Chapter Seventy-Eight: Rest


At last I had peace.

The heat generated by his body as he slept next to me was oppressive. The bed creaked as I shifted, kicking off the coverlet. Beads of sweat had formed between my breasts underneath my shift. I sat up and lifted the crisp, white cotton fabric up over my head, tossing it to the floor nearby. 

I did not want to sleep. Instead, I lay back down, eyes wide open, still feeling restless. I wanted him to make love to me again. 

He stirred slightly. I slid my hand up his back and softly touched the hair at the nape of his neck in the darkness then pressed my naked body into his.

He was mine again.

I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of him, laying my cheek against the warm skin of his upper back. I could feel him breathe. 

He stirred again. I kissed his shoulder. 

When he rolled over toward me, at first I thought the shadows from the fireplace were playing tricks on me. I searched his features.

That was not Nathaniel’s face, was it?

I scrambled back away from him then off the bed, scooping up my shift. I held the fabric up against my naked body as he sat up. I suddenly felt terribly cold. I shivered. 

What should I do? Run? Where was Anne?

Confusion played on his face. “Evelyn? Come back to bed.” He beckoned to me as he spoke the command. “Now!”

I knew that voice, didn’t I?

I could see his face better now. I could not breathe.

It was the Reverend Drummond.


The world closed in around me and I felt myself gasping for air, falling toward some unseen terror.

Then I was awake all over again, my heart in my throat. I felt as if I had been holding my breath for hours.

The bed next to me was empty. Relief washed over and through my body as I tried to slow the movement of my chest, the tremor of my hands.

The nightmare again. How much longer would this dream repeat itself?

One year. Just one more year.

If I could trust her.

I could endure this for one more year. Surely. One could endure almost anything if there was an end in sight. The Crimea had taught me that.

Chapter Seventy-Seven: Promises


“Where is he now?” I asked.

We eyed each other across the vast expanse of the worn wooden kitchen table, a chasm made wider by our mutual pain and mistrust. I had not bothered to cover it with a table cloth. Why worry with niceties when your rival is sitting across from you? The surface was crossed by knife gouges and my fingers traced the marks absently as I watched her face. Her eyes clouded with something… Anger? Pain? A secret perhaps? Then it disappeared, hidden.

Finally, she spoke. “He is in Edinburgh. Probably drunk.”

We sat in silence again.

“Do you still love him?”

“Yes.” She smiled slightly. She was beautiful. “But not as before, not in the same way. I want him to find the happiness he could not find with me.” She seemed earnest, though I wondered. Who could be human and yet so magnanimous? 

“And your daughters?”

She sighed. “With him.” She saw my concern and hurriedly added, “They have a governess. An old, ugly governess. No sense tempting fate.” A bitter laugh escaped from her red lips.

“What do you intend to do?” I watched her face again. There was resignation this time.

“I will go back. I have no choice. I have no money of my own and no means or skills by which to support two daughters.” She stared at me, pointedly. “What do you intend to do?”

What could I do?

“I will continue to go on as I have.” I shrugged. “No choice but to keep going forward.” I stopped as realized her intent. “If you are worried that I will attempt to take him from you, I can assure you that I will not.” She nodded solemnly. 

Shame and pity washed over me. 

I held out my hand to her. 

She hesitated but took it. I squeezed. We had made a pact, she and I, two women hurt beyond recognition by love. How happy would we be if he had never crossed into our lives? We would never know. There was nothing to be done about it now.

“I am sorry, you know.”

“I am, too,” she whispered softly.

She gripped my hand tighter.

“I know of another way.” She rushed through the whispered words.

My heart pounded. “What?” Did I hear her correctly? Surely not.

“I know of another way,” she said, this time louder. “We can both have what we want. You want him. I want freedom. I know of a way but I need your help.”

“You know of a way?” My voice sounded incredulous. I cleared my throat and tried again, this time without the edginess. “You know of a way?”



“I cannot tell you just yet.” She stood, still holding my hand. “Give me one year to make the preparations. I will send you a letter with instructions.” She was squeezing harder.

“One year?”

“One year.” She spoke with urgency and determination. “You promise to help me?” Her grip was beginning to hurt.

“Yes.” I stood up. “Yes, I will help you.” 

“You will raise my daughters as your own?” I nodded. “Say it! Say you will do it!” She grabbed my other hand and we stood facing each other, her eyes searching mine, looking for some clue. Could I be trusted?

“I will.”

She let go of my hands. She gave me a tight, quick hug and then held me out at arms length, joyful. 

A smile.

And then? Then she was gone. 

She walked out of my house. I watched her red dress fade into the distance from the parlor window as Anne began to fuss from the nursery, letting me know she was hungry.

One year.

Chapter Seventy-Six: Grievances 


I brushed a small buzzing insect away from my face, waiting. 

We both eyed each other. 

“Who are you?” I repeated. 

Her smile continued, unwavering. “I am looking for Nathaniel Brierly.”  

stood silently, weighing my answer, hoping my face did not betray the fear. 

