The Lady of Bolton Hill
Author:Elizabeth Camden

The Lady of Bolton Hill By Elizabeth Camden

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Baltimore, Maryland, 1867

 

 

 

C ome on, boy. Your dad needs you.”

 

Daniel looked up from his exam in disbelief, certain his father would never pull him out of this test. But a grim-faced Joe Manzetti stood in the doorway of the classroom, trails of perspiration streaking through the soot on his face. Being summoned to fix the aging equipment at the steel mill was a regular occurrence for Daniel, but it wasn’t going to happen today.

 

“I’ll be there in an hour,” Daniel said as he glanced around the classroom, noting the glares of resentment among the other students competing for the same scholarship. They all had the advantage of decent schools and private tutors, while Daniel’s only knowledge of engineering came from tinkering with the equipment in the steel mills of Baltimore’s east end.

 

“There’s been an accident and your dad is trapped,” Manzetti said. “You need to come right away.” The blood drained from Daniel’s face. Everyone at the steel mill knew what this test meant to him and would not have summoned him for anything short of a life-and-death catastrophe. He threw his pencil down and shot up from his seat, not even glancing at the proctor as he bolted from the room.

 

“It was a boiler explosion,” Manzetti told him as they left the school and ran across Currior Street. “They’ve put out the fire, but your dad was trapped by the tank that got blown off its base. He’s still pinned beneath it.”

 

Daniel broke out into a sweat. There would have been tons of steam if the boiler tank had been blown out of its brick encasement, and his father’s entire body would have been scalded. “How badly was he burned?”

 

“It’s not good, boy. We can’t get the canister off him until the fire tubes are disabled. The boiler was mangled in the blast, so we need to do some quick work before the pressure makes it blow again.”

 

And that was why they’d summoned Daniel. Anyone could operate those boilers under normal circumstances, but when the equipment broke down they relied on Daniel to figure out what was to be done. He was only nineteen years old, but he’d always had a knack for tinkering with machines to make them work better or do something different.

 

His legs were trembling after sprinting the two miles to the mill, a stitch clawed at his side, and his lungs were barely able to fill, but the workers parted as he and Manzetti entered the boiler room. Clouds of steam and soot still hung in the air, bricks were strewn everywhere, and on the concrete floor, crumpled beneath a massive copper boiler, Daniel’s father lay sprawled like a broken doll.

 

“Dad?”

 

His father’s eyelids flickered. “Fire tubes still attached,” the words rasped from his father’s throat. “Be careful, lad.”

 

Daniel glanced at the twisted fire tubes and the ruined boiler. Soldering the tubes closed would work, but it would take hours. He had to think of another way to disengage the tubes before they could lift the boiler from his father, or there would be another explosion.

 

“I need a sledgehammer and a steel pin,” Daniel said. “Get a couple of valve clamps and some leather gloves,” he added, his gaze fixed on the white-hot fire tubes. A wave of murmurs passed through the workers who circled the site of the accident, but a few of them ran to get the tools. There was no time to explain the unconventional solution that was taking shape in his head. He wasn’t even sure it would work, but trying to disable those fire tubes directly would be suicide. “And I’ll need a lot of water . . . just in case.” Stupid to worry about it, since he and his father would both be killed instantly if this didn’t work.

 

The men brought the equipment to him, and the assembled workers began pulling back to a safe distance. A tremor ran through his father. “You know what you’re doing, laddie?”

 

Daniel didn’t meet his father’s eyes, just placed the steel pin against the first of the mangled fire tubes, the heat so fierce it penetrated his thick leather gloves. “Yup,” he said with more confidence than he felt. “Just like pricking the crust on one of Mom’s pies to let the steam out,” he said as he positioned the sledgehammer atop the pin. The first whack did nothing other than send a shrill ping through the air. Neither did the second, but the third blow pierced the pipe, and the escaping steam sent out a high-pitched whistle. Daniel reared away from the burning steam. “Clamp down the safety valve,” he yelled over the noise. Two workers moved in, arm muscles bulging as they wrenched the equipment into place. It took a minute, but the pipe lost pressure, and the whistle lowered in pitch and then fell silent. The fire tube was disabled.

 

A smattering of applause came from behind him, but Daniel didn’t tear his gaze from the ruined mass of the boiler. There was still one more pipe to disable. Sweat rolled into his eyes and he brushed it away with a grimy forearm before he set the next pin into place.

 

“Want you to know . . . proud of you, boy,” his father said.

 

Daniel kept his eyes fastened on the fire tube. He wished his father wouldn’t talk like that, like this might be the end. “Yeah, okay,” he said, keeping his gaze steady on the task before him. He struck the first blow at the remaining fire tube. It was a good, solid blow, as was the second. On the third blow the high-pitched whine began.

 

An instant later the pressure burst in the tube and shot the pin free and straight into Daniel’s face. He was hurled backward and crashed to the ground, blood pouring from a cut across his brow. The roars of approval from the men signaled he had succeeded in disabling the fire tube.

 

Daniel grinned as he pushed into a sitting position, barely able to see through the sting of blood in his eyes. A dozen men were pushing bricks out of the way, lifting the copper boiler up a few feet. He couldn’t see his dad because of the cluster of workers surrounding him.

