was in no danger of waking with the light of day, others would be stirring within the hour. The plan was to acquire the funds, slip away quietly and secure shelter on the opposite end of Panama City under aliases. If shelter could not be found in the city, which was expected, they would progress towards the nearest village. There were many white people in Panama; it was unlikely their presence would merit much attention. Lucius kept his purse on his belt, tucked inside his trousers. Back in their stateroom on the Steam Rose, Evelyn had watched Lucius undress more than once. He had been oblivious to her girlish observations, as she had pretended to be asleep. She had never seen a man‟s body before and had no idea of how it should look. The first time she was aware of Lucius entering the stateroom and removing his clothes, she had been unable to keep her eyelids completely shut. Curiosity took control of the situation. After all, she was sixteen. Most women her age were already bedded. Lighting had been poor and he had his back to her that first time, so she did not see much. She did, however, notice Lucius remove the purse and place it beneath his pillow. She catalogued this information in case she should ever need to remember it. Tonight, it was very useful indeed. Evelyn cast a look at Adele, who watched her unblinkingly. Adele was frightened, she could tell. There was a chance their scheme would be discovered; Evelyn knew this. Her fingers trembled slightly as they pulled her husband‟s belt open. But he was terribly drunk. Surely he would remain unconscious for hours to come. If not, if he should waken, Adele was to immediately lie on the ground as if asleep and Evelyn would take the brunt of Lucius‟ wrath. She had prepared herself for a drunken outrage should it arise, but she did not think it likely. As her hands worked, Evelyn became acutely aware of the sounds around her. A small breeze caused the fronds of the nearest palm tree to scrape sharply against one another. Distant waves crashed and grew still. Brock stirred and rolled upon his side. Lucius continued to snore softly. She listened to the breath entering apprehensively through her nose, the blood pumping nervously from her heart. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, she tugged at her husband‟s purse. A sweat broke on her forehead. She had to stop a few times just to breathe. The money was nearly free when she noticed a change. There was an absence; one of the sounds had ceased. In the silence, she grew very still. The wind still rustled the palms, the waves continued to roll off shore, Brock breathed the deep breath of sleep. It was Lucius who had grown quiet. In the poor light, she tried to see whether or not his eyes were closed. The darkness impaired her vision; she leaned in a little closer. He stared at her, his eyes wide and black. She tried to move away, but he swiftly pulled a dagger from his boot and held it against her throat. She dared not swallow, nor did she blink. He had to be completely honest with himself. The only thing that surprised Lucius was the fact that Evelyn had not already attempted to rob him. He suspected it might happen eventually, and it seemed Adele‟s predicament had launched her into desperation. She was young and foolish enough to pine after Ireland, a sick and wasted country. Sometimes he wondered if she sought to return home out of loyalty to her dead father or only to be rid of him, her husband. Either way, he was frightfully annoyed. The dagger rested happily against the soft flesh of her neck. He had pulled it on her as a warning, but something like spite now rushed through his intoxicated veins, poisoning his thoughts as he held the weapon between his fingers. Whispers of revenge argued the simplicity of a life void of Evelyn Brennan. Was her blood to be the tonic which cured him of Circes‟ spell? Adele watched from a short distance, but her eyes played tricks in the dark. She did not see the dagger; only a faint glint as it was placed decidedly beneath her friend‟s chin. Lucius‟ sudden movements were apparent enough, and there was a slight gasp of air as Evelyn was caught by surprise. Adele knew their coup had been discovered, and her directions were plain. She was to consider her child above Evelyn; therefore, she was to feign innocence. She lay her head down in the sand and prayed for deliverance. Evelyn‟s body shook as it hovered above Lucius, the tension in her muscles increasing. Lucius could feel his tremulous victim through the vibrations of the dagger and wondered just what had happened to bring them to this point. He had his wife at knife-point, when just a week ago he had rescued her out of the waters of the Chagres and kissed her in the moonlight. The alcohol made his head swim; he could not think straight. All he knew were the emotions burning within his belly, emotions potent with betrayal, resentment and disappointment. Evelyn needed to know how she debased him, made him feel like less than a man. He wanted her to discover just how strong, just how willful, just how ruthless he could be. He, too, could take control. He, too, could conquer; and to do that, he must make her feel afraid. “I will not hesitate,” he whispered. The trouble was he already had. Evelyn pushed away from him, the purse clenched tightly in her fist. She ran towards the jungle, her sudden fear of Lucius superseding her fear of the unknown wild. The dagger had surprised her, had revealed a side of Lucius she had not yet seen. She was struck by the realization that she had finally pushed him over the edge, from civility and tolerance to murderous madness. She had underestimated Lucius. Never before had she toyed with this kind of fire; the fire of a man‟s emotions. He was quick on her heels, his footsteps thudding in time with hers against the rich, dense earth. She wore shoes but he was barefoot, which was to his advantage. He had always run faster without shoes, and Evelyn‟s bore a slight rise in the heel. They would be claimed by mud before long and he could overtake her. He hoped that would be sooner rather than later. Though his mind had cleared of sleep, his body was heavy with liquor. Evelyn had not planned for a chase, nor had she planned on her life being threatened. If that dagger remained in Lucius‟ grasp, there was no telling what might happen once he was upon her. Before this night, her husband knew her for a hardheaded tease. But a crook was something new, something punishable by more than childish avoidance. She did not want to find out the extent of what that punishment could be should her husband catch her now. Gasping for air, she plunged into the dense foliage of Panama, her feet splintering twigs and sloshing through ankle-deep mud. She did not know where she was going; there was not a mapped escape route for this scenario. She tried to gauge her surroundings as she ran, but she was flying fast and each step bore similarity to the last. Whether Lucius caught up with her or not, her chances of survival were damned. She launched herself forward, her womanly attire conspiring against her. Her skirts were long and her boots slick; vegetation tore at her and the wet ground suckled her every step. She slipped and reached out to steady herself, slicing her hands on some razor-edged plants. Lucius was quickly upon her, grabbing her loose hair and pulling her back in a torrent of pain. Her feet caught on a protruding root and her ankle twisted as she fell in a heap to the earthen floor. She yelped as Lucius‟ strong arms wrapped around her middle. “Goddamn woman!” he shouted. “You have been a curse to me since the day we married!” He turned her to face him, his hands burning her skin as they twisted her wrists in search of his purse. It dropped into the mud and Lucius leaned over to retrieve it, his handsome face burning with malevolence. The purse was caked with earth, as was Evelyn. Her dress was sodden, her shoes destroyed, her hands dirtied and bleeding. There was mud on her arms, her face and in her hair. She was trembling, her ankle throbbing. She bit her lip to keep the tears from welling in her eyes, but it was no use; Evelyn Brennan was livid, ashamed and defeated. California It was a warm night and she could not sleep. Evelyn was alone in her tent, as she always was; Lucius did not make a habit of joining her and hadn‟t since they arrived in California. She could hear his crowd at the dining hall. There was music and the men were whooping at a group of dancing girls. He was no doubt among them, whistling along with the rest. Good riddance. A few torches had been lit outside and their light seeped through the canvas of her tent, creating a pleasant glow. She looked around her small space, her eyes landing on the little paper crane. She watched it a while, as if she expected it to make some tiny movement in the dim light. Perhaps it would come alive; perhaps it would spread its wings and begin to fly, as she wished to fly. Her heart fluttered as she remembered what flying had done for her in Panama. If anything, she had been crippled and her wings clipped. Lucius had taken the upper hand that day. She did not want to think about it now. Someone stirred outside her quarters. There was shuffling in the dirt and grass, then there was stillness. For a moment, she considered that it might be Lucius. Perhaps he had come to visit. That was unlike him these days, but for some reason she always anticipated him. After all, it would not hurt their reputation if they saw each other a little more often. As it was, there were rumors that the Flynns were not married at all, but that Evelyn was a scandalized relation that Lucius had hidden in Apollo Diggings. Perhaps that was why the poor girl never spoke; she did not want to be found out. Evelyn heard the flapping of fabric as the person outside managed his trousers, then there was a sharp whisper of piss as he relieved himself on the ground. Dear God, she thought. How charming. But then the man grunted, and suddenly she knew it was not her husband. “Where‟re mah damn suspenders?” Her body went rigid. As the man fumbled slovenly in the darkness, she looked at the entrance of her tent. This canvas did nothing for her security. Someone had only to untie the strings to loose the door and invite himself inside. The man lumbered closer. Warmth exploded in Evelyn‟s body, starting in her head and burning into her toes. It was followed by a sudden chill. A shadow moved slowly and haltingly along the canvas, and she watched carefully as it stopped in front of the doorway. Her breathing ceased. He was hesitant as if uncertain, but presently his blackened fingers snaked through the canvas, found the tie and began to pull. Evelyn leaped from her cot and dove under it. The lace of her nightgown trailed into the open, so she quickly pulled it into a bundle beneath her knees. The man stumbled inside, bumping his head against a support pole. “What‟s this?” he grumbled. “Where am I?” Evelyn‟s heart pounded into the ground as the man took a moment to orient himself. He shuffled his feet a little, looking this way and that. He moved to the stack of luggage cases, lifting a lid and fingering through some of her dresses. “The hell…? This ain‟t the hall.” Good observation, you drunken ass, Evelyn thought. She risked a little breath. This intoxicated dolt may very well realize he was not at the dining hall and mosey back outside. The fool lingered, however, and began throwing Evelyn‟s dresses to the floor in search of more valuable items. He tore through her books and journals looking for bank notes and before long, he would find her pearl earrings, which were her only possessions of worth. Lucius had stowed a shotgun beneath the bed for such an occasion, only the bastard had never showed her how to use it. The diffused light did not travel well, anyway; Evelyn could not see where the weapon was. She felt around with her hands, choosing her movements carefully so as not to make a sound. Her fingers slid along the ground to no avail. The gun was not there. She moved her feet slightly and felt its cold steel against her skin. Panic began to stir within her chest as she realized her one hope of defense would be next to impossible to obtain. The man soon tired of the trunks and began poking through drawers. He stepped to the corner of the tent and raucously looted the pots and pans. Evelyn began to believe he just wanted to make a mess. He had not found anything worth stealing and perhaps he would simply have his fun and depart. This was her new hope. But then, he stopped, as if an idea struck him. Evelyn peered out from her hiding place and saw the toes of his boots. They were facing her. Those black fingers slid beneath the covers and tossed them back. The man started at Evelyn, then leaned forward to get a better glimpse. “Ah! Hello, lady.” Evelyn stared wide-eyed at him. “Whatcha doin‟ under there, missy?” he asked. “No need to hide. I just want to take a look atcha. Come „ere.” He grabbed at her shoulders but she bit him, sinking her teeth into his foul-tasting hand. He called out in pain, then reached for her ankles. She kicked but he found his grip and pulled her towards him. As her torso whipped around, her head smacked against the bed frame and in pain, she reached out blindly. She felt the shotgun, its cold steel chilling her fingers and shocking her back to her senses. In a swift motion, the man dragged her out from under the cot and threw her onto the mattress. She landed on her stomach, the shotgun beneath her. The man lunged, but she kicked at him, this time hitting her mark. He fell back, hunched over his groin. Before he could lunge again, she turned and swiftly lifted the barrel of the shotgun, aiming at his nose. She held it there, her finger on the trigger, her heart a war drum within her chest. She exhaled through her nostrils like an angry steed, her lips curled into a tight knot. The man raised his hands to his chest, the wounded one dripping with blood. “Easy now, miss,” he babbled. “Di‟nt mean no harm. I‟m just gonna walk away now, ya hear?” Torn between fear and hatred of him, her finger trembled on the trigger. Her vision blurred and she blinked hard to clear her sight. “Like hell, you will,” came another voice. Evelyn turned to see who it was, but a shot cracked like thunder and the sound of it was momentarily blinding. The shotgun slipped from her grasp, falling with a thud to the ground. When she opened her eyes, her violator was lifeless at the gun point of her husband. Lucius walked over and kicked him, checking for a reaction. There was none; the man was dead. A flood of warmth washed over Evelyn. Her body shook with violence. Lucius looked at her as she gaped at the bloodied man on the floor. He came to the cot and sat beside her. He watched her for a moment, both of them breathing hard, and he waited for her to turn to him. She did not; instead she stared bewildered at the lifeless form. Gently, he grabbed her shoulders and turned her to face him. “It wasn‟t loaded,” he said, nodding towards the shotgun. She remained frozen. “Evelyn?” he tried again. “You‟re lucky I got here when I did.” He searched her eyes a moment, checking to make sure she understood. His gaze made its way down her body, taking in her disheveled appearance, her wild hair. She looked a fright. “You‟re not hurt?” His words seemed to reach her from a distance. They were faded, unclear. She watched his lips to see how they formed his speech and it took another few seconds to comprehend. She felt confused, so she shook her head. But then her head began to throb and she winced. Slowly, she went to touch it, but Lucius lifted a hand and gingerly pushed back her hair. When he pulled away, his skin was spotted with her blood. “The cut does not appear too deep. Shall I send for a doctor?” Evelyn shook her head. There was no money for a doctor. Lucius sighed. “I am sorry for this,” he whispered. He rose from the cot and held out a hand, then thought better of it and put it away. This little, almost imperceptible gesture left an unwelcome ache inside of her. She looked away, her eyes meeting the man on the ground. “Come outside, Evelyn,” Lucius bid her. “This scene is not for ladies‟ eyes.” Panama “You have a choice.” Lucius stood erect and stuck his chest out arrogantly. Evelyn had settled into a muddy, depressed heap of fabric and lace and he had finally caught his breath. “I can leave you here in this God-forsaken jungle, penniless and alone to find your own way; and God help me if I don‟t do it anyway. Or you can get up off your pathetic little arse and follow me back to camp. A benevolent option, don‟t you agree? You see, Miss Brennan, I am not as dreadful as you imagine. I was a merry man before you became my wife; but suddenly I find myself looking over my shoulder all the time, wondering what little trick you will play next.” He pointed to the ground. “It ends today, lass. No more plotting, no more devising. Look at you; you‟re caked in filth head to foot. Your da would be ashamed. You‟re a disaster, Miss Brennan, and you cannot even speak for yourself.” At this, she spat on him, her mucus falling in a small mound upon his shoe. He did not react to the gesture; only jingled the purse in his hand. “What was this for, anyway?” he asked. “Ireland? Did you think you were goin‟ to Ireland?” Evelyn looked away from him. “They don‟t need more mouths to feed, you selfish girl. Not yours, not the Whitfields. What were you going to do there, Miss Brennan, hm? Dig up some corn? Roast some potatoes? There are no potatoes! Adele would take her boy back to England to keep him from starving and what would you do then? You think you could just cozy up to some Irish aristocrat like your father and hope for the best? They wouldn‟t know ya! You‟re nobody in Ireland anymore, lass, not without me. Your home is in the name of Flynn now. Your fortune is mine. You‟d be nothing short of a pauper, a street urchin. Nobody would want anything to do with a girl like you, an orphaned mute. You are nothing without me, Evelyn. It‟s best you accept that. You can‟t just write a letter and ask our country to take you back. It doesn‟t work that way.” One hot tear slipped past her guard and fell upon her dress, creating a round, wet mark. Lucius took a step towards her and held his dagger under her nose. “You see this, lass?” She flinched back. “Take a good look at it. I don‟t want to hurt you, Miss Brennan. I married you and I intend to take care of you. But if you pull a trick like this again, I will slice your throat without the slightest hesitation. Then I‟ll cut off your hands and when you‟re buried, everyone will know that you were a thief, a deceptive wife who simmered in discontentment till her last breath.” Evelyn slapped the dagger away and sneered up at him. Lucius placed the blade in his boot. “I‟m going to have to find a new home for this,” he said as he jammed the purse back into his trousers. “Tragic, you know. I thought the last hiding place would be a bit more beneficial should I be violated by a beautiful woman.” With that, he smirked and turned on his heel towards the camp. “Come along then. And don‟t let that ankle slow your pace.” Evelyn stood with the help of a tree and found that her ankle would support very little weight. She limped after her husband, cursing him and her own stupidity all the way. Mr. Dupont had never had the best luck with women. He established his saloon and brothel in 1849 and within a fortnight of opening, another man, a man with more friends, erected a similar establishment across the lane. This man was Mr. Barrie, and Mr. Barrie seemed to attract the most beautiful and exotic women to his trade. Mr. Dupont, however, was lucky if his girls did not have a mustache. Lucius had seen Mr. Dupont‟s girls and even in his drunken state felt sorry for the man. But Lucius‟ pity was not enough to redeem him of the treacherous idea that spawned from such feelings. The idea came to him upon emerging from the jungle, Evelyn not far behind. He glanced over his shoulder, just the sight of her solidifying his resolve. Lucius Flynn was slowly becoming a kind of man he had never intended to be. Mr. Dupont was purchasing a coconut for breakfast when Lucius tapped him on the shoulder. “You see that?” Lucius asked the confused man. Mr. Dupont‟s pig-like eyes, which were made large by thick spectacles, struggled to find where Lucius was pointing. “That is a woman born of fire, Mr. Dupont.” Evelyn looked anything but the sort. Despite her blazing hair, she more resembled a woman born in a feeding trough. She had lagged behind Lucius due to her injured ankle and was only just joining the men‟s company. Her face was tear-stained, her lips sealed in a tight knot. She wondered why Lucius sought to draw attention to her as her appearance was utterly shameful. Mr. Dupont scowled. “You‟re still drunk, I presume.” He waved the man and his wife away, but Lucius persisted. “She‟s a virgin, sir!” Both Evelyn and Mr. Dupont stared at Lucius as if he were a lunatic. “She‟s never been touched, I promise you; not by me or any other man. And when she cleans up, she is a sight to behold. Like a wild rose, sir.” Mr. Dupont‟s eyes flicked from Evelyn‟s toes to the crown of her head. “What are you getting at?” he asked Lucius incredulously. Evelyn‟s eyes went wide and she began to back away. Lucius reached out, snatching hold of her wrist. “She owes me a debt,” he told Mr. Dupont. “She tried to rob me, and I am charging interest on the stolen goods. You let me drink my fill, and I offer her to you for the night. Clean her up and I promise you, she‟ll sparkle brighter than any penny from my pocket.” Mr. Dupont looked at Lucius dubiously. “And who are you, her brother?” Lucius smirked. “Her husband.” At this, Mr. Dupont released an animalistic chortle. “By Jove,” he exclaimed. “I‟ve never seen anything like it. Her innocence is yours by rite and you offer it to me for a drink?” “Aye. Do you want her or no?” Mr. Dupont considered, then shook his head. “God almighty smite me. Anyway, she‟s got a bum leg.” “She hasn‟t. She twisted her ankle trying to run from me. She can sit on your finest customer‟s lap. Play your piano. You see, she has very lovely hands. Nimble fingers, if you catch my meaning.” “She can‟t dance.” Lucius nodded once, thought this over. “All right. If you don‟t want her, I‟ll offer her to your friend Mr. Barrie. He‟ll have her looking like a cactus flower while you spend the night broke and alone.” Evelyn shook her head in protest, but Mr. Dupont grabbed her chin and studied her face. “If she don‟t glisten, the deal‟s off,” he told Lucius presently. At this, Lucius pulled Evelyn forward and handed her to the man. Mr. Dupont was not enthusiastic, but the idea of losing more business to that bloody Mr. Barrie was worse than adding one more dog to his kennel. Those legs of hers had never opened, and he could make a decent one-time profit if nothing else. Lucius returned to camp where he promptly fell into the cool dust beneath a palm tree and allowed himself to breathe for a few moments. Adele Whitfield sat some distance away, nibbling on a banana and waiting. After Lucius had chased Evelyn into the jungle, she found she could do nothing else. She watched while Lucius caught his breath and cooled down. His face was flushed with the events of the morning, and the early heat of day did nothing to soothe his blood. Fear crept into Adele‟s chest as Evelyn‟s husband had returned but Evelyn had not. Either her friend had escaped with nothing but the clothes on her person or she had not escaped at all. The Englishwoman approached Lucius, attempting to appear nonchalant. “Pray, Mr. Flynn, where is your wife? I daresay she was up before the sun and I have waited for her return, for we had plans to breakfast together.” This was not so much a lie. Lucius turned his gaze to Adele, who was standing with the sun peaking just over her shoulder. The brilliance inspired an instant headache, so he turned sourly away. “Mrs. Whitfield,” he said, “I had a mind to ask you the same question.” This, however, was very much a lie. Mr. Dupont led Evelyn up the muddy lane and into a narrow alley, his pace unmercifully swift. He grumbled all the way, cursing his fortune at a volume with which Evelyn could clearly listen. She could almost empathize with the man; after all, she was in a much sorrier state than he. They came to a shabby curtained entrance, where Evelyn could clearly see the shape of a woman through the tatters. Mr. Dupont thrust the fabric aside, revealing the female entity with more clarity. She stood in her undergarments, unashamed, her slight shoulders slumped into sagging breasts, a narrow chest which bloomed into a round and unsightly belly. At her hips, she grew narrow again, giving her the appearance of a bloated ginger root. “This is Cherie,” Mr. Dupont said. “She‟s going to make you look presentable.” The woman stared at Evelyn with eyes smeared in black coal, her lips a thin red stretch of twine, the false color bleeding into the cracks of her middle-aged skin. “Mon Dieu, Monsieur Dupont!” she exclaimed. “Where did you find this one? In the gutter?” “She was a bargaining chip, mon cher. On loan for the evening, and I want my money‟s worth. Use your excessive talent for beauty and clean „er up a bit, will you?” “She‟s a child, monsieur. I doubt she has even bled.” “Her value is her innocence. I want her fixed up in an hour and ready for show.” “An hour!” At this, Cherie spat a pernicious stream of French verbiage, to which Mr. Dupont turned away with a wave of his hand. Cherie smelled of cigarette smoke and opium. She took Evelyn‟s hand with a skeletal-like grip and led her further into the room, stopping at a dirty wash-basin. “Take off your clothes.” Evelyn stood, unmoving and silent. “Modesty will not pay for your supper, little wench. Take off your clothes.” Cherie sighed impatiently, emitted another curse, and turned to her bureau. She fiddled with some things while Evelyn looked around, taking in the closet of a room. There were a few scraps of clothing hanging from a coat rack, some strips of lace and feathered headdresses. Stuck to the walls were cutouts from newspapers, drawings of fashionable women from New York and Boston. Then there was the flash of a lit match and the Frenchwoman turned from her work at the bureau, holding out a shot glass full of bright green liquid. “She is your refuge today,” she said in French. “She will calm you.” Evelyn took the glass from the woman questioningly, her eyes betraying her caution. “Absinthe,” Cherie told her. “Drink.” Evelyn hesitated, so Cherie hastily turned to grab the bottle. “You see?” she demanded, indicating that the bottle was half empty. “I drink, too. She will open your mind. Make you feel happy.” Skeptical, Evelyn took a sip. The taste was bitter, yet somehow sweet. It burned like fire as it entered her belly, radiating from within and causing her face to flush hot. She kept the glass in her hand and continued to sip as Cherie picked through the small selection of outfits, singing little bits of a Parisian melody. She decided on a little black corset with a skirt cut to fly open at the slightest movement. As she arranged the clothing on the back of a chair, she swayed her little hips and moved to the other side of the room, where she opened a ragged trunk and dug through various shoes. She found some blue heels, clucked her tongue and addressed Evelyn once more. “The last time I wore these, I was ten years younger and wore nothing else.” She giggled a little, but her mirth was short-lived. “Now pigeon, get out of those filthy rags and clean yourself up.” The absinthe was taking effect. As she stepped willingly out of her clothes, Evelyn watched Cherie pour another glass. The process was suddenly fascinating; Evelyn was transfixed as Cherie dipped a sugar cube in the spirit and set it atop a spoon over the alcohol. She struck a match, lighting the sugar aflame. The sparkling white turned amber and dripped into the absinthe, the colors blending beautifully together. Fascinated, Evelyn feasted her eyes on the spectacle. “The French like to use water,” Cherie told her as she blew out the remaining flame and stirred the rest of the sugar into the drink. “But I am different. I prefer fire.” She handed Evelyn the second glass and the girl accepted it gratefully. “You like?” she asked. Evelyn nodded. “Good. Drink up. Who knows? Maybe you‟ll find yourself in a field of flowers with the wind in your hair instead of this stinking place. You smoke?” Evelyn waved her hand at the woman, telling her no. She commenced her toilet, Cherie assisting her in the washing of her hair. The basin water was like mud upon completion, and Evelyn felt like a new woman. She dressed as Cherie took a small pipe-like device out of a drawer and lit it. So this was the opium Evelyn had smelled before. It was a sweet smell, almost colorful. As the smoke rose in the air she imagined it was tangible, like the fir of a kitten. She stretched out her hand to touch it, but Cherie slapped her away. “It doesn‟t take much to get you drunk, does it?” she mocked. “The Green Fairy is having her way with you.” Evelyn looked at her inquisitively. “It‟s just as well,” she said. “She will be your best friend tonight. You are not so ugly when you are clean. Monsieur Dupont‟s patrons will sniff out your virginity like a bitch in heat, and God knows they are bored to death of the other girls. They will want to devour you. You will let them. When they ask for another dance, you will be happy to oblige. And later when they are too rough with your little body, you will feel nothing. Not till tomorrow. Tomorrow everything will hurt, but tomorrow you will not be my problem.” Evelyn smiled at her and held out an empty glass. Another, please. Cherie blew a stream of smoke in her face, shook her head and poured her some more. “If you were hoping for a lark,” Cherie told Mr. Dupont, “you will be very disappointed. The girl‟s as dumb as a rock. Didn‟t get a word out of her.” Mr. Dupont sighed and took a moment to massage his temples. He was having a very bad day. “She won‟t sing?” he asked presently. “Can’t sing, rather.” “Can‟t dance, can‟t sing… What the blazes am I supposed to do with her? Put her in a cage on display? Or are you here to tell me she‟s dull as a rock as well?” Cherie‟s response was interrupted by the sudden sound of music. It rose abruptly from the saloon‟s piano, towards which the pair of them turned a startled eye. This was not Mr. Dupont‟s hired musician, a lousy old croon with arthritic fingers. This fine pianist was a female, with auburn tresses undulating down the length of her slender back, her head crowned with a circlet of blue satin and a billowing peacock‟s plume. Stunned, it was some moments before Mr. Dupont addressed Cherie once more. “Who is that woman?” he asked. Cherie smiled. “My morning‟s work.” Evelyn‟s hands produced a gay and elegant piece as she tilted her head back and closed her eyes with an expression of ecstasy. It had been many months since she had touched a piano. “You‟ve gotten her drunk,” Mr. Dupont scoffed. “If I had not, she would still be shivering like a dirty mouse in the corner.” For the first time that morning, Mr. Dupont‟s expression became almost happy. He chuckled in the back of his throat, took one of Cherie‟s hands and kissed it. “Damn Mr. Barrie,” he muttered. “Tonight I come out on top.” Lucius slept off his headache that morning, and in the afternoon he decided to seek out some diversion. He found Brock at the casino, where the Australian offered him a nod and a cigarette. Lucius accepted as he seated himself beside the larger man. “Hell of a morning?” Brock asked. Lucius shook his head with a long, drawn-out exhalation. “Hell of a morning.” “You look it.” “I feel it.” Brock watched him for a moment, then turned his attention to a fresh hand of cards. He thumbed through them and looked at the faces of the men around him. Each man attempted to conceal his feelings, but Lucius was obviously distracted, his hair a disheveled mess. Brock was at the top of his game, and each time he won, Lucius sunk lower in his seat. After several rounds, one of the other players stood, tossing his cards upon the table. “I‟m finished losing my lot to this man,” he announced. “I hear Dupont‟s got a new girl over at the saloon. I‟ll see if my money can‟t buy me a little more satisfaction.” “A waste of money and time, I‟ll warrant,” another man disagreed. “Mr. Dupont only hires boars, which he parades around in skirts and shawls. If their diseases don‟t leave you damaged, their beards will.” There was a roar of laughter from around the table. “Beard or no,” the first man countered, “there‟s rumor this one‟s a virgin.” “So Dupont‟s fallen to spreading lies as well as infections!” More laughter, but not from Lucius. His face was hot in his open palm. “I‟ll take my chances, gentlemen.” “Aye, mate,” Brock patronized. “And a lot of good your chances have brought you this day.” Lucius watched through his fingers as the man departed from the casino. He was a young man, hardly more than a boy, with a long, narrow face and large, gray eyes. Lucius guessed he was about nineteen; no more. He walked with a certain swagger, a gait that had survived slight difficulties but remained upright through healthy doses of self- approval. He had the look of a youth who possessed great faith in his own intelligence and Lucius despised him in all of his juvenile confidence. Was that arrogant colt to be the strength that claimed Evelyn Brennan‟s vulnerability? He looked at the various faces around the room, his gaze eventually falling on Brock. Bile rose in his throat and he had to rise and dismiss himself. He walked to the shore where he gazed out at a quiet sea. He felt anxious. Evelyn had been at Mr. Dupont‟s establishment for the greater part of the day. Someone might have had her already. Perhaps the Australian had learned of her predicament, had taken advantage of the opportunity while Lucius slept. He shuttered as memories came to him, images of Evelyn as a child in Ireland. When she was little, her hair had been flat as the surface of Loch Dowie on a spring day, rippling only with a breath of wind. Then as her body began to change and her face matured, that hair of hers seemed to awaken. Slowly it curled, lifted and wound, and when she combed it back into some fashionable style or other, it would somehow find its way free again, falling loose to frame her jaw and tease her lashes. Though she was prim as a duchess, that hair hinted that there was something unruly in her nature, something wild and untouched. This change had piqued his curiosity for a time, but her cultivated character was unyielding, thus leaving him bored. He had sought company elsewhere until the day of their wedding, when she had descended those steps and suddenly it seemed as though five years had passed in a single morning. Before sunrise he had looked upon a girl; in light of the moon, he ached over a woman. Lucius cursed and kicked the sand. Some hours later, the sky was fading with pending night as Lucius made his way through camp. He could hear the ruckus of Mr. Dupont‟s saloon as he drew closer, his throat swollen with the throbbing of his heart. He could not take it any longer, could not allow night to fall without knowing his wife could be saved. If there was some small hope that he could rectify his actions, he would take it. That morning felt like years ago now; he had been a different person then, a monstrosity born of too much liquor and too little patience. Had he been wrong to punish Evelyn for what she had tried to do? Perhaps not; but this? This was not human. This was the kind of evil his father would have committed. The establishment was bursting with customers and it stunk with the filth of their unclean bodies. The piercing scent of alcohol, tobacco and opium pervaded the air and a cloud of sweat and smoke hung low about their heads. The atmosphere was hardly conducive for breathing. Lucius elbowed his way through the crowd, the others shoving and cursing at him as he advanced through the room. Something splashed his face and ran into the collar of his shirt; he recognized the acrid smell of ale. The sound of that place was thunderous. Every man had an arm in the air and a shout upon his lips, and all were looking to the stage. As Lucius made his way among them, he stopped short, for there before him stood the Australian. Brock ceased his bidding to look darkly upon the younger man. He smirked at Lucius and tipped his hat, but the presence of Evelyn‟s husband did not alter his agenda. Lucius frowned and looked to the stage, where Mr. Dupont was proudly auctioning his finest prize. Something impaled Lucius in the chest; something like shame, like fear, like savage injustice. His wife, his wife was there, looking like a mannequin in her scandalous array. Her hair tumbled about her shoulders, her slight frame squeezed into a suffocating corset. Her legs were on full display; Lucius felt himself blush. Her face had been made-up; not like a lady, but like a harlot, with dark paint and bright circles of rouge. Her graceful neck was loosely erected, her head rolling about in a state of drunken disillusionment. She was smiling broadly, happily ignorant to the mob that threatened to claim her. Mr. Dupont shouted his growing price, his face alight with greedy pleasure. He had hardly imagined this as he ate his breakfast that morning. His luck, it seemed, had finally turned. In the crowd, Lucius felt the heat within him rise. He looked again to Brock, who no longer heeded him. In this public place, the Australian was bold-faced in his attempts to sleep with Evelyn Brennan. If Lucius had possessed a pistol, he would have shot that man dead right there in the saloon. He continued, weaponless, to merge through the roaring crowd. He made his way to the stage, where he shouted up at Mr. Dupont. “She is mine!” If the man heard him, he did not show it. The bidding continued and Lucius‟ voice was lost. In desperation, he leapt upon the stage and charged Mr. Dupont, whom he pushed to the floor. “She is mine!” he screamed again. “And she is not for sale!” Silence overcame the saloon as all eyes were upon Lucius, including Evelyn‟s, whose were veiled in a fog of confusion. Mr. Dupont stumbled to his feet, the sound of which resonated loudly against the wooden stage. He stood chest to chest with his violator, his face burning scarlet with rage. “It was you who put her on the market, you bastard. Get off my stage!” Lucius did not regard the instruction, but quickly crossed the stage to Evelyn, who sat demurely upon a stool. “She is my property, for which I have not received payment,” he argued as he collected her into his arms. Her body was yielding, her mind numbed with drink and drug. “We had a deal!” Mr. Dupont spat. “And it is off!” Lucius countered All eyes watched as Lucius carried away the evening‟s entertainment. Mr. Dupont moved to stand in his way. “You cannot take her!” he screamed. “We had an agreement. You must pay the price!” But as Lucius pushed past the man, Evelyn heard his words vibrating in her chest, like the distant call of a ship‟s foghorn at sea. “She is my wife,” Lucius declared. “Consider her price already paid.” She woke the next morning to the blazing sun and a blinding headache. There was a soft bleating beside her, so she turned her head to see what it was. A small goat, young and not very fat, was poking around for something to eat. When it found a small shrub, it dipped its head and yanked the plant from its root. Despite the pain in her head, she smiled. The bottom of the plant was laden with a knot of earth, crumbling apart as the animal chewed. You’re a silly thing, aren’t you? The goat watched her as it ate, as if speculating whether or not she was a friend. She held out a hand and tapped the ground to indicate that it should come closer. I won’t hurt you. But there was the sound of a boot scraping dirt and the animal fled. She looked over her shoulder and saw