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Book Jacket

0849943914
Trade Paperback
256 pages
Sep 2004
WestBow Press

Jubilee, American Anthem Series #3

by B. J. Hoff

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

one

Reunion

    Let my voice ring out and over the earth,
    Through all the grief and strife,
    With a golden joy in a silver mirth:
    Thank God for life!
    James Thomson
    New York City
    Late March, 1876

The first time Susanna Fallon saw Riccardo Emmanuel, she wasn’t in the least surprised that he was weeping.

He had not seen his son, after all, for years. Not since the accident that had blinded Michael. It was all she could do to hold back her own tears as she watched Michael’s father grasp his son by the shoulders, study him, then pull him into a long embrace.

Uncomfortable with the idea of intruding on such an intimate family occasion, Susanna had wanted to stay behind this morning. Despite the love that had blossomed and then deepened between her and Michael Emmanuel over the past months, she still found it hard to think of herself as his fiancée, not his dead wife’s sister and his daughter’s governess. Only at Michael’s insistence had she agreed to come to the city with him to meet his father’s ship. And so far she had managed to remain where she wanted to be—in the background.

Around them, all was confusion and commotion. The New York City harbor brought back memories of her own arrival in America: the fear she’d had to struggle against when she’d first stepped off the ship into the midst of the other immigrants milling about the waterfront; the tall buildings along the wharf that had seemed so forbidding; the mix of foreign tongues and English, spoken more sharply and harshly than she was used to; and the ever present runners, most of them Irish themselves, who preyed on their fellow countrymen as they hustled them off to disreputable shanties and dilapidated tenements where unscrupulous landlords would take advantage of them yet again.

Susanna shuddered and, shading her eyes with one hand, looked up at the bright March sky. Although winter still held the city in its tenuous grip, the late morning sun was clear and sharp, the bracing air full of promise that spring was on the way.

Susanna watched as Riccardo Emmanuel released Michael to draw Paul, his nephew, closer and kiss him soundly on both cheeks. Then he bent to sweep four-year-old Caterina up into his sturdy arms, tugging at a long, dark curl as she squealed with delight.

“Bella! Mia bella nipote!”

My beautiful granddaughter.

“But surely this cannot be your baby girl, Michael? Not this bella creatura! Why, she’s nearly grown!”

Susanna smiled to see Caterina throw her arms around the neck of the grandfather she had never met, hugging him as if they’d been together forever. Clearly, this relationship held great promise.

Only when Michael called to her did Susanna finally step out and approach. Seeing her, Riccardo Emmanuel set Caterina carefully to her feet, then beckoned Susanna closer.

“Ah,” he said softly, with a quick glance at Michael. “She is exactly as you wrote of her, figlio mio.”

She had only a second to speculate exactly as to what Michael had written before Riccardo turned to her. After only a slight hesitation, he brought her hand to his lips, his keen blue eyes taking her measure in one quick but thorough sweep. Had it not been for the unmistakable twinkle in his eye, that sharply discerning gaze might have intimidated Susanna. As it was, however, Riccardo Emmanuel seemed more intent on charming her than intimidating her.

He was a big man, Michael’s father—nearly a head shorter than his son but of broad, even rotund, girth. Like Michael, he sported a neatly trimmed beard and wore his hair, liberally streaked with silver, somewhat longer than fashion dictated. With his weathered, ruddy skin, he looked like a man who had spent much time in the Tuscan sun.

He was—dashing, Susanna decided. Impeccably tailored, freshly barbered. How had he managed that aboard ship? And where in the world had he found a flower for his lapel?

And then there was his smile. Brilliant. Irresistible.

Susanna liked him immediately.

He lifted his head, still searching her face as he said, in surprisingly good English, “I am delighted to meet you at last, Susanna. We will spend much time getting to know each other, no?”

“I’m looking forward to it, signor Emmanuel.”

He shook a finger at her. “No, no! None of that. You are betrothed to my son. You will be my daughter, and so you must call me Papa.” He said all this with an ingenuous smile and a certain good-natured presumption.

Well, then. In addition to being dashing, he was also adept at getting his way.

“Very well. Papa,” Susanna said, aware that she was being dazzled and enjoying it immensely.

At that point, Michael cleared his throat as if vying for attention.