 

Then a worker with a soot-stained face walked over and squatted down to look directly at Daniel. A hand clamped him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry, boy. Your dad is dead.”

 

 

 

 

 

This is probably the prettiest place I’ve ever seen, Daniel thought as his gaze drifted past the cemetery walls to roam over the tree-shaded lawn and a church that looked like a medieval castle. Clara’s father was the minister of this church, which was the only reason Daniel’s father could be buried in a nice neighborhood like Bolton Hill. Daniel didn’t know how much it cost to bury a person, but he gathered it was expensive, and he should be grateful that Reverend Endicott was letting his father be put to rest in such a fancy place for free.

 

Daniel turned his head so he could see Clara from his one good eye. She was standing on the other side of his father’s grave, and her heart-shaped face winced every time she looked at him. Daniel cursed the patch covering his bad eye. He might end up being blind in that eye, but the swelling was still so bad the doctor had not been able to get a good look at it yet. Anyway, he knew his face looked horrible and it bothered Clara. She was only sixteen, and this sort of thing really ripped her up.

 

As they lowered his father’s casket into the freshly dug hole, Daniel tightened his arm around his mother’s narrow shoulders and wished her weeping would stop. He and his mother shared the same black hair and gray eyes, but that was where the resemblance ended. For three days his mother had done nothing but alternate between despondent stares and gut-wrenching sobs, whereas Daniel had been too busy taking care of the girls to let grief catch up to him. At least he could sometimes cheer up his sisters, but he had been a complete failure at trying to ease his mother’s hollow-eyed pain. He would have to figure out what to do about that, although all he could concentrate on now was how badly he wanted to see Clara. Guilt tore at his insides for even thinking such a thing, but just for a blessed few hours he needed to be with Clara.

 

 

When the ceremony came to an end, people began to wander away from the grave site. If he didn’t catch Clara, she would go back to her father’s house and he wouldn’t see her again for another week. Clara was his best friend, but running off to see her when his family needed him was shameful.

 

And the real reason he wanted to see her was even worse.

 

The day before the accident, Clara sent him a message saying she was learning a piece by Frederic Chopin, the Polish composer they both idolized. If it weren’t for their mutual love of Chopin, Daniel would never have met a person like Clara Endicott. He lived in Baltimore’s grubby east side, while she came from the privileged world of Bolton Hill, an enclave of manicured lawns, clean air, and old money. They came from entirely different worlds, but they bought music at the same shop in Merchant’s Square. Every Tuesday a shipment of sheet music arrived from Paris, and he always raced to the store after his shift to see if there was anything by Chopin he didn’t already have. Five years ago, just after his fourteenth birthday, he had arrived at the shop to learn that an entire batch of newly delivered Chopin scores had been sold to a young lady. He finagled Clara’s name out of the clerk and paid a call to her house that very evening.

 

It didn’t seem odd to him, seeking out a fellow enthusiast of the great Chopin. What could be more natural than wanting to meet someone else who shared his immense passion for the composer? It wasn’t until he saw Clara’s house, an imposing mansion set back an acre from the street, that he realized he was stepping into a very different world. Nevertheless, he straightened his shoulders, knocked on the door, and asked to see Miss Clara Endicott. He was surprised to see that Clara was merely a girl, not even twelve years old. She was a skinny little thing with hair like spun gold and wearing a frilly dress so white it made his eyes hurt just to look at it. Still, she adored Chopin, so that meant there must be something worthwhile underneath all those ridiculous hair ribbons.

 

“Hello, my name is Daniel Tremain. I hear you like Frederic Chopin, and I think we should meet.”

 

“You like Chopin, too?” The joy that lit her face was as though Santa Claus had stepped onto her front porch.

 

From that day on, they had been inseparable. Over the next five years Daniel spent every moment he was not at the steel mill beside Clara as they worked through the various Chopin ballades, études, and sonatas. Before meeting Clara, the only piano Daniel had access to was the out-of-tune upright in the public school. He was entirely self-taught, but Clara had the benefit of private lessons and had helped him improve his technique. Even better, Clara had access to the instruments in the Music Conservatory across the street from her father’s church, and Daniel became proficient on the cello, as well.

 

He looked across the stretch of cemetery to see Clara being pulled by her brother, Clyde, toward a waiting carriage. Daniel gritted his teeth in frustration. He needed to see Clara, and her brother could be so irritating. Ever since he became friends with Clara, Daniel had been hearing about Clyde’s accomplishments. Clyde went to Harvard, Clyde won an award from the Smithsonian . . . on and on it went. Clyde had the best education money could buy, while Daniel was stuck shoveling coal into a furnace.

 

Daniel sprinted across the lawn toward Clara, reaching her just before she stepped up into the carriage. “Clara, wait!”

 

She whirled around. Her face was a mask of concern and her lower lip was trembling. “Daniel, I’m so sorry about your father,” she said as she laid a hand on his arm.

 

“Never mind that. I need to speak with you.”

 

And he didn’t need an audience. He tugged Clara a few feet away, but like a watchdog, Clyde’s eyes narrowed and he raised his chin. “Not too far, Tremain,” he warned.