Lucius. At the sight of him, her stomach turned sharply. His hair was wet and his clothes clung to his body, damp with moisture. He looked clean for the first time in weeks and his beard was shaven. With the way his skin had turned bronze and his hair a brighter yellow from the sunlight, he looked like a god emerging from the jungle. “Some of the men went on an excursion this morning,” he told her. “They found a waterfall and a pool. I will take you there if you should like to bathe.” It was only then that she noticed the vile smell emanating off her body. It was acrid and sour, like rotten milk. She screwed up her face and Lucius nodded. “Aye, you‟re worse off than that wee lad,” he said, pointing to the goat as it scampered a few tents away. “And he’s probably never bathed in his life. You see,” he picked at his shirt, “Clean as a new day. Not so last night. You were a mess. Covered us both in your sickness, you did. That‟s what you smell, you know. You got it all over yourself.” She couldn‟t remember vomiting, but she remembered the threat of it. She must have lost consciousness once Lucius pulled her off the stage. “What did that rat of a man give you to make you feel so ill?” Lucius asked, his tone betraying a hint of concern. Evelyn recalled the absinthe and the strong smell of opium and felt the sickness rising again. She shook her head and turned her face to the ground should her stomach have anything left to purge. Lucius kicked at the dirt. “Hell, Evelyn! Look what you made me do, huh? I know we‟ve had our differences but I would have never handed you over like that if you hadn‟t tried so damn hard to ruin my life.” His score was terribly off track. Hadn‟t he ruined her life first? By taking his purse, she was only returning what was rightfully hers! Hadn‟t she been punished enough already by being dragged into this mess of an adventure? It wasn‟t an adventure at all! There was nothing delightful or romantic about it. The whole escapade was a disaster from beginning to end and for Lucius to have the audacity to assume she had not paid dearly already was an unforgivable offense. Her stomach steadied itself, but her head throbbed. She pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. If she didn‟t feel so dreadful she would have stood up to her husband and helped him to see just how much she despised him for throwing her into that horrible situation. It was a nightmare from beginning to end. Her husband approached her from behind and squatted down. His hand touched her shoulder and turned her to face him. His eyes were dark and narrowed. “Did he touch you?” he asked, his jaw tight. “Did Mr. Dupont lay a finger to you?” Aware of his jealousy, she held his gaze. He had no right to be jealous for her, especially after the way he had discarded her like an unwanted rag doll. Lucius was not her protector, and one could only be jealous of what one protects. She was insulted by his jealousy. It was a false claim to something that wouldn‟t belong to him even if he wanted it, and after the previous night, he had revealed just how little he wanted her. She could rot in a gutter for all he cared… or a saloon, or a brothel. So much for his heroic claims of marrying her to keep her off the streets. Evelyn did not want to give him reason to do another stupid thing, so she shook her head. He lowered his eyes and clenched his jaw once more. A lock of his hair fell forward onto his brow. “All right,” he said finally, rising. “Come, Miss Brennan. We must get you clean.” They left a short time later. The hike through the foliage was damp but pleasant, the shade from the towering bamboo doing well for her headache. It was a bit of a climb to where they intended to go, the ground laden with boggy mud and the air full of mysterious sounds. A breeze was blowing, and as it meandered through the tropical forest it caught the poles of bamboo and caused them to collide with one another, the sound much like an augmented whisper followed by a sudden crack. At first, the noises startled her. But after some time her curiosity peaked and she watched all around as she saw things she had never before imagined. There were ferns the size of buggies, mammoth trees whose roots dipped in and out of the ground like pulled taffy. There were exotic birds with feathers portraying colors she did not know existed, brighter than the deepest Irish rainbow. “I‟ve good news,” Lucius spoke up after some time. “There is a new ship coming into harbor this afternoon. They say it will only need a day or two to stock up on supplies before it continues on to San Francisco.” The sound of his voice irritated her. She had enjoyed the lack of conversation, the ability to appreciate the otherworldly atmosphere around them without speech. She simply nodded her head in an attempt to pretend acknowledgment, her eyes cast on the sloppy trail before her. “I know we‟ll be on it,” Lucius continued. “Whatever it takes. I don‟t care. We will be on that barge to California. I don‟t want to spend another moment in this place.” In that regard, they agreed. It was time for both of them to leave Panama. She had taken her chance of retribution towards Lucius and had failed. As a consequence, he had caused her to suffer greatly. Each time memories of the previous evening came to her, she cringed inside. Bile would rise in her throat not only from the terrible Green Fairy, but from a lingering embarrassment. Faces of haggard, travel-weary men and unfriendly dancers haunted her thoughts. Worst of all, there were moments she thought she could hear Mr. Dupont calling her name. “Red Irish,” he would say, “give us a little more leg!” A deep sense of malevolence made her want to return to that saloon just to put a knife in that man‟s throat. Her lips tightened and her brows lowered as she walked. Lucius turned back to check on her progress and noticed her dark mood. “What are you thinking about, Miss Brennan? Not last night, I hope.” She nodded, so he turned and kept on the trail. “Put it behind you, Evelyn. You put Mr. Dupont behind you, and I‟ll put your little trick of thievery behind me. Deal? We can‟t go on like this forever, you know. If we can come to some sort of… I don‟t know… complacence with each other, I think our lives will be a whole lot easier from here on out. I don‟t care if you like me or not. I don‟t like you either. But we can help one another. If my luck holds out, we will be sittin‟ on some fancy wages till we find a good camp in California. Then once we‟ve got enough gold, I‟ll build you a nice house with two separate rooms; one for me and one for you. You can do whatever you like with your life, Evelyn. And I shall do whatever I like with mine.” Then, he stopped and held out a hand. “Do we have an accord, Miss Brennan? From now on there will be no more thorns in each other‟s sides, aye? You help me, I help you. No more bickering. No more scheming. I want to make it to California alive, and I know you do as well. We‟ve only got a little ways to go yet. What do you say?” Not far off, Evelyn could hear the sound of rushing water. It was a promising sound, wrought with tidings of cleanliness and a fresh start to a new day. She took Lucius‟ hand and shook it once. It was the best offer he had given her yet. Chapter Six A crowd had gathered outside their tent to inquire about the gunshot. There were expressions of concern as well as a handful of men who were too drunk to mind that someone may have just lost his life. “Who was it?” a young man, no older than Evelyn, bawled. “What idiot got ‟imself in a fix this time?” “I thought it was Burly,” another responded. “‟Aven‟t seen ‟em since ‟e went out to relieve ‟imself!” Lucius did not respond. “Where‟s the sheriff?” he asked a friend of his, a small, spectacled man named Spitz. Spitz lifted his head to look up into Lucius‟ face. He stood about a foot shorter than Lucius. “Someone sent for him. What happened?” Lucius spat in the dirt. “Damn fool trespassed on my property,” he responded. He shot a sideways glance at his wife. Evelyn dropped her eyes to the ground, the reality of what just happened slowly seeping in. “Your wife‟s shaking,” Spitz observed. “You might want to throw a blanket around those shoulders.” Suddenly aware that she was fully visible in her nightgown yet again to the entire camp of Apollo Diggings, Evelyn blushed. Dammit, she thought. Twice in one day. May Westerly came out of her tent with a large wool blanket and approached from behind to drape it around her. “Here you go, honey.” The woman wore an apologetic expression, as if up until this night, she had judged the young girl too harshly. Now that Evelyn was a victim of crime and near-rape, she was suddenly not such an outcaste. This time it didn‟t matter that she was scandalously dressed; her attire was only an invitation for more pity. “Is the vandal dead?” Spitz asked. Lucius nodded. “Took a bullet to the brain.” “Sheriff‟s here!” someone shouted. The crowd split to let him through. The man asked Lucius some questions, wondered if he could enter the tent to take a look at things. “Go right on ahead,” Lucius told him. A couple of men followed the sheriff inside. There were murmurings among the spectators, questions about the identity of the perpetrator, the incident, the truth about what happened. A few girls whispered loudly to one another, calling Evelyn an adulteress. “Lucius musta caught her in bed with another man,” one of the girls said. “Poor girl couldn‟t even lie to defend herself!” Evelyn had just been assaulted. A man nearly raped her in her own bed. She witnessed his murder and now she was being accused of adultery. Her face grew hot and her heart began to race. A fire burned within as she turned to May Westerly to return the blanket, for she no longer had need of it. She scanned the crowd, located the gossiping whores and started in their direction. The spectators watched, mouths agape, as the women realized she was coming for them. Smug with their poisonous remarks, they smirked and challenged her with their eyes as she approached. “Listen up, everyone! Miss Ireland‟s going to make a case for herself!” one of the prostitutes laughed, her sleeve hanging seductively off her shoulder. “Oh wait, she can‟t talk!” The girls giggled while everyone else watched in silence, their anxiety building. They were curious to see how Evelyn would respond after all that had transpired. “I think she has something to say,” another one argues. “Maybe she‟s decided it‟s time to open her mouth and prove she ain‟t a mute at all!” Evelyn did not hesitate. She planted her feet in front of the main instigator, a jealous witch named Daisy, wound a fist and threw it directly into the girl‟s toxic mouth. There was a unified gasp from those watching. Daisy fell to the ground, her lip split down the middle and her skirt bunched over her protruding knees. Two of her teeth came loose as she spit into her hand. A look of solid apprehension overwhelmed her tainted face. Furious, the other girls lunged at Evelyn, but men grabbed them from behind, holding them back. Others cheered. “Got ol‟ Daisy right in the yapper!” someone hollered. More cheers and laughter followed. “Whore deserved it!” a woman bellowed. “‟Bout time someone showed that girl a thing or two about a thing or two,” another agreed. Daisy‟s friends screamed in protest as they forced to suppress their revenge. Evelyn was so angry she could not see straight. She wanted to jump on Daisy and have her eyes out, but a gentle hand touched her shoulder and stayed her rage. She turned to see Saul the bartender. He was a looming giant with gentle eyes and a long, twisting mustache. “Don‟t,” he said softly. “Her next customer would punish her well enough.” Evelyn shrugged his hand free, but he clasped her tighter. “Let it go, Mrs. Flynn,” he insisted. “She‟s a prostitute. She already suffers on account of her sins every day. Let it go.” But she doesn’t suffer at my hand! Evelyn thought furiously. When they first arrived in Apollo, Daisy had caught sight of Evelyn‟s husband and sauntered directly over to him, pretending to be oblivious to his wife‟s presence. She had rolled her shoulder to drop her sleeve, revealing her perfect curves and a full chest that was still developing. She had tossed her chin back to draw attention to her slight collar bones and long, graceful neck. Her ungloved hand ran up Lucius‟ arm before he slapped it away. “Off me, wench,” he had said, but she had only persisted as they led their cart and mule down the dusty main stretch of road. “An Irish boy,” she had sung, lifting a hand to touch his hair. “We get a few of you in our parts, but none quite so handsome.” Evelyn grimaced at the prostitute‟s suggestiveness and snorted. “What?” Daisy challenged her. “This your man? You gonna do something about it, Prissy?” “Make no mistake,” Lucius warned her. “She won‟t talk but she certainly bites.” Evelyn was about to grab the girl by the ear and lead her away as she had done to others like her in the previous camps they had passed through, but Daisy turned and walked away, her feet crossing over each other as her hips swayed in a practiced way. “Come see me when you are bored with her,” she had called to Lucius. “I‟ll be at Madame Claire‟s. Top floor at the end of the hall.” From that moment Evelyn had watched for her. She had listened as she made her way through town for any rumor that Daisy had touched her husband or that he had gone to her. But the gossip was always the same. Daisy and her friends said detestable things about Evelyn, but nothing was spoken about Lucius. If he had visited the nasty girl, it was a well-kept secret. The thought of it weighed on Evelyn‟s mind like a cat scratching at the back door, insistent and painfully disrupting. What did it matter if Lucius had relations with other women? It was not as though he was a saint before they married. He had run with women of Daisy‟s class before. Evelyn knew she should not care whether or not Daisy touched her husband. They had agreed to independent lives that day on the hike to the falls outside Panama City. Her only purpose as Lucius‟ wife was to surrender her purse and make sure he was fed and his clothes were clean. In return he offered her protection, as she had seen this night. She could not bring herself to think of what might have happened had she pulled the trigger of the shotgun only to realize it was not loaded. Perhaps the intruder would have laughed at her blunder. Perhaps he would have taken the gun and knocked her unconscious, only for her to wake the next day bleeding and used. She closed her eyes. She did not want to think about what might have happened. She did not want to think about that wretched girl Daisy and her little, heart-shaped face. She was glad to have knocked her teeth out. Now Daisy would not be able to send that wily smile in the direction of other women‟s husbands. She will have learned her lesson, Evelyn hoped. She didn‟t care that her own hatred may be a reflection of jealousy. All that mattered was that Daisy had paid for her scheming. And if Lucius had ever slept with her, Evelyn would find out soon enough and make him pay, too. Saul suggested that she have a pint on account of the evening‟s misadventures and she did not protest. Arm around her, he led her to the dining hall. Others followed, intrigued by the mute girl and her mysterious encounter. They reveled in what they did not know, snatching the opportunity to make up their own stories. “I heard the shot,” she heard one say. “She was screaming before Lucius walked in. From pain or pleasure, do you think?” “There was no screaming, you dolt. The girl ain‟t got no voice box!” Evelyn shook her head at the terrible images others could conjure. None of them knew her. None of them even dared come close enough to ask. They simply sat and hypothesized, occasionally glancing in her direction to develop more theories. The truth did not matter to them anyway. Each person in that camp had their own assumptions about every other. They liked it that way. It gave them something to talk about. Saul poured her a beer as she sat at the bar to keep her face concealed. She accepted the drink with a nod of thanks, gulped it down with one tip of the mug. Once she had slurped up the last of the foam, she slammed the empty tin on the counter and met Saul‟s eyes with her own. Another. He understood and she was soon looking at the bottom of her second pint. She was about to inquire into a third when Lucius took the seat beside her. “How many was that, Saul?” he asked. Saul shrugged. “The girl has not been here long,” he replied, deflecting a more precise answer. Lucius grinned. “If I know this woman at all,” he said, “she‟s had time enough for two.” Saul chuckled and moved down the bar to serve other customers, leaving the couple alone. “What‟s this I hear about you putting a fist in Daisy‟s mouth, eh?” Lucius inquired, taking his wife‟s right hand and examining the reddened knuckles. Evelyn stared at him suspiciously, challenging him to defend the prostitute. “She won‟t be so handsome to look at without those teeth,” he continued. “But knowing her reputation, she‟ll give the dentist solid payment to make her look good as new.” Disgusted, Evelyn looked away, tearing her hand from his and crossing her arms over her chest. She’ll give the devil solid payment when I send her to burn in hellfire, she thought. Lucius took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and turned her head to square with his. He searched her eyes. “You all right, lass?” he asked sincerely. His ingenuity only flared her anger. Why should he be kind to her? After all they had been through, he owed it to her to remain cruel and aloof. This soft gaze only served to complicate matters. She would not stand it. She rose from the stool, hours of no food and two pints of ale causing her to stagger with the sudden movement. Her vision blurred and began to swim. “Evelyn, let me help you,” her husband insisted. He grabbed her arm but she wrenched away. The frustration rose in his tone as he stopped to watch her walk away. “Where ya goin‟?” he asked. “I‟m just trying to care for you, Miss Brennan. It‟s my duty.” She stopped and peered down her arm at the floor. Her curiosity for what he would say did not allow her to move any further. “I would like it if you let me stay with you tonight,” he urged. “I imagine you must be a little put out and you shouldn‟t have to sleep without someone watching over you. I know I couldn‟t sleep, not for the life of me.” How did he know that what others were saying wasn‟t true? That she hadn‟t indeed invited Burly to join her for a little fun that night? Perhaps things had just gotten out of hand. Perhaps she was an adulteress after all. Why, after all the despicable things they had done to each other, the things he had said and the things she hadn‟t said, should he care about whether or not she would sleep that night? He already had her money. He had his California. What more could he want with her? It would be better for him if that drunk buffoon had succeeded, if her life had been forced from her. Lucius‟ freedom would have been placed within his very hands. He could actually marry for love. Maybe take Daisy for a wife and make an honest woman of her. Lord, how the prospect made Evelyn‟s insides churn! But it was the honest truth. She could do nothing more for Lucius. She had given him everything she had. Why was it not enough to make him leave her alone? He must have seen the confusion in her eyes, her silent pleas for truth. He took a step towards her. “You must think I am a monster,” he said softly. “You must believe I have the most dreadful thoughts towards you. That‟s why you hate me so much, isn‟t it? You think that on our wedding day, I had every expectation of you as a wife and none for myself as a husband. I may be a fool much of the time, Miss Brennan, but I am not without honor. I promised myself to you that day. You may not have returned the words, but neither did you deny me. I avowed myself to you and because of that I have a responsibility to be the one who keeps you safe. I have done a patched up job and I understand that you may fear me more than you trust me. All right. I can accept that. It‟s my own damned fault. But tonight, I will be the one who watches over you and makes certain that you will see the light of morning without another hair on your head being disturbed. Is that clear?” Evelyn had not noticed the tears in her own eyes before now. She nodded, causing them to quiver and fall, one gliding down each cheek in unison. “Oh, and I almost forgot something,” Lucius said, his hand fumbling with the pocket of his vest. “The sheriff found these on the man I killed. I recognized them and knew they were yours.” He took her hand and pressed two pearl earrings into her palm. “No matter what they say,” he continued, “I know you are innocent. You have worn these every day since our wedding. Any person who tries to take them is no friend of yours. You have nothing to fear. I am certain you did no wrong.” Chapter Seven A strong hand shook her awake. Disoriented, she had trouble opening her eyes, but she knew his voice as soon as he spoke. “Rise, Miss Brennan. There is no time to lose.” She wondered what time it was. She had fallen asleep beneath the shade of a palm, but the sun was now hidden behind an ominous sea of clouds. The air smelled of rain. Any moment now the heavens would open and all would be drenched in a tropical downpour. “Now, Evelyn. You must come now.” Lucius‟ voice was laced with urgency. As her vision cleared of sleep, she saw that he was almost frightened. “The ship is boarding,” he explained. “Grab your things as quickly as you can.” He looked around nervously and she sat up straight to try to see what worried him. There were people milling all around them. It was sailing day for the Marianne, the ship embarking for San Francisco, and the camp was in a frenzy. Lucius had left early this morning to secure their passage, but she had not seen him for hours. In preparation for his successful return, her things had all been packed and delicately arranged. She had grown bored waiting for him and had fallen asleep propped up on their luggage. He grabbed her by the arm and lifted her up. She scrunched her face from the roughness of his touch. “Come, Evelyn! Don‟t force me to carry you and leave your belongings behind!” Something told her that it wasn‟t the ship‟s departure from port that caused Lucius‟ anxiety. She began to stow her belongings beneath her arms when she spotted someone whose eyes were not fixed on Marianne, but on Lucius. “You cheated!” the man called out, his voice gruff. And then she knew. The furious Brock was red-faced and murderous. Indeed, he looked as though he wanted to kill her husband. Fascinated, she stared at the Australian as she imagined what might have occurred to inspire this outburst of hatred. The men were sure to have been drinking. She smelled the ale that clung to her husband‟s clothes well enough. And there must have been a game of cards. Whist or poker perhaps? “We must go!” Lucius declared, recalling her attention. They had to move quickly if they were to avoid Brock. He was a beast of a man and if he had a mind to get to Lucius, he could simply grab those in his way and fling them aside. He was certainly capable. The ship‟s roster was full and their only chance of boarding was if someone died or failed to appear. They had patiently awaited their chance, and now, it had come. Brock must have gambled his passage and Lucius had won. Evelyn wondered about her own ticket but had no chance to inquire after it. Lucius grabbed a passing native and thrust a wad of bills into his hand. “We require your assistance, sir,” he told him. The man grinned, revealing a gummy smile. Lucius indicated in one sweep of his arm what the man should carry. “Follow me to the loading dock. Hurry up, now. No time to lose!” “Flynn!” Brock shouted. He was still at quite a distance and the bustle of travelers was thick and difficult to maneuver. “I‟ll kill you for this!” Lucius laughed, his hair whipping about as he threw a bag over his shoulder. “Up, up!” he said, “And off we go!” The native and Evelyn followed at as quick a pace as they could manage through the chaos. Evelyn looked over her shoulder to see if Brock had made any progress. She spotted him at quite a distance. It seemed the crowd had swelled, pushing them closer to dock and him further away. An expression of solid rage blanketed his face. She feared him and pitied him all at once. Somehow she had imagined that the three of them would finish this journey together as companions, not rivals. Poor Brock, to have been bested by her husband. Lucius did not seem to mind; as they passed through inspections and bid farewell to their toothless assistant, his face was alit with joy. Whatever had transpired between him and the Australian had thrilled him tremendously, and now that they had made it safely to the ship with Brock lost in the din, he was no longer anxious but jubilant. Once on deck, Lucius exploded. “God could not have smiled more brightly upon us!” he exclaimed. “Evelyn, would you believe that this crazy ship caused everyone to lose their minds at cards? It was unbelievable. There were three of them; me, Brock, and a Frenchman named Lebeaux. Both Brock and the Frenchman had secured passage; don‟t ask me how! But as soon as I put your father‟s estate on the table, they immediately assumed I was bluffing!” Seeing her astonished expression, Lucius corrected his blunder. “Oh, don‟t worry, lass. I would not have given them the title, even if I lost. I would have thought of some way to protect it. That was just a way to trick the gentlemen, see? They anteed up with their tickets to California, certain they could not lose. And do you know what happened then? Three aces! My three aces beat their straight and full house. Mighty hands, I‟ll give ‟em that! But three aces! By Jove, to have three aces! The Frenchman immediately lit a cigarette and shrugged his shoulders. „Been here for nine months,‟ he said. „I‟ll drink to another nine.‟ What spirit, eh? I love the French! But Brock, ‟e thought I had cheated him! Selfish bastard thought I was lying about me hand! So I pocketed my winnings and raced over to you. Passage for us both! What luck! Aye, by my patron saint, what luck!” When they found their quarters, she felt as though the excitement of the day had been shattered. It was one room expected to sleep twenty men. There were three long benches that stretched parallel down the length of it, and those who were not quick enough to claim their place on a bench were forced to sleep on the floor. When all the inhabitants were present, the space was so close that she felt she could scarcely breathe. The food was no good, either. They were fed stale water and crusts of bread. A good crust only had a few worms, while on bad days, there were more insects than crumbs. She was the only female in their cabin, which was cause for much unsavory humor and flirtations. For this reason, Lucius did not abandon her during the day as he had on their last ship, the Steam Rose. For the first couple of days, he had her follow him wherever he went, as if she were a silent dog bought for her loyalty. She complied, too depressed by their lowly predicament to do otherwise. Lucius made friends quickly and they didn‟t seem to mind that she was always with him. As they played cards, she would stand back and watch the room. She would know who cheated and who didn‟t, who actually had the lucky card when he said he did and who was simply a good liar. The men could not seem to figure out whether or not she was really a mute, but it didn‟t matter to them. All they knew was that she was a silent woman, and that pleased them very much. “You done well for yourself, Lu,” they would say to Lucius. “Beautiful and quiet! Where do you manage to find a girl like that?” Evelyn would smile faintly and shake her head at their boyishness. If she could speak, she would take advantage of it. She would verbalize every single word that came to mind. She would tell Harry that she thought the hairs of his nose stuck out too far and Winston that his name was insufferable, his protruding belly even more grotesque. But the men believed, as they always believed, that because she was a mute, she was docile and obedient, that she hung upon their words and searched for any opportunity to make their lives easier. Lucius knew better. Lucius knew that although she had no rattle, she certainly had venom and she knew where to strike. This last voyage at sea revealed just how exhausted she felt. They had been traveling for weeks on end and her body ached from a constant plague of fatigue. Her thoughts were slower and bent on accomplishing as little as possible during the day, and her joints were riddled with lethargy. In some ways it was easier to simply follow Lucius, to be his dog. She did not have to think of how to pass the long hours and she hadn‟t the patience to read or write. The feelings were akin to a constant state of dizziness. She could not quite get her bearings. On the third day, they were woken by a crewman pounding on their door. “There‟s been a breakout,” he said. “No one is to leave this floor.” Several men jumped up from their beds and ran to the threshold, flinging the door wide. An outbreak of what? they wanted to know. And which floor was contaminated? They learned that cholera had found them, even at sea. It had infected the entire second floor, the floor above them. Frightened, they decided to remain in their cabin until the threat of infection had passed. Men began to inquire into each other‟s health. “Have you felt strange?” they asked one another. “Did you meet with anyone yesterday who may have had the pestilence?” One man admitted to feeling nauseous, but he could swear it was just sea sickness. Another said his friend from the second floor had gone to bed early last night, claiming he felt odd. These men were promptly forced from the cabin, their belongings thrown out into the narrow hall. Fear spread swifter than cholera, and in a moment, all of them were afflicted. Canteens were produced from different bags and passed around the room. A couple of brothers from Louisiana suggested a song; they thought it might lift spirits. “Let‟s sing „Oh! Susanna‟,” one suggested. “That‟s one everybody knows.” At first, they were the only two who could find their voices. But before long, the tune became too contagious to ignore. One after another, the men joined in. Some produced small instruments: a pair of spoons, a harmonica, a mandolin. Lucius elbowed a friend, who reached beneath his bench and pulled out a fiddle. Accepting it with a nod of gratitude, Lucius positioned himself to play. Evelyn had not heard him fiddle since they were children. She watched in wonder as he inspired the instrument to sing, her mind reeling back in time as she remembered the two of them in the parlor, Lucius standing beside her at the piano, their fathers listening with apparent pride. Her heart ached for that familiar time and place. Halfway through the first verse, Lucius smiled and met her eyes with his own. In that moment, she knew they were sharing the same memory of home. For just an instant, the two of them had returned to Ireland together. The muscles in her stomach clenched as she felt the desire to weep and laugh at the same time. The moment passed as a couple of men rose from their seats and began to dance. An old-timer named Jack, a towering man with a full head of white hair, took her hand and asked her to join him. She gladly did so, and the two of them found a little space on the floor to stretch their legs and move their feet. Jack was a lively dancer and she struggled to keep up. The exercise was exhilarating. Her heart raced and her breaths came faster and faster. Even though the air of the cabin was close and damp, it had never tasted so sweet. “Lucky dunce!” someone bawled. “Ol‟ Whiskers always has a way with the ladies!” Everyone laughed, and when the song concluded, Jack bowed to her in thanks. She returned the gesture, then another song started up and she grabbed his hand again, eager to dance once more. He lifted his eyebrows in a delighted way, surprised at her persistence. But another hand inquired after her, and it belonged to Lucius. He had passed off the fiddle to its owner and risen to claim her. Jack smiled knowingly and backed away. Evelyn looked at her husband uncertainly, suddenly forgetting how to acquiesce to the invitation. He moved closer and slipped a hand around her waist. “Come, Miss Brennan. I‟ve never had the privilege of dancing with my wife.” She could not account for her nervousness. Suddenly she was terrified of taking a wrong step, frightened that she would be rigid or ungraceful in his arms. She could not remember how to dance, was uncertain where to place her feet and what was the timing for the music. But he did not seem to notice. He led with his body and before long, she felt her muscles thawing. The tension melted away as Lucius‟ smile grew, his laughter rising from his chest as he twirled her and dipped her and lifted his knees high in time with hers. The men began to clap, whistling and calling out audacious things as they kept rhythm. When the song ended, the room filled with applause. “Kiss her!” their roommates demanded. “Kiss her!” Lucius and Evelyn stood face to face, sweat beaded upon their brows. They were breathless, their chests heaving to receive more air. “Kiss her!” She waited, searching his eyes with her own. She did not know what to do, did not know if she should excuse herself and sit or simply wait for his lead. Would he please their audience and give her a kiss? How should she react to such a gesture? Did she even desire a kiss? Did Lucius? Though the dance had come to an end, the beat of her heart did not slow. Her body tingled as she felt Lucius trace the length of her arm. He found her hand and wove his fingers through hers. The room began to spin. All of the shouting faded into a distant whir of noise and the only constant was her husband‟s face, his eyes bearing into hers. She was lost in some ethereal enchantment, waiting for something, anything to break the spell. Seconds dragged into eternity. What was Lucius waiting for? Why did he look at her so? He clasped her hand tightly and with a slight nod of his head, raised both their arms into the air. Their bodies turned out to face the crowd, their eyes no longer tortured by the image of one another. Instead they gazed upon their many spectators, safe with faces who did not understand the internal war that waged in the secret places of their hearts. Her eyes filled as the men grinned and clapped, their enthusiasm born from the idea of a false romance, a victory they had just witnessed, a victory she had just lost. The next morning, Lucius did not rouse from sleep. The night before, he had seemed a little pale, but she had thought nothing of it. Everybody looked pale. All the passengers were underfed and pining for California for a new reason: every last one of them simply longed for a home. Ambition had been forgotten once beds had been secured on the Marianne. It was a difficult thing to sustain over sea and land and sea again. Most of the men around her had come from lives of comfort and extravagance. They were gentlemen, born into wealth and ready to squander it over time in hopes of tripling it quickly in the hills of California. They had never skipped a meal in their lives, just as she had never skipped a meal. They had never stood in the sun so long as they did in Panama, nor had they endured such torrential rain. They had never ridden a mule, never had to look over a shoulder for foreign pickpockets, never had to swat away mammoth insects. A bath had always been ready at the tinkling of a bell and maggots were dreadful, fairy tale apparitions that were rarely rumored to appear in the servants‟ food. Evelyn had woken with a strange feeling, her heart still heavy from the events of the day before. She had dreamed about the cholera and her dance with Lucius. In her dreams he had not pushed away from her, but instead leaned in for a kiss. As their lips were about to touch, his skin suddenly turned green and he began to purge himself again and again, his refuse blanketing the floor. She screamed as she watched his eyes roll back into his head, his face changing into her father‟s. Her chest felt heavy with an overwhelming sadness, much like the day her da died. That she should feel such grief over Lucius‟ death puzzled her, and the lingering sense of loss brought no relief the following morning. Most of the men in their cabin had already stirred and were talking amongst themselves, speculating whether or not they would be allowed on deck anytime soon. She looked at Lucius expecting him to be awake, but instead he was unconscious, his skin a pale shade of yellow and damp with perspiration. He was shivering, though the temperature in the cabin was uncomfortably warm. She moved to kneel beside him and touched his forehead. He was on fire. Someone noticed Lucius‟ condition and immediately called others to attention. Two men tied shirts around their mouths and grabbed her husband by his feet and shoulders to carry him out of the room. She could not plead with them to stop, so she simply gathered their blankets and followed them. They tossed Lucius in a heap into the hall and shut out the both of them. “Sorry, m‟lady,” one of the men said apologetically. “We just can‟t take any chances.” Nervous for Lucius‟ well-being as well as her own, she looked around for anyone who might help. She did not know how to care for the infirm, much less without any water or supplies. She had nothing to give Lucius, nor did she understand what he needed. He was obviously feverish, his countenance ashen. She arranged the blankets right there in the hall, knowing that there was nowhere else she could take her husband to treat him. Every other cabin would have been locked up to keep away the pestilence, and there were no passersby from whom she could seek assistance. Before long, he began to speak. His lips trembled with incoherent words, his thoughts crippled in delirium. Sometimes his eyes would open and he would appear to look around, but his irises were glazed over and she knew he saw nothing. When he was conscious enough to feel her fingers running through his hair, he would ask who she was, where she had come from. But she could not tell him. She simply had to trust that he would pull through this alive in order to understand what had happened and why she could not reveal her identity. Even if she could write it out for him, even if she had paper and ink, she knew he was not well enough to read. Evelyn was beginning to believe that his sickness was not related to cholera, that perhaps it was something else, something less destructive, when the vomiting began. Just like her dream, his stomach purged itself all over his blankets, her dress, the hard wooden floor. She too began to shake, to tremble, but not from sickness. She found that her heart was petrified, that her thoughts were full of prayers and wishes that Lucius would not die, that he would survive this terrible ordeal. Why, she thought, should she be so desperate to save him? After the many times she had wanted to wound him, to distract him, to devastate him, why now should she long for him to live? She reasoned that he was her only remaining memory of Ireland, that somehow if he was with her, she was never completely lost. He had become her constant, and she had to hold on to him. She could not let him go. As the hours passed she latched onto him, her fingernails digging into the palms of his hands. She felt her lips moving with silent, unspoken prayers, pleading with God not to leave her on this rotting ship, alone with a hundred men, hungry for the warm flesh of a woman. Please, God, hear me though I cannot speak. Listen though I make no sound. As the day grew old, she faded in and out of sleep, her body weak from exhaustion and hunger. She