“We still have to take the ferry upriver, Papa. We should be going. Pauli will see to your luggage, and Susanna and Caterina and I will go with you through the registration.”

Michael extended his hand then, reaching for Susanna. When he failed to find her, she moved closer and put a hand to his arm. She glanced at Riccardo Emmanuel and saw that he was watching his son with an expression of great sadness. In that instant, Susanna’s gaze met his, and a look of shared love and understanding passed between them.

Then Michael’s father squared his shoulders, renewed his smile, and again caught Caterina up into his arms. “So—let us tend to the necessary business and be on our way! I am eager to begin my visit!”

“And we’re so happy to have you here, Uncle Riccardo!” Paul told his uncle. “We intend to make your visit so very pleasant you will decide to stay and make your home with us!”

“Ah, is that what you’re up to?” said Riccardo Emmanuel, tweaking Caterina’s nose. “Then the first thing you must do is to feed me as soon as possible! I thought I would most certainly starve on that ship’s swill. I’m sure I’ve lost far too much weight.”

Grinning at Caterina, he thumped his considerable stomach. “Why, I must be a mere shadow of myself by now!”

Caterina giggled and hugged him again.

After completing the registration process, Susanna and Michael led the way to the ferry while Caterina, her grandfather, and Paul followed behind. In their wake came a boy towing a luggage cart piled with Riccardo Emmanuel’s trunks.

“So,” asked Michael, his hand covering Susanna’s on his forearm, “what do you think of my papa?”

“I think he’s absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier that he’s come.” Susanna paused. “Although it seems you may have a serious rival for your daughter’s affections.”

Michael lifted one eyebrow but smiled. “This is bad for me, I think. I am no competition for my debonair papa.”

“Oh, I don’t know. You do have a certain charm of your own.”

“Grazie,” he said dryly. “I must remember to use this to my advantage from now on. Just as soon as I discover what it is.”

Susanna squeezed his arm. “You’re a sweet man.”

“Sweet?” He slowed his pace slightly. “What man wants to be sweet? You might just as well tell me I’m dull, I think.”

“Hardly. I understand that Italian men are strong-willed, even stubborn at times. But always interesting. Never dull.”

“A generalization,” he pointed out, then amended, “though no doubt an accurate one.”

“I’m sure that’s true.”

“It would seem that I am marrying a very diplomatic woman.”

“Also true.”

He seemed to have forgotten that they weren’t alone, slowing his steps even more and nudging a little closer to her.

“Michael,” Susanna warned, “your father—”

“—is no doubt pleased to see his son so happy,” he said. “This is a happy day for me, cara.”

Even in profile, Susanna could see the contentment ordering his strongly molded features. Gone—for good, she hoped—was the tightly drawn look of sorrow that had shadowed his face when she’d first arrived in New York the year before.

“That’s what I want for you, Michael. Much happiness.”

“Your love has already given me that,” he said as they continued walking. “And now, to have my family all together, here—I could not possibly hope for more.”

 

two

A Man Without Remorse

 

Man is caught by what he chases.

George Chapman

 

 

The world occupied by the Women’s Clinic and Convales-cence Center was one of squalor and despair.

Prostitutes and thugs roamed the streets of the area freely, looking for their next “clients” or victims. Derelicts of all colors and nationalities—Negro and white, Irish and Slav, Italian and Bohemian—loitered in doorways, tin cups or bottles in hand, as they called out jeers and insults to the vehicle traffic rumbling by. Even now, well before the noon hour, men and women could be seen carousing and fighting, dancing and procuring, openly debasing themselves and their companions. Only the pigs and marauding dogs spilled out into the streets in greater numbers than the forgotten souls on Baxter Street.

Andrew Carmichael was always relieved to put the area behind him. Not so much because of the unfortunates who swarmed the neighborhood—he spent a large part of his life among the outcasts of the city, many of whom were worse off than these degraded residents of Five Points. But the narrow alleys and mud-slick lanes of the entire settlement gave off a miasma of wretchedness and corruption that seemed to cling to a man like a vile web from which he could not extricate himself so long as he was inside the infamous slum.