 

Daniel threw an annoyed glare at Clara’s brother. It should not be a surprise that Clara’s family was starting to become suspicious of him. For years he had been hanging around their house so much they had practically accepted him into their family, but Clara was starting to come of age. He pulled her a few feet away from the carriage.

 

“Do you have sheet music for the nocturne?” he asked in a low voice. He ought to be roasted alive for even thinking about music at a time like this, but for the life of him, he just wanted to get his hands on that Chopin nocturne so he could forget about steel mills and funerals and his mother’s shattered face. Music could do that, create a magical oasis where nothing else mattered except hearing the next line of the score.

 

Clara looked hesitant. “I’ve got it, but my father is hosting a political conference all week. They will be using the Music Conservatory for meeting rooms, so we won’t be able to play.”

 

Being shut away from music for another week was unacceptable. This had been the worst few days of his life and he needed to escape. Daniel glanced over his shoulder. His mother was waiting for him with that desperate look of anxiety. In another moment she was going to break down again.

 

“Meet me at the Music Conservatory tonight,” he whispered to Clara. “I’ll figure out a way to get us in and we can play there.”

 

Clara looked as though he’d asked her to set a house on fire. “We can’t break into the Conservatory. It’s against the law!” But the way she bit her lip and clasped her hands let him know that she wanted to do it, even if she couldn’t muster the courage.

 

“Don’t be such a rule follower,” he said. “Meet me at midnight outside the Conservatory. And don’t forget the sheet music.”

 

Without a backward glance, he dashed back to his mother, knowing Clara would not let him down. His mother’s thin frame stood before him, and along with her came years of responsibilities. Even if he was lucky enough to someday have another shot at a college scholarship, there was no way he could leave his family without income. He’d have to figure out how to pay the crushing weight of bills that would accumulate quickly now that his father was dead, and do his best to support what was left of his family. For a while he had dreamed of a chance for college and a better future, but that was over. Now his life was going to be lived inside the stark brick walls of a steel mill.

 

But for a few hours tonight, he would escape into a magical world of music, and that was enough to keep him going for now.

 

 

 

 

 

Clara clutched the sheet music to her chest, her eyes fastened on the ground before her feet as she scurried toward the Music Conservatory at the top of the hill. The glow from the moon made it easy to see as she cut through the backyards of her neighborhood. She hated to admit it, but she was still a tiny bit afraid of the dark. Sneaking around like this was simply awful, but it would be worse to abandon her best friend when he needed her.

 

Clara reached the end of the street and could see the Conservatory plainly in the moonlight. The Music Conservatory, a rambling gothic monstrosity of a building with a few practice rooms and an oversized auditorium for performances, belonged to the city. She and Daniel used the practice rooms every chance they got, and her fondest memories were here while they played Beethoven and Chopin and sometimes even their own fledgling compositions. Normally the Conservatory was a haven for her, but tonight it loomed like a ghostly fortress in the moonlight. She had no idea how they would get into the locked Conservatory but knew Daniel would find a way. He could do anything.

 

She dashed across the street, her heart pounding and her palms sweaty. She would feel better once Daniel got here and told her to quit being such a sissy.

 

 

She heard a low chuckle behind her. “The way you’re hunched over that sheet music, you’d think an army of Pinkerton’s agents were hot on your trail.” She whirled around to see Daniel step from behind the sycamore trees, radiating that supreme sense of confidence he seemed to effortlessly possess. A smile broke across her face. Only seconds ago she had been scared to pieces, but Daniel could always ease her pathetic worries.

 

“I already popped the lock on the back door,” Daniel said. “Let’s go.”

 

He must have been here for a while, because Daniel had already set up the cello beside the piano. “Do you want to play Chopin or try composing something?” Clara asked. For the past few months they had been writing their own music, Daniel on the cello and Clara on the piano.

 

“Let’s play Chopin. I don’t want to have to think too much tonight.”

 

She was afraid he was going to say that. “Well, there’s a problem with the cello part,” she said. “It’s written in a different key than the piano.”

 

Daniel took the cello score from her and made quick work scanning the lines. “Not to worry. I can transpose it to the higher key as we play.”

 

She’d been taking music classes for years but could never transpose on the spot like that. Pale moonlight filtered through the French doors, providing enough illumination for Clara to see the music, but Daniel was holding it close to his face, his head cocked at an odd angle as he scanned the lines from his one good eye.

 

“Is there enough light for you to see?” she asked. “We can go in the back room if we need to light a lantern.”

 

“I can see well enough. I can certainly see that hideous bonnet on your head. It looks like a potato sack.”

 

Clara pulled off the offending bonnet. “I didn’t want my hair to show in the moonlight. I know it’s ugly. I’ve been told it looks like I pulled it out of the garbage.”

 

“Oh? Who said such a thing? Give me the name and I’ll thrash him for you.”

 

“Clyde said it. And no thrashing . . . you weren’t any nicer about my poor bonnet.”

 

“I’m allowed to say rude things to you. No one else can.”

 

“That’s true enough.” Daniel did tease her mercilessly, but she never minded because she knew he didn’t mean a word of it. Daniel would slay dragons for her if she asked him. Clyde said rude things to her all the time, but she didn’t want to discuss her frustrating, brilliant older brother. She knew Daniel envied her brother the opportunity to attend the best schools in the country. Now, after Daniel had to walk away from the test that would have awarded him a scholarship to Yale, he would probably never get the chance.