had not eaten in two days, and God only knew when she would have some water. If no one came, she would have to search for something to drink soon. Lucius could not continue vomiting without hydration; that was how people died from cholera, she was told. During one of her dozes, she was woken by the sound of Lucius stirring. He was looking past her, his hand raised and pointing. “There,” he said. She looked and there was a woman, standing not far from them with a pale in her hand. Her presence startled Evelyn; in her silence, she had not heard anyone approach. “I was told there might be some unfortunates down here,” the woman spoke, her voice gentle in the dim light. It was night now; the hall only faintly illuminated by the candle she carried. “It seems I have found you. I have water.” Evelyn sat up, embarrassed by the sour smell emanating off hers and Lucius‟ bodies. They must have been a terrible sight, both covered in Lucius‟ filth, their hair damp with sweat. The woman did not seem to mind; she smiled sweetly and came closer, setting the pale on the floor and lifting a ladle over Lucius‟ lips to drip the refreshment into his mouth. Evelyn, too, was thirsty, but she dared not steal what little water was meant for the infirm. Instead she moved away in order to make room for the woman to work. She wondered if she was a nurse; perhaps she worked on the ship? She had not seen her before. “I have been on the floor above you all day,” the woman told Evelyn. “There were many who took the sickness. Very sad. Very terrible.” She shook her head. “They have buried all of the bodies at sea. Fifty-three souls lost. Dreadful, this cholera. Painful, but swift.” she indicated to Lucius. “How long has he been like this?” Evelyn shrugged her shoulders, not knowing how to give her an answer. “Since yesterday?” she asked. Evelyn shook her head. “This morning?” Yes. “He looks well,” she said then. Surprised, Evelyn studied the woman‟s face for further explanation. Lucius looked anything but well. What could she mean? “Many would be dead by this time. He does not appear near death at all; quite the contrary, he looks as though he should recover.” Evelyn looked at Lucius then, eager to attest to this woman‟s claims. Indeed, he did not seem quite as ill as when she had fallen asleep. She reached out a hand to touch his cheek. It was cool. The fever had broken. Astonished, she released a small gasp. The nurse laughed. “Exhaustion. Poor diet. Too much alcohol. These things will contribute to a fever and an uneasy stomach. I do not think this man a victim of cholera. Unlucky timing, to be sure. I presume you were forced from your quarters?” Evelyn nodded. “Poor dears. You have been alone in this hall all day, haven‟t you? I should like to offer an invitation, but first I must be positive he has not taken the plague. Help me turn him over; there‟s a good girl.” The woman took a quick look at Lucius‟ trousers, then patted his rear end. “Ah, you see? Nothing to fear. His bottom is as spotless as a Catholic from confession. We must work together to get him to his feet. Come, I will take you to my cabin.” Her name was Josephine, and she was the captain‟s wife. She had a small office adjacent to the captain‟s quarters and instructed them to rest there for the remainder of the night. Water was in plenty, as were tea and biscuits. Josephine tried to feed Lucius, but he would take nothing and was persistent in dozing off. She soon waved her hand good-naturedly as if to say, “Enough of this!” and allowed him to rest. She turned to Evelyn to ask if she was hungry. The girl was ravenous, but was hesitant to indulge herself. The biscuits were beautiful; golden and completely void of any intruders. After days of maggoty bread, they looked as tempting as a Christmas breakfast. “Go on,” Josephine insisted. “Your man won‟t touch them and you look as if you should faint of malnourishment. Really, the food on this ship is quite second rate. They save the best for the crew and those with poor health. I know, it‟s a dreadful thing to have to choose. This isn‟t much, but I should like to share what I have with you. There‟s no need to refuse my hospitality, dear. I don‟t care much for false humility, and right now, true humility would be to receive this small gift.” She indicated towards a painting of Jesus in the corner of the office. “He led me to you in the darkness. He spared this man his life. And now he wants to fill your little belly. Take no trouble to refuse his generosity. Just eat, my dear.” The sweetness of her argument forced Evelyn to acquiesce, and that she did with a tired smile of gratitude. She finished the biscuits, every last one, and drank them down with not two, but three cups of tea. When she was done, Josephine took the tea tray and bid her goodnight. “I will have more sent to you in the morning,” she told the girl. “For now, you must rest. And so must I.” She laughed softly and departed with a wink. Lucius slept through the night. Once the fever broke, the vomiting ceased. Evelyn felt his forehead once more, his skin damp but no longer burning. He was breathing evenly, his breaths characteristically released with a slight rasp and whistle. She sighed, her whole body aching from the day‟s events. If Josephine had not found them, she would probably be wandering around the ship in search of a little water, her mouth dry and her heart heavy. She would still be battling her fear of cholera and its possible hold on Lucius. She would be bracing herself for his death. But Josephine‟s candle in the dark had delivered them, and for that she was grateful. She was of no religion, but Josephine had a small prie dieu in the corner of the office, beneath the painting of Christ. Evelyn went to it, kneeling on the slight plank of wood and lifting her eyes to the image. The Lord wore an expression of tranquility, his eyes gentle and his mouth set in such a way that it seemed as though he were speaking. One of his hands rested upon the head of a small child, the other held up to his chest, forefinger and thumb touching with the rest of his fingers standing erect. She did not know what this meant, but she gazed in awe upon his face. It was his face that captivated her. Those eyes that stole her attention. She felt uncomfortable praying to a painting, so she imagined it was a window, that she was actually looking at the real Christ, not simply an image of him. She was so grateful that cholera had eluded them, she told him. That her husband was safe from its deathly grip. She thanked the Lord for sparing Lucius‟ life, for choosing not to leave her alone in this world. She stole a glance around the room and remembered to thank him for that, too, that they did not have to spend the night in the hall but instead had a comfortable chair and a soft rug to rest upon. She thanked him for Josephine and her charity. She thanked him for sparing their entire floor of the pestilence, that they should all live even though those above them had died. She prayed for the souls of the departed, that they would find peace in the depths of the great Pacific, their tomb. Her eyes grew heavy. She drifted backwards and laid upon the floor, where Josephine had spread a blanket for her. Before falling asleep, she glanced at Lucius, breathing noisily in the plush patient‟s chair, and she swore to herself that she would treat him better from now on. They had made an agreement of indifference in Panama, but she wanted to do better than that. She wanted to show God that she was grateful by serving her husband in the best way she could, by waiting on him and being tender to him and suppressing her terrible anger should it threaten to arise. She could be his friend, someone he could depend upon. This bout with death had frightened her, had shown her the value of Lucius‟ company and strength. Although her goal in life was freedom and independence in Ireland, she needed Lucius to help her along until the annulment. If he trusted her as his faithful companion, he might be happy to allow her to go home. Perhaps they could end their marriage on friendly terms. She had never dreamed it possible until now, but as she looked at her sleeping husband, she smiled. The answer was so simple. She helped Lucius get to California. He, in return, would help her get to Ireland. And if gold was as prominent a treasure as they had been told, she had nothing to fear. Her husband would make a fortune and in his gratitude, would pay her passage home. She had a faint vision of him waving to her from a distant dock as she sailed into the sunset, her hand raised in a gracious farewell. It was a delightful vision, one she had not dreamed of until now. Chapter Eight Evelyn regretted every single benevolent feeling she had towards Lucius the day he recovered. They returned to their cabin of twenty roommates, all of whom were amazed to see her husband alive and well. They insisted on drinking to his health, which resulted in a disastrous scene of twenty drunk men and one very uncomfortable woman, herself, who was teased and tickled and touched enough to make her murderous. She was not a courtesan, a porcelain mannequin to be stroked and violated. Lucius did nothing to protect her; on the contrary, he was quite taken with playing the fiddle and winning at cards to pay any attention to her whatsoever. She waited for him to come to her, to slap away the hands that reached up her skirts or pinched her waist, to apologize for the other men‟s behavior, to thank her for caring for him over the last forty-eight hours, but he did none of these things. She chastised herself for believing that they could ever be friends, that because of small incidents like the dance and Lucius‟ sickness and that night they kissed on the boat to Los Cruces they could benefit one another. How benevolent the mind became in the late hours of night when all seemed soft and the evil things of the world were hidden in the shadows of dark! Furious, she grabbed her things and stormed from the room, slamming the door to the laughter of many men. She had stolen one last look at her husband, but he did not even notice her. He was shouting with a few gamblers like himself, red-faced and smiling like a fool. She could have walked right up on deck and leapt into the sea and he would have never known. Indeed, it seemed he had never even been ill, that fifty-three souls like him had not just perished, that they had never settled on terms of indifference. He seemed to believe that they were only strangers, brought by chance onto this same ship bound for California gold. He was alive and well; that was all he cared about. Everyone else be damned! He was going to play his cards and drink his rum and bet her fortune and there was nobody else in all the world who could or would stand in his way. It was just as well. That was the reality of Lucius Flynn. That was his identity. To have expected any more was her folly. Perhaps she too had been unwell the night Lucius took ill. Perhaps she had been intoxicated by the imminent prospect of death and despair that followed cholera onboard. She had become a happy dreamer in the face of adversity. The light had seemed much brighter in contrast to such darkness. But Lucius was a schemer like herself. He had turned the tables and luck was now on his side; he held the winning hand. He had shown her his aces the night he held her close, the night they had smiled at one another and danced as they had never danced before. Oh, he had wooed her with his sweet words, referring to her as “my wife” as if her position was anything more than a thorn in his side. He had used her own devise against her, pulling her close then pushing her far, far away. Well, that was all well and good. She was finished with these games. She quit. She was out. I fold. Evelyn went to Josephine, who took one look at her face and thought her ill. “Is it your stomach, dear? Your head?” Yes, my head. Oh, how it ails me! Evelyn was an afflicted woman. Indeed, no woman was ever so afflicted as she. What exactly was wrong? What were her symptoms? She was shaking head to foot. She saw nothing but a blur of scarlet. She was riddled with fury. She ached from treachery. She was yoked to a crook, a man who sought to strip her of everything she possessed; her wealth, her homeland, her pride, her self-control, and it was none other than a priest of Josephine‟s God who had shackled her to Lucius Flynn for life. Lucius could not understand why she was so cold towards him. Once he realized she had left him in that stinking room full of fellow gold diggers, he came looking for her. It wasn‟t until late that night. She was already asleep on Josephine‟s office floor when he emerged. “Where have you been?” he demanded to know. “Come back to the quarters, Evelyn. You‟ll overstay your welcome here.” She turned her back to him, refusing to acknowledge his presence. “What‟s this?” he asked. “Why are you acting this way? Listen to me, Miss Brennan!” But she did not listen. He did not deserve an inclined ear, much less two. Instead she pulled the blanket over her head. He emitted some curses, then sighed and left. She avoided him until they arrived in San Francisco. After that night, he did not seek her. She had to locate him herself in order to ensure that they would embark in this city together. She did not want to be alone; she had not the means to be alone. The excitement of California had everyone in good spirits. Lucius did not reprimand her for her sour attitude the latter days of their journey, but instead greeted her with a curt, “Come along, then,” on deck. They departed the ship together, the following weeks full of new faces, places and opportunities. There were always new men who whistled as they made their way from town to town, always new women who hiked their skirts a little higher at the sight of her husband. She despised these harlots, but she despised Lucius even more for the occasional wink he would send in their direction, the smirk he would give or the coin he would toss. It was an insult to her, the woman by his side. It only fueled her temper, and Lucius knew it. He was playing with her now. This was all a joke to him. Before long she realized that indifference was the only tool she had against him. When he noticed that she stopped caring about his little flirtations, he ceased making a show of them. She knew he glanced at the other women. No man in California could resist it; how could they when there were so few of the female sex? But she turned a cheek, despite the burning flame of jealousy within her chest. They made their way across the Overland Trail, passing through various camps, some of which had been abandoned over the last couple of years. Miners had been quick to migrate once the gold had been eradicated from the rivers and the rocks. They had not come to this land to sit and wait; they were on the hunt, a never ending hunt for fortune. Lucius was no different. They traveled for miles and miles and miles, her boots well worn after a short time. They hired a small wagon and a couple of oxen to take them where they wanted to go; where that was, they did not exactly know. Lucius just wanted to be where the gold was, and for some reason, nowhere they went quite suit his fancy. They received word of a small community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas called Apollo Diggings. It was a fresh camp; many had overlooked it because during the summer months, there was no source of water to pan for gold. *Insert information about the vineyard here; how cellars were dug and gold was discovered in the ground. Miners were now migrating to this area not to pan, but to dig* After one evening, Lucius was convinced that he belonged in this Apollo, that it must be aptly named after the Greek sun god because it would make just that of every man who went there; glittering, golden gods, drenched in power and wealth. “It‟s calling my name,” Lucius had told his wife. She had rolled her eyes and hoped to God this was the final ridiculous notion Lucius would receive concerning this so-called instant wealth. As far as she was concerned, it was a fool‟s notion. This “instant wealth” was not instant at all. They had traveled for months across land and sea in the worst of conditions with the worst of hospitality and the worst of nourishment to get here. And what was California but a never-ending search for something better? It was a land full of men who never had enough. That was why they drank. That was why they gambled. It didn‟t matter how wealthy they were. She had seen filthy rich gentlemen in various saloons and hotels all along the way to Apollo Diggings. Also encountered were the lowliest, luckless jesters California had to offer. They sat at the same tables, drank the same ale, laughed at the same witless humor and still they pined for more. Always more. There was no satisfaction to be found in these camps. No contentment. And because they were ever hunting for that impossible achievement, she found herself slipping further and further into despair. She no longer hated Lucius because of what he had done to her; she simply hated him because he was no different from the others who reached out their greasy hands to touch her hair or slip a finger down her blouse. His face blurred with all the rest. His Irish burr faded into an adopted American drawl, only surfacing when he lost more games than he could afford or when he was too drunk to hide his heritage. She almost pitied him, because she knew that all the dreams he had followed to California were but elusive whispers that had led every other man like him on an empty chase to a finish line with no prize. By marrying her and undergoing this journey, he had forsaken a good future, a sturdy trade business and the prospect of marrying a good woman for love and not money, money that was nearly spent already. Poor Lucius. Poor, unhappy Lucius. This was not an adventure for him at all. It was his demise. Chapter Nine He woke earlier than the sun, his display of courage the night before giving him a slight jump in his step as he dressed and gathered his things. Maybe his luck had turned, he thought. Since they came to Apollo, he had lost nearly every game of poker and every game of whist. His aim had been terrible in darts and hunting. Indeed, he always found the strongest vein of gold, but only after someone else beat him to it. It was as if some unseen person had been working against him since his arrival. Somewhere in Apollo, Lucius had an enemy, and Evelyn believed it was Fate. But today, he was happy to rise, for last night, he met a challenge and conquered it. He engaged in a duel, and although his opponent knew not of his presence, Lucius pulled a winning card and allowed but a second for the enemy‟s recognition of his loss. For the first time in months, Lucius hit his mark. Evelyn touched the pearls in her ears as she watched him go. She felt a strange and foreign warmth that her husband spent the entire night with her for the sole purpose of giving her comfort. She had never known Lucius for a selfless man, but she could not think of one ill-intentioned reason why he should have remained with her till morning when had spent every other night sleeping outside around a campfire or inside the dining hall among friends. Since they docked in San Francisco, Lucius and she had never spent a night together. Their tent had only one cot, big enough for one person. He had set it up that way. As he stepped out, he turned to look at Evelyn. She closed her eyes so he did not know she was watching him. He lingered a moment, and when she opened her eyes once more, he was gone. Evelyn felt like taking a walk. The weather was beautiful and enticing, beckoning to her for enjoyment. As she emerged from her tent, fully dressed in anticipation for a fine day, the sun broke through a distant bough of pine needles and caressed her face. She closed her eyes and drank it in for a moment. The nearby sound of the miners at work filled her ears with a clamorous but not unpleasant hum, the music of those Californian hills. There was the clanking of metal against rock and the occasional blast of dynamite. Men shouting incoherent instructions to one another. Digging, always digging. Some of the quieter men had found comfortable places beside the springtime streams created by mountain run-off, taking to the more patient task of panning. Others stood beside a system of raised, man-made water ways in an alternative form of the art. The panners did not talk to one another, as if the sound of their voices threatened the gold, causing it to retreat into hiding. Instead they concentrated, training their minds to catch the slightest glint, the faintest glimmer of hope. At the end of the day, they would go home with a small purse of valuable dust, while men like Lucius, who only looked for the largest nuggets, came back empty-handed. A breeze blew, catching a few stray hairs and tickling her cheek. Today is a new day, she thought. There was a hint of possibility in the air, as if something was about to happen. Something was about to shift. Lucius felt it as he left for the dig site that morning and she felt it now as she stepped into the daylight, her heart beating a little faster at the prospect of hope. There was a commotion to her right and she looked to see May Westerly chasing a handful of chickens from her tent. Evelyn smiled at the sight of the woman, her skirts lifted to reveal ankles too little for her robust body, kicking and scolding her trespassers. Across the lane, Johann Spitz tested the fresh strings of a banjo he had worked on for weeks. He was a musician from Germany who recently realized that his luck in mining was as miserable as her husband‟s, but his way with instruments had created a decent income. He wanted to open a music shop someday. She nodded at him as she passed by. “Good morning, Frau Flynn,” he called above the jangling banjo. “You have recovered from the incidents of last night well, I trust?” Evelyn smiled and dipped her head in response. Pleased, Spitz began to sing a tune in his native tongue, which she did not understand. His grammar is better than most English-speaking Americans, she thought ironically. There were many foreigners in this part of California, and that was a comfort to her. To hear such a vast collection of dialects throughout the course of her day was an encouragement; a reminder that she was not the only one who had left her homeland. There was even another Irish family in this community, the father of which was the blacksmith. She passed his shop as she made her way out of town. He looked up from his work, his hands as black as the iron in front of him, and called out a greeting. She waved, her heart glad. “Such a brave lass,” he said. “Well done for issuing Daisy her due. My wife is very grateful!” Her feet carried her out of town and off the main road, into a narrow lane between towering rocks that had been scourged and blasted apart over the last year. They had offered little gold as they were rumored to be the tail end of the deposit which stretched into what was now Apollo and away from the forest. Miners had abandoned these worthless sediments and left the surrounding woods alone, deciding that there was nothing of value in this direction. Evelyn disagreed. There was wild beauty lingering just beyond the tree line, and today, she intended to explore it. Just because there was no gold did not make it worthless, especially to her. She remembered her passions as a little girl, her insatiable desire to know the land and its many different inhabitants. She had been fascinated by the variety of life outside the stone walls of her father‟s house, feeling safe within that colorful world which existed without speech, just as she did. Nature had its own way of communicating and she had not had the privilege of listening since she was very young. If anyone found out about this little adventure, they would quickly attempt to dissuade her from exploring further, especially alone. Two boys had ventured away from Apollo a couple of weeks prior and did not return. A search party was dispatched, and they discovered the bodies in the woods north of Apollo, marred with evidence that Indians had speared them to death. Caution was advised and instructions given not to venture from camp without a group of strong men and weapons of defense, should danger be encountered. Evelyn should probably be concerned about natives, but she was not. She imagined that many of the miners of Apollo Diggings were as savage as any Indian, if not worse. The redskins were only upset because white men had come with intentions to steal everything that belonged to them. Surely they would understand that she had not come to steal, that she was only there because she was forced to be there. She was not so naïve as to think she could explain this to them; even if she could speak, she would not know their language. But she was no threat to them. Surely they would know this, that was given the unlikely event that she should encounter any of them at all. She was not afraid, nor did she believe she should be. As she made her way into the sweet smelling foliage, the rocks became less disturbed. Moss crept over them in dense blankets of emerald hue. The sunlight was shielded by the thick and numerous limbs of trees, goliath beasts that towered majestically into the sky, guardians to those dwelling below. Her feet pressed into the soft, virgin earth as she journeyed along paths never before tread by any man. The idea that she was the first woman to discover these woods was exhilarating, the realization an elixir of pride. She glanced behind towards the place she had entered, the sunlight bright behind a gateway of trees, two jagged rocks standing just beyond as mammoth landmarks. That was the way out of here, the way that would lead her along the final mile to camp. She mustn‟t forget the way. As she progressed, she found herself dwelling on the events of the previous evening. With a tremor of dread, she recalled the sound of her intruder as he discovered her tent, the sight of his boots as she watched him from beneath the bed. Her head throbbed as she remembered his grip around her ankle, swinging her skull against the frame of the cot and dragging her against the splintering wood floor, tossing her onto the mattress with the cold barrel of Lucius‟ shotgun beneath her. So many things could have gone wrong. The gun could have been loaded, could have misfired as her body was thrown upon it. The drunk could have taken more than her precious pearls, could have stolen what was only hers to give once. He could have abused her, could have wounded her, could have killed her. She swallowed hard, the golden warmth of the spring day fading into a gray chill. That man would have surely committed all of those foul crimes had he known her lack of defense. Had he not been interrupted. Had he not been shot by her husband. Her husband. Lucius had saved her. He saved her. Surely that was reason enough to believe that she was more than just a nuisance to him? Surely these past twenty-four hours pled a case that her husband was more than a careless, hopeless scumbag? That he had defended her, had rescued her, had stayed the night on the floor beside her bed to protect her, were these not significant signs to prove him a man worth more than her endless efforts to belittle and resist him? But was one night enough to redeem a year of misfortune, distrust, contempt, pride, squandering and dishonor? Although he had issued empty threats at times, Lucius never struck her as the kind of man who would watch a murder take place and do nothing to help the victim. Last night, was she just a victim? Did he simply happen to stumble across a crime and find he had the resources to stop it? Would he have done the same thing for any other man? Any other woman? Daisy, perhaps? The thought of the prostitute caused bile to rise in Evelyn‟s throat. She stopped to spit, that seductive smile burning behind her eyes. Her knuckles ached as she forced herself to remember putting the girl in her place, the way Daisy looked as she lay bewildered upon the ground, that smile void of a few pretty teeth. She must be a sight today, Evelyn thought. She laughed a little at the girl‟s expense, but her mirth was empty. It was a counterfeit of what she thought she should feel, a gladness that did not truly exist. She should be content with the pain she caused Daisy, but instead there was only frustration. The deformities Evelyn created would be corrected before long and Daisy would work hard to have her retribution. She might not come for Evelyn, but she would come for Lucius, and the reality that his wife was not certain whether or not he would give in to the whore made her sick. The distant sound of water beckoned her. She followed the musical trickling until she found its source; a small creek, the same that ran through camp. She sat herself on a stone at water‟s edge, dipped a cupped palm into the creek and bought it to her lips. She drank, the coolness of the water calming her a little. She should not allow such thoughts to disrupt an otherwise gorgeous morning. Daisy would be proud to know she had a power over her, the power to obliterate her tranquility. Evelyn knew she must not give her that ability, for that was what the prostitute wanted. That was what every other wife in Apollo gave her. She expected other women to believe that they were refuse in light of her talents. Evelyn pulled a folded piece of newspaper from her bodice and turned it over a few times. She unfolded it, spreading it out across her knees and smoothing it with her hands. Above, a robin sang a sharp but lovely tune, her scarlet breast filling with air as she serenaded the forest. Evelyn worked the paper into different shapes, using her memory as a guide to recreate her crane. When she was finished, she held it up to catch a ray of light that had burst through the veil of green. Startled by the motion, the robin took flight. As she absconded, a hundred other birds rose from their perches in one swift movement and fluttered among the trees until they found a break in the leaves, disappearing into the sky. Bewildered by the sudden commotion, she dropped the crane into the flowing water below. She watched the birds as they vanished from view, and as she lowered her eyes to see her creation floating away, her vision was caught by the opposite side of the creek, where the earth ascended into a great hill. In some places there were walls of dark, mossy stone, and within one of these walls there appeared to be a cleft. An entrance. Curiosity took hold of her, and she stood to gather her skirts. She crossed the creek, using some small stones as steps. She trudged up the steep bank, her feet slipping now and then on decaying leaves and slick needles. Her thoughts told her she should turn back and run to camp, forgetting the woods and their promising mysteries, but her heart was captivated by the quiet, steady pulse of the forest. For years she had been forced to follow other people‟s adventures. Today she wished to have a little of her own. Evelyn grabbed the narrow trunks of young trees as she passed, using them as leverage to propel her forward. She looked back a couple of times, gauging her position. It should not be too difficult to find her way home. If she really tried, she could see the entrance to the woods, a tiny prick of light in the distance. She was certain she would not get lost. When she came to the rock wall, she slowed her pace and approached with caution and growing anticipation. Her heart pounded within her chest, her breath coming quickly. She saw the cleft, noted its width. Definitely wide enough for a man to slip in and out. Could a native live here? Or a miner, perhaps? Or maybe this was home to no man at all, but a creature. A bear or a lion, sleeping peacefully within. At this moment, he was probably dreaming of a hunt, of some wild thing he may soon devour. Trembling with timidity and wild curiosity, she brought herself to stand before the entrance, blocking the light. If someone was in there, surely he would know that she was standing at the entrance. She waited, knowing not what to expect. She could not call out, could not request an audience, could not warn the inhabitant of her imminent intrusion. Hello? Is anyone in there? A rush of wind rose from the bottom of the canyon, the small creek like a thin, meandering ribbon from this height. The wind ascended, whooshing through the trees and stirring the fallen leaves from the ground. It came to her, swirled around her in a great thunder of invisible motion. As it filled her ears, she thought she heard a small voice say, “Come inside.” She could not be certain she heard it, could not know for sure. But it did not matter anymore. She had been beckoned, and it did not make any difference to her whether or not it was simply her imagination. She must know who, or what, dwelled within these stones. Evelyn felt the chill of the air even before she stepped over the threshold into the cleft. As she ventured inside, her vision was impaired by darkness. She saw nothing, but she continued inward, her hands feeling along the stone walls and her toes carefully making sure the ground was sound before taking a step. The sound of trickling water echoed through the air, bouncing off the walls and giving her a sense of the dimensions of the cave. Her eyes slowly adjusted, for it was not pitch black but rather alit by a pale glow, coming from somewhere in the distance. She continued onward, realizing that she was in something of a hallway that opened up to a larger room ahead. The air was damp and thick. Evelyn could hear her breaths as they vibrated on the walls around her, her attempts to silence them futile. She was too anxious to breathe evenly, her heart was racing too fast. She realized that she would either discover something very great or very terrible, and neither prospect left her with the desire to turn back. Both propelled her on. The hall gave way to a vast, open room. She stepped into it, feeling the sudden desire to laugh. The ceiling loomed above her, rising twenty feet overhead and sporting a small crack in the center, where sunlight from the world above poured through and was refracted against a makeshift wheel of broken glass, dangling from the domed earth as a type of chandelier. The glasses tinkered against each other, the wind from outside having made its way through the entrance hall, disturbing the little crystals and casting glittering shards of light upon the walls in an array of colorful, dancing orbs. There was nobody there, but there were signs that this cavern was someone‟s home, or was at one time. There was furniture made from carved and twisted oak, a bed and a table, a chair and some shelves. There were stone tools forged for cooking and working, brushes made from sticks and hair stained from deep shades of dye. There was no parchment, no canvas bearing the creativity of such tools. Instead, the earthen walls were covered in color. The images were a little faded and were probably painted years ago. Evelyn looked around for any evidence that this artist still resided there, but there was none. A thick dust covered the makeshift furniture and a film of mud blanketed the ground. Water dripped from the far side of the cave and created a little stream through the middle of the room. It did not appear that anyone had been there for a long time. Evelyn returned her gaze to the walls, squinting in the faint light to study the images. They were boxy, jagged and angular, but somehow beautiful in their simplicity. With earthen shades, they portrayed the lives of those who came to California long before the „49ers. Mothers and children, men bearing great headdresses, brave hunts, creatures seen by a small handful of white men but beloved among those of darker skin. Her heart beat faster as she pondered the injustices done to those people. They had reason to be volatile, just as she had reason to be volatile. Their home had been taken from them. Their lives had been threatened by the monstrous modernization of their world, the so- called improvement, civilization. The white man had snatched away everything that was once pure and familiar and turned all to dust. Dust for money. That was all men like Lucius cared about. Forests like these would suffer on account of their greed. The purity of those who treasured their homes would be blotted out, stained and remembered as folly. As the ambitious advanced, the content were forced to diminish, to fall back into hiding. Evelyn did not know how much time passed, nor did she realize that the light above was growing dim. The atmosphere was thick in the cave, the air sweet and syrupy. She found herself dropping into the sturdy, oak bed, falling back and gazing up at the broken pieces of glass as they danced above her. At least here she may find some peace. Here where she was alone, where she could recall the girl she used to be, the home she once cherished. Her lids grew heavy and soon she was dreaming. She was back in Ireland, and her da was there with her piano and her endless green hills, and it was a good sleep. Evelyn woke to a strange sound, one that ebbed and flowed like oceanic waves. Confused, she concentrated on what the sound might be. It was dark, and she did not know where she was. Eyes wide, she waited for them to see in the darkness. Shadowy shapes begin to take form. The table and chair. The high shelves against the wall. The cave. She sat up quickly, throwing her legs around the edge of the bed and rising to her feet. The distant sound of rushing continued, and as she retreated from the cavern, she found that dusk has come, and with it, rain. Heavy rain. Wet. Wet through the skin, wet clothes clinging to every inch of her body, the chill of spring soaking through her pores and enveloping her bones like veils of ice. Shivering, arms crossed tightly across her bosom, she watched for puddles in the mud as she walked. Her feet rubbed and rubbed inside her damp shoes until their skin gave way and her soles were raw. She limped along, wondering as night fell what Lucius would think if he realized she was gone. That she had been gone. Part of her wanted to believe that he would not care, another part still that hoped he would. Perhaps he would even be frightened by the many possibilities that she could be lost, wounded, or lifeless. As she came into town, there were a few torches aglow, but there were no bodies in sight. Everyone was shut up for the evening. Everyone was hiding from the wet. Evelyn passed the blacksmith shop and the blacksmith was not there. She passed May Westerly‟s house and it was dark and closed up. The camp was silent but for the thudding of rain against the earth. The heavy dripping from the water laden trees. The dining hall stood alit at the end of the lane, the road curving to the left and into the main part of camp. The way it glowed in the deepening dark was inviting, the golden light warm and welcoming. She could use some hot rum to thaw her insides before returning to the tent, which would be just as cold and wet as it was outside. She would have to sleep, or attempt to sleep, with her umbrella again tonight, and that was not a welcome thought. The cave in the woods sounded awfully cozy this evening. If only she had remained asleep, she could have waited out this dreadful weather and worried about the consequences in the morning. Evelyn climbed the few steps to the dining hall and entered. There was a hush as she closed the door behind her, and when she turned to look inside she saw several pairs of eyes looking back at her. One of which belonged to Lucius. There was a group of men and May Westerly hunched over a table, some standing, some sitting, all appearing as though they had just witnessed a sprite enter the room. Realization flooded over her husband‟s face and he took three quick strides towards her, his hair disheveled and his eyes tired and anxious. He left no room for thought as he spread his arms and enveloped her in an embrace