Today, however, it was worry, not relief, that fueled his hasty departure. Mary Lambert, a woman he had been treating since back in December, needed to be lodged in a facility where she could receive far more concentrated care and attention than the understaffed women’s clinic could provide. Although she had come a long way in recovering from her opium habit, Mary was still indigent and homeless, her children lodged in two separate institutions. And the clinic would have no choice but to release her sooner than later. They needed beds too badly to allow a patient to stay once she was deemed “cured.”

Andrew paid the young Negro boy he’d engaged to watch the buggy, then climbed in and sat thinking for a moment. Mary wasn’t cured, not really. Her health had been shattered, her body wasted, and opium addiction was an insidious thing. Without a place to go and with her children taken from her, she was likely to fall back into her old ways as soon as she walked out the clinic door. He had to find the means to keep her in treatment until she was much stronger—and until there was something more waiting for her than misery.

Andrew felt that Mary would benefit greatly from the treatment at Prospect House, a private clinic with an excellent, highly experienced staff. But Prospect House was expensive, and there was no one to pay the bills.

His gaze flicked over the dilapidated tenements lining the street. A pack of ragged children charged in front of his buggy, chasing one of the countless pigs that roamed the filthy streets and alleys. A bearded drunk sprawled in the doorway of one of the many flophouses, bottle in hand, seemed scarcely conscious. From the upper floor of a nearby boarding house came a shriek and then a curse, followed by the sound of breaking glass.

Andrew shuddered, then retrieved a piece of paper from his pocket. There was someone in a position to aid the hapless Mary Lambert—someone who was obliged to help her, who owed the woman far more than the payment of her medical expenses.

Yesterday he had obtained the address of that someone.

And today he intended to use it.

He studied his own scrawled handwriting for another moment, then tucked the paper back into his pocket and drove away.

p

The impressive brick three-story was not quite a mansion. But with its high, narrow windows, graceful columns, and tastefully landscaped grounds, it made a statement of elegance and charm. Taken with the rest of the obviously affluent neighborhood surrounding it, the residence of the Reverend Robert Warburton stood in startling contrast to the squalid slum Andrew had just departed.

He hesitated, aware that what he was about to do would take him far outside the boundaries of his professional responsibilities, not to mention his usual nature. And that no matter how he might attempt to justify his intentions, he was acting out of anger—anger fueled by the resolve to right a wrong done to a patient.

Before he could talk himself out of the idea, he climbed down from the buggy and started up the walkway. By the time he reached the paneled double doors at the front of the house, there was a fire in his knees. Indeed, every joint in his body seemed aflame. The pain from his arthritis had been relentless all morning, so vicious that perspiration now dampened his face, and he blotted his forehead with a handkerchief before lifting the brass door knocker.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised by the middle-aged Negro man who opened the doors. The neatly tailored dark attire and deferential manner marked the man as a servant, though to the best of Andrew’s recollection, none of the clergymen with whom he was acquainted employed servants.

But then Robert Warburton wasn’t just any clergyman. It was probably safe to say that no other churchman—except possibly for Henry Ward Beecher before the adultery scandal had shaken his ministry—commanded as much respect or wielded as much influence as Robert Warburton. Through his pastorate of one of the city’s largest and wealthiest congregations and his extensive writings on morality issues in politics and human services, Warburton had established himself as a public figure of no small renown. He was generally revered among the Christian community as a man of God with a heart of gold, held up as one who typified true compassion and benevolence, especially where the lower classes were concerned.

Andrew couldn’t help but wonder what Warburton’s most ardent admirers might think if they were to discover that the man they held in such high esteem had sired three illegitimate children, only to abandon them and their mother to their own resources in a dilapidated tenement on Mulberry Street.

 

p

The man at the desk rose as soon as Andrew was ushered into the library, coming to meet him with an outstretched hand and a cordial smile.

“Dr. Carmichael, is it? Please, come in. Have we met?”

Andrew was immediately thrown off guard, not only by the geniality of the other’s greeting, but also by the man’s appearance. He had expected something of an elder statesman, with an imposing physical presence. But the man who stood before him beaming and pumping Andrew’s hand appeared to be no older than his late forties. He stood several inches shorter than Andrew, stoutly built and somewhat jowly, with a receding hairline and small, pouched eyes. His features were thick, almost coarse, his skin florid and somewhat mottled. His handshake, Andrew noted with some discomfort, was aggressive and energetic.