 

“How is your mother doing? And your sisters . . . do they even understand what has happened?”

 

Daniel sagged a little bit. “Please, Clara, not tonight. Anything but that.” He straightened. “Tell me about Edmond Dantès. Last I heard he was about to convince Villefort’s wife to poison him.”

 

For the past month, Clara had been telling Daniel the story of The Count of Monte Cristo as she read each Chapter. Daniel didn’t have time for books, but he loved listening to her summarize whatever she was reading. They liked adventure stories best, and Clara had already read most of the works by Victor Hugo and Daniel Defoe.

 

“I would give anything if I could write like Victor Hugo,” Clara said. “Did I tell you that my aunt Helen met him when she was in Paris?” Aunt Helen’s poetry had brought her notice in both Europe and America, and Clara thought her father’s sister was an extraordinary person.

 

“So when is she going to come home? Ever since I’ve known you, she has been traipsing around Europe like a vagabond.”

 

Clara shrugged. She dreaded telling Daniel that she was on the verge of being sent to live with Aunt Helen in London. Daniel had once told her that their friendship was the only ray of light in his world of coal-fired boilers and dingy tenements, but her father was determined that Clara should go to London. He wanted the Endicott family to be a force of change in the world, and had been grooming both Clara and her brother for that very purpose from the time they were old enough to walk.

 

“My father says Aunt Helen should keep working her way among the power circles of Europe,” she finally said. “Everywhere she goes she helps advance his cause of free education for the poor. And next month Clyde is heading off to South America to give smallpox vaccinations to the natives. Of course, I’m the howling disappointment of the family. My entire family is brilliant, and I’m like a firecracker that fizzles when lit. I can’t even transpose music as I play.”

 

“Clara, you are sixteen years old. You aren’t supposed to be successful yet . . . it would go to your head.”

 

“You’re successful at everything you do.”

 

Daniel winked at her. “That’s how I know.”

 

She elbowed him in the ribs, but could not help noticing that Daniel was very fine looking when he grinned at her like that. With his tousled dark hair and that eye patch, he was as dashing as any pirate from an adventure story. The girls at her school, Miss Carlton’s Academy, would fall over themselves for a boy like Daniel, but Clara forbade herself to develop a crush on him because it would ruin everything. Daniel had a lot of girlfriends, and she wasn’t about to stand in line with the rest of them. It was much better to be his best friend.

 

She took a seat at the piano bench and positioned the music so the moonlight illuminated the page without her shadow interfering. Daniel sat on the corner of the bench and propped his music on a stand. She pecked out a few notes to get her fingers accustomed to the keyboard, and Daniel leaned his head toward her. “Ready?” She nodded. “On three, then.”

 

Daniel counted out loud . . . then Chopin’s nocturne filled the air as her fingers lifted the music from the piano. A moment later the warm tones of the cello joined the melody, dancing and weaving in between her notes. It was a lyrical piece, beautifully capturing the forlorn mood of Chopin’s work.

 

It was enchanting, to be alone in this darkened room with moonlight streaming through the windows. They felt like the only two people in the world as the lift and fall of the haunting melody filled the empty chamber. It was always like this when they played music together.

 

Which was why she was so startled when Daniel hit a clumsy note. The music from the cello went off-key, then skidded to a stop altogether. Daniel dropped his bow and buried his face in the crook of his elbow.

 

He was sobbing.

 

Clara flew off the bench to kneel before him, but Daniel turned farther away from her. He held up a hand to shield his face. “Clara, don’t. Don’t look at me.”

 

He curled over the seat and now the sobs were coming from deep within his chest, raw sounds he could not hold back. Even his shoulders were shaking from the strength of his weeping. Clara pressed herself against his back and wrapped her arms around him. “Please don’t cry,” she said uselessly. Daniel was the strongest, smartest person in the universe, and seeing him like this made Clara cry, too. Her tears spilled over and wet the back of his shirt as she clung to him, wishing she could ease the burden of his grief.

 

“Everything is falling apart and I don’t know what to do,” he said between his sobs. “My mother is a wreck and the girls keep crying, too. I don’t know what to do.” A shudder racked his tall frame as another round of weeping overtook him. Raw, painful sounds came wrenched from deep in his chest. “I keep seeing my father crumpled on the ground,” he choked out. “I can’t get the sight out of my head. Blisters were already coming up through the burns on his face.”

 

 

She winced at the images his words conjured. “Daniel, your father is in heaven now. He’ll never know pain or suffering again.”

 

As quickly as it began, Daniel swallowed back the tears, although his breathing was still ragged as he wiped his face with his sleeve. He kept his face averted from her, and his voice was so soft she could barely hear it. “I’m not sure I believe in heaven.”

 

Clara swallowed, uncertain how to respond. Her belief in God and an afterlife was absolute and she never questioned such things. She wished her father were here; he always knew the right thing to say.

 

“Well, I do believe in heaven,” she said softly. “And your father did, too, and we both know that he was smarter than a whole stack of encyclopedias, so he couldn’t be wrong.” Daniel gave a gulp of laughter and squeezed her hand. “You can trust us on this, Daniel. Your father is in heaven and his suffering is over.”