of relief. “Oh my God,” he breathed. “Evelyn.” Cold, sopping, and surprised, she remained stiff as a corpse. There was no sound, no movement in the room for a long moment as Lucius held her against him, his body willingly wrapped around her own. Over his shoulder, she saw the others who had gathered with him. Saul the bartender. Spitz the musician. The blacksmith. The priest. May Westerly rose from her seat at the table. “Dear girl,” she said, “We were so worried about you.” Lucius suddenly pushed away and held his wife‟s shoulders at arms‟ length. “You‟re all right?” he asked, his eyes taking in her appearance. “Are you hurt? Did anything happen to you?” His breath smelled sharply of whiskey. Evelyn shook her head and lifted a white wrist to brush away a lock of hair that had stuck to her face. She looked down and noticed that she had created a small but steadily growing puddle of rainwater on the floor. “Where have you been, child?” the priest asked, approaching. “Were you abducted?” Evelyn suddenly realized what was going through their minds. The events of last night. The intruder. Daisy. They thought her disappearance was somehow related. Perhaps someone was not happy with the fact that her husband had murdered a felon, or that she had wounded a prostitute. Perhaps someone had come to teach her a lesson. They asked more questions, none of which she could answer, all of which merited a shaking of the head. No, she was not abducted. No, there was nobody with her. Nobody hurt her. She did not encounter any Indians. She was not sick. She could see the confusion on their faces. Relief had given way to frustration, and none other than her husband felt it the strongest. It was clear that something new had entered his mind, some foul idea of what might have transpired. Rumors had planted little seeds, and now the seeds sprouted into suspicion. “Did you meet with someone?” he asked, his tone lowered. The question immediately angered her, though she expected it might arise. She lifted her chin defiantly and looked down her nose at Lucius, daring him to think the worst of her. Is that what you think? she wondered. That I should surrender to the same vile habits you had in New York? That I am as weak and easily influenced as you? Lucius‟ eyes burned into hers as he told the others, “She is safe and unharmed. I am sorry to have disrupted your evening on account of a petty miscommunication. My wife forgot to inform me that she was going out. But I suppose we can allow for such mishaps with a girl who does not know how to use her tongue.” Stung and enraged, Evelyn twisted her lips into a scowl. The others sensed tension between the husband and wife and silently made their way from the dining hall, all except Saul, who returned to the bar to occupy himself while he eavesdropped. Lucius called to him. “Saul, a parchment and quill, if you please.” Saul disappeared into his quarters behind the bar to fetch some writing utensils. Meanwhile Lucius breathed heavily, his nostrils flared. “You will write for me,” he told Evelyn. “You will tell me the truth of where you were today. Did you think I would not notice if you were gone? That I would turn a blind eye? This marriage may have been arranged, Miss Brennan, but I am not the kind of husband who allows his wife to strut about town like a hussy. I refuse to be mocked by a woman who has never even come to my bed.” His assumptions made her blood rise like boiling mercury. She had no control over the hand that rose, the palm that smacked squarely against his prickling jaw. She slapped him, her touch burning red against his skin. Saul reappeared and set the quill and parchment on the nearby table. His eyes met hers as he issued a slight warning with the shaking of his head. Be careful, honey, he seemed to say. He’s not himself. Something about Saul‟s presence stilled her rapidly beating heart. It was as if he had chastised her, and she was immediately penitent. “Your parchment, sir,” he told her husband. Lucius recovered from her blow and took her firmly by the arm. He led her to the table and commanded her to write. “Tell me the truth,” he insisted. She cast him a hateful look. “Write,” he said through gritted teeth, his index finger coming down hard on the paper. I went for a walk, she wrote. And fell asleep beneath a tree. “That‟s bull‟s pizzle!” Lucius shouted. Saul looked up from the bar. “Easy now, Mr. Flynn,” he said. “I won‟t be easy!” Lucius argued. “I will have her tell the truth! I am her husband, damn it. I am her husband!” He returned his attention to her. “Write! I waited all evening, Evelyn. All evening! We were about to send out a party for you, you selfish child. So don‟t give me some pathetic excuse about a walk and a tree. I want answers. I deserve to know if you were with another man, Evelyn. By God, I deserve to know!” I was alone, she wrote frantically. For God’s sake, I was alo… He took hold of her writing hand and wrenched the quill away. “Are you daft, too?” he asked. “Are you as stupid with pen and ink as with your voice? Are you good for anything at all?” If he would not believe her, there was no use trying to convince him. He was a filthy drunk, just like Burly. Who was to say that Lucius was any better? Who was to say he had not ventured into another woman‟s home from time to time? “You are not to wander off again,” he insisted. “You will remain in camp under the watchful eye of those around you. I will recruit everyone in this God forsaken town to be my spies and you will be forced to remain where you are, a prison of your own making. I was a fool to believe you could be trusted, that we could have any sort of agreement that allowed you to do as you wished. And don‟t believe I won‟t do it, Miss Brennan. You know that I am capable of being heartless, and with none more than you, my own wife. You have earned it, I daresay. From the moment we left New York you have pined after my punishment. God knows you‟ve worked damn hard for it.” Feeling sick, she pushed away from the table and made for the door. She did not realize that she was heading in the wrong direction. She walked directly towards the bar, past Saul and into his rooms. She heard Lucius calling after her, heard his footsteps falling heavily on the dining hall floor as he tried to follow her. But Saul stepped in front of him, barring the way. “You‟ll leave the lass alone,” he instructed her husband. “You‟re out of your mind and you‟ll get yourself sober before you speak with her again, you hear?” “She‟s my wife!” Lucius complained. “I have the right to speak with my wife! Let me in, damn you!” Evelyn peaked through the door to see Saul lift a revolver to Lucius‟ temple, his finger on the trigger. “You‟ll walk out the front door,” he told Lucius, his words coming slow and steady. “You‟ll sleep through the night and you‟ll have a headache in the morning. Then you‟ll drink some water, freshen up, shave that cactus on your face and then, only then, will you talk with your wife.” Chapter Ten Evelyn sat on the edge of Saul‟s bed, shaking from the many emotions evoked by the last twenty-four hours. Lucius‟ face was burned in her mind as the epicenter of all events; the reason and instigator of the many happenings that filled her life at present. Her heart raced as she thought of him, her face growing hot at the thought of his voice and the smell of his breath. A drunkard. A hateful, weak excuse for a man. Her father would be so ashamed of what Lucius had become, of how he had treated his daughter. “I‟m sorry, my dear,” her da would say. “I didn‟t foresee the young man‟s future, and yours with him.” Ah, but you should have! she wanted to scream. Had it not been obvious all those years ago, when she was a mere child and Lucius was not yet a man? He was his father‟s child, and his father was the epitome of scum from the very beginning. Even Evelyn, speechless, inexperienced Evelyn, had seen that. How could her father have overlooked such grave flaws in the Flynn‟s‟ character? She never looked for reasons to question her father, but this was a matter of some importance. It stumbled upon her, and she was bearing the consequences as best she could. But nights like this she had to wonder, What the hell was he thinking?! Lucius was a man riddled with self-demising pride. His stupidity and arrogance were destroying him, and those around him were forced to deal with it. It was not fair. It was utterly absurd. His father was bad enough, but Lucius had taken foolishness to a new level. Must she suffer this day after day for the rest of her life, her only hope of annulment a dull hope indeed? Her head was in her hands as Saul entered the room. He stopped at the sight of her, considered for a moment, then sat on the floor in a solid heap at her feet. She peaked at him through her fingers. “So, ya gonna stay here for the night, lass?” he asked. Evelyn didn‟t know what she was thinking when she strolled into his quarters instead of out the front door. If word got out that she was sleeping in Saul‟s bed, of course the rumors would escalate. Daisy would have a hay day. Helpless, she shrugged her shoulders. There was a rush of wind and rain outside, and the water beat heavily upon the roof and walls. She thought of her cot drenched in the cold wet and shivered despite the fire burning in the little pot-bellied stove nearby. “I present no objection,” Saul said, “especially after all ya been through in the last few days. Camp‟s not the kindest place for a lady, nor is it for a man. Ya see how it takes its toll on everyone, especially your husband. He‟s had a difficult time of it, ya know. The whiskey is a comfortable bandage for a festering wound.” Evelyn raised her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them, frowning at the thought of Lucius. “I ain‟t makin‟ excuses for him. You know that. But it‟s a hard place, this California. The papers don‟t quite capture it. I made lots of friends here my first year. Adventurers and fortune seekers, the lot of them. All of „em dead now. That‟s the truth of it. If the winter doesn‟t claim you, if the cholera and the flux decide to spare you, how ya choose to live through it all decides whether or not you survive. Lucius, as you know, ain‟t got the odds in his favor.” Evelyn glanced sideways at Saul, wondering what point he was making. “Now, ya know I‟m fond of ya, lass. You remind me of a sweetheart I had back in Scotland, a real rosy girl. She had hair like yours, and spirit, too, but she was a little softer around the edges, if you take my meaning. You‟re a bit frosty, if you don‟t mind me sayin‟ so.” Evelyn recoiled. This remark would have been common coming from Lucius. Not from Saul. Her respect for him caused the words to sting. “You are part of your husband‟s life, whether you like it or not. If you want him to survive this gold fever, you‟ve got to make things a little easier for him. I‟m not sayin‟ you‟re a terrible person, lass. Please don‟t misunderstand me. I just want you to understand that Mr. Flynn may not always turn to his drink if he knows there is a warm woman waiting for him at home. I saw the way he looked when he realized you were gone this evening. The man was frantic. When he burst through the doors askin‟ about ya, he was afraid. Truly afraid. „E doesn‟t want to lose ya, you know. „E‟s losin‟ everything else already.” But this is what he wanted! she wanted to argue. Lucius chose this path. Not her. She had no choice at all. He was out for adventure, and he got it! Just because the man had no self-control did not mean that she should play the part of obedient housewife and kiss him to make everything better. He was not a child, and she would not treat him like a child. He was a grown man who agreed to let her live as she wished as long as she fulfilled her detestable role as the dutiful housewife. She had done her part in full. It was him who had muddied things. Him who had instigated and infuriated her. She had paid the price for his petulance and greed and had only retaliated when her pride refused to be degraded any further. In her mind, she had done nothing wrong. She had only reacted in a fitting manner for a woman who had been as ill-treated as she. Saul did not know what she had to deal with. He did not know about the women Lucius loved before her. He did not know about her squandered inheritance or the night in Panama when Lucius lent her into the care of a pimp. He did not know about her all-night vigil at Lucius‟ side on the barge to San Francisco, the self-exile she endured at his expense. And how did he repay her? Not a smile, not a word of gratitude. He acted as though nothing had transpired, as though he had never been ill and she had never risked her very life to care for him. Saul knew nothing! Lucius‟ one heroic deed was a single act of kindness in a year of punishment. The fact that he stumbled upon an unfortunate incident and had the means to stop it was not enough to redeem an entire marriage comprised of folly. She did not pity him. She did not mourn his misfortunes. She could not see past the damage he had caused her and for that, she mourned for herself alone. For the sake of her reputation, she agreed to sleep elsewhere that night. May Westerly kindly received her. May was a respectable woman, known around Apollo for her stubborn will to survive. She had lost her husband in a mining accident the first month they arrived, and her son departed the following winter. Others tried to convince her to leave, to return to her home in Virginia, but she was determined to stay in California. “To do her husband and boy proud,” she said. She was an older woman, forty- five at least, with a face so plump and pink you just wanted to reach out and touch it to see if it was real. She did not smile very often and often huffed and puffed as she walked, her stringy hair constantly finding its way into her eyes and mouth. But she was charitable and ready to help another soul in need. The night was long and cold. May Westerly tossed in her bed and Evelyn knew she was struggling to sleep as much as her. But they did not speak to each other. May did not like to talk when she did not know someone very well, which in Evelyn‟s mind was a welcome attribute of the older woman‟s personality. In the morning, Evelyn was woken by an inconsistent clacking on the wooden floor of May Westerly‟s tent. She opened her eyes and noted that daylight had not yet broken, nor had the sound of the mine filled the air. Instead, her surroundings were washed in the pale light of impending dawn and beside her cot was a character of inhuman proportions. In the darkness, she recognized him and was startled. Beside her was Johann Spitz‟s mule, Digger. He had found his way into May Westerly‟s home. “Don‟t move,” she heard May Westerly whisper. The woman stood just behind the animal, her broom wielded as a weapon. “I‟ve got „im right where I want „im.” The animal‟s ears twitched. He crunched peacefully on some straw taken from the mattress on which Evelyn lay. She watched him curiously, alarmed but somewhat amused. May Westerly‟s accommodations seemed to beckon animals of all kinds, for she was always chasing out some vermin or another. May Westerly sneaked from behind the mule and slowly, silently raised the end of her broom into the air. The bristles made a sharp swishing sound as she brought them down on Digger‟s bottom, frightening him and causing him to yaw loudly. His heavy feet clopped on the floor as he reared himself for flight. “Git!” May Westerly cried. “Git, you filthy ass!” Evelyn raised her arms above her head in protection as she realized that the animal must either go around her bed or leap over it to get to the door. She had no doubt that she was about to become just another hurdle in this creature‟s route to safety. The animal took a couple steps backwards, its rear bumping into May Westerly. Sturdy as an ox, she lifted the broom once more and cracked it down on the animal‟s hide. The donkey released a harsh squeal and charged Evelyn‟s bed. She gasped and ducked beneath the covers, her only form of protection. She listened as the hoofs left the ground on one side of the cot and found their footing on the other, all four coming down in a hard clap. The animal retreated into the lane, stopping short in front of Johann Spitz‟s house as if patiently awaiting the moment he could tattle on their unwelcoming neighbor. Evelyn sat up, swinging her legs to one side of the bed, breathing fast. May Westerly blew some hair out of her face and shook her head. Evelyn began to laugh. “Damn things always finding their way into my house,” May Westerly muttered. “The other day I come home from panning down at the creek and what do I find? An ol‟ coyote, perched there on my bed like a cat. He was just lookin‟ at me, eye to eye like a friend or something. „You seem to forget I didn‟t invite you,‟ I told him. I got one of the fellers to chase him out for me, but by the time we got back, he was gone. Run off, I s‟pose. Interesting, though, how they all seem to find their way to me. I never heard of them critters wandering into anyone else‟s tent in these parts. An‟ they didn‟t start showing up till ol‟ Rudy died last harvest, God rest his soul.” she crossed herself at the mention of her deceased husband. It caused Evelyn to think of Lucius and soured her mood. She felt a sudden burst of negative energy and knew how she must spend it. Laundry. She thanked May Westerly with a nod of her head. She had busied herself with flapping her blankets and arranging them on her bed. The rustling caused her hair to blow about her face and her cheeks to flush more than usual. “Anytime, dear,” she huffed without a smile, though her voice was kind. “Don‟t go a‟wanderin‟ off, ya hear? That husband of yours will have your head for it. Better to obey him and simmer quietly, if you know what I mean.” Evelyn nodded again, wishing there was something nearby that she could kick. Instead, she rushed home, the sky above looming and weighing heavily against her shoulders. The sun rose behind a thin veil of lavender clouds and the earth smelled of heavy moisture. It would rain again today. She approached her tent and just in case Lucius slept there for the night, she entered cautiously. But there was no one there. Everything was damp and smelled faintly of mildew. She would not be surprised if mushrooms and moss began to spring from the mattress and floorboards. Damn this spring, she thought. Evelyn fetched her wash bucket, which had already collected water from the rain. She carried it to the creek, where the water was high and milky brown, the dust from the bottom having been churned during the storm. A lot of good this would do me, she complained to herself. She would have to make due with the water she had. It wasn‟t much, but it would suffice. She returned to camp in a brisk walk, her feet sore and sloshing again as they had done last night, for her boots were still damp. She limped along as best she could, the pain only acerbating her mood. Once back at her tent, she grabbed a bar of soap and an arm full of clothing and took them outside to her little laundry area, where there was a small tree with low boughs to drape the clothes. The tree was still dripping from last night and would be a sorry line for drying garments, but there was nothing else to use. The clothes must be washed and she must wash them. Those idle hands must have something to do or she feared they would search for something to hurt. If Daisy were before her she would strangle her. Such was the condition of her heart this day. Aggressively, she went to work. She slapped the soap against cloth and began to scrub, the sound and motion a slight comfort. The cold water turned her skin pink at the fingers, her very bones aching from the frigid temperature. Between dresses, socks and undergarments, she had to stop and hold her hands near her mouth in order to breathe comfort into them. They were freezing, the slight warmth from her breath causing them to tingle. As morning waxed, the light ceased to grow, for clouds from the east created a dark canopy in the sky and blotted out the light of the sun. The air was thick and cold, colder than yesterday. She plunged one of Lucius‟ shirts, cursing him and how brown he managed to make his white clothes. She focused on a particular stain, brushing it again and again with soap, scrubbing and plunging fiercely until she heard a slight tear. She stopped to look at the damage she had done. The fabric had worn thin and ripped, her tenacious work too much for it to handle. Now she had mending to do. Angry, she held up the defiled object and peered through the hole, gauging its‟ size. Lucius‟ face looked at her through the wounded cloth. Alarmed, she gasped and snatched the shirt up into a bundle. “Was that one of mine?” Lucius asked, incredulous. His wife set her mouth in a line and thought, Thankfully, yes. She prayed he would not linger, that he would not fall into one of his childish fits, that he would move on. Instead, he came nearer. “You should not be out here working like this,” he told her. “It is wet and freezing. Soon it will rain. What are you thinking?” He glanced at the clothes hanging from the bough of the tree. “Evelyn, these will not dry!” he exclaimed. Upset that he disturbed her, she rose from her stool and threw his shirt into the washing bin. Here she was trying to serve him, to perform the duties he had asked of her, and now here he was setting himself against everything she did. There would be no pleasing him. His clothes could remain wet and mutilated for all she cared. He could take care of them himself from now on. She tried to walk away, but he grabbed her by the arm. “Wait, Miss Brennan,” he said, his voice softer. “I did not mean to pester you. That was not my purpose for calling.” Whether it was your purpose or not, you have succeeded. She tried to wrench her arm away and failed. His grip was strong. “I came to apologize for how I mistreated you last night,” Lucius continued. “Would you allow me to do that?” She studied him, considering whether or not he was sincere. He looked dreadfully pale, his eyes and cheeks sunken, his jaw unshaven. His clothes hung from his body in an unpleasant way. He had grown thin and sinuous, the daily hard work and difficult conditions taking their toll. He no longer stood tall like a proud man, but hunched his shoulders as though he was burdened. He was probably hung over from the whiskey, and she was surprised he was even awake and moving. Her husband was a pitiable sight. “I am sorry,” he said, his eyes faltering to the ground. His grip loosened and his arm fell heavily against his side. He sniffled and fumbled for words, her attention now making it difficult for him to focus on his purpose. Now that she was not fighting him he must succeed in making her believe him, which would be a difficult thing to do. He had done little to earn her trust, and even less to earn her forgiveness. He chuckled ironically. “This place has ruined me,” he confessed. “I set out to make a man of myself in California, but she is breaking me.” He sighed heavily and brought his eyes to meet her own. “When you disappeared last night I thought… I thought…” He sniffled again. Coughed. “The truth is I no longer recognize myself, Miss Brennan.” He held her gaze a moment, as though he expected her to remind him, to return his lost identity. But that was something she could not do. The Lucius she had always known was not a reflection he could bear to see. Already the mirror was cracking, for he was getting a glimpse and it did not sit well. He choked a little, then looked at the clothes in the tree. “It will rain,” he said, changing the subject. “They will be ruined if they cannot dry. Come. Let us take them inside the hall, where there is a fire and they may dry right and proper. I will help you.” He began to pull the clothes from their boughs. She followed his lead, stealing glances at him now and then as they took the garments inside. He was not the young, vibrant man who dragged her to California. He was weary and weathered. His movements were lethargic, his step a heavy trod. When they entered the dining hall, Lucius stood on a table and draped the clothes over a beam as she handed them to him. When they were finished, he descended and nodded to Saul, who watched quietly from the bar. “The lady had some laundry to do,” he told him. Saul nodded once, his large arms crossed over his barrel chest. “It was right of you to assist her,” he replied, unsmiling. Lucius stood close to his wife and began to speak low. “You may not see me for a few days,” he told her. “Some of the men are leaving on a hunting expedition and I mean to go with them. I feel I cannot bring myself to return to the mine for a time. I grow sick at the thought of digging. Always digging. I need to see some results for my efforts, if you understand me. As a man, I need that. “I have arranged for you to stay with Mrs. Westerly. She will look after you while I am gone. Don‟t look for me. I will come when I have been away long enough.” Evelyn looked to Saul, who caught her eye. He knew of what Lucius was telling her. He knew that she was being left behind. Lucius watched her face for some sort of reaction. He waited for a look of hesitation, of fear, of desperation. But she offered him nothing. Only silence. He nodded, understanding that she was not the weepy damsel who would fall at his feet and beg him not to go. Women of the Gold Rush were not like the women in fairy tales. The gold had hardened them, just as it had withered their husbands. Her husband looked down at one of her hands, the tips of her fingers still rosy from the chill of washing clothes. Hesitantly, he reached out to take it in his own. “Your hands are freezing,” he said, surprised. He snatched up her other hand and held both for a moment, awkward in this sudden gesture of affection. Her heart raced as they faced each other, her own mind confused by the warmth she now felt inside. “You must take better care of yourself,” Lucius demanded, his voice stern but soft. “No more wandering at night in the rain. No more laundry in the cold. Go on, stand by the fire. Be warmed.” He released her and used a hand to gently turn her towards the hearth. She took a few steps in the direction of the fire, but something within her leaped to see Lucius‟ face once more. When she turned, however, she saw only a gray void as the door closed behind him. The rain had begun to fall. He was gone for weeks. The very way he commanded her not to look for him kept her in a constant state of alert for news. She kept her ears open at all times. Each morning she rose early to go to the dining hall, where Saul was ready to shake his head. “Sorry lass,” he said. “There‟s been no word.” She lived in a constant state of waiting. Waiting to know he was well. Waiting to know he was alive. Waiting to know he had not been taken by a band of angry Indians and held, beaten beyond recognition in a teepee. She did not realize what a large piece of her life he was until he was gone, until the possibility of him appearing around any corner was no longer there. Each night she lay awake until she could fight sleep no longer, for perhaps she would hear a chorus of cheers rise above the sounds of night and she would know that he had returned. That last day with him played over and over in her mind. The sickly hue of his skin. The yellowish tint of his eyes. The weary way he held himself. What if he was more than hung over from the previous evening‟s drink? What if he was ill? What if he had wandered off into the woods to die like an animal, to rid her of their attachment all together? If he were dead, there was so much yet unknown. So much that would never be known. Was their marriage ever anything more than arranged? When he took her hand that last time, was it for more than a polite farewell? Were the many burning sensations of anger and impatience so passionate because there were other feelings beneath the surface? It was easy to succumb to these ideas in Lucius‟ absence, when he was not here to pester her, to infuriate her, to degrade her. It was far simpler to think better of him when he was no more than an apparition, lost behind sheets of fog in the cold, damp forest. Warm and tender feelings rose like heat, leaving cold realities to slither patiently along the ground as they waited for elated emotions to pass in light of what was true. As the days dragged on she forced herself to remain occupied. She did not realize how much time it took to constantly rebel against Lucius, whether that meant wandering off or daydreaming about Ireland. Now that he was gone, she wondered what she did to accomplish anything of value. In New York, her mind was cultivated with history and language. Her fingers were acquainted with music, writing and stitching. But so little of that mattered in Apollo. Here the women prepared meals, built fires, gathered wood, hunted small game, mended wounds. She knew so little of the art of maintaining her own existence, but now she had the time to learn. It was painful to admit that Lucius was not the only reason their credit had run high. Their meals had cost a small fortune alone because she know nothing of gardening, nor did she know how to hunt or prepare anything but poultry. If Lucius did not return, if he was killed or already dead, she would live alone. She would need to know how to survive, and surviving meant functioning without money. In Lucius‟ absence, Evelyn moved in with May Westerly and learned to shadow the older woman. In the beginning, May Westerly was a little apprehensive as to why the girl had taken such an interest in her work. But after a short time, she seems to think that Evelyn had grown bored with her way of life and was in search of entertainment. Evelyn knew this and decided not to be offended. She was aware that everyone in camp believed she was a pampered girl from the city. It did not matter; most of the same people came from lives that were far easier and more luxurious than Evelyn‟s ever was. The blacksmith was an Irish businessman. Johann Spitz had taught at a university. May Westerly‟s family owned plantations in the South. Everyone there had been wealthy or funded by the wealthy in order to get to California. It was just easier to pick on her because she said nothing to defend herself. May Westerly was a thoroughly independent woman. She had been on her own for some time and was well acquainted with hard work. Over the weeks that Lucius was gone, Evelyn learned how to make bread, to sow seeds and prune fruit trees, to harvest lettuce and strawberries and melons. May Westerly taught her how to recognize a fertilized chicken egg, to keep it warm and watch with wonder as new life came from it. “You mustn‟t eat every egg just because it is there,” May instructed. “You must raise it up, just like a seed in the ground. Otherwise you will run out of eggs and you will have to eat the hens. And what happens when you have no more hens? I daresay, you have no more hens! And that is a very sorry predicament. The more bubbies you raise to be mothers, the more eggs you have to eat. The only sense in being impatient is bad sense.” May Westerly taught her how to make and set traps for small game, such as rabbits and squirrels, and once they had caught something, she taught her how to skin and prepare it. It was a messy business, but when the days were done, Evelyn found herself exhausted and wondering at how quickly the hours passed. She thought of Lucius, and once or twice she even found herself praying for him, but before long she was too sleepy to pray anymore. One night in late May, the air was so warm that she could not rest. She tried several different positions to fall asleep, but nothing helped. Her mind wandered, and before long she heard May stirring as well. “You asleep?” May asked. Evelyn knocked on the frame of her cot to say that she was indeed awake. “It‟s like hell‟s bakery in this tent. Let‟s go outside and look at the stars.” Evelyn followed her into the dark of night. There was no moon, and the expanse of the sky glittered brilliantly. They laid blankets upon the ground and stretched out on their backs, their eyes straining to open wide enough to take in the glorious scene above. “I‟ll bet we‟ll see a hundred shooting stars tonight,” May said. “The problem will be thinking of a hundred wishes. There ain‟t a hundred things I want, not in the whole world. How „bout you?” Evelyn knew she could not confess her wishes, but she began to think of them. Could she dream up a hundred wishes? What would they be? “I could only think of two, you know, and I‟ll tell them to you because I don‟t reckon they‟ll ever come true. But if I was to make a wish, I would wish for my husband and my son to be alive again. Husband, number one wish. Son, number two wish. Both as important as the other. And if I had to wish a hundred wishes, I would wish for my husband fifty times and my son fifty times. Problem is I already prayed for them, and I figure wishing is a little less powerful than prayer, if you take my meaning, because a prayer‟s got God behind it whereas a wish just kind of floats away into the wild blue yonder and you never know if it‟s gonna hit anything. I figure if God don‟t answer my prayers, it‟s at least worth a wish, but I confess I don‟t have as much faith in wishes.” Evelyn giggled to herself because she didn‟t think the difference between a prayer and a wish was that important. What mattered was the hope that inspired them. So what hope did she have? Could she think of one hope, ten, fifty, a hundred? When she thought of hope, she thought of the only thing she had prayed for these last few weeks, and that was Lucius. She hoped for Lucius. She prayed for Lucius. She wished a hundred wishes for Lucius, because he was all she had to wish for. How silly of her, she thought, to hope for someone she had been trying to rid herself of from the moment she became attached to him. He had been the ever-present thorn in her side. If he never returned from his expedition, she would have had her annulment, and this severing would not have been ordained by the state. It would have been set in motion by God, or by the universe itself, or by the stars, whichever was in control. She would be free to live the rest of her life alone. To return to Ireland. Her distant, empty, fatherless, homeless home. Filled with a familiar sadness, she dropped her eyes from the sky and peered into the darkness around her. She took a deep breath, inhaling the air and with it allowing certain realities to enter her mind. The Ireland she had longed to return to was not the Ireland that existed across the sea. The Ireland she longed for was her father, and he was dead. She had nothing apart from California. She had nothing apart from Lucius, and if she lost him, she would lose everything. If God humored her headstrong and impetuous desires to sever her relations with her husband, she would be the fool. She would have traded her one opportunity of a better life for isolation. And she did not find herself wishing for that lonely existence this night. She found herself wishing for the man who looked at her with wanting eyes on her wedding day, the man who kissed her on the river boat to Los Cruces, the man who touched her hand the night he disappeared into the wilderness. The man who made her burn hot with fury, who turned her to ice with his neglect, who melted her with the slightest bit of tenderness. If it was God who bound them in marriage, let it not be God who severed that bind. Let her not ask it of Him. Let her not make them both a fraud; a fraudulent wife and a fraudulent god. She lifted her eyes and as she did, a great burst of white flashed across the sky. “Oooh,” May Westerly sang. “A wish for my husband!” Yes, Evelyn thought. A wish for my husband. Chapter Eleven As the temperature dropped just before the sun rose, Evelyn woke. She gathered her blanket around her and in a rush she rose, leaving May Westerly alone outside her tent. She ran down the lane towards the dining hall, the hopes from the night stirring sharply in her belly. Perhaps he had returned. Perhaps the falling star was a sign, a symbol that God had heard her prayers. Perhaps this new day was a new chance, a new opportunity for a new life. She reached her tent and threw aside the canvas door, but it was empty. The hall, she thought. If he has come he will be in the hall. She held back the laughter she felt inside at the prospect that this day might be the beginning of the rest of her life. If Lucius was there, if he was just in the dining hall after many weeks of absence, she would show him how she had changed. She would take care of him. She would cook his meals and clean his house and nurse him when he was ill. She would plant him a garden and clean his game. She would be a good wife, if only he would be her companion. If only they may spend the rest of their lives together, in peace. He was the only Ireland she had left, and she chose him. She chose him. She burst through the dining hall doors, but it was early and Saul was not even at the bar. She glanced quickly around the room, looked for bodies sprawled on the tables and floors. But there was no one present. Surely, surely they had returned. Surely he had come? Exploding with expectation, she ran to Saul‟s doors and hammered on them. Wake up! Wake up, you old man. Tell me Lucius is here! It was hours, days, ages before Saul opened the door to his quarters. When she saw him, when she looked into his earnest eyes, she felt as though she had run into a wall. Lucius had not come. Lucius was still gone. “What is it?” Saul wondered. “What is wrong, Evelyn?” Suddenly, she was struck by loneliness, by desolation, by the cold, silent world she lived inside. She could not express what she felt. She could not tell Saul what it was. She could not tell him what was wrong. He could not know why she had risen before the sun, why she had run in desperation to his door, what consolation she had sought from his eyes. For it was not there. The words, they were never there. Her eyes welled with tears as she took one last look around the hall. It was empty. It was void of him, just like her. Laden with despair, she slowly made her way back to May Westerly‟s home. She collapsed in her cot, confusion coursing through her like the blood in her veins. She was exhausted. She was weary. She did not recognize the many emotions she felt, so she did not attempt to define them. She sought solace in slumber. Later in the day, May and Evelyn worked in the garden. The hours passed slowly as May Westerly chattered, her mouth sputtering anything that came to her mind. She had grown comfortable with Evelyn, had even taken a great liking to her, so she was always finding things to talk about. She told stories about her family and the plantation where she grew up. In her youth, she fell in love with a slave and was cursed by her father. He had the slave flogged and sold to another farmer, then banished May to a distant relative‟s home far away. There she spent the years healing, and as a young woman met and fell in love with the man who became her husband. “I never regretted the love that I felt for my father‟s slave, because he was not a slave to me. He was just another person with a different color skin, just as you are another woman with a different dress. It was difficult to let him go, to realize I could do nothing to save him from my father or the life he was given as a slave. But I was careful not to blame myself, though I realized I had made a great many mistakes. Still, I was little more than a child when this happened. Young women cannot help who they love. By the time I met Archibald, I was more mature. Guarded, yes. Hurt, yes. But he was new and different, and I did not have to force myself to love him, even though my heart had belonged to someone else all those years. Our love became natural over time, and today he is still the man I love, the man I dream about.” May Westerly‟s stories were lovely and romantic, but they did nothing to assuage the feelings in Evelyn‟s heart. She ached in a way she had never ached, and throughout the day, she had difficulty showing interest in the things that came out of May‟s mouth. Late in the afternoon, the older woman made mention of Evelyn‟s ill-humor. “Are you unwell?” she asked. “Begging your pardon, but with your condition it is sometimes difficult to know what it is you need. Should I fetch the doctor? You have not touched food all day and your face has been flushed since morning.” Evelyn waved her hand at her, dismissing her thoughts and suggestions. They were kneading bread and she lifted a floured finger to brush a hair from her face. “You are not sick?” May Westerly persisted. Evelyn shake her head. “Are you burning?” Impatient, Evelyn took May‟s hand and lifted it to her cheek. Satisfied that she did not have a fever, May placed a hand on her hip. “Well, if I had any dern paper in this place I would ask you to write to me, tell me what‟s wrong. As it is…” She stopped a moment, had a thought. “Oh dear!” she said, her voice softening into a hush. “It‟s your man, isn‟t it? You‟re worried about him.” Evelyn looked up from the dough for just a moment, then returned to kneading. “Oh, honey!” May Westerly said, setting a warm palm on the young woman‟s shoulder. “I‟m sure he‟s all right! He‟s been gone a long time, so he‟s bound to be home soon. You mustn‟t worry.” Evelyn‟s eyes began to burn and she felt a sharpness in her throat. She breathed deeply, attempting to force the sadness away. But May continued to offer sentimental comforts, which only caused the tears to rise. Before long she had to stop kneading, for the tears were spilling over her cheeks and she did not want them to violate the bread. She pursed her lips and set her brows against the onslaught of crying, but it was no use. May Westerly gently turned her body and opened her arms to her. She collapsed in them and allowed the sobs to rack her body. Her tears drenched May Westerly‟s hair, her nose running all over the sleeve of her dress. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Evelyn hardly knew what had gotten into her. She was confused, she was lonely, and she was violently anxious over a husband she had always despised and was trying desperately not to love. Down the lane, there was the sound of cheering. Her cries ceased at once and her head shot up like the ears of an alarmed dog. May Westerly and Evelyn looked towards the entrance of the tent, then at each other. They said nothing, only gathered their skirts and rushed from the tent. Either someone had just won at a long, intense game or the hunting expedition had returned. Evelyn hoped against hope that the men had arrived. As she ran, she swiped at her cheeks and eyes to rid herself of the evidence of tears. May Westerly huffed behind her, struggling to keep up with her long, youthful legs. She cast a look at her, smiling slightly. As they drew closer, the bawdy sound of men‟s voices filled the air and she knew it must be true. The hunters had come home. The women leaped across the threshold and into the dining hall, their eyes pouring over the scene in front of them. Upon the two center tables of the hall were animal carcasses piled high. Deer, foxes, quail, coons, conies, a bobcat. Many had gathered to survey the scene, to clap the men on the backs, to welcome home husbands, brothers and fathers. It was true, the moment had finally come when her husband had come home to her. Evelyn searched the many faces, her heart racing, pounding within her chest. The faces of the men seemed to blur together as she waited for him to appear. May Westerly stood beside her, her eyes searching as well. In a moment, Lucius‟ friend Spitz spotted Evelyn and smiling, approached. “Mrs. Flynn!” he called. Apprehensive, she looked at him. Where is Lucius? “Mrs. Flynn, you‟ve come to see you husband, no doubt. But he has not returned with us!” Suddenly the room stopped spinning. Faces stopped swirling. Colors ceased to exist as she saw only red, the blood bursting from her heart. “He has stayed behind. A couple of men found the tracks of a bear and decided to follow the trail. They should not be long behind us.” Feeling relief at the news that he was alive and grave disappointment that he had not returned, she feared she may collapse. May Westerly grabbed her elbow to steady her. “It‟s all right, child,” she tried to comfort Evelyn. “He will be home soon. He is safe and not far behind.” Just then, a female voice declared, “Our brave men have returned!” The room fell into a hush as all turned to see Daisy, grinning bright as ever with a perfectly repaired smile. She wore a sapphire blue gown, the deep color accentuating the darkness of her hair and eyes. As she made her way through the room, Evelyn felt sick to her stomach. The prostitute‟s beautiful teeth shone in her direction as their eyes met. “Dear Mrs. Flynn, wherever is Mr. Flynn?” Those eyes flashed right and left. “Why, I don‟t see him!” She made her way towards Evelyn, Evelyn‟s hands balling into fists. Her fingernails cut into her flesh as she found that she could not recall the justification she felt when punching Daisy‟s teeth out the first time. She wanted to recreate the scene, to see that smile ruined again, to see those eyes blackened by tears of pain and hatred. If only such a blow could last. If only such a cat-like grin could be blotted out forever. Daisy stood before her, too close for comfort. Her wonderful and despicable scent filled Evelyn‟s nose, a pungent mixture of vanilla and rosemary. “‟Tis a shame he is not here,” she continued. “I had planned a most warm welcome for him.” She smiled at the men behind her, licked her lips in jest. Some chuckled uncomfortably. A few whistled. Evelyn tried to lunge for her but was restricted by May Westerly‟s firm grip. “Save it,” she whispered into her ear. “Don‟t listen to her poison, Evelyn.” “Has Lucius Flynn fallen in the hunt?” Daisy asked the room. “Have we lost him forever?” “You never had „im!” an angry woman shouted. “Leave „is poor wifey alone!” “He has left his poor wifey alone, I daresay!” Daisy mercilessly bantered. “She ‟s cold as a fish. No man could be inspired to touch such a rigid icicle.” The room was tense with the possibility of another fight between Evelyn and the prostitute. They remembered what happened last time and were a little nervous for Daisy, but they were even more nervous for Evelyn. Obviously Daisy has armed herself for battle. Her arrows had been sharpened. “Let‟s go,” May Westerly suggested. “There‟s no use in waiting to be baited, Mrs. Flynn.” “She ‟s already been baited, Mrs. Westerly!” Daisy announced, amused. “She wouldn‟t be so offended if she didn‟t already believe her husband had touched me, would you, Evie? I would mean nothing to you if you knew nothing of Lucius‟ adoration for me, of the times he came to my bed when he could have been in yours.” Impaled by her remark, Evelyn was too stunned to attack, too wounded to fight back. Instead, she shrank back as Daisy reveled in her assault, her cunning words grave lacerations upon Evelyn‟s heart and pride. Daisy blended seamlessly into the crowd, moved towards a group of men who were eager to receive her, and as the room realized that nothing had happened, no onslaught of punching, kicking, screaming or ripping had taken place, they began to mingle once more. The hunt was inquired after, the game admired. Evelyn was forgotten as May Westerly led her from the hall. As May helped the girl out into the falling night, someone called after them. “Mrs. Flynn!” It was Saul. They stopped as he reached them, his large hands landing squarely upon each of Evelyn‟s shoulders. “Don‟t believe a word of it. Do not allow her venom to pierce your heart. She is deceptive and jealous. I know your husband. He has never laid a finger on that woman, truth be told. I have only ever seen him look at you.” “She has had a difficult day,” May Westerly told Saul. “Please, she needs no reason to linger on that crow‟s screeching.” “I only wish her to know the screeching is in vain.” Saul turned soft eyes on Evelyn. “Daisy speaks only lies. Do not allow her words to give you cause for question. Your husband is faithful to you, Evelyn. You must trust in these, the words of a friend, above the words of one who only wishes you harm.” Evelyn wanted to believe him, tried desperately to believe him, but what were the words of a bartender? Certainly he was her friend, but he knew nothing of what happened in the rooms of Madame Claire‟s brothel. Evelyn did not trust Daisy, but the very fear she suffered that Lucius had been unfaithful gave her doubt against all doubt. Evelyn was right to accuse Daisy, for she burned with jealousy at the mere thought of her. And why? Lucius, though by law, had never belonged to her in his heart or his mind. Why should his eyes not wander, and to one with allure such as Daisy‟s? She had tempted the eyes of many men, married or not, old or young. There was something so devilishly desirable in the way her hips swayed as she walked, in the way she smiled and dipped her lids to reveal only half of her lilac-colored eyes. In all Evelyn‟s life, she had never worked half so hard to earn the attention Daisy received. It was the girl‟s profession, and she was damn good at it. Evelyn recalled the way she herself had sauntered before her husband when they first married, those beginning weeks of their journey together. He had watched her then, had looked at her with desirous eyes. It had been simple enough; she had a new wardrobe, a new status as a woman. She had led Lucius on and he had given chase, like a panting cheetah on the African plains. The difficult thing had been putting him off, rejecting him so that he knew she was beyond his reach. She wanted to be his goddess, a woman so elevated in his eyes that he could only ever watch from a distance and burn for her, but never touch her. How cruel she had been; no better was she than Daisy, a temptress, a huntress feeding on the affections of a helpless man. But Daisy was never foolish enough to let go of her suitors all together. She had held them at arm‟s length, and the moment they began to fall away, she gave them just enough to dazzle them. As for Evelyn, she gave up on her games with Lucius long ago, on that final stretch of sea before San Francisco. She severed their flirtations. She distanced herself beyond his range of sight. So who was she to believe that he had kept her in his gaze all these months? When all manner of women had sought after him, had reached for him, had stroked his face in a loving caress? She had given him nothing and Daisy, in return, had offered him everything. Saul was a good man and he meant well, but who was he to know what has transpired in the dark of night? Daisy knew, and she had told Evelyn. She had announced her victory and Evelyn‟s defeat before everyone. Evelyn folded her hand of cards long ago, and she was foolish to believe she was still in the game. It was she who has forfeited all. Slowly, subtly, she shook her head at Saul. She offered him a slight smile of reassurance, as a way to tell him that it was all right, it was her fault, this was what she deserved. She had allowed Daisy to wound her, to affect her, when she should have never cared. Lucius was not hers. He had never been hers, and it was only when he left her that she so foolishly pined for him. But the Lucius she had dreamed about, the Lucius she had prayed for was not the Lucius she married. That Lucius did not exist, though she had tried so very hard to make it so. The truth was that he and Evelyn were two very different people who had been forced to do this life together, yet they had never even been able to bear one another. In the months that they had been in Apollo she had barely seen him, and the times she did, he did something to enrage her, to catapult her into the gravest passions of malice and jealousy. She must rid him from her mind. She must learn to control her thoughts, her passions. It was the only way she would survive. When she lay down to sleep that night, she did not allow herself to cry. She did not allow herself to wish, to pray for Lucius. Instead she cursed the wench Daisy and fought desperately to blot out the image of Lucius going to her when and if he should ever return. In her dreams she wandered through the forest, and there was a great storm. The wind blew fiercely, tearing the leaves from the trees and blowing them fitfully about her body. She squinted her eyes against the chaos and she walked, her body pushing against the forceful gusts. She searched for the creek for she was desperately thirsty, but it was all dried up and there was no water to be found. Still, she searched. She began to dig beneath the river rocks, her fingernails gathering dirt and breaking as they pushed further, deeper into the ground. Trees began to fall, the sound thunderous as their great bodies collapsed into the earth. There was crackling, loud, ear-splitting crackling as the trunks split against the murderous gales of wind. Then, there was a strange sound, like a tin cup falling to a wooden floor. In her dream, she turned to see where the sound originated, but as she turned she grew conscious and woke. It was dark in May Westerly‟s tent, though there was a slight haze seeping through the canvas, like the burning orange of sunset. The tin-like noises continued, and she looked to see what was causing them. She started, for rummaging through May Westerly‟s kitchen things was a fox, the largest she had ever seen. Her heart began to pound, for foxes were different than donkeys or chickens. They could be vicious if caught off guard or threatened. This was no ordinary intruder, and she feared if she moved she would startle him. He continued to forage, and she did not know what she should do. She did not want him to steal all of their food, though that was exactly what he was doing. May had dealt with this kind of thing before, but she was dead asleep. Her snores were enough to prove she knew nothing of this fearful intruder. Evelyn tested the fox‟s attention by making a small hissing sound. He did not hear, so she grew a little bolder. Psst. Nothing. Psst! The snores continued. The fox knocked over the coffee grinder, spilling the last of their supply all over the floor. He stopped a moment to sniff the aromatic grounds. PSST! May Westerly bolted up, rod-straight. “What is it?!” she whispered forcefully. Frightened by May‟s sudden movement, Evelyn nodded, wide-eyed, towards the fox. He had ceased exploring and was peering at them, eyes dark and serious. He did not look surprised, as if he knew they were present the whole time and was only biding his time till they woke. He made a soft sound, almost like a whine, and then there was another sound, a much greater sound, like the crackling from Evelyn‟s dreams. It came from outside, and suddenly she was aware of a low hum, like a soft roll of thunder. The fox cantered out of the tent, and she jumped from her cot to follow him into the night. The light was better out of doors and she noticed the animal‟s ember-colored fur. As he ran ahead, she lifted her eyes to the sky, the color of the fox mingling with the color of the smoke that rose from the main stretch of Apollo. Fire. She watched for a moment, frozen in fear as the flames danced high above the distant buildings, the sparks bursting like stars against the velvet night sky. Apollo Diggings was mostly canvas rooftops with wooden frames and the last rain was a week ago. There was little hope that a fire would not destroy the entire camp. Evelyn closed her eyes tightly and opened them again, in hopes that perhaps her dream about the storm had made way for another dream, a dream of fire. But it was not so. She stared ahead, her eyes bearing testimony to a most dreadful reality. She remembered May and rushed to retrieve her. As she burst into the tent, eyes wild, the woman was pulling on her robe and boots. “What is that sound?” she asked. Evelyn took her hand and pulled her quickly outside. Her eyes widened, the fire reflecting red against her face. “Oh, sweet Jesus,” she muttered. There were others emerging from their homes around them, miners in their long white underwear, women with shawls. Some had already prepared themselves and were rushing past carrying blankets and pails. “Fire! Fire, Apollo! Wake up! There‟s a fire!” they called. There were voices rising in the night, men calling to one another from the main stretch of camp. There was urgency in the air. This fire was a grave threat to all of them. If they did not stop this storm, it would consume everything. May Westerly squeezed Evelyn‟s hand. “We must act quickly,” she instructed. “Gather everything of value. We will hide our things by the creek. If the fire is not contained, it will take our homes in no time. We must make haste; they will need our help.” Evelyn nodded and the women rushed inside to gather all that their arms could carry. Evelyn tossed a picture of her father, her journals and her pearls into an open trunk with a few gowns and closed it tightly. Her blankets she wrapped around her body and with her free hand she grabbed a pail. She threw some pots and dishes into it, but only a few for most were scattered around the tent due to the fox and she hadn‟t time to gather them. When she was ready, she stepped into her boots, cast a glance at May Westerly and began to run for the woods. May was quick behind her, her arms and body laden with treasures. They rushed across the creek, the water rushing over their feet and between their calves. They dumped their things in a bush and each filled a pail with water. Their night dresses dampened around their ankles and clung to their legs as they rushed back to town, where the flames seemed to grow in brilliance and malevolence. They rose acrimoniously into the air, their fiery arms furling wildly. The women‟s hair whipped about their faces as they grew closer to the fray, the fire creating a windstorm of its own. Men and women rushed around them, bodies silhouetted against the blinding flames. “Help!” some called. “We need water!” Others cried, “My store! My office! Help me clear it out! I will lose everything!” All was in chaos. Evelyn‟s eyes could barely take it in; there was too much happening and it was all too frightening. The bakery was in cinders, the hotel was on the verge of collapsing. Men were attempting to save the bank, but half was already lost. The butcher shop would be next, and across the street the roof of the mercantile store was catching fire. At the end of the street, where it divided into a circle and continues on to another division of tents and cabins, the church stood as though possessed, the flames bursting from all the windows and the steeple a beacon of hellish illumination. The parsonage was being threatened, the sparks from the church teasing it and warning of its damnation. The campers from that side of town worked desperately to dampen the priest‟s home as they had lost hope of saving the house of the Lord. The men glistened with sweat, their shirts and tunics tossed aside. The women screamed with despair. So much. So much was lost. “Form an assembly!” the sheriff called. He and his partner began to shepherd people into a line. Some men joined them to assist in the organization. Pails, pitchers and buckets were gathered and rushed to the creek, where they were filled and passed to the nearest cooperative person. “We mustn‟t panic!” the mayor shouted. He made his way among the miners and their families, telling them not to lose hope, commanding them to listen and obey. “If we work together, all will not be lost!” He fell in line with the sheriff and together the men made a good team. People began to listen, to gain control of their fears. The creek water was distributed quickly, with several hands filling the containers and sending them up, and several other hands receiving them at the end of the line to shower the moisture on the two most problematic buildings: the bank and the store. If the fire could be stopped there, half of Apollo might be saved. There were other companies working to extinguish the flames. Another assembly line has formed near the hotel, where the brothel, the saloon, and the jailhouse were in jeopardy. People streamed from the brothel, which was smoking hotly and would burst into flames any moment. Evelyn looked around for May Westerly, and found she had worked herself into the nearest assembly line. The stout woman was as determined as any other to be on the winning side of this dreadful battle. Evelyn took a step to join the line, but before she could grab a bucket, a hand took her by the arm. It was Saul. She could throw her arms around him, but there wasn‟t time. “Come with me,” he urged. “There is somewhere else you may be more useful.” He led her away from the assembly line and they ran together down the road towards the blazing hotel and adjacent brothel. Fear threatened to seize her heart as she realized what Saul was asking her to do. Daisy would be there, somewhere in the crowd, and she would be forced to work alongside her. This was the prostitute‟s territory. Her dominion. Despite herself, Evelyn hesitated. “Come, Evelyn,” Saul insisted, tugging her along. “We mustn‟t delay.” Her feet began to move again, her body swelling in the heat of the surrounding flames. It was a strange feeling to advance along a lane that was barricaded by fire. She reminded herself that she was not dead, that this was not a dream. This was reality and the outcome depended entirely on how each man, every woman decided to respond. Would they succumb to fear? Would they be crippled? Evelyn looked around, her gaze falling on the men at work near the church. The priest working right alongside them. Pity moved her and tears sprang to her eyes as she thought, We are all in this together. For an instant she thought of Lucius, and she wondered if he was near. If he returned in the night and was somewhere among them, fighting the same evil. She stole a look around, but amidst the chaos she could not determine whether or not he had come. Saul recalled her to the task at hand. “We must assist the women in the brothel,” he told her. “The smoke may be filling their lungs and they will need help out. Some may be sleeping. There are men trying to wet it down but it may yet catch fire and we do not want anyone to be lost.” Evelyn wondered who could possibly sleep through this din, this tormenting storm of wind and fire. Amidst the shouting, the screaming, the blasts, the crackling, the burning, who could remain in dreams? And then she remembered Panama City. The absinthe. The opium. Women of the night lived on such things, and such things were enough to make a body as dead. She shuttered at the thought, the memory. To think that these women received those poisons willingly and regularly was revolting. It was a wonder that any man or woman of propriety would be compelled to save an establishment that condoned such behavior. What was Saul thinking? She knew him to be a good man, but why attempt to redeem lives already wasted? Perhaps Daisy was asleep in one of those top rooms. Perhaps her lungs were full of smoke and she could not breathe. What difference did it make if she unwillingly invited smoke into her lungs or willingly adopted opium into her blood? Why must Evelyn be called upon to deliver Daisy from an evil she did not choose when she would not deliver herself from the evils in which she reveled? Evelyn recognized some of the men here. They were regular customers. Some had even been rumored to be in love with certain prostitutes. A couple of the softer-hearted had proposed marriage. Inwardly, she scoffed at them. They thought they were noble, fighting for the underworld beauties they adored. She should not be here. She should not be counted among them. Why did Saul bring her here? Was there not a better cause to be fighting for? The bank, the church? Could he not take her to the parsonage where she may assist the priest? If there was a God He should be impressed. Surely she would earn no favor in heaven for saving a den of little foxes. Were not those the people Song of Songs talked about, the creatures that sneaked into the vineyards of marriage and destroyed all they could? Daisy and her kind deserved the hell they were headed towards, and this was it. It was coming for them. It was their due. Why had Apollo allowed the church to burn, yet the brothel still stood? As they approached the door to the brothel, Saul took Evelyn‟s hand to lead her inside. The air of the building was intoxicating. She could scarcely breathe. They both began to cough. Saul ripped a piece of his shirt and told Evelyn to hold it against her mouth. She did as she was told and they continued inward. There were stairs leading to the upper rooms, and she suffered a great chill as she thought that perhaps her husband has made his way up these stairs a time or two. She forced herself not to think of him, to focus on Saul and the task at hand. As they reached the hall, a man and his whore emerged from one of the rooms and rushed passed them. Saul grabbed the man by the collar and demanded to know if there were any more women up there. “Just finishing up business,” the man muttered defensively and writhed free. Saul let him go and made his way to the first room on the right side of the hall. “Check every room,” he commanded Evelyn. She did as she was told and began opening doors and peaking through curtains. She was frightened of what she may see, but the rooms were sparse and mostly empty. She saw no one. Another girl emerged from the end of the hall. “What is happening?” she sobbed. “Is it a nightmare? What is that noise?” Calmly, Saul went to her, took her hands. “It‟s all right. You must get out of the building,” he said, his voice reassuring. “Make your way cautiously down the stairs and go outside.” “But what is happening?” she asked again. He shook his head and repeated, “You must go outside. Is there anyone else up here? Have you seen anyone?” “My friend,” she wept. “My friend is in the back room, but I am afraid she is dead. I tried to carry her but I could not. She is dead.” The young prostitute departed and Saul turned to Evelyn. “We must find the woman and carry her out.” She balked at the prospect of seeing a dead woman. What if the smoke had not killed her? What if she was murdered? What if she had killed herself? What if she was bleeding and naked? Dare she behold such a scene, and in the presence of an unmarried man? Saul stepped behind her and pushed from behind. They moved swiftly down the corridor, Saul bashing in doors on either side as they passed. It seemed as though most of the occupants had evacuated. By the time they reached the last room, Evelyn was nearly overwhelmed by relief and fear. She was thankful that she had seen little, but terrified of seeing too much. The door was open and Saul nudged her straight in. On the bed was a scantily clad Daisy, vomit spread all over her chest, her hair a disaster. Coal was smudged all around her eyes, making her look as though she had been boxed. She was thoroughly unconscious. Saul was quick by the bedside, a finger thrust out to check the whore‟s pulse. “Alive,” was all he said. Evelyn was propelled forward to assist him as he lifted the girl from the bed. It was a strange time to consider a girl‟s decency, but Evelyn was unthinking as she grabbed a blanket and draped it over Daisy‟s body. Saul secured her in his arms as Evelyn placed a little cloth over the prostitute‟s mouth to protect her from the smoke. What am I doing? she wondered. Evelyn followed Saul back through the hall and down the stairs. “We must be quick,” Saul yelled over his shoulder. “She needs water. Come with me to the hall. We must revive her.” Once again, she did as she was told. As they exited the brothel, an outcry arose and both turned to see the roof catch fire. Madame Claire was nearby and her hands covered her mouth as she screamed, “No! My girls!” Saul was quick at her side. She looked down into the face of Daisy, her eyes full of sorrow. “Oh Daisy,” she wept. “She will be all right, Madame,” Saul assured her. “And the building is clear. You mustn‟t worry. Your girls are safe, and I imagine they are making themselves useful.” Madame Claire nodded, the tears still falling, as she mourned the impending doom of her enterprise. Evelyn followed Saul down the street, a hall of fire. Behind them there was a great crash as the hotel finally collapsed. Much of it toppled onto the brothel, all hope of saving Madame Claire‟s business gone. The men shifted the bulk of their focus to the saloon, for it was now under the greatest threat. When they reached the dining hall, they noticed that many had already gathered. Women had shepherded their children to what seemed to be the safest place, their little sons and daughters whimpering and asking whether or not it would be all right, their older children out fighting the flames alongside their fathers. Men had brought the wounded to lie on the tables and benches, for the hospital was not big enough to hold them. The doctor made his way among them, treating the most serious burns while others waited, uncomplaining. Evelyn assisted Saul with Daisy until she was resting on a table in the darkest corner of the building, away from the mothers who would not advocate her recovery. “Stay with her,” Saul instructed. “I will fetch water.” They passed a long and weary night. More patients were brought to the hall, some with burns, some from smoke inhalation, some with injuries caused by falling structures. Saul insisted that Evelyn remain with Daisy until she was certain the girl was well, so she cleaned the refuse from Daisy‟s skin and clothes and mopped her forehead with a cool cloth. Daisy burned with fever and it did not seem she would last the night. But in obedience to Saul, Evelyn continued to watch over her. After some time, a few more prostitutes entered the hall. They held a small conference with Saul in the middle of the room, for Saul was working alongside the doctor to manage the hall. The girls had come to offer their assistance, and Saul put them to work. One of them was Jen, the Oriental woman who taught Evelyn how to make a crane from paper. She took water to the patients and those such as Evelyn, who had been adopted as nurses. When Jen saw her friend dabbing a cloth on Daisy‟s face, she smiled and clicked her tongue. “Ah,” she said. “Bad things make good people.” Evelyn shook her head. I am not here because I want to be. Jen offered a ladle of water and Evelyn received it gratefully. Jen then looked to Daisy and raised her eyebrows. “She okay? She drink too?” Evelyn shook her head once more. She brought her hands together beneath her cheek to imitate sleeping. “Ah,” Jen said again. “But she live?” Evelyn hesitated and searched Jen‟s eyes for any sign that she may be mocking her. Surely she knew of the things that had transpired between her and this woman. Surely she understood that this was the last place Evelyn wanted to be, here with Daisy. Evelyn shrugged her shoulders. I honestly don’t know. Jen nodded. “You want her to live?” she asked, her expression intent on hers. Evelyn bit her lip and faced the truth. Would her life be easier, more bearable without Daisy? Did she wish her dead? She offered another shrug of the shoulders, intimidated by her own iniquity. Jen smiled. “You human,” she said. “She nasty girl. But maybe one day, you be friends.” Evelyn could not brought herself to agree with her, so she dropped her eyes to the floorboards. “Yes,” Jen repeated. “You be friends.” By dawn, much of the noise from camp had gone silent. The last of the patients were brought into the hall, which was full of sooty, bleeding, exhausted bodies. The prostitutes had been tireless in caring for the unfortunate. Jen continued to take water to thirsty mouths. The others sang songs or told stories to sleepless children, calming their fears of heat and cinders. Saul had opened his quarters and filled them with a homeless family of four. He stood hunched at the bar, head between his arms, catching a moment of shuteye. Evelyn could not bear to think of the work it would take to bring this camp into order again. She imagined many would leave, migrating to a new, less beaten place. She wondered if Lucius should return, would he decide to leave as well? To take her to another camp? They would have to leave Saul and May Westerly, the blacksmith and his family, Johann Spitz. She would be among those who questioned her identity once more, those who mocked and failed to understand her condition. There would be more rumors. More Daisy‟s. She simply could not bear to think of it. But what of Apollo Diggings? Surely remaining there would be worse. There were many now without a place to sleep. There was much work to do, repairs to be made. They would all have to concentrate their efforts on rebuilding. It would take every last person to make the camp come to life again. And if they should rebuild with wood and canvas, who was to say another fire would not ravage them once more? Summer was coming, and with it the dry heat to inspire flames. Evelyn did not think she could endure another fire. This experience had been all too dreadful. Like the most horrible nightmare, but when she woke up, the disaster were still before her. There she was, sitting in a most hard, uncomfortable place with the one girl she despise most in all the world. And she was her caretaker. Of all the people in that enormous camp, Evelyn was chosen to watch over Daisy. Her enemy had become her patient. She had been entrusted with her life, and all night she had wrestled with the desire to walk away. To let Daisy fight death on her own. If she should die alone, with no one by her side, it would be her own fault. God knew she had worked hard enough to isolate herself from anyone who could possibly love her. Daisy‟s affections had been bought at a dear price, but her earnings were little compared to the debt she owed. She took men‟s money, she preyed on women‟s husbands, and she offered nothing, only emptiness in return. A wink here, a smile there, an hour in bed and an evening of flirtation. But all for naught. Ash. That was all Daisy had to give. Like gold dust that caught on the wind; one moment radiant, the next lost in the breeze. That was why no one had come to her. Her customers had rushed to the aid of friends, of family, of those whose love was lasting. Her friends had spent the night at the aid of strangers, women and children they had never met. She was alone. At the most crucial time, the moment when her life hung by a thread, Daisy was deeply and utterly alone. Evelyn‟s heavy lids threatened to close as she leaned forward to touch Daisy‟s forehead. There had been no improvement; her skin burned beneath her fingertips. Evelyn clicked her tongue, more out of pity for herself than for Daisy. As long as the fever lasted, she would have to remain diligent. Saul would have harsh words to say if she did not. But she longed for her bed, for a place quiet and secluded, where there was not coughing, moving, whispering people all around. She longed for sleep. Her head began to nod and she did not know how much time passed before she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. Brighter light had begun to seep through the windows of the hall. It must be midday. “Evelyn, you must get some sleep,” a low and gentle voice said. She turned to see Saul. “You have kept an honest vigil, but someone has come to relieve you of your duty.” May Westerly stepped into view, her face bright and clean as though she had just washed. “My dear child, what a good girl you are,” she said. “You have a heart of gold.” Evelyn smiled wearily at the compliment, but she knew better. She knew well of the thoughts she had during the night, thoughts to abandon her post, thoughts to leave Daisy to die. The heart she had towards the prostitute was not bright at all, but a horrid shade of black. Evelyn rose to leave and Saul took her arm. May Westerly set a fresh bowl on the bench beside Daisy, cool water to continue the girl‟s treatment. It was laden with mint leaves from their garden. The scent drifted into the air with a pleasant, refreshing aroma. Saul led Evelyn from the dining hall. “I shall escort you to your tent,” he said. “I am in need of some fresh air myself.” They walked for a few moments in silence. The day was bright and lovely, as though it knew nothing of the misadventures from the night before. The ground was covered in ash and the air smelled of smoke, but the sky was clear and void of clouds. “Would you like a bit of news?” Saul asked. “I have caught a few words here and there and should like to share my knowledge. It would do me well to clear my head, and you are always such a good listener.” Evelyn glanced up at him, for he was much taller than her, and saw a spark of mirth in his eyes. She laughed at the little joke and nodded for him to go on. He tucked her arm beneath his. “A large group of Californios arrived this morning. There was about fifty of them, men, women and children. They saw the smoke in the night and wished to come to our aid. The mayor is said to be very moved, for there has been much negative talk concerning these people. Some of the miners are still a little concerned. They think the Californios are looking for a reason to take over Apollo, to reclaim the land as their own.” The Californios had farmed and cultivated this land before Mexico signed a treaty with the United States in 1848, handing California over to the Americans. They were not forced to return to Mexico, but their presence was resented by the forty-niners who came to tear up the earth in search of gold. As Lucius and Evelyn traveled to Apollo, they passed through many camps where Californios had been received and accommodated. Other camps, like Apollo, were barren of any Mexican nationals. This was mostly due to intolerance on the white man‟s behalf and animosity on the Californios‟. The latter could not be blamed. This was their home; they had fought and bled for it during the Mexican War, and they had lost. The discovery of Apollo had been rather fortunate, however, because the Californios had already settled downriver. They knew of the white men just north of them and they braced themselves for invasion, but the settlers of Apollo never gave them reason to migrate further south or quarrel over the land. Trust was never won, but peace was present and that was all anyone cared about. The miners wanted to dig the land and the Californios wanted to enrich it. Though friendship was not established, the people of Apollo and the Californios lived in quiet tolerance of one another. Tolerance, however, was not enough to still the wagging tongues of drunken miners in search of something to laugh about. They prided themselves on their ability to contrive clever jokes at the Californios‟ expense. Some of the younger men, those falsely independent sixteen, seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, had even trekked south on occasion to play pranks. The stunts were widely frowned upon, but no one ever said anything to stop them. Young Californio men would retaliate, the Apollo boys would make a fuss, and that would be the end of it. “I believe the people are true,” Saul continued. “They are exemplifying what it means to be good neighbors, and it is a little much for the men of Apollo to swallow. They are tasting humility. I admit that the prospect excites me; the culture of this camp will change, and perhaps the Mexican women will offer me some of their recipes. I am tired of boiled beans and potatoes.” As a lady of Ireland, Evelyn did not think she could ever grow tired of boiled potatoes, but she smiled at Saul anyway. They arrived at the tent Evelyn shared with May Westerly and she was reminded that many of her belongings were still hiding under a bush across the creek. But she was tired, and she had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders that she would use to sleep. It was a warm spring