“Have we met, Dr. Carmichael?” the clergyman said again, finally releasing Andrew’s throbbing hand.

“No, I’m certain we haven’t.”

“Well—have a seat, won’t you?”

Warburton returned to his desk, motioning to a chair directly across from him and looking surprised when Andrew remained standing.

“Well,” he repeated after a slight hesitation, “what can I do for you, sir?”

“I haven’t come on my own account,” Andrew said, recognizing that his tone sounded forced, stilted. “I simply wanted to make you aware of a certain . . . circumstance, one I believe you will want to remedy.”

A look of uncertainty crossed Warburton’s features, but the good-fellow smile remained fixed in place. “Really? And what situation might that be?”

The clergyman lowered himself into the chair behind the desk, again gesturing that Andrew should be seated. Again, Andrew ignored the invitation.

Now that he was face-to-face with Warburton, he felt a measure of doubt begin to blur his initial confidence and wondered if he had might not have undertaken a fool’s errand after all.

“I’m here,” he said, anxious to be done with this distasteful business, “on behalf of Mary Lambert and her children.”

Warburton’s expression never wavered, though he took his time in replying.

“Mary Lambert? I’m sorry, but I don’t recall the name. Is she a new member of the congregation?” Warburton’s smile actually widened. “The church has grown so quickly, I can’t always keep up as well as I’d like.”

The man’s ingenuous manner grated on Andrew like a rusty file. “I believe you know who Mary Lambert is, sir.”

Warburton now affected a gesture of impatience. “If you would kindly get to the point, Dr. Carmichael? I’ve a very busy afternoon ahead.”

He was so sure of himself. It struck Andrew that taking the man down a peg or two would not be altogether unpleasant. But he hadn’t come to satisfy his own resentment, acute as it was.

“Very well. I’ll be blunt, Mr. Warburton. This patient of mine, Mary Lambert, and her children are in desperate need of assistance—financial assistance. It occurred to me that you might want to help alleviate their difficult circumstances, given the fact that the children I refer to are your children as well.”

Warburton’s good-natured expression suddenly flamed to a look of surprise, then outrage. He shot to his feet, the chair tottering with the force of his movement.

“Whatever are you talking about?”

Andrew clasped his hands behind his back, watching Warburton. “I am talking about a woman who bore you three children. A woman with an opium habit who is trying to put her life back together. A woman who has been receiving medical attention for some months now but who needs the care only a private clinic can provide—for an indefinite period of time. Meanwhile, her children have been taken from her and separated from one another. The boy—his name is Robert, as I’m sure you’re aware—is presently staying at Whittaker House, and the two little girls, who were hospitalized for a time, are now being cared for at the Chatham Children’s Home.” He paused. “I thought you should know their circumstances.”

At that moment, Warburton looked as if he might leap over the desk and assault Andrew. Instead, he lifted his chin, knotted his hands into fists, and said in a voice laced with an arrogant self-assurance, “See here, Carmichael—I don’t know what sort of a swindle you’re attempting, but if it’s money you want, you’d do well to remember that I’m a pastor, not a rich man. However, even if I were wealthy, I’d hardly fall for whatever absurd scheme you’ve concocted. I’ll have to ask you to leave immediately.”

This wasn’t going well. Andrew had never been one for confrontation, and even though his anger had compelled him to come here, it was now beginning to interfere with his intent. Not that he was taken in by the other man’s outrage; Warburton was furious, all right, but his fury was that of a guilty man unexpectedly exposed, not an innocent man wrongfully accused.

Even so, had he really thought that he had only to face Warburton with the evidence of his wrongdoing and the man would be so stricken with remorse that he’d immediately move to make restitution?

Robert Warburton’s defiant stare made it clear there would be no softening of this man’s heart, even toward a woman who had borne him three children or toward the children themselves. Indeed, Andrew sensed that Warburton had already turned his back on his mistress and his children, had put them completely out of his life, and was altogether capable of erasing the memory of them.

Despite Warburton’s lack of response to the accusations, Andrew had no doubt whatsoever about the truth of what Mary Lambert and her son—Warburton’s son—had confided to him. For one thing, Mary had revealed things about the clergyman that would have been known only by someone close to him, such as the fact that Warburton suffered from diabetes and an occasional flareup of gout.

