Authors: Lindsay Chase
In memory of John April
The world was his stage
New York City, 1897
The Statue of Liberty no longer symbolized hope and refuge to Dr. Catherine Delancy; it signified only impending disaster.
She trembled in spite of the warm April day. “Afraid?” Damon stood beside her on the deck of the
and leaned into the strong westerly breeze. “It’s not too late to go back.”
London…where their hopes and dreams lay shattered beyond imagining.
She gripped the brass rail so tightly that her knuckles threatened to pop through her worn kid gloves. “We never should have run away in the first place. We should have stayed in New York and fought that self-righteous hypocrite.”
“For the hundred-thousandth time, Catherine,” Damon said with the exaggerated forbearance of a man who had lost his patience long ago, “we had no choice.”
Tears scalded her eyes. “If we had stayed, William would still be alive and you’d still be running your company.”
“And you’d be in prison.”
“I’m going there anyway. And you, too, for helping me.” When she thought of Damon, her proud husband, being locked away like an animal, deprived of his freedom and degraded, she shed helpless tears. She wouldn’t turn to him for comfort, for she had demanded far too much of him already.
Damon placed insistent hands on her shoulders and forced her to face him. “We can’t lose hope.”
She removed a handkerchief from her sleeve and dried her eyes. “You’re right. Perhaps attitudes have changed. Perhaps a jury will be sympathetic.” She wished she could convince herself.
He grinned with his old self-assuredness. “Courage, Catherine. We’ll hire one hell of a lawyer, and we’ll win.”
When he drew her into his arms and kissed her, she clung to him as if to life itself, for she knew that once the
docked, they would be arrested.
She wouldn’t feel the warmth and strength of her husband’s arms around her for a long, long time.
“We find the defendant—not guilty.”
Honor scanned the smug faces of the “jurors,” fourteen young men in old “Bloomers” Bloomfield’s criminal law class. She wasn’t surprised that they hadn’t found in her client’s favor. They rarely did. They would rather put ink on her chair and call her Steel Stays Elliott behind her back than admit a woman into their august circle.
Honor glanced at her opponent, seated two desks away. “Congratulations, Mr. Davis.” She masked her bitter disappointment behind a cool, professional smile.
Robert Davis, who had played defense attorney to Honor’s prosecutor, leaned back in his chair, hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his threadbare waistcoat, and grinned. “Your case had so many loopholes, a baby could have crawled through, but I trust you learned something from me today, Miss Elliott.”
Had it not been considered unseemly for an aspiring lawyer to commit murder, Honor would have wrung the strutting cockerel’s neck with her bare hands.
“Mr. Davis, I wouldn’t gloat if I were you,” old Bloomers said from his desk at the front of the room. He removed his pince-nez to display his disapproving scowl to the entire class. “In fact, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. Even though Miss Elliott is a woman, and the majority of you have made it clear that you disapprove of female lawyers, you should have found in her favor.”
Honor tried not to betray her astonishment.
Davis’s grin vanished, and a dull, angry flush appeared above his wing collar, then shot up his clean-shaven cheeks.
Bloomers’s chastising gaze pinned every student to his chair. “If I’ve taught you gentlemen anything, it’s that you must put aside your personal prejudices and view each case objectively. You haven’t, and I’m deeply ashamed of all of you. You make me feel that I have been wasting my time.”
Davis grinned insolently. “What difference would it have made if our jury had found in Miss Elliott’s favor? She’s a woman. She’ll never argue a criminal case unless she goes out west.”
Several mutterings of assent rippled through the class, and Honor glared at her adversary, unaware that her rarely displayed anger brought a becoming blush to her pale cheeks and fire to her obsidian eyes. Damn, how she disliked him!
Old Bloomers made a face. “My dear Mr. Davis,” he said in his best aggrieved tone, “I’m surprised at you. Miss Elliott’s prospects are irrelevant. I expect everyone in my class to judge these mock trials objectively based on the evidence presented, not on the personalities involved. Her argument for the prosecution was excellent.”
Honor raised her hand. “Professor Bloomfield, may I say something in my own defense?”
She rose and faced the class, quickly reading their faces to determine where each man’s sympathies lay, then addressed them in her most commanding voice.
“I’m not going to lecture you gentlemen about the suitability of a woman to become a lawyer,” she began, especially conscious of Davis lounging in his seat and staring at the ceiling, the picture of consummate boredom. “Many of you have considered me an oddity ever since I enrolled here three years ago.”
“Many of you—not all, to be fair—have gone out of your way to discourage me. And I would just like to say”—she paused—“thank you.”
Davis started. Professor Bloomfield’s bushy brows rose. Every eye was riveted on Honor.
She smiled sweetly. “Because you have made my chosen course so difficult, you gentlemen will be responsible for my success. You see, your determination to see me fail has made me even more determined to succeed.”
She sat down, not expecting applause and not getting any.
Bloomfield cleared his throat and suppressed a smile. “Gentlemen, you have been put in your places neatly and ever so skillfully.” He bowed to Honor. “Nicely done, Miss Elliott.”
“Nicely done indeed,” Davis said.