day and her things could wait to be fetched till after she was rested. “You did well last night,” Saul told her. “I am proud of you for rising above your differences with Daisy and helping your fellow man. It was a great example of strength and courage. You mustn‟t fret about Apollo‟s future. We will unite and we will rebuild, and we will grow strong again. You shall see. This camp shall be forced to be a community, and I think we shall be better for it in the end.” He took her hand from under his arm, pat it, and let it go. “Have a good sleep. When you have rested enough, return to the hall where you may relieve Mrs. Westerly. I believe with the proper love and care, Daisy will be well again. And perhaps she may even come out a better person on the other side.” When she woke, it was nearly sunset. She went to the creek and washed her face and hands, then made a couple of trips back to the tent to bring hers and May Westerly‟s belongings home. She did her best to arrange everything nicely so when May came back to sleep for the night, she would be greeted by a tidy resting place. When Evelyn had finished, she changed into some fresh clothes and headed towards the hall. She watched the ground as she walked, remembering the fire and the many frightful scenes of the previous night. As she neared the hall, she lifted her eyes to see a man coming around the corner of the building. He noticed her just as he stepped up to the threshold and stopped to stare. A second slowly passed as her brain registered who her eyes beheld. His beard had grown full and long. His hair hung about his ears and had been pushed aside from his forehead. His skin was dirty, but his cheeks were a little more full. His eyes, though tired, were clear and blue. “You‟re all right,” said her husband, his voice laced with relief. “I was just going inside to look for you.” Hesitantly, he stepped down and came a little nearer, though there was still some feet between them. “You are all right, aren‟t you?” he asked, searching for confirmation of what he hoped he knew. She took a shallow breath, nodded once. Her arms hung motionless at her sides as she thought of some way to receive him after all this time. After all that had transpired in her heart and mind. “I am glad to know it,” he said. “And you have been well? You have stayed with Mrs. Westerly?” Evelyn nod again. “That is good, that is good.” They stood, awkwardly facing one another, for a moment or two. Lucius searched for things to say as she remained silent, reticent but desperately searching for what to think, what to feel. He was there. He was really there. Daisy‟s cutting words entered her mind. She heard them clearly, as if for the first time. “I was told you were with Saul,” Lucius said, searching her eyes. “But I see now that you have been away. You look rested.” She nodded. “I am glad of it.” His eyes were sincere. He seemed to care for her well-being. But those words, Daisy‟s words, hung around her neck like a heavy noose. This man, promised in fidelity to her for the rest of their lives, had been accused of being with another woman. It was that accusation that tore at her, that burned in her belly as she peered at him from eyes full of confusion, full of questions. For an instant, he seemed as though he would reach out, would take her hand in his own. But his resolve faltered and he changed his mind. His fingers found their way into his pockets. “We came in the night,” he told her. “We had been traveling for two days when we heard a distant clamor. We had to strain their ears to hear more clearly, but in our hearts we knew something was dreadfully wrong. We had captured and killed a bear, a large black one, before deciding to return to camp. But when we heard the cries, we did what we had to do. We abandoned the carcass and ran. We ran as fast as our legs could move.” As he spoke she thought he looked so different, so very different. She wondered if she appeared different to him as well? Did her face appear more serious, her hands more accustomed to labor? Could he see how she had suffered at his expense? Did he know how her insides churned at the sight of him? She waited, waited for any inclination that he had suffered too, or that he was full of joy to behold her after these weeks of separation. But there was nothing there, nothing to contradict what she had learned from Daisy. Nothing to separate her husband from the boy who skirted around New York City with a new girl on his arm at every corner. He continued to speak, to tell her of his encounters in the night, but inside another voice spoke. A voice that wondered why she should listen to him, why she should care whether or not he ever came back. The voice told her that he was only doing his duty by her, that he was merely going through the motions of reunion, that his heart was elsewhere. She thought of Daisy, suffering quietly inside, and for the first time she thought she may have something in common with the girl. Daisy was just another beautiful woman on the roster of Lucius‟ exploits. As was she. What a fool she was to believe anything different while he was away! To think that anything had changed! As he stood before her, she knew that her imagination had taken her deep into a realm of fantasy and nothing more. Before her was the truth. A man who belonged to no one and nothing, who disappeared for weeks on end when life got too hard, who satisfied himself with the beauty of any woman who passed by, who had no loyalty and no honor. Evelyn nodded coldly to him, dismissing him. Calmly, purposefully she made her way past him and into the hall. Confused, he followed. “Miss Brennan?” he asked. “Miss Brennan, I am talking to you. Why do you walk away from me?” She ignored him, cutting a direct course through the many gathered to Daisy‟s corner, where May Westerly was reading aloud from the Bible. She tapped the older woman on the shoulder and gratefully, May closed the Bible and rose, then noticed Lucius. “Mr. Flynn!” she exclaimed, her eyes darting to catch Evelyn‟s. “Why, whenever did you arrive?” Gruffly, Lucius informed her that he came in the night to assist with the fires. She blessed him, tried to see that Evelyn was happy. At the girl‟s indifference, May grew confused. “I am sure Mrs. Flynn is thrilled at your return,” she said, her voice reaching to sound positive. “Aren‟t you, my dear? You‟ve waited so long and been so worried.” Lucius looked at his wife for some form of affirmation as she shot May Westerly a look of warning. She wished the woman would be quiet. Evelyn sat herself beside Daisy, attempting to send a clear message to both her husband and the well-meaning woman. I wish to be left alone. May Westerly changed the subject. “The fever has broken,” she told Evelyn, nodding to Daisy. “She will recover soon enough, but she is resting now. She has not yet opened her eyes, but her breathing has grown deeper. Not so shallow, and that is a right good thing.” She tucked her Bible under her arm and departed, but Lucius remained. He sat himself beside his wife, facing the opposite direction so he could peer into her face. “You worried, did you?” he asked, the edges of his mouth turning up a little. “Did you think I would not return?” He was only flattering himself, she thought. How typical of a man like him. “And what are you doing here with the girl?” he wanted to know. “You are nursing her back to health?” Despite herself, she nodded. He sneered. “Why?” She could not bring her eyes to meet his, for she did not know the answer. “You owe nothing to this woman,” he assured her, his voice low and quiet so none would hear but herself. “She has done nothing to deserve your kindness. Why do you do this to yourself, Evelyn? I do not like it.” At that, she brought her eyes to search his. Why should he disapprove of her caring for Daisy? Was he afraid Daisy would confess something if she woke? Was he wary that she would reveal their secret affair? He did not know of their meeting last night. He did not know that Evelyn already knew. “Who asked you to do this?” he asked. “Was it May? Was it Saul?” Evelyn peered over her shoulder to see if the bartender was still attending to his hall. She spotted him serving food to a woman and her children at the opposite end of the room. “Why would he give you this responsibility?” Lucius followed her gaze. “Daisy has bestowed nothing but grief upon us. She assaults me with her intentions and you with her lies. Could Saul not have found another to take this charge? As soon as she is well, Evelyn, I wish you to be released from this obligation. I do not want her near you. She speaks poison against you at every opportunity and God knows she is resilient as a roach. She can care for herself.” Unable to understand what she was hearing, Evelyn searched her husband‟s face for mockery or deceit, but he was utterly austere. “I realize you are only doing this out of obedience, and in this time of adversity I honor your decision to be useful,” he continued. “But as your husband I am releasing you. Promise me, Evelyn. As soon as she can walk you must let her go, and you must not follow her.” It could not be. As she searched his eyes and dissected his words, she could find no trace of dishonesty. Certainly she was misunderstanding him. Truly he could not mean to protect her, when during these past twenty-four hours she had been so certain of his infidelity. If he did not wish for Daisy to wound her, why ever would he have been her lover? Surely he could have foreseen that she would discover the truth. But what was the truth? The man beside her did not strike her as the same kind of man that had fallen under the witch‟s spell. Indeed he seemed very clear-headed, and his attention was not on Daisy. It was on her. This conflict was enough to inspire a headache. He must go away. He must leave her alone with her thoughts, for she was having so many at the moment. She could barely stand it. Lucius lifted a cupped hand to cradle her face. The gesture was sudden and caught her off guard. She nearly leapt in surprise, but instead she stared at him, wide-eyed. What was he doing? Who was this man? It was like her dreams. Yes, it was like the memories that had run circles in her mind time and time again during Lucius‟ absense. This was the Lucius from the parlor on their wedding day. This was the Lucius from the boat to Los Cruces. This was the Lucius who danced with her that night on the ship, the Lucius who took her cold fingers within his warm palms before departing for the hunt. “I am glad you are safe,” he whispered. And then he stood to leave, and with bewilderment she watched him go. As evening transitioned into night, one of the prostitutes brought her supper and she realized that she had not eaten for a long time. The food was welcome to her empty stomach and she glanced around to make sure no one witnessed as she ate too quickly. She looked at Daisy, but the girl was still unconscious. Her flat belly rose and fell with steady breathing. Time passed slowly as Evelyn watched people come and go from the hall. Some Californian women and their children arrived to relieve the prostitutes, who had been serving and nursing since the fire. The new volunteers were brightly dressed in shades of blue, pink and tangerine, with rich black hair that the girls wore in braids on either side of their faces and the women pull into buns. They spoke very little, for they did not understand the language, but they were ready with smiles. Their presence was like a light in that dim place. Candles were lit for illumination as darkness settled over the sky. Many slept and those who remained awake spoke in hushed tones. Nearby, someone softly sang “Oh! Susanna” to a patient. It was the doctor. Night deepened. It grew very quiet except for the occasional cough or request for water. Evelyn sat patiently, reciting Latin scripture in her head to stay awake. When she could think of no more, she switched to French poetry. Regardez les branches Comher elles sont blanches Il neige des fleurs. “What are you doing here?” a voice asked. Startled, she looked over her shoulder but steadily came to realize the voice was in front of her. Daisy had woken. “Where am I?” Evelyn suddenly felt the need to rise and leave, to run out the door and never have to face Daisy again. As she looked into the prostitute‟s eyes she realized the girl frightened her, especially here, now. In this crowded room they were very much alone, for those who could not sleep were busy and paid them no attention. They were trapped together, like two lionesses in a cage with one piece of meat. Daisy could say anything and Evelyn would have to remain her nurse until the girl was well, fair game to her heinous remarks and tormenting questions. Evelyn must restrain herself. No one could forgive a nurse for strangling her patient. Evelyn clenched her teeth and braced herself for a night more miserable than the one she anticipated. “Why are you here?” Daisy wanted to know. “You gonna murder me?” Evelyn hesitated, then shook her head slowly so as not to seem too sure of her reply. That’s not why I’m here, she thought. But give me a good reason and I won’t be opposed to the idea. Daisy‟s eyes skirted about the room. “Has something dreadful happened?” she whispered. “Why are there so many people here?” She tried to sit up, winced and changed her mind. Her hand went to her forehead and she took a moment to catch her breath. “Dear God, if this ain‟t the worst hangover I‟ve ever had.” Evelyn smiled slightly at Daisy‟s discomfort. “I damn well had too much to drink, didn‟t I?” Daisy said aloud, though she did not speak to anyone in particular. “How long have I been asleep?” Evelyn held up two fingers. “Two hours? Two days? What? You stupid or something? I can‟t talk to you like this. Get something to write on so we can communicate proper, seein‟ as I‟m stuck with you.” Evelyn sighed and rolled her eyes, her lips pressed tight. She went to the bar and looked around. Saul appeared and asked what she needed. She made writing gestures with her hand and he smiled. “She awake?” he asked. Evelyn nodded as he handed her a parchment and quill. “You want some help talking to her? Telling her what happened and why she‟s here?” No. He squeezed her hand. “Good luck.” She blew a hair out of her face and quickly scribbled, You did this to me. “Oh, get on,” he chuckled. Evelyn returned to Daisy, who was dramatically rubbing circles on her brows. She immediately went to work on a document which would tell the prostitute everything she needed to know. Daisy sneaked glances at the other girl from under her hand as she wrote. Saul and I found you half naked, unconscious and covered in your own filth. Either you were drunk or drugged or both, but you were a royal, stinking mess. There was a great fire, and we carried you from the brothel just before it went up in flames. Most of the camp is destroyed, including your wretched home. You would have died if not for Saul. It seems he is the only one who cares about your pitiful life. Your friends have all deserted you to help others and your customers are only too happy to remain in the company of their friends and family. Nobody has called on you during the two days you have lain feverish and pathetic. You nearly died, and Mrs. Westerly and I have been commissioned to watch over you till you should either expire or recover, for whenever you make up your mind as to which you should like to do, we are to clear this table of your wasted mass and offer it to someone in greater need. Evelyn returned the quill to its little inkpot and blew on the parchment a few times to dry the ink. She presented it to Daisy, who held it up in the candlelight. When she had read the document, she nonchalantly returned it. Evelyn took it, awaiting some sort of wounded response. But Daisy did not seem as affected as she had hoped. Instead, she quietly muttered, “I‟ll be gone as soon as I can abolish this blasted headache. As it is, lifting my head inspires the greatest desire to vomit, and correct me if I do not think you should enjoy washing me again. I am sorry to be such a heavy burden but if you are so unconcerned, you can leave. I don‟t need you to mother me through the night. I can manage perfectly well on my own. I have been doing it for years.” Evelyn took up the quill again. I am not doing this to mother you. I am doing it for Saul. She grinned execrably. “Oh, it‟s Saul, is it? I guessed that, actually. I can see how you think he‟s handsome, big brute like that. How convenient for the two of you that Lucius should be gone all this time.” Evelyn‟s retribution was quick. She rose and grabbed Daisy‟s arm, pulling her upright. The rush was too much for the sick girl‟s head, the pain causing her to lean aside and retch on the ground. Evelyn patted her back as she threws up, feigning the Good Nurse to anyone who might be watching. There there. When Daisy had disgorged herself, Evelyn helped her to lie down. Saul is like a father to me, she wrote. Speak of him in that manner again, and I shall make you suffer. Do not hold it against me that men see me as a respectable woman when to them you are merely a toy. This is the life you chose. “The life I chose?” she repeated, her throat scratchy. “What do you know of me and my life? What could you possibly know of my choices?” Evelyn watched her, unable to counter with an argument. Indeed, she knew nothing more of the prostitute Daisy than Daisy knew of the mute Evelyn Brennan. “I‟ll bet you thought I was a sinful child, no more than fourteen, runaway from home to chase after men and their money. You would not guess that I am probably older than you, that I was one of thirteen children who had barely enough food to survive as a young child. And I will venture to bet that you are unaware of my mother‟s solution to the problem of our starvation. Oh yes. Sell the daughters into prostitution, the boys into hard labor. My sisters and I were taken to the brothels when I was eight-years-old. The littlest of them, Sophia, was only five. She did not last one year.” Hardly able to believe her ears, Evelyn could do nothing but listen for more. “You speak of choice as if you have ever had to choose between the gutter and a warm bed, even if that bed is covered in the filth of a hundred men. Even when it smells putrid from their old, overweight, unbathed bodies. Even when they beat you, punish you for imagined crimes, call out another woman‟s name as they use you to fulfill their diabolical fantasies. Even that is better than the pains of a hungry belly. That is better than living a free woman‟s life when my own sister died at the hands of the kind of men who visit me every night. What kind of woman would I be if I walked away? I could never live apart from this life. It is all that I know, and yet you accuse me of choosing. Choosing! You know nothing of survival, do you Mrs. Flynn? You know nothing of penance. Nothing of the punishment it takes to swallow another day, after you have come from such fertile stock that you have been forced to abort four babies, lose another two in the womb, and face the reality that no matter what you do, no matter who you become as you grow old, you will never again be able to bear a child, to give it life. So tell me more of the choices you think I have made, when prostitution is all I am good for, when no man has ever seen me as more than a doll, when no life will ever come from my body. Tell me what I may choose, when I have never been given a single thing in all my life. What is left when there is nothing? Am I blind to some secret opportunity? Some hidden chance to better my existence? Tell me, wise woman that you are. You may not have your voice but you have your dignity. So please forgive me if I have tried to take a portion of it from you. I only wanted a little for myself.” With that, she pulled a blanket up to her chin and turned her face to the wall. She closed her eyes and as she tried to sleep away the horrors of life, Evelyn bent to clean Daisy‟s refuse from the floor, trying desperately to slow her rapidly beating heart. May Westerly came at dawn to relieve her. Evelyn had never been so grateful to see anyone in her life. May Westerly asked if Evelyn had seen any improvement in the girl. On the last bit of parchment she wrote, Yes. She woke in the night and spoke a little. She is aware of her condition and why she is here. I believe she will be well enough to move about today. Our vigil should be over soon. Evelyn left May Westerly with the prostitute and decided to take a little walk before returning for breakfast. Outside, the sky was gray with impending dawn and the majority of camp had not yet stirred. She turned to the right from the dining hall and headed towards town. She had not yet seen the extent of the damage from the fire, not since it was at its destructive peak. The tops of buildings that were once visible from where she walked had disappeared, and she bit her lip against the rising dread of what she would soon see. As she approached the main stretch of town, she looked ahead at the little mail shop on the opposite side of the street. It was fully in tact, though the right side of it had been charred a little and the canvas was blanketed gray from the ash. She rounded a corner and was suddenly in the middle of Apollo‟s ruins. Nothing could have prepared her for the scene. The mail shop was the last remaining building on its side of the street. Following it was a series of charred remains, jagged and black rising ominously from the ground. The stone jail stood forlornly in the distance, a small building that was once hidden by the company of the brothel and the hotel. The roof was scorched off the saloon, leaving the remains of the establishment barren to passersby. The right side of the lane was worse. There was nothing left but char and soot. The church that once marked the end of Main St was nothing but a desolate, empty frame. It was that sight which made her stomach churn and brought hot tears to her eyes. A breeze blew, catching the ash and swirling it through the air in a black ribbon. It streamed past the edge of camp and meandered to the east, where the mine lay abandoned. Evelyn had never seen the mine, had never ventured past the establishments of camp to see where all the men went during the day. The tips of cranes and machinery peaked above the distant hill which concealed the mine, shielding it from the naked eye. In curiosity, she advanced towards her husband‟s workplace. As she passed through camp and climbed the man-made hill of earthen refuse, she thought of Lucius and the many times he had tread this very ground. She recalled their encounter from the night before and the confusion that continued to bind her mind on account of it. That final caress of her cheek, the tone he used as he spoke negatively of Daisy, the softness of his eyes as he looked at her were all enough to contradict her former judgments of him. Maddening, yes. It was all terribly maddening. She lumbered up the hill, her breath quickening with the racing of her heart. When she reach the top, she come to a standstill as her eyes stretch out upon a sight she never imagined she would see. When men spoke of the hers, she did not know exactly what to conceive. Perhaps a series of little holes. A cleft in a rock. Nothing liken to this. Before her was a vast, round chasm, stretching nearly a mile in diameter. It was a valley of destruction, dropping more than thirty feet down to a floor full of crates, cranes, pulleys, ropes, narrow water canals risen on stilts above the ground and littered with pickaxes, shovels, carts and shattered rock. Everywhere there was evidence of scratching, digging, blasting. The devastation was immense, leaving her breathless, mouth agape. How? she wonder. How was man capable of such havoc? Her mind could barely grasp all it has seen, all it has learned, from the depredation of Apollo Diggings to the dig itself, from the stories of Daisy the prostitute to the return of her husband, Lucius. After all her time in California, she was only just beginning to realize the consequences of this adventure. she thought it would be over when they sailed into San Francisco, but that was only the beginning. How could she have known where their journey would lead them? How could she have anticipated the dangers, emotional and physical alike? With every moment things seem to shift. The world continues to change. she thought she knew this land, thought she could call this camp home. Little did she realize that it stood on the edge of a seemingly limitless trench. Little did she know that everything would burn. As the earth has lost its ground, they have been rocked from their foundation. So little remains of the glittering prospect that was once the Gold Rush. The ground has been taken, the camp has been taken, her fortune has been taken, Lucius‟ luck has been taken. They have been brought so low. I take a seat overlooking the gulch. she sit and thought as the sun rises before her, turning the gray sky various forms of pale yellow and soft, aquatic blue. she lean back on her hands, her palms grinding against granules of dirt. Time passes and behind her the camp begins to stir. she wonder how many have left on account of the fire. she wonder how many more they shall lose and who would stay to rebuild. Footsteps crunch behind her and when she turn, her heart leaps into her throat. “Her God, Evelyn,” Lucius gasps. “Whatever are you doing here?” He was probably here to begin work. Others would follow and the scratching, the digging, the blasting would commence. The earth would groan as she was serrated and scored to be robbed of her precious metals. Lucius reaches out to help her rise. They stand before one another, the sun ascending in the distance. “I came to recover some of her tools,” Lucius tells her. “The mayor has issued a decree that no mining should take place until Apollo was rebuilt. They are all to work together, and it has been decided that wood and canvas would not do. They would build with brick and iron. Apollo would no longer be a camp, but a real town. There was even talk of it being renamed. Come. Come with her.” I notice now that he has not yet released her hand, but continues to hold it fast. He leads her from the top of the hill down into the hers, talking all the way. He shares how he sat in on a council with many of Apollo‟s most important men, how they sweated and argued and finally settled on what was to be done about the camp. The hunger for a stronger, more enduring community was present among all gathered. “Everyone was tired of moving from camp to camp. Miners have been nomadic since „49, always en route to the most prosperous deposits. It‟s been three years and they are ready for a change. They love California and they love this area. They want to call it „Prosperity‟ and make it their home.” Prosperity? The title seems a bit contradictory to her, especially as she stand in the midst of this gaping hole of a hers. Depravity would make a little more sense, but she suppose the name wouldn‟t be quite as welcoming. As they walk, careful to avoid large, protruding rocks and equipment, Lucius could hardly contain his excitement about being part of Apollo‟s rebuilding. “I did a lot of thinking on the hunting expedition,” he explains. “I kept kicking herself because here she had come to California, dragging you and all of her dreams along, with the idea that one day here would make her richer than her father. Then they arrived and all those dreams were for naught. she hated this place. Hated the constant, back-breaking labor that issued little to no compensation. she still hate it, Evelyn. While she was gone she realized she never wanted to set foot in this dungeon again. All this rot around them-” he surveys the hers, “it‟s nothing but rubbish. A fool‟s dream. The papers made it look so glorious, but she feel no glory from these rocks. They only serve to remind her of her gravest mistake, which was that she ever believed in them. she believed in them so much that she left no faith for herself. Now here she was, a faithless man, and this opportunity drops in her lap. The opportunity to create something from the ground up. she won‟t be digging anymore, Evelyn. I‟ll be building, and the building would be compensated. Oh yes, there are wealthy men who want to see this place raised from the ground again. And after spending so much time in the surrounding woods, she know why. I‟ve fallen in love with Apollo. I‟m in love with everything in it. The location, the people.” His eyes meet hers. “Especially the people,” he repeats. He bends to retrieve some personal articles from a wheelbarrow. “Two nights ago as she watched those buildings burn, she saw the most noble, hard-working people she have ever known. To work alongside them and construct Prosperity would be one of the greatest privileges of her lifetime.” Tools in hand, they began the journey back. For a few moments there was silence between them, their voices hidden behind their thoughts as their feet created a steady rhythm against the loose ground. “And how‟s Miss Daisy?” Lucius piped up. “You‟re not with her anymore so I assume she‟s a wee bit better.” Evelyn nodded and Lucius clicked his tongue. “Pity,” he said. She tossed a look in his direction and he laughed. “What? Do you still think I have feelings for the lass? Sorry to disappoint your great imagination, Miss Brennan. She must have planted some of that rot herself, yeah? I thought so. She‟s a sly weaver of deceit, that one. She‟ll do anything to create a scandal. It keeps folks talkin‟ about her, you know. There‟s girls like her in every town. There were in New York, there were in Ireland. They‟re just lookin‟ for attention, probably because they didn‟t get it from their da. Sad, I know. But you mustn‟t worry anymore, lass. I don‟t even think she‟s that pretty, leastways not beside you.” The compliment caught his wife by surprise. Lucius took notice and laughed again. She didn‟t believe she had ever seen him so happy. “You‟re flushing, Miss Brennan!” he teased. She braced herself for more torment, but he did not linger on her embarrassment. “Have you slept at all?” he wondered instead. “No? My goodness, let‟s fetch you to bed! Come along. If I may, I will walk you to your tent.” He offered his arm, which she took but not without skepticism. It seemed the ambitious man she married disappeared in the woods. She may not trust this gentleman quite yet, but she must admit it was quite a pleasure to be the woman on his arm. In the weeks that followed the fire, there were many who gathered what was left of their belongings and left. Many of those people were miners without families, men who came to California and found gold and nothing else. They left because there was nothing more for them in Apollo and they moved on to find the next most profitable stream of gold. Most of them departed with nary a farewell. After the fire, there was a week or so when every morning, more miners would be gone. They would disappear in the night, never to be seen by any in Apollo again. Those who remained were mostly families, husbands and their wives, businessmen and visionaries. The lot of them banded together, eager to create this community Lucius had spoken of, the town of Prosperity. There was much work to be done, and none could afford idle hands. Construction began immediately. The Californios worked alongside Apollo, offering their pack mules, sturdy backs and strong hands. The women fulfilled Saul‟s culinary dreams by establishing a community kitchen in the dining hall, where they presented new delicious ways to prepare beans and rice, chicken and beef. After so many months of bread, the Apolloans were spoiled by the new, fresh tortillas. None of them had ever tasted anything like them. The Californios had learned how to grow grapes and press wine, for their native blue agave did not grow well in the Californian foothills. They had barrels brought to Prosperity and in the evenings after long, hot hours of labor, all of them would gather for their last meal and drink their fill. The dark children played with the white children, teaching them how to make dolls and instruments and taking them into an open field outside of Prosperity to play ball games as the sun descended beyond the horizon, the scorching summer day giving way to a cool, more pleasant evening. As the children‟s laughter could be heard in the distance, the adults sat and talked, sharing stories about the day. Who hit their thumb with a hammer, who got sat on by the donkey this time. They would share words with the Californios, using sounds and gestures to learn Spanish while they diligently worked on their English. And there was much laughter. Always laughter. Bricks were laid, iron was wrought and cast, lumber was cut and formed, glass was blown. The sound of the daylight hours filled the air, a chorus of hammering, sawing, squeaking, clippety-clopping, shouting, laughing. The women made music of their own as they woke before the sun to begin in the kitchen. The Californias would sing aloud in their romantic tongue, the American women doing their best to sing along though they did not understand the words. They prepared and cooked all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Evelyn became accustomed to the process of tortilla making, frying beans, smoking chicken until the meat fell off the bone, squeezing limes and plopping whole radishes into her mouth. When the Californias harvested their first batch of jalapeño peppers, they brought them to the kitchen for the women to try before serving them to the men for lunch. They assured them that they were just like radishes, just a little spicy, so when the Americans followed routine and ate the peppers in one big bite, the Hispanic women burst into uncontrollable laughter. The white women were quick to realize the joke was on them, and though it was quite painful, they decided they would have their justice by playing the same trick on the men. At lunchtime, they stood back graciously as they assured their boys that the waxy, green-colored vegetables were nothing extraordinary, that they were really quite delectable. The Hispanic men played along; aware, of course, of the jest. The next several minutes consisted of violent coughing, protesting, cursing, requests for more water and finally, retribution. The men stuck their fingers in their beans, which were always the last thing on their plates, and took chase. Cackling women and snickering children screamed and ran amuck as fathers, husbands, miners, important businessmen and even the priest swore they would have their revenge. By the end of the night, men and women alike were covered head to toe in refried beans, all swearing they could hardly believe the other would play such a cruel trick, but all really quite enjoying themselves. Some of the women were commissioned to sew, for there was much stitching, darning and repairing to be done. These women also worked in the dining hall, sitting at the tables and frequently joining in on the kitchen songs and banter. They worked all day on new curtains, cushions, napkins and blankets as well as clothes for the men, which were always in disrepair due to the nature of their work. Miner‟s wives, daughters, independent women like May Westerly, and prostitutes alike gathered in the hall every day to work and play, both of which, to them, were really the same thing. Now that Lucius was home, Evelyn returned her belongings to their tent, for May Westerly was no longer needed to watch over her. Evelyn expected to be alone, that perhaps Lucius may check in on her from time to time and mostly spend his evenings among friends. By the end of each day, however, he was so exhausted that all he wanted to do was sleep in a familiar place. He set up a bed in the tent and slept on the floor beside her, as he had done the night she had almost been violated by Burly the drunk. He kept a gun beside him, hidden beneath her cot, so during those warm, summer nights, she felt secure in his presence. He came to see her during the day. At meal times he would insist she take a break to sit and dine with him. Friends would surround them, so Lucius would speak to her very little. But it was nice to know he wanted her near him, and occasionally he would tell her the food was delicious, or that he had seen an eagle in the sky, or that he had dreamed of Ireland the night before. Sometimes he would even tell her that she looked lovely, and she took those little compliments and stored them up in her heart. More and more she was beginning to believe him. More and more she was learning to trust. There was no mistaking the way he looked at her, the way he preferred her, the way he sought after her when he did not have to. Building Prosperity gave him purpose and at the end of the day, he could see the work of his hands with his own eyes. Each day was no longer a gamble. He did not have to wait for Fortune to smile upon him, for now he was making his own luck. This fulfilled him in ways digging had not and because of this, he did not drink so much. In the evenings after work he would have an ale or two and when the last meal of the day was eaten and put away, many of their friends would gather around a fire to tell stories and smoke tobacco. The sweet, earthy scent of wood and herbs followed them into their tent each night, the smell lingering in her dreams. The summer months grew hotter, making it difficult for the men to work in the afternoons. The Californios introduced what they called a siesta, where they would work in the mornings, sleep after lunch, then return to work in the long, golden hours of evening. The American men at first considered this laziness, but soon realized it was in fact wisdom. From July till September, they enjoyed this time of day immensely. They rested, napped or played cards as the sweat collected on their brows. Some of the Oriental girls would paint and make fans to sell during the day and many of the miners‟ wives would purchase more than they needed because they knew the money kept the girls from selling themselves at night. “If they can earn their income from the wives,” May Westerly told Evelyn, “they won‟t have to earn it from the husbands.” Some of the prostitutes did not look for ways to leave their profession. They had lost their brothel but Madame Claire was soon running her business through a series of small tents. Business boomed during the siesta hours. The girls who did not make fans or pluck chickens or embroider would disappear at midday and not return until evening, when they were only good for a little kitchen work before retiring for the night, exhausted. Madame Claire was a harsh woman who was not about to suffer financially just because her girls wanted to help rebuild Apollo. The girls who made the fans gave a percentage to the woman, because she was their keeper. She owned them. Daisy was among the few girls who stayed away from town. She did not come to the dining hall. Once she recovered from her illness, she returned to Madame Claire and was not seen by any other than those who sought her out. She did not join them at mealtime but had meals taken to her. Occasionally she would be seen with the tailor being fitted for a new dress, but that was rare. Mostly she remained hidden and nobody knew why. Despite herself Evelyn wondered about her. The things she had told her that night in the dining hall lingered in her mind, and there were times she wondered if they were even true. Perhaps she had dreamed them. But then she remembered the look in Daisy‟s eyes, the hard tears that welled but refused to fall, the tightness of her jaw as the words slipped out, words that few people if anyone had ever heard. Evelyn thought about the things she had written, the harsh words that reached so desperately to remind the prostitute of how lowly she was, things that Evelyn used as weapons to bring the girl down, to put her in her place. Evelyn had hated her, had despised every little thing about her. And then she had opened her mouth, putting her caretaker