Andrew had managed to verify the status of the clergyman’s health through two of his professional colleagues, but only with some difficulty. There was simply no way that someone like Mary Lambert would have been privy to such information unless she had been well acquainted with the man himself.

No, however facilely Warburton might deny the truth, Andrew had no doubt but what the man was guilty of exactly what Mary had charged.

It was equally clear that Warburton would do whatever it took to make certain no hint of scandal touched him.

Revulsion rose in Andrew’s throat. It was difficult to understand how a man could set himself up as a preacher of God’s Word and a teacher of God’s way—and still continue to live with such a blight on his soul.

But it wasn’t his place to judge, he reminded himself sternly. And there was nothing to be gained for Mary or the children by pursuing this exchange any further.

He studied the other man’s flushed features, then said, “My only reason for coming here, Warburton, was to make you aware of a deplorable situation in which you apparently played a crucial part. I had hoped that for the sake of the woman you’ve ruined and the three children who are also suffering the consequences of your behavior, you might accept your responsibility and do the decent thing for all of them. I can see I was wrong.”

He paused, catching his breath against a stab of pain that radiated all the way up his arm. “If you should have a change of heart,” he said, “you can reach me at my office.”

He turned to go, but Warburton quickly rounded the desk and grabbed Andrew’s throbbing arm hard enough to make Andrew lose his breath.

“If you have any intention of spreading this outrageous story, Carmichael, I strongly advise you to forget it.”

Andrew shook off the other’s grasp. “You needn’t concern yourself on my part, Warburton. I’m not your problem.”

A vein pulsated at the clergyman’s temple. “Then don’t give me reason to become your problem, Carmichael. Because if I hear so much as one word of this preposterous tale repeated, I can promise you’ll regret it.”

Andrew stared at the man. “You’re threatening me?”

Something flared in Warburton’s eyes. Then, as if he’d thought better of what he meant to say, he took a step back, his features clearing slightly. “A man in my position has to protect his reputation.”

Suddenly his countenance settled into the same benign, good-natured expression with which he’d first greeted Andrew. “I’m sure you understand what I mean, Dr. Carmichael. After all, you are in a similar position, are you not? Your profession also demands the highest caliber of integrity. Men like ourselves cannot guard our character too carefully, now can we?”

The man was threatening him.

Something cold wound its way through Andrew at the hint of menace that lingered behind the other’s genial gaze.

Momentarily at a loss, he turned away without a word and headed for the door, despising the painful stiffness in his limbs that prohibited any facsimile of a dignified exit, yet too eager to escape the corruption of his surroundings to delay another moment.

p

In his haste to reach the front doors, Andrew nearly collided with a woman entering the house. He mumbled his excuses, then stopped to stare. Even without the hooded wrap she had worn upon their first meeting, he recognized her: the mysterious woman who had appeared at his office late one winter afternoon months before, seeking treatment for Mary Lambert and her children.

The woman hesitated just inside the entryway, her eyes wide with obvious recognition. Just as she opened her mouth as if to speak, her gaze flicked past Andrew to the hallway behind him, and from her expression he realized that Robert Warburton had followed him out of the library.

Again the woman’s gaze went to Andrew, her startled expression changing to one of appeal.

Understanding dawned, and Andrew knew she must be none other than the wife of Robert Warburton. He nodded to her, their eyes meeting and holding for only seconds before she dropped her gaze and passed by him.

Shaken, Andrew hurried down the walkway to the buggy.

What kind of woman, he puzzled, would approach an unknown physician in search of help for her husband’s mistress and illegitimate children? Had her visit to his office been the altruistic action of a wife intent on compensating for her husband’s sins? Or had she meant to protect Warburton’s reputation by attempting to conceal the consequences of those same sins?

Whatever her motives, he reflected, she had saved the life of Mary Lambert and perhaps the lives of her children as well. Without intervention, they would probably not have survived the winter.

Something told him, however, that the man he had just confronted would not thank his wife if he were to learn of her extraordinary efforts—whether those efforts had been on his behalf or for the welfare of the woman with whom he’d been unfaithful.