 

Daniel heaved a ragged sigh, then nodded his head. “Okay, thanks for that.” He said it in that casual, offhanded manner of his, and Clara figured he was probably just humoring her. He brushed back the straight black hair that had fallen down across his forehead. “Try again?” he asked as he picked up the bow of the cello.

 

When she hesitated, he turned to look at her, his one good eye still reddened with tears. “Please, Clara, I really need this tonight.” His voice wobbled as he said the words.

 

There wasn’t anything on earth she wouldn’t do for Daniel, but Clara felt like a traitor. She would be leaving him soon, and now was the worst possible time for him to be alone.

 

She turned back to the piano and straightened her sheet music. “On the count of three, then.” Moments after she began playing the piano, Daniel’s cello joined her, this time solid and confident. The gentle, surging melody filled the chamber, and the melancholy nocturne mirrored the longing in Clara’s heart. She knew that in a perfect world Daniel would be free to pursue music and go to college, while she would pen great works of literature that would let her express the passion in her soul.

 

Clara was not precisely sure what the future held for them, but of one thing she was certain: Daniel Tremain was the best friend she had ever had, and no distance or class or circumstance would ever tear them apart.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

 

London, England, 1879

 

Twelve years later

 

 

 

Clara was startled by the metallic clank as the lock on her cell door turned. The other two women in the jail cell also stirred, as a visitor at this time of day was odd. Clara sprang to her feet, while the others remained sprawled on their cots. After all, Nellie and Rosina had already been sentenced and were serving their terms, while Clara’s case was still wending its way through the British legal system. For weeks she had been expecting her verdict to be handed down at any moment, making it impossible to do anything other than wait and hope and pray.

 

Not that she expected good news. After all, she could not prove she was innocent of the libel she had been charged with, since the evidence she had compiled while spying on the mine owners and operations in the coal mines had been destroyed. The door of the prison cell opened to reveal the hulking shape of Mr. Loomis, the prison warden. He pointed at Clara.

 

“You are to come with me,” he growled. “Get your belongings. You ain’t coming back.”

 

Clara felt the blood drain from her face. As horrible as this cell was, the thought of being transferred was even more frightening. Would they send her out of London? At least here she had supporters who knew and cared about her cause. If she was deported to one of the island prisons, she would be utterly isolated from the rest of the world. Her gaze darted around the small cell, the faces of Nellie and Rosina the only source of comfort in the downward spiral of her life. She reached out to clasp Nellie’s hand, and Rosina came to put an arm around her shoulders. Clara’s pulse raced so hard she could hear the beating of her heart.

 

“Where am I going, then?” she asked Mr. Loomis.

 

“The judge just handed down your verdict. You’re guilty. Time to pay the piper.”

 

The last glimmering bit of hope Clara had been nurturing for the past month was extinguished. There would be no miraculous change of heart from the prosecutor, or further proof to be found that would mitigate her case. How strange that she felt no urge to cry or temptation to run. All she felt was a wall of grief that settled over her like a weight driving her to her knees. This must be what it felt like to lose all hope.

 

Nellie squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry, Clara,” she said. “Maybe they’ll go easy on you since you are an American.”

 

“Don’t bet on it,” Mr. Loomis said. “Being a foreigner makes what you did even worse.” And Clara knew Mr. Loomis was right. The articles she had published in The Times would have ignited a wave of indignation no matter who had written them, but she had been especially reviled because she was an outsider.

 

Nellie leaned in. “Don’t believe him, Clara. You’ll be out in no time; don’t you fear.”

 

She didn’t believe Nellie, but she did her best to muster a smile. “I’ll be fine. I’ll be okay,” she said, although she could not bring herself to look either woman in the eye when she said it. Clara straightened her shoulders and raised her chin. “Well, let’s get on with it. I suppose it would be poor form to be late for my own sentencing.”

 

“Don’t forget your pillow,” Rosina said, handing her the rolled-up jacket Clara had been wearing on the horrible evening she had been arrested. Rosina was a girl who ought to be in school, not turning tricks as a prostitute, and yet she had a sweet demeanor that Clara could not help but like.

 

“Thanks, Rosina,” Clara said as she pulled on the jacket with shaking hands. For a month this poor jacket had been balled up to serve as a pillow, a footrest, even a makeshift weapon to shoo away the mice, but still the jacket held its smartly tailored shape.

 

“Bye, luv,” Rosina said as she gave Clara a little hug. “It was fun having you for a cell mate. Even if you were real afraid of those mice. Never seen a girl so scared of tiny little rodents.”

 

Clara returned the hug, trying to fight back the sense of desperation that was threatening her thinly held composure. How strange that leaving this windowless cell was suddenly proving so difficult. “Promise me you’ll go back to school when you get out of here,” she whispered in Rosina’s ear. “You are a fine, bright girl and deserve much better than what you’ve asked from the world.” She pushed Rosina back so she could look the girl directly in the eyes. “There is nothing you can’t do when you leave here. There is no taint that can’t be overcome. You are a child of God, and that means that there is great, shining beauty within you.”

 

Rosina flushed and dipped her head. “When a fine lady like you says that, I can almost believe it.”