to shame for all the assumptions she had ever made about her. Evelyn wondered if Daisy went into hiding because of her. She did not pretend to think of herself as so important, but she of all people knew what words could do to a woman‟s mind, no matter who spoke them. Daisy may have become a recluse because she had been force-fed the truth. Evelyn showed her just how alone she was the night she woke to see her greatest enemy and no one else. In a way, Evelyn did to her exactly what Daisy had done to her. She spat venom because she felt threatened. Though she sometimes wondered if she was to blame, though she sometimes suffered guilt at the knowledge of Daisy‟s tragic life, there was also relief in the whore‟s absence. Daisy did not stand in the street and call to the men as they worked. She did not sneak around corners to catch Lucius in her flirtations. She did not burst through the doors of the dining hall to command the attention of all present. She did not seek women out to torment them and dangle herself before their husbands. She has receded. She had been shut up. In the middle of September, the weather began to change. The air cooled, the sunlight turned shades of gold as it filters through changing leaves and darkness descended earlier and earlier each night. Siestas were abandoned as there was much work to do in preparation for winter. All rose long before the sun, and all slumbered long after it has set. A celebration had been planned to commemorate the completion of the church. It was the first building to be finished, with several others close behind. On Sunday there would be a maiden mass and afterward, a great festival. The Californios had built a vast wine press, full to the brim of succulent grapes. A band was assembled and it was rumored that the Hispanics wished to hold a dance, inside the wine press of course. For it was with bare feet that the grapes should be crushed, and the Californios insisted that the richest wine was produced from under the joviality of dancing feet. A feast also had been assembled. A great, fat pig was slaughtered for the occasion and the women worked for days to salt, season and prepare it, setting aside the various cuts for various purposes. Some meat was to be smoked, some roasted, some thrown over coals. There would be no end to the festive platters, the delicious entrees, the numerous courses. The season‟s harvest of tomatoes, melons, apples, avocados, berries, corn, peaches, plums and mushrooms were configured into all varieties, cut and diced and tossed with cheeses, cabbages and assorted nuts. For weeks the women stayed awake, working by candlelight to sew new dresses for the occasion. The Californias offered their inspiration, introducing fabrics of the brightest colors in replacement of the American browns, dusty greens and faded blues. Each night there were giggles of excitement, exclamations of, “Whatever will my husband think?” and so on. Evelyn could not afford fabric for a new dress, but she had scraped up enough money for a little bit of lace and a few ribbons. Together, she and May Westerly took one of her honeymoon dresses and rearranged it, recalling to Evelyn the days before her wedding with her servant Mira, which seemed ages and ages ago now. The dress was a soft shade of ivory, corseted at the waist and blooming like a bell just above her hips. The neckline was scandalously low and cinched at the center, where it was pinned by a pearl ornament. The bust and sleeves, which resembled little clouds suspended just below her shoulders, were lined with broad bands of deep violet-colored velvet and trimmed with thin, star-like lace. When she imagined herself in this dress, hair arranged with late summer flowers and purple ribbons, ears adorned in pearls, a choker around her neck, butterflies stirred in her belly and she had to catch her breath. For on this special day there would be a man whom she longed to captivate, eyes she sought to enchant. Secretly she hoped to recreate something that had happened a lifetime ago, an incident that occurred long before her heart was prepared. A day when there was a groom with eyes only for gold and a bride with desire only for Ireland. She yearned to see the surprise on his face once more, the expression when he beheld her descending the stairs as a woman for the first time. Since her father died she had not sought the attention of any man. When Lucius first looked upon her as a man who coveted a thing of beauty, she used it against him. She despised the boy he once was, the child who married her for convenience, not love. But now she had seen him as a man who worked diligently, who preferred the well-being of others before himself, who was content with the work of his hands at the end of the day. He no longer treated her like a burden or inconvenience. She was not his charge, his obligation or merely the means to an end. She would like to believe that she had become much more than that. She would like to be the woman he thought about during the day, the woman he reached for in the night. Lucius no longer tolerated her. He asked after her, he sought her company, he looked after her as she slept. Sometimes she watched him from the street. She could see him working among his friends, talking and laughing with clear eyes. She felt her heart lift at the sight, she associated happiness with his companionship, she felt emptiness when he was not around. She once believed that her life was all the fuller at the prospect of being a free woman, but now she felt that the only freedom would come from the assurance that Lucius would be part of her life forever. She didn‟t want to get rid of him anymore. She didn‟t want to live without him. Any notion of separation or annulment of their marriage had left her. Her pursuit had altered. She didn‟t want to be further away. She wanted to be closer. This celebration was her chance to win Lucius once and for all, to secure his heart as her own. When he saw her approach in that dress, she would bewitch him and this time she would not cut him loose. She meant to ensnare him and hold him forever, if he would have her. On the day before the festival, she arrived early at the dining hall to see where she could be of the greatest help. Many of the women were finishing their gowns, while others were busy preparing breakfast. A group of children had been scolded and instructed to sit quietly at a table with their heads down, for their mothers were busy working and they had been very naughty, causing distractions and getting in the way of the kitchen crew. As Evelyn had completed her dress, she tried to find Saul. He was not present for he had joined the other men for construction. May Westerly was left in charge, so Evelyn went to her to show her an idea. May Westerly helped Evelyn collect all of the napkins that the women had so diligently hemmed for the occasion. May explained why she wished to use them and all agreed that it was an excellent notion. Once the napkins were gathered, May Westerly and Evelyn went to the children at the long table. There were forty of them, all ranging in ages from three to eleven. The older children had been assigned to work alongside the grown-ups and the babies were cared for during the day by a few of the old Californias. May got everyone‟s attention while Evelyn distributed the napkins. “Listen up, children!” she called. All forty heads respond by lifting at once. “These here napkins are to be folded for the feast tomorrow. Mrs. Flynn is going to show you how. There will be no complaining, otherwise I will take you outside and box your ears myself!” This daunting promise from May Westerly made the children believe that the task at hand would be most dreadful, but Evelyn smiled to herself as she thought of how fun it would be. She stood up in front of the children, held the napkin up to demonstrate that she was about to start, then lay it flat on the table to begin folding. The furthest children craned their necks to see. Some kneeled on the bench or stood up, others forsook their seat all together and gathered behind those who were sitting closest to the demonstration. They watched enraptured as Evelyn made the folds, one over the other, lost in the mystery of what the napkin would look like once it was all finished. When the folding was complete, Evelyn held it up for all to see. A second passed in silence as the children pondered what it was they were looking at. Then a collective gasp arose as realization settled in. “A bird!” the children cried. “Oh, it‟s a bird! A lovely bird!” The excitement began at once. All the little fingers went to work quickly, folding and unfolding, doing then correcting. Little pink tongues made their way out of the children‟s mouths as they concentrated, little brows furrowed in deliberation. Evelyn walked among them, assisting them as she went. When she stopped to help one child, all those around him leaned forward to watch, determined to get it right. May Westerly made several attempts to make a crane, but grew agitated and was about to give up when a little boy of seven came alongside to help. “You do it like this, ma‟am,” he told her, his child‟s fingers working beside her much pudgier ones. The sight made Evelyn smile. There were hundreds of napkins to fold, but the children were glad to be occupied and they greatly enjoyed the fun of making cranes from cloth. As they completed one, they gave it a name before moving on to another. The American children named theirs after heroes and villains, like General Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte, while the little Californios named their cranes after relatives. A chubby brown boy presented his first napkin to Evelyn for examination, folded so messily one could hardly tell it was a crane. “Luiz Abregado Delgado Fernandez del Mar,” he told her. “Mi tio feo y gordo.” Several of the Californias burst into laughter and looked up from their sewing. Evelyn stuck out her bottom lip and shrugged at the women, for she did not understand what the boy said. “Luiz,” a woman chuckled. “His ugly, fat uncle.” All of the children erupted in giggles and began showing off any cranes that had silly qualities, such as a flat beak or a limp wing. They named these after people or story characters they did not like and showed them off to their nearest friends, laughing heartily at their jokes and turning a depressing morning into a very gay one indeed. On the morning of the celebration, she woke early to go to May Westerly‟s tent, where the woman was to help her dress and arrange her hair. The anticipation welled within her stomach in sharp waves, rising and falling with every breath. She could hardly wait to present herself to Lucius, to see the way his eyes received her. This was very different than their wedding day. Back then she was more concerned with the pleasure she could bring herself through Lucius‟ attention, and later through his demise. Today, she greatly desired to please him, as a woman pleased a man. She wished his heart to be glad. At eight o‟clock, a sound was heard in Apollo that had not been heard for months. A church bell. At that moment, she thought she could feel the heartbeat of Prosperity. There was joy in the air as all of this summer‟s hard work was encompassed in that clear, deep, resonating note. A cheer climbed into the atmosphere as people all over town, white skinned and brown skinned alike, heard the music of their accomplishment. This fruitful season, with all of its sweat, aches, pains, fears, hopes and triumphs, was summed up in the tolling of that bell. It called to them, beckoning them to rejoice in the consummation of their labors. Today, Apollo Diggings was no more. Today, Prosperity was their home. The ringing of the bell called them from their tents and out into the open air. They greeted one another in the lane and despite the day‟s occasion to celebrate Prosperity‟s new beginning, she caught the many glances made in her direction. All had worn their finest clothes, but by the way others looked at her she knew she had outdone them all. Perhaps it was the gown. After all, it was very fine. But perhaps it was also the way she held herself, a determined woman who walked in expectation of seeing someone very special at any moment. Would he be there at the entrance of the dining hall, exiting after a long night of talk with his friends? Would he be there around the corner, at the beginning of Main St? Would he step out from a tent or the woods after freshening up by the stream? Or would he meet her at the church wearing his finest trousers and a borrowed hat, the brim tipped just over his brow, looking like a fine Irishman? At the prospect of seeing him, her heart raced and her step quickened. She could hardly keep herself at a brisk walk. She could break into a sprint if she were not surrounded by others who knew her. The morning sun shone gloriously upon the white church as they approached. No one could keep from laughing. The sight was simply too wonderful. Evelyn expected that as she marched through the doors, Lucius would be there and as he saw her, he would burn with conspicuous desire. Perhaps he would rush towards her, would throw his arms around her and declare his undying love for her. It was a pleasant fantasy, but as she crossed the threshold into the church, she could not see him among the sea of familiar faces. Search as she might, she did not see him for he was not there. They were early and the service did not start for another quarter of an hour. She glanced around until then, catching the eyes of several other men as she did. She smiled pleasantly, trying not to appear as though she was searching for anyone in particular. But as the priest entered and the service began, she ceased her futile investigation. She stared ahead, acutely aware of the people on either side of her, painfully disappointed that neither of them was her husband. As the service progressed, she tried to focus on the sermon, but it was no use. All she could think about was Lucius and where he might be. And then an old familiar fear surfaced, one that she tried desperately to conquer but was hardly feeling valiant enough to abolish. Steadily the fear grew as images invaded her thoughts. Images of Madame Claire‟s series of tents. Images of a fair-haired man, rugged and handsome, seeking out a young, dark and worldly woman. Daisy. The bile rose in Evelyn‟s throat as waves of nausea came over her. She must get out. Suddenly the church was stifling. Suddenly that dress made it impossible to breathe. May Westerly leaned over to whisper in her ear. “You look pale, dear. Is everything all right?” Evelyn could not look at her for fear she would know her thoughts and she would burst into tears. Instead, she rose from the pew and maneuvered her way from the row of people. It was so crammed in that church. God knew those people would not all be back next Sunday. Everybody knew they didn‟t give a fig about the Lord and the Twenty- Third Psalm. It was all a pile of rubbish. Evelyn nearly fled from the church. She made her way down the center aisle, every eye following her, judging her, but she did not care. She had to get outside, she had to breathe, or she feared she would faint. The ushers at the back of the church opened the doors and she glimpsed her freedom. She burst into the fresh air, her chest heaving. To her right, a man darted up from his seat on the ground, startled. “Evelyn!” he gasped. It was Lucius. They stood gazing at one another a moment, Evelyn seeking to catch her breath, Lucius hardly able to find his own. All at once she could hardly discern between the relief she felt and the confusion as to why she went outside in the first place. With her husband in front of her, any dark what-ifs were quickly put to rest. But why did he leave her alone in there? Why stay outside? Lucius was not a religious man, but neither were many others present. They had gathered not only for thanksgiving, but as an initiation into the future of Prosperity. She could not understand why he did not want to be a part of this great moment in the history of their town. Their home. Lucius was a man well-versed in beauty, but the moment his wife staggered through the back doors of that church, he could swear he had forgotten everything he had ever known. The sight of her redefined his knowledge of the word. Beauty was no longer an idea, something to be chased after or desired. It was no longer a memory or recollection of another woman. It was there, standing right in front of him, with its hair the shade of sunset and its skin the pale softness of fresh cream. Beauty‟s eyes were staggering, encompassing the wild color and confidence that made a man forget his own name and why he was even there, standing mute as she with a smoking pipe in one hand, emptiness in the other. His fingers twitched to reach out and touch her, to prove that she was real, but his awe kept them at bay. Instead the smoke was the only thing that moved as it rose, dancing slowly and sensually in the air between them. Lucius wondered how he had even ended up here, how this had even happened. He had been among many to rise before the sun that morning. The excitement was more than anyone could sleep through. For some time he had remained in bed, trying to read some of his latest conquest, The Iliad, but it was no use. Homer‟s language was a little too difficult for him at the time, unable to keep his attention. He was not in the mood to struggle through ancient poetry. His thoughts were consumed by something, or rather someone else. The coming day‟s celebration was exciting, yes, but the knowledge that she would be there was enough to hold his mind captive. It was not long before he put down the book, closed his eyes and allowed himself to think of her. He wondered how she would like the suit he had decided to wear that day. He had worn it once before, months ago on the ship from New York, but he didn‟t think she would remember it. He had worn it to impress her, his new bride, but she had barely looked sideways at him. Today, he thought he might have better luck. He was certain that Evelyn had warmed to him over the summer. She did not have to speak to communicate her elevated feelings towards him. At any rate, they were no longer enemies, and that was something to be proud of. But it was more than that, he knew. He could feel it when she looked at him and in the way she sometimes grew shy around him. She had never been shy before, and he took this as a good sign. After daydreaming a little while, he took out a crust of bread and had some breakfast. For several moments he considered his reflection in a looking glass, judging whether or not it was worth all the trouble to remove his beard or if he should just keep it. After all, it was an impressive beard, very full and coarse and red, and it gave him an air of maturity, or at least he thought so. He had always struggled with his boyish features, those smooth cheekbones, pouty, full lips and bright, blue eyes. His hair, so easily unkempt, had not helped. But this refinement of features was not for him alone. It was for her. A lady would not want a man with a scratchy beard. If Evelyn should ever kiss him again, which he prayed to God she would, the coarse hair would not be too pleasant. In fact, he thought she would be more apt to kiss him if there was less an obstacle in the way. So it was decided. Off with his beard. He nicked himself in a few places, cursing each time. Shaving was quite a bit more painful than he had expected, and when the ordeal was finally over, he considered his reflection once more and wondered if the nuisance was really worth it. He anticipated the boy Lucius to stare back at him, but instead he noticed some favorable changes in his countenance. His mouth had hardened a little, his jaw had grown a little more taut. His brow was a little more resolute, his eyes a little more confident. His reflection insisted that he was much more of a man than he realized, and this gave his ego a much-desired promotion. With eagerness, he pulled on his trousers and suspenders, fastened his vest and slipped his arms through a coat. Using a horn, he shoved his feet into each shoe and straightened himself to grease his hair. His father‟s gold pocket watch he dropped into his pocket, pushing the engraved button through a hole in the vest and admiring the luster of the chain against the deep brown of his suit. To complete the outfit he produced a new hat, one he had borrowed from Spitz. Ah, he thought. The illusion is complete. The illusion was that Lucius, in fact, looked quite handsomer than he had looked in his entire life. This was quite an accomplishment and served well to produce just the right amount of confidence he thought he needed to face Evelyn Brennan that morning. With a small, almost imperceptible bounce in his step, he made his way to the church. He was a little early, so he decided to walk around the building a few times, admiring and remembering all of the hard work that was poured into it. People passed him on their way inside, and he nodded hello. Someone rang the bell, and gradually more people came. His excitement grew until he thought he spotted Evelyn approaching. She was a ways down the street, but he knew that hair anywhere. As she got closer, his heart beat faster and faster until he knew he could no longer handle the anxiety. His courage failed him, so he decided it would be better to sneak out back where he could have a smoke and calm down. Then he could join his wife for the service. He could be bold enough to face her. He paced outside, smoking aggressively as the church filled. Eventually, the crowd in the street thinned until all had gathered inside. Lucius took a deep breath, put away his pipe, and peaked his head through the back doors. He spotted his wife sitting between someone he didn‟t know and May Westerly, her slender neck a tower of grace, and immediately his heart began to race once more, forcing him to return outside. He produced his pipe for a second smoke and this time sat on the top step leading up to the doors. “Coward, coward, coward,” he said to himself. He had lost his nerve, and now there was nowhere to sit beside Evelyn. Even if she had saved him a seat, he could not imagine he would have the guts to fill it. Now, some birds sang and Reverend Paul‟s voice could be heard, kind and muffled behind the closed doors of the church. Neither Lucius nor Evelyn could discern the words, but neither of them wanted to. Lucius fumbled for the nerve to speak, and when he found the words, he had to clear his throat before issuing them. “I‟m sorry,” was all he thought to say. She simply stared at him, and he knew she needed to hear some kind of excuse, some sort of apology, for why she had been without her husband on the most important day in Prosperity‟s history. Everyone would have seen her alone, everyone would have known Lucius to be absent. Many probably assumed the same terrible thing she had assumed; that he was holed up with Daisy somewhere. The idea made him want to retch. “I have been here the whole time, I promise you,” he said in his defense. “I should have been inside, I know, but you must understand…” And then he realized he did not know how to make her understand without offering a confession. He took a deep breath. “I got here early,” he began. “And I planned on sitting with you. But then I saw you in the distance and I… that dress… You look lovely, you see. Don‟t you?” The blank look on her face said she didn‟t. “I‟m a coward,” he told her. “I should have been with you in there and I‟m sorry.” She remained unmoving for a moment, her breaths causing her chest to rise and fall in a most womanly manner. She did not have large breasts, but the tightness of the dress gave her lovely curves. He had to force himself to keep his eyes steady, though she would have welcomed an examination. He was trying so very hard to be the gentleman he knew he had never been, and she was trying to catch and hold his attention in a way she never had. A few moments passed before he took and released a large breath. It seemed to help his nerves, for he offered to have a seat with her. She seemed hesitant at first, cast a sideways glance towards the doors. “Oh,” Lucius groaned. “Silly me. I did not even ask why you left. Was it a matter of importance? Did you need to go…” She quickly shook her head. There was no reason why she left the church apart from him. She simply could not bear it any longer. It was much happier, being on these porch steps with him. She wished she could tell him that somehow. The back porch overlooked a great lawn and a mammoth oak tree whose boughs overshadowed the area. Gold and red ribbons were draped over the branches and dangled above the dining hall tables, which had been hauled in and set up for the feast. Each was covered with plates and silverware and the crane napkins the children had folded the day before. Men and women had worked late into the night and early this morning to prepare for the festival, and even now some of them remained to straighten spoons and keep watch in case a miscreant should aim to cause harm. As Evelyn gazed out upon the festive scene, her heart grew full. She was relieved to know her thoughts about Lucius and Daisy had been for naught, that perhaps her own beauty had forced Lucius to stay away to catch his breath. The morning had not proceeded according to plan, but this was even better. She had the privilege of sitting with Lucius, and they did not even have to listen to a sermon. Instead they admired the sound of the birds and the breeze as it rustled the leaves of the great oak. It was a lovely day with golden air and pleasant warmth, not too hot for summer and not too chilled for autumn. Evelyn stole a few glances at her husband, admiring his attire. She had noticed at once that he had shaved, that his face was as fresh as the morning dew. She had not seen him in clean clothes for months, much less a suit. The effect of his appearance was staggering, and he even smelled of a fresh musk, not dust and sweat as when he was working day by day. Once he caught her looking at him, so he tried to hold her gaze. But she faltered and cast her eyes upon the ground. There it is, he thought. That bashfulness again. It made him grin as he took another long, happy draw on the pipe. This was going to be a very good day. They could hear the service coming to a close, so Lucius rose and asked Evelyn if she would take a walk with him. She obliged, and soon they were gracing the lane that encircled the property. Happy voices filled the air as church let out. Children were soon screaming and laughing as they chased one another beneath the oak tree, snatching ribbons from the branches and holding them above their heads to fly like banners as they ran. The women flitted to and fro while making the final arrangements for the feast; the men sat and watched with amused expressions. As Evelyn walked beside her husband, she watched these people and admired them, one by one, for their individual qualities. Each was dressed as well as one could afford. The women wore their new dresses, all moving about and holding their heads as if she were a queen in her own right. The men had manicured their facial hair, no longer wearing their gruff, summertime beards but sporting the more recent, angular styles. Lucius had removed his completely, which received Evelyn‟s highest marks of approval. Not many men could get away with naked faces, but Lucius bore his skin well. “They will call us over to eat soon,” Lucius said, ducking his head to catch a glimpse of the preparations beneath an oak bough. “It‟s rumored that you ladies have quite outdone yourselves.” Evelyn smiled. They were halfway round the grounds and soon they would be called upon to join the company. Over the last few weeks, as summer drew to a close, Lucius had lain awake at night thinking about the conversation he wanted to have with Evelyn. They had known each other their entire lives and this last year of their acquaintance had been quite extraordinary. She, who had always been more like a sister to him, was suddenly his wife. In the beginning, he had thought the advantages to such a situation were obvious. Evelyn had plenty of money and she was plenty good-looking. Why couldn‟t he treat her like all of the other women he had known? They certainly didn‟t seem to mind. In fact, those girls had been privileged just to have his attention. He was a favorite among them, which made Evelyn‟s early disdain all the more appalling. To be honest, he had not expected it. Sure, neither of them quite approved of the arranged marriage, but he was ready to make the best of it. Evelyn‟s inheritance was certainly useful, and he had not been opposed to her using some of it for the occasional trinket. But she had not expressed any interest in spending, much to his bewilderment. Didn‟t all women love to spend money? And by the time she could have actually used a new dress, most of the money was gone. Even now, he could hardly believe how fast their funds had disintegrated. Lucius quickly learned that Evelyn was unlike the women he had flirted with in New York. She did not receive his advances, she did not return his looks of desire. She had toyed with him in the beginning, as a cat torments a mouse, but he knew now that her games were a means to revenge. No woman had ever treated him thus, and it made him furious, inspiring feelings and emotions that no woman had ever inspired. She certainly stood on her own, a woman of independence who was not to be trifled with or bullied around. In the beginning, he hated her for it. Then, as time wore on, hate turned into admiration. The night Evelyn had nearly been affronted in her own tent was the same night she had knocked Daisy‟s teeth out. The woman had narrowly escaped being raped and possibly murdered and the next moment, she was fighting for her honor. Lucius would have understood if Evelyn had begun to weep and demand pity, as was most certainly her right. But she had amazed him with her resilience. He no longer wondered why she was different. He simply began to enjoy that she was. Admiration bled into frustration, soon contaminating all of his once despicable thoughts. Now they were here, walking peaceably beside one another, and as he thought back on all the things he had said and done in the past to hurt her, he cringed inside. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen and memories like that night in Panama City were like festering wounds upon his conscience. How could he have been so cruel? He had treated her horribly and for months had longed to apologize. He had agonized over how to do it, had pined for the right words in anticipation of the right moment. Now, the moment had come and he found he was terrified. Terrified not that she would refuse to forgive him, but that she would not know he was sincere. “Evelyn,” he spoke, the sound of his voice suddenly foreign to him. His heart was pounding and his breaths coming in short. He worried that his strength might fail. As he mustered his courage, she looked up at him with expectant eyes. He did not know that her heart as racing too. “I‟ve been meaning to tell you something,” he began. “I haven‟t made a habit of speaking friendly to you and for that, I also apologize. But something greater has been weighing upon my conscience, and I do not expect to be absolved. I only wish to let you know how I feel.” They stopped walking and she turned to him, but he could not bring himself to face her. He was not accustomed to acts of humility. His voice trembled as he spoke. “You are my wife,” he said. “And I am afraid that I have been a beast. A most ostentatious, pretentious beast. When I married you, I was so blind. I did not thought of you as a woman, but as a means to an end. I sought to use you, as you knew even before we wed. And still you met me in my father‟s parlor, and even then I knew that what I was doing was fiendish. I am sorry, so sorry for everything. I do not beg your forgiveness, only your open mind. For each foul word and scandalous trick, I am plagued with regret. You deserve and have always deserved a man, not a monster. But I promise, I promise I will do all that is within my power to never, ever belittle or hurt you again. It is my most ardent wish to treat you henceforth like a lady, as you are. A most tenacious, most amiable and beautiful lady.” She searched his face for any sign of mockery, but there was none. His sincerity was unmistakable. Even as he spoke she could hardly remember the things he had done to hurt her. They were eclipsed by her own actions, her own ill-intentioned scheming. She had sought to break his heart from the very beginning, had tried to sabotage his dreams since the moment she learned of them. It was she who should apologize, she who had been beastly. Suddenly it did not matter to her what he had done; she knew she should have been different. She acted like a school child when she could have responded like a woman. She had not been a lady; far from it. She shook her head violently at him, but he would not see. His eyes were fixed beyond her, still unable to meet her gaze. Insistent, she grabbed his chin and turned his face towards hers. When he was finally looking at her, she shook her head again, using her free hand to pat her chest. It was me, she seemed to say. All me. Perhaps it was unrealistic for either of them to assume all of the blame, but neither of them could see past what they wanted the other person to feel. For the first time, they were blind to one another‟s faults and were only concerned with refining their own. The children continued to chase each other, their ribbons trailing behind them like shooting stars. The men shared favorite stories from rebuilding the town together, their laughter booming into the high, late summer sky. The women clapped their hands and urged everyone to the tables; it was time to eat. The scene was a cascade of shifting colors, a vibrant blur in the distance. The voices sounded like obscure calls from afar, and in that moment the only person who existed in clarity was the woman in front of Lucius. The honest look in her eyes brought down his defenses and he found he could not restrain himself. He was frightened, yes, and even a little hesitant. But in the end, he lost the battle with himself. She was so vivid, so enchanting. That dress. Damn that dress, he stood no chance against it. He leaned forward and kissed her, and she yielded to him in such a way that he knew if he had not had enough courage, she would have kissed him instead. The festival carried long into the night. Sack races and target shooting dominated the morning, then in the early afternoon, the men called for a boxing match. This was a thrilling event, but the priest insisted it did not take place on the church‟s property so as not to soil anything that belonged to the Lord. There was a little grumbling, but the excitement was too great to keep spirits down for long. Everyone decided to migrate to the saloon, which was nearby. The priest conscientiously lowered the brim of his hat and followed the crowd. It was well and good that the Lord should not see the fighting, but his shepherd was human and loved a good show. Lucius asked Evelyn if he should fight, and she shook her head in a good-natured way. She knew he was only joking. He was brought up as a businessman‟s apprentice. Between the two, Evelyn probably had a better chance of winning a boxing match. The fights were exciting but quick. Most of the men in Prosperity were young and lean. They were feisty, but none of them were quite large enough to inspire fear. The most daunting boxers were a couple of Californios, for they were of large build and when they smiled, some of their teeth were missing as if they had seen plenty of fights in their day. However, they had drank too much and their movements were too slow for the fast, spirited „49er boys. The women and girls were forced to stand behind the spectator men in order to better shield their eyes, but although the females found the sport grotesque, they had a difficult time turning away. Some of them had even shoved their way to the front of the crowd and were shouting along with the men. One of these was May Westerly. Another was Evelyn Brennan. She stood beside her husband, who was once pushed from behind so hard that he stepped into the middle of the fight and took a swing to the eye from one of the boxers, falling to the ground. Evelyn and a few others helped him rise, and as he stood he pumped a fist in the air victoriously. Many who had seen the punch laughed at the Irishman‟s expense. Some called out that he should be the next to fight. Lucius had his first taste of blood (granted, it was his own) and this only spurred him on for more despite his lack of experience in brawling. After all, he was an Irishman, wasn‟t he? He was born with an iron fist. When the next round was announced, Lucius cast a sheepish grin at Evelyn and stepped onto the floor. Annoyed at his stupidity, she rolled her eyes and waved a hand through the air. If he wanted to lose, so be it. She would not pity him. He had already merited a black eye. Lucius‟ confidence in himself gave him a few more well-earned bruises. He took a couple new punches to the face, a few in the stomach and one in the kidney. He lost, inevitably. But as the doctor led him away to stitch some of his lacerations, he smiled at Evelyn with his split-lip and said, “You know you‟re proud of me.” She had laughed, for although he was not the victor, she admired his doggedness. Many remained in the saloon even after the fights had ended. All the excitement left the men thirsty for ale, so drinking was in order. Those injured in boxing were taken to be cleaned up and those who could return did so within the hour. Their ales were purchased for them. Among these was Lucius, who raised his pint in the air and declared, “All hail the victorious defeated!” All had lifted their mugs and cheered before noticing the contradiction, and for a second the men cast about confused looks. Then someone began to laugh and soon, everyone else had joined in. “Three cheers for the Irishman!” a voice called out. “Fool‟s a real brick!” “And I‟m pissin‟ blood for it!” Lucius replied, and roars of laughter erupted once more. In the evening, everyone returned to the great oak. More feasting was to take place and the Californios had planned a dance. This was a different sort of dance than the Americans were accustomed to. It was not the usual country gathering, which they enjoyed well enough. This dance involved the large wine press, as well as various instruments the white people had never seen, including a five-stringed guitar called a vihuela and a dried, ridged gourd called a guiro. There was also a type of harp with nylon strings, which many agreed sounded much like a mandolin. The violin everyone recognized, as this was the chief instrument to carry the melody, its mournful, lovely sound lifting beautifully above the others. As the music began, the Californias were the first to initiate the dance. The women took hold of the children‟s hands and stepped out of their shoes. Pulling their skirts high above their knees, they jumped into the wine press, arms linked. A cry of wonder arose from the spectators, as they had never witnessed such an activity. Wine- making was typically laborious, a job reserved for the Chinese, who were originally brought to Prosperity for that reason. This was the dance the Californios had planned? The American women looked down at their new gowns, hesitant to stain the fabrics they had so diligently designed for this night. The men shook their heads as they, too, had worn their best trousers. It was all well and good that the Californios should tread grapes, but this was not something the people of Prosperity could enjoy themselves. The by standing children watched in wonder as the Californias danced, occasionally looking up at their parents to see if they approved. The youngsters were desperate to join the fun, but they were hesitant