A compliment from the insufferable Robert Davis? Honor decided she must be going deaf, so she said nothing and turned her attention back to old Bloomers, who was telling the class point by point why they should have found in Honor’s favor.
She savored her brief victory, for she knew the next one would be just as hard won.
At three o’clock, when Honor’s classes were finally over for the day, she walked across the Boston University campus, conscious of the chilly late October breeze swirling a funnel of brown, fallen leaves high into the air as the golden autumn light poured like warm honey over the stately redbrick buildings.
She attracted curious masculine stares as much for her sex’s scarcity on a university campus as for her tall, slender figure and fine patrician features, rescued from perfection by a blunt, stubborn chin. Weary and eager to return to her Back Bay home, she ignored the men she hurried past, never seeing their curiosity change to blatant admiration. She did, however, notice Robert Davis.
He was huddled in a doorway, where a stone arch offered him some warmth and protection against the biting breeze, the collar of his ill-fitting tweed jacket pulled up below his ears, his hatless dark head bent over an open book. He shivered.
Honor was about to turn and walk the other way when he looked up and caught her staring. His feline green eyes boldly dared her not to acknowledge him. She contemplated walking by with only a curt nod, but stopped when he snapped his book shut and approached her.
“Miss Elliott,” he said in his deep, compelling voice, his gaunt cheeks pale from the chilly bite in the air. “Do you mind if I walk with you?”
“Yes, but I doubt if my wishes would stop you.”
He chuckled at that, his eyes dancing with amusement, and extended his hand. “If we’re to walk together, at least let me carry your books.”
“I can manage.” She tightened her grip as if she feared he’d take the two heavy volumes by force.
“Suit yourself.” Davis adjusted his long stride to Honor’s shorter one, and they walked side by side in silence.
Honor wondered why her corset suddenly felt tighter. She moved her right arm a fraction so she wouldn’t brush Davis’s jacket, for even that slight contact disconcerted her.
“Are you walking to the corner where the streetcar stops?” he asked. He held his arms locked against his sides, apparently for warmth.
Davis waited. “Where do you live? Perhaps we’re going in the same direction.”
Damn the man’s impertinence! “I doubt that.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I can tell where you live just by looking at you.” His bold inspection started at Honor’s old Redfern chapeau with its once-elegant pheasant feather, took in the short black velvet cape that Aunt Theodate had brought from Paris two seasons ago, and ended with her impeccably tailored, long blue serge skirt. “Beacon Hill.”
“The sunny side of Commonwealth Avenue.” She would make no apologies to this annoying man for living on one of Boston’s most exclusive streets.
“Commonwealth Avenue…my, my.” Davis shivered again. “It’s a mystery to me why a rich woman would go through such hell to become a lawyer. You’re—what? Twenty-six?”
She was twenty-five, but she didn’t see the need to correct him.
He persisted. “Aren’t rich women from the Back Bay married to rich men and having a brood of rich children by the time they’re your age?”
Honor thought of her father and felt the pain of an old wound reopened. “I have my reasons, and they’re no concern of yours, Mr. Davis. Neither is my age nor my marital status.”
“That’s no secret. Anyone can tell that you’re a spinster.” Then he laughed, a hearty rumble that caused passersby to stare. “Old Bloomers was right, you know,” he said. “The class should have found in your favor.”
His admission caught her off guard, but she recovered herself quickly. “How generous of you to admit it.”
Davis studied her. “Do you know why you’ll never become as successful a lawyer as any woman can hope to become, Miss Elliott?” Before Honor could answer, he added, “You take every defeat as a personal attack. You lack a man’s ability to separate himself from his work, and you hold a grudge.”
Honor snorted delicately. “A most interesting theory, but quite absurd.”
“Is it?” Davis demanded. “Take us for example. I know you don’t like me.”
She stared straight ahead. “I don’t know you well enough to dislike you.”
“Yes, you do, and do you know why? Because I usually defeat you in class, and you don’t like to lose. So you’ve formed a hearty dislike for me without really knowing me at all.”
He was right. She didn’t know where he came from or where he lived now, though she suspected it was one of the poorer sections of the city. She didn’t know if his parents were alive, if he had brothers and sisters, or how he spent his Sunday afternoons. She found herself wondering.
“If your behavior in class is any indication,” Honor said coolly, “I know that you are arrogant and opinionated.”
He flinched, then recovered himself. “I believe I’ve made my point. You refuse to see me as anything but an adversary.”
“Why would I wish to see you as anything else?”
He flashed a teasing smile. “Because if you were to put aside your prejudices, Miss Elliott, you might have to admit that you were wrong about me, and we both know you’d hate that. I am quite a likable fellow, you know. And handsome.”
Honor looked him over with the same critical eye he had used on her. Except for large green eyes that sparkled with intelligence and humor, he wasn’t conventionally handsome, yet he radiated an infectious energy and competitive spirit that animated his nondescript features and commanded attention. He didn’t try to fill out his gaunt cheeks with a beard or balance his full, sensuous lower lip with a mustache. His face seemed to say, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to call you handsome,” she said.
He just laughed. “Actually, neither would I.”
They reached the end of the street, where a four-passenger brougham waited.
“Yours?” His eyes roved over the gleaming, black-lacquered, four-wheel carriage.