 

Clara smiled, and this time her smile was real. “I’ve believed in you all along, Rosina.”

 

Clara turned to Nellie, a pickpocket who had almost completed her two-year term. “Thank you for showing me the ropes when I first got here, Nellie. I don’t know how I would have survived without you.”

 

Nellie gave her a gap-toothed grin. “You’d have learned everything sooner or later, but I figured I owed it to you. My own two boys worked down in them same coal mines you wrote about, so I don’t hold no grudge against you for what you did.”

 

 

Clara reached out for another desperate hug. A pickpocket and a prostitute. In her old world of concert halls and titled aristocracy, she would never have come into contact with such women; now here she was clinging to Nellie for dear life. Perhaps there was at least one good thing that had come from this horrible ordeal. Clara had learned to see the humanity beneath the soul-destroying poverty that drove otherwise decent women into vice.

 

“Ain’t got all day, lady.” Mr. Loomis’s words caused another rush of anxiety, but prolonging this mess would not make it any easier.

 

“I’ll try to write to the both of you whenever I get to where I’m going.”

 

“Sure, Clara,” Nellie said. But they both knew they were empty words. Nellie would be released into the underworld of London soon, and Rosina did not even know how to read. Still, the words seemed to make this moment a little less stark. Less final.

 

Clara walked out of the cell without looking back. She couldn’t bear to see the pity in the eyes of her two cell mates. At least they were to serve their terms here in London, but heaven only knew where Clara was destined to be sent.

 

“Might I have a moment to pull myself together?” Clara asked as she paused in the grim hallway outside her cell. Her jacket was hopelessly wrinkled, but at least it covered the grubbiness of her shirt. Her work had been rejected, her carefully prepared research confiscated and destroyed, and now she was facing a new life as a convicted felon. Still, she was an Endicott, and Endicotts did not go about shabbily dressed, no matter how dire the circumstances.

 

She pulled the sides of her jacket in a vain attempt to remove the wrinkles, smoothed a few strands of blond hair back into her bun, and tried to smile. “Well, then. ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.’ ”

 

Mr. Loomis looked at her blankly.

 

“It is from A Tale of Two Cities,” Clara said. “The prison scene, just as Sydney Carton is led away to his execution.”

 

“They ain’t going to execute you, lady. Ten years of hard labor is what the oddsmakers in London are betting.”

 

Clara swallowed hard. Ten years. That meant she would be thirty-eight when she got out of prison, and that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? She remembered the swaggering self-confidence of the boy she had loved when she was only sixteen years old. She could almost hear Daniel’s voice telling her to buck up and stop being such a sissy.

 

She tried to smile. “Did you place a bet?”

 

He shrugged. “I’m not a betting man. Could be ten years, could be twenty. I’ve seen the judges do too many crazy things to waste my hard-earned coin on guessing what they will do.”

 

Clara nodded, but was at a loss for anything to say. Surely they would not sentence her to twenty years in prison, would they? Not when she had risked her life to reveal the tortured conditions children endured when they were shoved beneath the surface of the earth to mine coal. Anyone who saw what such labor did to the spinal column of a young child could not possibly sentence her to such a fate.

 

And due to the brilliance of her attorney, Robert Townsend, such evidence had been presented to the court on her behalf. Clara thanked God she had the most skilled attorney in all of London defending her. He normally commanded an astronomical fee for his services, but his bills were being paid by an anonymous supporter who had heard of her case and offered to lend assistance. Such was not unusual. There were thousands of forward-thinking people who wished to advance the cause of social justice. Clara was grateful for it. Her modest salary as a journalist could never have footed Mr. Townsend’s bill, and she hadn’t wanted to ask her father.

 

Clara blinked when they stepped outside into the light of the morning. A month of imprisonment with no natural light had dimmed her senses, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. When she was finally able to open her eyes and look about her, she almost wept at the beauty of the simple prison courtyard. Ivy grew in a splendor of vibrant green shades on the stone walls of the prison, and the scent of newly cut grass in the breeze was exhilarating. And the sky . . . the sky. How had she lived for twenty-eight years and never noticed the stunning shade of blue that was directly over her head? If she had understood how wonderful a gift it was, she would have looked up and given thanks to God every day for its blessing. She paused as she soaked in the sight. She tried to memorize the precise image of the wisps of clouds against the sky, to store it away so she could recall it in the coming years of darkness and isolation.

 

A carriage rolled to a halt before the prison, and her attorney, Mr. Townsend, sprang out of the passenger door and vaulted across the short space between them. He grabbed her arm. “Come along,” he said as he hustled her into the waiting carriage. “We need to get you out of here immediately.”

 

Clara looked across the yard to the courthouse, where all the official business was conducted. “I thought I was going to hear my sentence,” she stammered.

 

But Mr. Townsend did not stop in propelling her toward the carriage. “No need. Parliament has granted my petition for amnesty on the condition I get you out of the country by sundown. Hurry.”

 

When she whirled around to Mr. Loomis for confirmation, she could see that he was smirking. He had known she was being set free. “See?” he gloated. “Good thing I wasn’t a betting man, or I’d be out five quid.”

 

And then Clara got the second shock of the day when another man descended from the carriage. The unmistakable sight of the buckskins, the long braid of hair, the nine-inch knife strapped to his leg. What on earth was her brother doing here!