until finally, one little boy ran forward. He leaped into the vat of grapes, giggling uncontrollably. This was as much permission as the other children needed. They raced towards the Californias, joining them in the dance. The pile of shoes beside the wine press grew as some of the Californio men followed. A few American couples decided to dance, not in the wine press, but beside it. They did not have to dirty their clothes to have some fun, they decided. Still, others watched, noting the joy in the Californios‟ and the children‟s faces as the juice from the grapes squished up between their toes. Evelyn cast a sidelong glance at Lucius, who caught it with his one good eye and said, “Don‟t even thought about it. I‟ve done all the dancing I can do for one day.” He was of course referring to the boxing match, the wounds of which were growing more tender and he knew he would be stiff, if not immobile by morning. There was no way he would dance tonight, much less in a wine press with black grapes soiling his most expensive pants. No batting from Evelyn‟s gorgeous, pleading eyes could convince him to do otherwise. As the music played on, darkness crept in. Lanterns had been hung from the tree and were lit, as well as candles that were strewn about the tables. Some black figures advanced from the other side of town and as they drew nearer, they were recognized as Madame Claire‟s girls. One of which was Daisy. She slipped in beside Evelyn, dressed in black attire. “I wanted to speak with you a moment,” she said quietly, but loud enough for Lucius to hear. He turned his gaze from the dance to the two women, his eyes falling on Evelyn. He shook his head and mouthed, “No.” Daisy held a finger up to him. “A moment, if you would, Mr. Flynn. Ineed just a moment.” “You will remain right here where I can see you,” Lucius tersely informed the prostitute. “And if you say anything to her against my liking I would throw you out of here myself.” “There‟s no need to cause a scene,” Daisy told him, her eyes dark and glistening in the night. “I wouldn‟t want you to hurt yourself.” She was antagonizing him, gesturing to his swollen eye. Evelyn turned her back towards Lucius in order to interrupt Daisy‟s bantering. She placed her hands on her hips and cast an indignant look towards the girl. “Out with it, then,” Lucius spoke from behind. “Be quick, Daisy.” Daisy grinned and sighed. “Men can be so impatient,” she chuckled. At that, Lucius grabbed her arm and said, “All right, let‟s go.” She wrenched away violently. “Get your hands off me!” A few people glanced in their direction, no doubt curious how the two Flynns always seemed to get tangled with that prostitute. “Get to the point,” Lucius demanded. “I‟m two seconds shy of wringing your neck, wench.” Her cheerful disposition shattered, Daisy seemed suddenly averse. She spoke so low that Evelyn had a difficult time hearing. “I‟m not here to socialize,” she told Evelyn. “Business is slow seein‟ as everyone is here, so we‟ve come to work our charms, as God knows that‟s all we‟ve got. But I thought you should know that I have thought a great deal about what happened at the beginning of the summer, and you were right. If not for you and Saul, I would have died in that fire. So I came to thank you. It doesn‟t mean we‟re friends or anything. When I look at your life and the things you have-” her eyes flitted to Lucius, “I quite despise you. It‟s people like you that make my existence so difficult to bear. You realize that, don‟t you?” Daisy lifted a hand and rubbed the lace of Evelyn‟s sleeve between her fingers. “You have these fancy dresses, that innocent face, an unblemished past. Every night you go to sleep with a full belly, knowing that in the morning, you will eat some more. I, on the other hand, am lucky if I even sleep. Your husband sickens me, too. Men like him know what they‟ve got, and they won‟t even lower themselves to look at filth like me. Why do you think I have fought so hard to grab his attention? Hm? Do you think it‟s because I want his money? I know he has nothing. Everyone here knows him to be a pauper and a debtor. No. It‟s because if someone like him could deign to waste a momentary glance on someone like me, I‟ll have a small taste, a tiny morsel of dignity. So I‟m not here to apologize to you. You have enough to not have me groveling at your pretty little feet. But I owe you my gratitude, so here it is.” From beneath her shawl, she produced a small paper crane and handed it to Evelyn. Evelyn looked down at it, mouth agape. “One of the girls taught me how to make it,” Daisy explained. “It‟s supposed to symbolize prosperity. I thought it could represent peace between us.” She grinned half- heartedly. “That means I don‟t egg you on, you see, and that you don‟t knock my teeth out. Sound fair?” Evelyn chuckled a little, twirling the little crane between her fingers. She nodded, suddenly seeing Daisy as a poor, starved child, sold and abandoned by her own parents. If she had been fortunate enough to lead another life, the two of them might have been friends. That was, if they didn‟t murder one another. Daisy smiled and took a deep breath. She winked at Evelyn and piped up for Lucius to hear. “All right, Mr. Flynn. She‟s all yours. If you need me, you know where I‟ll be.” She shrugged at Evelyn and whispered, “For old times‟ sake.” Evelyn watched the prostitute as she meandered through the crowd, found some of her favorite customers and threw an arm around one of them. She smiled at her husband, eyes sparkling, and stood on her toes to lean forward and kiss his cheek. With that, she hiked up her dress, kicked off her slippers, and ran to the winepress. That lovely gown was ruined, of course; stained a deep shade of purple halfway up the skirt and splashed here and there. The color of the wine matched the color of the velvet along the trim, which Evelyn found humorous. It would have been a tragic waste had she not had so much fun. It was Evelyn‟s way of accepting Daisy‟s peace treaty, of acknowledging that she was not as perfect as everyone assumed. Daisy wore her sins in place of modest dress, where Evelyn dressed modestly and effectively covered her sins. The ivory fabric was stained forever, but the stains represented the freedom Evelyn felt as she danced, which was worth much more than one costly gown. Lucius walked Evelyn home that night, though not without pain. He was incredibly sore, as one would be after his first ever boxing match, and his head felt like it was splitting in two. He confessed he would have liked to enjoy their evening together a little more, but all he could think about was sleep. In her secret thoughts she had hoped he would woo her to bed as a husband would woo his wife, but she knew these thoughts were fantastical, especially in light of the day‟s events. Lucius must be in great pain, and to some degree she felt relief that her hopes must be reserved for another night; for although she longed for Lucius, she was yet a virgin and with her purity came a degree of timidity, tiny though the degree might be. He did, however, kiss her goodnight. It was a long, lingering kiss, the kind of kiss that made him wish he had not boxed at all but had saved his strength for this moment, when he might have swept her off her feet, carried her inside the tent and had her for the first time. After they had kissed, he looked at her for a moment in light of the moon and his heart leapt, for her beauty still came as a shock to him. He had never seen a more lovely woman; everything about her was well and perfect in his eyes. As he had watched her laughing and swaying her hips earlier, the juice from the grapes splashing over her body and wetting her hair, he had come to realize that marrying her was the finest gift he had ever been given. And it was a gift, for he had not chosen it, sought it out, or taken it for his own. His marriage to Evelyn had been an arrangement that he had agreed to, a proposal he had accepted. At the time he thought her money was the issue. But now he realized that she alone had been worth more than all of her inheritance and his fortune combined. If he had only ever gotten the girl, he would have been a happy man for the rest of his life. He slept outside that night, on a soft area of grass just outside of her tent. He did not know that it was the same spot of grass she had lain upon late that spring as she and May Westerly watched the sky together, wishing on stars for their husbands. The following morning he was so sore and swollen he could barely move. Evelyn could hardly keep from laughing at his expense, for he had brought this upon himself. She cared for him that day, seeking May Westerly‟s assistance to help him to bed. As he grimaced through searing headaches and sore ribs, she knelt beside him and stroked the hair from his forehead, shushing him to sleep. There were several moments when she recalled the voyage to San Francisco when she had nursed him through the influenza, though this was very different, for Lucius was not nearly dying and was quick to make jokes in light of the situation. The more Evelyn smiled and laughed, the more Lucius realized how painful it was for him to do the same, which brought him to appeal to her for solemnity and only forced her to smile and laugh even harder. They made a ridiculous couple, but most happy couples usually do. Evelyn could not speak to her husband but Lucius loved to talk, and he was beginning to read her reactions and expressions clearly enough so as to communicate more freely with her. Only rarely would her eyes fall and her face would appear forlorn, for although Lucius was becoming skilled in judging her thoughts, she greatly wished she could speak them aloud. Theirs was a relationship too often tested, and even though crossing her arms, tightening her lips and stomping her foot was easy enough to do when she was frustrated, smiling could only say so much during times of peace. She longed to share stories with him, to confess her thoughts, to tell him those thoughts were ever upon him. As the day grew old, Evelyn grew weary. Though the cot upon which Lucius laid was barely large enough for one, he arranged his body, painful as it was, in such a way as to accommodate his wife as well, if she lay on her side. He invited her to join him, so like a little girl, she smiled bashfully and climbed into bed alongside him. He made a crook for her just beneath his arm, which he wrapped around her slender body. Her head rested on the cushion of his shoulder, her hand upon his chest. In his dreams, he passed through the rows of a vineyard, the fruits succulent and glistening in light of a silver moon. He saw her there, running amongst the grapes, wearing a white dress that seemed to glow in the luminescent night. Her wild hair streamed behind her, and she was so close he could just feel the wake of it in the still, crisp air. She was laughing, not silent and breathy like usual, but sonorous and musical. The sound of her laughter was filling the night around them, bouncing off the surrounding hills and taking flight into the sky. He thought if he could only catch her, she would laugh for him and he could finally hear her voice. He gave chase, but she continued to run. They passed between the vines until finally, he caught hold of her. She smiled up at him and in a voice clear as the new church bell said, “I‟m yours.” Finally, the sound of her voice! It was to him like the song of a thousand angels, alluring and resplendent. He closed his eyes for just a moment, relishing the harmonious sound. She took his hand in hers and brought it to her smooth naval, guided it upwards over her soft, glorious chest and across her shoulder, down her silken arm. Her fingers intertwined with his, and suddenly it was as though she were bare before him, naked but still clothed in white. He had never seen such a pure form of beauty in his life and he knew he must be possessed by her. He reached out, touched her again and again, laid her upon the soft earth and wrapped himself up in the glow of her angelic form. As he lost himself in her embrace, he heard her whispering, over and over, “I‟m yours. I‟m yours. I‟m yours.” He woke with the sound of her voice in his head and her touch tingling upon his skin and he knew it had not all been a dream. Prosperity had taken the day following the celebration to rest and recover from much drinking and reveling the night before. Now it was back to the mission, which was to complete as many buildings as possible before winter. At the rate they were advancing, the men had great faith in their abilities. Despite the soreness of his body, Lucius was feeling good and woke early to return to work. He shifted Evelyn‟s body where he thought she might be most comfortable, kissed her forehead and departed. She slept longer than usual and when she rose, she went to the dining hall for a late breakfast. The women were busy sewing and cooking, the children were kicking a ball around outside. She sat herself at the bar, smiling happily as she played over scenes from the previous night. Saul, who was putting away the last of the morning‟s dishes, noticed the young woman‟s joyful expression and guessed rightly what had happened. He was not the only one in Prosperity who had seen the great difference in how the young married couple responded to one another. They had arrived in Apollo as bated bears and now lived peacefully in Prosperity like turtle doves. “An‟ what was it yer smilin‟ about, missy?” he asked, raising a thick eyebrow. “Had a good night, did you?” Her smile broadened, if that was possible, and Saul chuckled. “I s‟pose you‟re hungry?” She nodded, tracing a finger along the wooden surface of the bar and watching it, fascinated. Saul went to work fixing her breakfast when someone slipped quietly through the front doors. No one paid much attention, but Evelyn raised her head to see who it was as the woman approached the bar. It was Jen, whom Evelyn had not seen since Madame Claire established her tent brothel and insisted her girls return to work. Jen wore a concerned look as she leaned forward to speak quietly to Saul. She glanced at Evelyn. “There is sickness,” she told them, her voice hushed. “One of girls already dead. More not well.” Saul adopted a stern expression. “What is it? The pox? The fever?” Jen shook her head. “No, no. Worse.” No one spoke for a moment. The working women could be heard chattering in the background. Then Saul said in a terribly low voice, “Cholera?” Evelyn‟s eyes shot to Jen, praying that she would say no. But Jen was quiet, then nodded her head almost imperceptibly. “Huoluan,” she whispered. Sudden chaos. “You must stay away from the girls who are sick,” Saul instructed her. “You may catch the huoluan if you do not. Do not return to the brothel, do you understand? You must go where you are safe.” Jen looked frightened. “Madame no like…” “Hang Madame Claire. You must look after yourself. Mrs. Flynn-” Saul turned his gaze upon Evelyn, “You must return to your tent. I cannot be sure the sickness is not among us. Promise me you will go home and see no one.” Obediently, Evelyn nodded. Saul then addressed the other women. He asked for the ladies in the kitchen to be brought out and the children to be brought inside. May Westerly emerged from the kitchen, glanced in Evelyn‟s direction and went to her, eyes full of questions. When all were gathered, Saul spoke slowly and cautiously to avoid panic, if he could. He asked if anyone had been feeling unwell and if so, what had ailed them. One of the children spoke up and said her friend had suddenly vomited not long ago. The sick child had then gone home to lie down. “How many of you have been near this child this morning?” Saul asked the children. All of them remained quiet, but timidly raised their hands. Saul sighed. He had seen a cholera outbreak once before, many years ago. He knew the measures that must be taken to avoid the spread and even then, he knew there were no guarantees against infection. The disease was a monster with a ravenous appetite. He knew this, for it had taken his wife. “Are there any others?” Saul asked again. The women looked around at each other, but no one spoke up. “All right,” Saul said. “Those of you with children must take them home. If there are any signs of ill health, bring them to the hospital at once. Meanwhile, those who are well and have not been near anyone with signs of sickness must stay here or go home but are not to wander around town under any circumstances.” “But what about our husbands? Mustn‟t we warn them?” someone asked. “Under any circumstances,” Saul repeated. He fell back and all at once the women began talking, their voices trembling as they asked one another what had happened. The women with children snatched them up immediately and ran for home. Where the little ones were concerned, they did not wish to waste any time. May Westerly took hold of Evelyn‟s hand. “It‟s cholera, isn‟t it?” she asked. Something sunk inside as Evelyn nodded. A sense of dread passed between the two women and May Westerly began to urge her friend towards the door. “Then I‟m not taking any chances. To the tent, at once.” Saul grabbed Evelyn by the arm. “You must be wise,” he told her. “I am going to warn the doctor. Word of this evil must spread and all precautions taken. Go home and stay there. Do not even think of going to Mr. Flynn. If all is well, I will have him return to you.” Something in his voice persuaded her to do as she was told but gave her all the more reason to fear. If all is well, he had said. If. Many had fallen ill by early evening. The hospital was quickly inhabited by the unfortunate victims, their cries carried on the thin, cool air. Evelyn and May Westerly waited impatiently for news, but none came. Each moment Evelyn‟s eyes darted to the door in expectation of seeing Lucius, but still he remained away. It was like the hunting expedition all over again, only this was a hundred times worse. She tried closing her eyes in search of comfort, conjuring images from the night before when they had lain in each other‟s arms. But each wonderful memory made this uncertainty all the more terrible, for Lucius‟ face grew ever precious at the thought of never seeing it again. What if he did not come because he was among the sick? What if he was dying in that hospital, alone and in desperate pain? It must not happen that way. Evelyn recalled the night Lucius had fallen ill on the barge from Panama City. Even then, when they had not loved one another, when they did not know each other as they did now, she had been the nurse by his side. She had cared for him as any good wife would do, thinking not of her own health but only for that of her husband. It was miserable to be kept from him when he might need her, when a caress from her hand or a tender look from her eyes might cure him, might give him the strength to endure. She wrung her hands as May Westerly pulled out her Bible and began to read aloud. She turned to her favorite Psalm, the one she had read a hundred times after her husband died. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock… Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger; thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. The hours dragged, and still no word from Saul. Every now and again May would look up from her Scriptures and search for a word of encouragement to offer Evelyn, but she could find none. Instead she would sigh and mutter, “Why has he not come?” then dip her head and read again. She had thought of a few things to say, but May Westerly was a truthful woman, and if the words did not feel honest in her gut, she would not let them slip past her throat. She could not say, “I am sure your husband is fine” any more than, “We‟ll all come out of this all right, dearie.” Oh, she wanted to. She desperately wanted to. But the more she struggled to find the words, the more hopeless her heart began to feel, so she turned to her Bible instead. After some time, the woman‟s sight began to falter. Daylight was waning and her eyes were growing tired. Her throat was scratchy from so much recitation. She needed water. There was silence for several seconds. Evelyn sat on the edge of her cot, staring at the door. Just as May Westerly could not speak false words, Evelyn could not be forced to obey ridiculous orders. She had sat around long enough and now she needed to seek some answers. She had to find Lucius, and she would search all night if necessary. Sick or not, she wanted to be beside him. Saul was a dear friend whose authority she respected. But she could wait no longer. She rose and stepped from the tent immediately. May Westerly watched, mouth open to speak, but issued nothing but silence. She felt no reproach, found no words of caution. She could not chase after the girl, tell her to wait, to stay where she was, for she felt in her heart that Evelyn was doing what she needed to do. She was going to her husband. Evelyn ran into the lane, her heart racing faster with each step. She had no clear idea of where she should go, but she knew that if she checked the hospital first and her husband was not there, she would feel much more at ease. Her pace quickened with the idea that perhaps soon her fears might be calmed. Lucius may yet be working. Perhaps Saul had simply forgotten to come to her, to tell her all was well, that it was not as bad as they had first imagined. But the cries still rose from the hospital, the choleric pains searing through the bodies of the afflicted. It was a quick illness. The day would have begun with lethargy, then there would be diarrhea which quickly progressed into violent retching. The victims‟ skin would lose its warmth, their faces would turn shades of blue and purple, and their bodies would be crippled with abdominal agony. In hours they would shrivel and grow old before the doctor‟s eyes and then, their lives would expire. Those cries tore at her inside. She could almost feel the pain and it was too much, too much for her to bear. As she ran she felt the tears streaming cold down her cheeks and she knew that if and when she found her husband, she would find some way to plead with him. She did not want to be here anymore. She wished for Lucius to whisk her away again, this time to a place without raging fires and sudden plagues. And then she despaired, for she knew such a place did not exist. As she rounded the corner onto the main road, she saw a tall, dark and weary man approaching from the direction of the hospital. In a moment she was facing him, panting hard. Her eyes were frantic as he took her hands with his own. “My dear Evelyn,” he said. “I am sorry I could not come to you sooner. I have only just had the opportunity to sneak away, and only to find you.” It was Saul, but not the strong, sturdy Saul she had grown to know and esteem. This was a tired Saul, a burdened Saul. “When I found your husband,” he continued, “he had already taken ill…” At this, she tore past the bearer of ill news at an alarming speed. He called her name once, but knew it was of no use, for he had expected her to run. She was a strong- willed girl, one who refused to be ruled by words of caution. He turned slowly in the direction he had come and began to walk, the dust from Evelyn‟s footsteps still rising in the air around him. She reached the hospital and peeled through the entrance, her senses abruptly assaulted by the stench of the place. She stopped as if thrown into a brick wall and turned to retch outside. Dear God, she thought. And she could think nothing else. She knew she must brave the smell, knew that somewhere within this morbid death hall lay her husband. She tore a piece of fabric from the bottom of her dress and held it over her nose and mouth, took a deep breath and went within. She forced her eyes to scan the faces of the many sick who were present, though it was no easy task. She knew she should recognize some of them but she could not. Their skin was discolored and dry, their eyes sunken. Some of the bodies had been covered with sheets, but she made herself believe her husband was not beneath one of them. She continued to search the faces, take shallow breaths and inch closer to examine. The sound of liquid splashing into pots was ever present, and when she realized why she retched again, this time openly on the floor of the hospital. For the first time, the doctor looked up from a patient and noticed her. He quickly called to an orderly. “Another,” he said wearily. “Find her a bed.” As the orderly approached, Evelyn shook her head violently. The man grappled with her as she sobbed, unable to escape his grip. He dragged her to a bed, where he set her down. There was a hole cut out of the mattress with a tin pot set beneath it. This was where the sound of splashing water came from. The pot was there to catch bodily fluids. On either side of her were men whose pots were gradually filling. She wept, hating the orderly and hating herself even more for not being able to tell him why she had come. Every second she lost she failed Lucius. When the orderly had turned his back to her, she began her search once more. She leaned forward to glimpse the faces of those across the room, and as she did a small voice said, “Evelyn?” The voice was husky and not at all familiar. When she turned to find who it belonged to, she had to blot the tears out of her eyes in order to see more clearly. She did not recognize him at first, but gradually she came to realize it was her husband. The shock of his appearance struck her so violently that her tears ceased to flow and her body went completely still. She stared until presently he worked up the strength to speak again. “You are ill?” Slowly, like a warm sun thawing an icicle, she came to. He was lying on the bed beside hers and as she leaned towards him, she felt as though she were floating. She could not judge whether this was a dream or reality, so she reached out to touch him. The skin on his face was cold and yielding, not taut as it should be. She shook her head, more from disbelief than as an answer to his question. “I am sorry I could not tell you. This feeling came so suddenly…” With that, each muscle in his body contracted and he released a painful groan. Then the wave passed and it took him a moment to find his voice again. Evelyn took his hand, suddenly unaware of the sound and smell of the place. She was swept up into a vehement desire to return to the previous night. When she blinked, she blinked hard. Not much time had passed since they were wrapped up together. Perhaps they were still sleeping. Perhaps soon they would wake and this nightmare would have ended. But each time she opened her eyes, she saw him like this and her heart knew the truth. Lucius was dying. Cholera was not a fair enemy. It chose its prey at a whim and lighted upon them before they had the opportunity to fight. Last night Lucius had been strong and vibrant; tonight he was nearly wasted. Soon he would be swept away. She heard his life as it seeped from his body into a rusted tin pot. He was quickly fading. She shook her head at him, biting her lip to keep away the tears that threatened to return. Her hand gripped his harder and harder, as if to say Hold on, hold on, hold on. The pain was easier to bear with her beside him. She was a good nurse. He remembered that from when he was sick all those months ago. The selflessness with which she had cared for him had pierced his heart and forced him to see what a brute he had been. The reflection had been much more than he could handle, so once he was well he removed his attentions completely. No woman had ever affected him the way she did. Now he mustered what strength he had left to smile for her. He didn‟t know how she got into the hospital without being ill. It felt like years had passed since he had been brought here, but he remembered asking who would tell his wife what had happened and where he was. Everyone told him that he could have no visitors, that anyone who got near him would be contaminated. Didn‟t he want Evelyn to be safe? Saul had promised him that she was safe, that she would be waiting for him when he got well. But people didn‟t get well from cholera, did they? And yet here she was, holding his hand and drawing blood from her mouth. He wanted to reach out, to tell her to stop worrying. Get your teeth out of your mouth, he would tell her, and then he would laugh because it was a kind of joke. Evelyn had lovely teeth, and he would never want to see them in any other mouth but her own. His eyes were glazed over and she wondered if his mind was quite right. Did he even know what had happened? Was he aware of his condition, of her concern? He opened his mouth to speak but choked a little for the dryness of his throat. Evelyn squeezed his hand again, willing him to speak. If this was his final hour, she wanted to hear every last thought, each word he may yet utter. He seemed to struggle with what he really wanted to say, and for a few moments all he could manage was her name. “Evelyn,” he whispered, his hand gently pressing into hers. “Evelyn, Evelyn.” Each time he said it, another tear fell from her eyes. Her stomach began to clench with the pain of losing him. If she could only say one thing in her entire life, she would only need three words. Just three. And she would use them now, would speak them loud and clear for Lucius to hear. He watched as her mouth began to work. Those lips were truly fascinating. So full, so deep, so desirable. If he were stronger, he would pull her close and kiss her. There was nothing so sweet as kissing her. But he knew she could not bring her lips to his, no matter how intense the desire may have been. He was sick, and she was taking a great risk simply by remaining with him. What was she thinking? She should not be there, yet he was so felicitously happy that she was. She was a real gallant woman, his wife. A true woman. Strong and noble, virtuous and pure. Of all the women in the world, of all the kinds of girls he had met, he loved his Irish girl the most. And suddenly he was dreaming again. The moon was out, full and silver, like a monstrous winking star. She was there, surrounding him, her hair down and blowing like the weeping limbs of a willow tree. She was white, white like the lucid moon, and she was crying. He had never seen her cry before, and it made his heart ache. He reached out, touched her tears, watched as they streamed slowly down the length of his pale wrist. They shone like stars in the silver light. “Don‟t cry,” he told her. “Evelyn, my Evelyn.” Slowly, slowly her face diminished before his eyes as her head fell back and she cried out in a wretched sob, “Loooord!” Still he watched her, waited to see her face again. How sad she was, how forlorn. And then she sprang forward, her eyes wide, as though surprised. “I love you, Lucius,” she told him. Those wide eyes crinkled up at the ends, became like slivers as they pooled with sorrow. “I love you!” He took a deep breath, felt it as it stretched his lungs, listened to his heart beat once, twice. “There it is,” he whispered. “That harmonious sound.” He smiled then, and his head rolled back against the mattress as he closed his eyes. The sunshine was bright and warm and if she stood between the shifting shadows beneath the oak tree, she could close her eyes and pretend it was summer again. But then the breeze would blow, and with it a chill would stir, and she would be forced to cross her arms and squint against the cold. It was a penetrating kind of cold, one that got under her skin and made her bones ache. But then it died away, and the sun touched her face, and with it, comfort. Within her sleeve was hidden a tiny piece of paper. Once upon a time it had belonged to another woman, but that woman had given it to Evelyn in the shape of a crane. Evelyn looked at it now, twirled it between her fingers, admired the way its wings stood out as if ready for flight. You will need this, wherever you are, she thought as she bent down and set it gingerly upon the surface of the fresh, wooden tombstone. There were many like this one, all standing in a row beneath the oak tree. Names and origins were carved into the wood, for most of the deceased had not come from California, but had journeyed there from across the sea. She had read their names, had made her way down the progression of epitaphs. As she saw their graves she imagined their faces in her mind. It was funny, the little pieces she recalled about them. The blacksmith‟s daughter, Rosie, had been missing her left front tooth and always carried her beloved doll. Johann Spitz had a favorite German curse he liked to spew whenever he broke a string on his instrument. The priest twirled the scarlet ribbon from his Bible round and round his finger as he preached. But something different happened when Evelyn stopped in front of this particular grave. She did not imagine peculiar little nuances about this person; instead she thought of memories that had never been made. Toes in the sand and laughter on a salty breeze. A Christmas ham. Embroidered sheets, clean and smelling of soap. These were recollections that could have only existed in another life. A hand slipped inside of hers and she turned, tilting her face up a little. She breathed out a sigh of contentment, leaned back and dropped her head against his chest. “Don‟t worry,” he told her. “Perhaps the Lord „imself will keep her out of mischief from now on.” Evelyn nodded and smiled, thought, Maryanne is such a beautiful name. A much better name than Daisy, and decided she would rather remember the prostitute for her Christian name, as well as for the life she might have led if circumstances had been different. Evelyn looked at the little crane one last time, bent forward and set it upon the prostitute‟s tombstone. The image of a young, dirty-faced Daisy flashed in her mind and because her heart was still tender from the cholera tragedies, her eyes filled with tears. Daisy‟s life had been robbed of justice, but perhaps in her death, she would be given a new chance. Once she said her goodbyes, Evelyn turned to her husband and smiled. “Are you ready?” he asked. She nodded as she slipped her fingers into his, marveling at the touch of his skin and the strength of his grip. A month ago she was nearly certain that she had lost him. He had lain before her, sick as death, with a smile on his face, and the world stopped as she listened for his heartbeat. There was no sound; only the absence of life. When the stillness came, she had grown terribly angry, had thrown herself on her knees beside Lucius and wept. Tears of hatred poured from her eyes; not hatred of Lucius, but hatred of the injustice that wanted his life. Hatred of the men who had murdered her father, hatred of the doctors who told her as a child that she would never open her mouth to speak. They had cursed her that day, had sentenced her to a lifetime of silence. Now more than ever she remembered them with contempt. She despised their words and every fiber of her being wished to prove them wrong. It all happened very suddenly. The sorrow and hatred had birthed desperation, an unequivocal need to snatch her husband out from Death‟s grip and bring him back to the land of the living. She simply refused to lose him, and this rebellion led to an incident that changed Evelyn Brennan‟s life forever. It was Evelyn‟s character to always challenge what others told her. As Lucius lay before her, she refused to believe the doctors from so long ago. She refused to believe that she was born a mute, that she was ever meant to be a mute. The greatest things in the world could not be made to bow before handicaps or infirmities. No, she had decided. Hope must be stronger, and love must be stronger still. She threw her head back and whispered, “Lord.” She did not know where the word came from. Of all the words that she would say first, she would not have chosen that one. But it was the only one that came. Perhaps it was a plea. Perhaps it was a declaration. But maybe it was just a prayer, a small, quiet prayer, and as it crept from her lips she knew it was her foundation for change. It was barely a breath, yet she knew it was a great risk. The bolder she became, the bigger chance she had of failing. But she had made up her mind. She would get Lucius back. She would give him something to hang on to. She leaned in, brought her mouth to his ear. “I love you, Lucius,” she breathed. Amidst the whisper there was a small crack, a fleeting but beautiful note of color. She said it again, stronger this time. “I love you.” She said the words, again and again, her voice growing in strength. The vibrations tickled her throat, resounded in her chest. The feeling was so foreign to her that she began to laugh, throwing herself against Lucius‟ body and wrapping her arms around him tightly. “I love you,” she cried. The doctor and the orderly looked up from what they were doing, were silenced from the sound coming from Evelyn‟s lips. She could feel the tenseness in Lucius‟ chest give way ever so softly as he began to breathe again. In and out, in and out, the steady breathing of a dreamer. He was asleep and when she brought her eyes to his face, he was smiling. Her laughter turned to weeping as she continued to sob, “I love you.” In the days that followed, he steadily grew stronger. He thought he was dreaming, or perhaps even dead, as he heard her voice reciting in French, Look at the boughs, How white they are! It’s snowing flowers. Yet no matter how many times he blinked his eyes as if to wake, she was still there as the words streamed like melodies from her lips. She led him into the woods. She had wanted to bring him here for some time, had wanted to show him that peaceful place she discovered so many months ago. “I did lie to you,” she told him, “when I told you I had fallen asleep under a tree. It was not a tree at all.” Autumn was bursting around them and the forest floor was thickly blanketed in crisp, fallen leaves. As the breeze snaked languorously through the overhanging boughs, colors of yellow, orange, red and green drifted like snowflakes from above. She had told him to bring a lantern, for where she was taking him was not well- lit. She recalled the way the hanging glass had reflected that small bit of sunlight, showering the cave with dancing sequins. It had been lovely, but today she wanted a better view of the artwork on the stone walls. Hands clasped, they advanced slowly through the woods. When they reached the creek, the water was low for the rains had not yet come. Lucius crossed, assisting Evelyn to the other side. Together they climbed the hill to the granite wall, found the opening and lit the lantern. “You are certain we won‟t be eaten?” Lucius asked as they made their way inside. He was only half teasing. “Or slit open by an arrowhead?” Evelyn clicked her tongue at him. “Of course I‟m not certain,” she replied. “Where would be the adventure if I was?” He chuckled nervously and gripped her hand a little tighter. They progressed through the narrow entry hall, Lucius leading the way. When he emerged into the open living area, he stopped short and Evelyn bumped into him. “What is it?” she asked, suddenly aware that this journey was indeed a risk. Perhaps someone did live here. Perhaps they were intruding, and Lucius was getting a glimpse of the unhappy occupant at that very moment. Her husband was silent, unmoving. He lifted the lantern a little higher. “Evelyn,” he breathed, his voice low and hesitant. “Did you know about this? Is this why you brought me here?” Confused, she pushed him forward. She wanted to know what he saw. Heart racing, she stepped into the light. “Why, Mr. Flynn,” she whispered presently. “I do believe you have an ace up your sleeve after all.” Suddenly illuminated, the paintings in the room were not that spectacular. What had made Lucius gape was not the old artwork, but the walls themselves. There, all around them, they were ribboned, speckled and splotched in the firelight. They were, in fact, glistening with gold.
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