Oh, God! What did she know? 

Somehow I knew this day would come.   Be sure your sins will find you out… 

“I am not acquainted with him.” I lied. “Does he live around here?”  

Anne squealed and reached behind my shoulder for some imaginary play thing. I had turned her back to the woman as we had come up the walk. Now I shifted the weight to keep her from falling but this allowed her to grab my hair. The pain from the sudden yank stung in my eyes as I untangled her fingers and turned her around on my my hip.  

“I think you are… acquainted.” She motioned to Anne as the smile faded from her face. “How old is the baby?”

“I think you need to leave.”  

For a moment the veil lifted. Fear and hurt showed in her eyes. Her skirt shifted and the red silk fabric rustled like the whispering leaves overhead as she stepped forward, holding out her hand. 

I stared at the slim, pale fingers. No resemblance there. 

“I… I….” She stopped, pulling her hand back when I did not accept it. “My name is Mrs. Anne Brierly. He is my husband.” She appeared close to tears as she handed me a calling card printed with her name in black inked script. “Please.” She paused again, seemingly unsure of how to proceed. “I am sorry. I need to speak with you.”

I wanted to scream at her, to fly into a jealous rage. Bite. Claw. Kick. Spit. She shared his life! I only had a small part of it here in my arms.  

“Why?” I whispered. 

“May I come in?” 

Warily, I nodded my head and motioned for her to follow me inside.

She left her bonnet on her head as I busied myself preparing tea.  

“May I?” She wanted to pick up Anne. 

Anne wanted to hold Anne… 

nodded but watched carefully out of the corner of my eye as I put up the newly purchased goods and the kettle heated on the stove. 

She pulled the garnet earring out of her earlobe and dangled it before the giggling baby who chased it with her hands.  

“She is beautiful. What is her name?”

I hesitated. “Anne.” The woman stopped playing with the earring and looked over at me, surprised. “I didn’t know it was your name.”

She nodded, silently, then went back to playing seemingly satisfied.

“You have girls, too, don’t you?” 

She looked up, surprised. “Yes.” 

“How many?” 


“Any boys?” 

“Yes. Well. No. Actually no….” Her voice drifted off. We both understood what that meant. 

“What happened to her arm?” She asked softly. 

“It is a long story… not one that I am ready to tell as yet.” 

“Oh…..” She put the earring back in her ear.  

I put Anne down for a nap while the tea steeped. I took my time, hoping to steel myself for whatever was to come next. 

When I returned, we sat across from each other at the table in the kitchen. I poured the tea. We made eye contact over our teacups as we sipped, punctuating time with the clink of china upon china. 

“Why do you have his smile?” I finally asked her. 

She put her cup down delicately but a tremble in her hand made it rattle as it hit the saucer. She took a deep breath, then spoke softly. 

“Nathaniel was my second cousin. I was much, much younger than he. I looked up to him. I thought he was the most gallant and handsome man I had ever met. I rarely saw him but I spent my time infatuated, thinking only of what it would be like to be loved by him.” She shrugged. “I was just a little girl.” 

“One day he showed up again. He had completed his medical training and had toured in the States, talking about something or other.” She waved her hand dismissively. “I resolved to make him mine.” She steepled her fingers in front of her face and brushed her lips across the tips. “So I used everything in my power….” 

She paused for a sip of tea, realized her hand still trembled too much, then quickly put it back down.

“I was soon pregnant and family pressure forced a wedding.” She paused. “I gave birth to a boy. He… the baby… was not right. Only one eye. His face was split from his lip to his nose. His belly was turned inside out.” 

The hair stood out on my forearms.  

Just like my little Levi. 

“He died?” I asked. 

She nodded.

“Within a few years we had two daughters. His behavior at home was erratic and I saw less and less of him as he became more well known in Edinburgh. He would stay there for months at a time. 

“Finally, one day, he sent me a letter, saying that he was leaving for the Crimea. No explanation. Just leaving.” More anguish was showing on her face. “Every now and then we would get vague letters from him about the cold or the terrible food but they were rare.”

“When he finally came back, he was a shadow. A tortured soul.” Her eyes bored into me. “I didn’t know why.” Another pause. “He started to drink. Not just a little bit. No. Heavily. Drowning sorrows, he said. I thought it was because of his leg, the fact that he could not walk well any more, or because of things that he had seen…. there.” She lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “There were terrible stories, you know.” Then she laughed. “Of course you know. You were there. You were there with him, weren’t you?” Her voice cracked.

“Yes.” I breathed. 

“One night, in a drunken stupor he called me by your name. He talked to me about his leg. About you. To him I did not exist as myself, I was his dear Evelyn.” She sobbed out of grief and rage. “I felt what it was like to be loved by him that night….” 

There was silence for a few long minutes as we measured each other from across the table. I was unsure what to say. Finally, she spoke again. 

“I decided to find out who you were.”