 

“Clyde?” she gasped in disbelief.

 

Before she could get out another word, Clyde had swept her from her feet and whirled her in the air. “Hello, mouse. I came to see how a puny girl like you could cause such a ruckus. But let’s get you out of here before the folks in Parliament change their minds.”

 

Clyde released her only to shove her up and into the carriage. Clara landed on the carriage seat in an ungainly lurch, and both men quickly followed her inside.

 

The moment was so pure, so desperately hoped for, that Clara dared not even draw a breath lest the moment vanish. She refused to let elation get the better of her and she turned to Mr. Townsend as he landed in the seat opposite her. “Is this a dream?” She asked the question calmly, rationally. No histrionics would be permitted, even in a dream.

 

Clyde pulled the carriage door shut and rapped on the window to signal the driver to get moving. “You are not dreaming. We are on our way back to America.”

 

Clara looked at Mr. Townsend sitting opposite her. “So, it appears you really are worth your infamously high fees,” she said with a grateful smile. “You could probably buy a small estate for what all this must have cost.”

 

Mr. Townsend straightened his starched collar. “Nonsense. It ought to buy me a medium-sized castle.” He leaned over to lower the window casement and a wave of cool spring air flowed into the carriage. Clara became distinctly embarrassed about how putrid she must smell.

 

“It is a pity Parliament could not get a whiff of me,” Clara said. “They would have declared me an undesirable alien and tossed me out of the country weeks ago.”

 

A gentle smile curved her attorney’s mouth. “Miss Endicott, this country would be a far better place if all of our ‘undesirable aliens’ sported such trophies of their compassion.”

 

 

The back of Clara’s throat began to ache and her vision blurred at the kind words. He had proven to be a lion defending her. She had been branded a liar, a spy, and a rabble-rouser. Even as her attorney’s office had been vandalized and excoriating letters demanded he drop her case, Mr. Townsend had not wavered in his support of her.

 

Clara had not intended to create a scandal when she began her work—she had simply been trying to make one small corner of the world a safer place for children. She was not a famous preacher like her father or a missionary physician like her brother Clyde, but she could use her pen to help educate the world about the injustice she saw. A major piece of legislation reforming child labor had been passed in England years ago, but the abuse had not come to an end. For two years Clara had made a careful study of the ages of the workers being used in the coal mines, convinced that children as young as twelve were being used to cart wagons of coal through passages too narrow for a fully grown man to crawl in. When Clara began publishing her findings in The Times, she set off a firestorm of controversy.

 

Not that she ever had any such intentions of journalistic fame when she arrived in England as a confused and lonely sixteen-year-old girl. No one here knew the real reason Clara’s father had sent her to England, and it was certainly not the kind of story she cared to circulate.

 

“I’ve already arranged for your things to be delivered to the Portsmouth dock,” Mr. Townsend said. “Your clothing and personal belongings should all be there. I don’t think it would be safe for you to return to your lodgings.”

 

“Are they serious about my need to leave the country by sundown?”

 

“Do you really want to test their patience?” Mr. Townsend asked.

 

A nervous laugh escaped her lips. “I suppose not.”

 

So this would prove to be her last carriage ride in England. Her gaze strayed out the window to look at the country she had come to love. She was twenty-eight years old and had spent almost half of her life in London. She had become a woman here, finally learning to stand up to her father. It was here that her broken heart had mended and her dream of becoming a writer had been fulfilled. And for a few short years she had been given the opportunity to be a foot soldier for the Lord through her work in the press. Her articles had gained her acclaim as well as a fair share of enemies, but throughout it all, she had the satisfaction of knowing she was doing good work.

 

And yet, she was still a failure. The notes documenting her discoveries in the coal mines had been confiscated and destroyed. Without that proof, all of her work amounted to nothing more than a load of sound and fury. No children had been rescued; no mine owner had been punished. It was as if she had never come to London. She had failed.

 

“What will you do once you return to America?” Mr. Townsend asked.

 

Did she even have any choice? Clara looked him in the eyes. “I’ve had a taste of what it means to make a difference in the world, and I can’t stop now. I will write for my father’s newspaper in Baltimore.” Reverend Lloyd Endicott was a well-known minister, and his weekly newspaper, The Christian Crusade, had a loyal readership even beyond the city of Baltimore. It only seemed natural she would write for her father’s publication. If the Lord wanted to silence her, she would be sitting in jail for a ten-year sentence.

 

The seed of resolve had taken root and was nourishing her with a new sense of buoyancy. Clara had been conquered, convicted, and was still wearing stained clothes, but she had been blessed with the gift of freedom, and she would not let that go to waste.

 

 

 

 

 

“Have there always been that many stars in the sky, or have I merely failed to notice?” Clara asked.

 

Clyde leaned against the side of the ship, looking at her rather than at the night sky. “The same number as always. Aren’t you ready to go below yet? It is freezing out here.”

 

But Clara merely leaned into the wind, savoring the feel of the crisp ocean air against her face, the roar of the ship slicing through the waves below. Tiny droplets of cold seawater dotted her face and evaporated in the brisk wind. The thought of returning to her enclosed cabin was unthinkable when the sky, spattered with a thousand blazing stars, stretched out above her. The dark radiance was enthralling. “I can’t go down below just yet,” she said. “I’m still afraid that I am dreaming and that when I awake I will be back in that cell. I want to savor as much of this night as possible.”

 

Clyde turned to look out into the ocean. “Fair enough.” From inside his coat he pulled a pocketknife and a small block of wood, which he began whittling. One of Clyde’s many talents. “So,” he said casually. “Have you kept in touch with Daniel Tremain?”

 

The name was a cherished echo of the past. Once it was impossible to believe she could live a life without Daniel in it. Of course, those days were more than a decade old. “Did Father put you up to asking that?”

 

“Nope,” Clyde said. “I’m simply dying of curiosity to know whatever happened to the princess and the pauper.”

 

Anxious to appear as if his question did not rattle her, she tried to make her voice sound casual. “I’ve followed him in the newspapers, of course,” she said.

 

It was hard to believe that a boy who started out shoveling coal into furnaces would grow up to become one of the most powerful industrialists in America, but Clara had never doubted that Daniel was destined for something great. She could still remember the day she had seen a tiny mention in the business section of The Times, announcing a patent filed by a young inventor in America for a new alloy of steel that would improve the strength of railway lines. That single invention had been the basis for a technological empire, and Daniel Tremain was at its helm. She had nothing to do with Daniel’s success, but that did not stop her from being immensely proud of him. The pressure in her heart swelled when she thought of all he had accomplished.

 

“I wrote a few letters to him after I got to London,” Clara confessed. “I never heard back from him.”

 

But it had been more than just a few letters. She and Daniel had begun composing music together before she left Baltimore, and he had begged her to keep sending him her piano compositions so he could write the accompanying music for the cello. Of course, that was before his mother had died. Clyde had written her a few letters that let her know of Mrs. Tremain’s death, and that Daniel had taken up additional jobs to support his sisters. How could he have had time for something as frivolous as composing music?

 

“I had assumed that since Tremain is now rolling in riches, he would have figured out some way to come see you in England,” Clyde said.

 

She turned to face him. “Why is it you never liked Daniel?”

 

“Have I ever said such a thing?”

 

“You don’t have to. You can barely say his name without wincing.”

 

Clyde continued to whittle, and Clara waited patiently, the sound of the rushing waves swirling below filling the silence of the night. “I’ve always thought him a bit too hotheaded,” Clyde finally admitted. “There is no doubt he is brilliant, but he was always so arrogant about it. Pushy, I suppose.”

 

Clara bit back her uncharitable thoughts. Clyde had come halfway around the world to rescue her, and she wouldn’t chastise him for not understanding her adolescent fascination with Daniel Tremain.

 

“Perhaps it was Daniel’s brashness that Father objected to, as well,” she conceded. “We all know I was not sent to London simply to broaden my education.”

 

 

Clara always suspected her father’s ambition for her musical career was why he initially encouraged her unlikely friendship with Daniel Tremain. Daniel encouraged her to compose, nourished her love of Chopin and Beethoven, and helped her reach new creative impulses as she played on the piano and he accompanied her on the cello. But what Clara truly wished to do was write, like Margaret Fuller or many of the other women who were just beginning to be allowed to write for newspapers. And when Daniel encouraged her to follow her own dreams of writing rather than music, her father saw it as a threat and sent her to London.

 

Clara watched the chips of wood drift into the swirling waters below. “I wonder if Father will object to Daniel, now that he is rich as sin.”

 

“The short answer is a resounding yes,” Clyde said without hesitation. “Tremain is still a nutcase over that whole business with Forsythe Industries. Any man who can keep a grudge stoked for twelve years is a little off-kilter, Clara.”

 

She turned to face him. “If you believed Alfred Forsythe had murdered your father, I think you might hold a grudge, too,” she pointed out.

 

“It wasn’t murder, Clara; it was an accident.”

 

“That was what the court said, too.” Which did not mean it was the truth. Alfred Forsythe had a cadre of lawyers to cover up the facts surrounding the explosion of that boiler, and Daniel had been a nineteen-year-old boy with no money and three little sisters to support. What chance did he have of proving his case in court?

 

Clyde’s blade continued to make progress on his carving. “From what I hear, Tremain has made it his life mission to grind Alfred Forsythe and his company beneath the heel of his boot. That company employs more than seven thousand people, and they are all pawns in this private vendetta Tremain is waging.” Clyde folded the pocketknife and slipped it back into his coat. “You are a grown woman and free to make your own choices,” he said. “But I don’t want you getting in over your head with that man. You are too sweet-natured to handle a dynamo like Tremain.”

 

Maybe Clyde was right. There was a time when she and Daniel could finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s minds. If ever there were two kindred spirits, it was she and Daniel.

 

But twelve years had passed since she had seen him, and now he was a man in control of a vast fortune and on a crusade for vengeance. It was hard to believe he could have changed so drastically, but then again, Clara would never have believed he would have failed to write to her once she was in London.

 

Did Daniel even remember her? He had been such a huge force in her life, an earthquake after which nothing was ever the same. Had she had that same importance to him?

 

Clara drew a deep breath. It really did not matter. She had found her calling and her banishment was over. It was time to rebuild a new life in America.