Authors: Janet Lee Barton
“This is where the drawings you see in
and other magazines come to life. After the sketches are finished, some are done in pen and ink and others are colored in for templates to make into prints that are then put into the magazine.”
Miss Carter led Violet around the room so she could get a good look at what was being done. She’d never imagined how many steps it took to get a pattern made and to be able to show it in a way that made her and her mother think that an outfit would look good on them.
Everyone she met was very nice and Violet looked forward to getting to know them all better.
“Come along. We’ll go to the cutting and folding room and get you started.” Miss Carter led her to a huge workroom. “This is where the cutting and folding operations take place. As you can see, it takes a lot of people to keep up with it.”
Violet looked at the floor below and saw both men and women at work. She saw that most of those doing the folding were young women of about her age, including Lila, who looked up and gave her a wave before whispering to the girl next to her.
Violet followed Miss Carter down the stairs and into the room where she introduced her to Mr. Hanson, the floor supervisor. “Mr. Hanson, this our newest employee, Miss Violet Burton.”
Mr. Hanson sported a dark brown beard and mustache, and he had a nice smile. “Pleased to meet you, Miss Burton. How do you like what you’ve seen of our operation?”
“Oh, I am quite impressed. I never dreamed of how much work it took to make a pattern. I’m looking forward to working with everyone.”
“Now, that is the kind of attitude we like around here. I’m sure you are going to fit right in, Miss Burton.”
Violet was beginning to feel that she might.
ichael had watched the clock all day, wondering how Violet’s day was going. She’d seemed quite nervous this morning, and he’d prayed that she’d come to feel at ease in her new surroundings. It was well-known that Mr. Butterick was one of the kindest, more generous men in the city. He gave much to the poor, in particular to needy children, and his company had always had a reputation for treating its employees well.
He gazed out the window of his office and jangled the coins in his pocket as he watched the traffic on Third Avenue. He’d felt a restless energy all morning—one would think he was the one starting a new job today instead of Violet.
In spite of the fact that there were times when she looked very vulnerable and Michael had wanted to ease her fears about the city, the traffic and her decision to move here, Violet Burton was a strong woman. A weak woman would not have made the decision to leave all she knew and move to New York City to find a way to keep her family home instead of entering into a loveless marriage.
After Violet had told him about what Harlan Black had tried to do, he was certain she could take care of herself. After all, she’d decided to chance losing her inheritance rather than marrying the likes of Black. Still, it infuriated Michael that the man had tried to blackmail Violet into marrying him.
He clenched his fists, wishing he could get ahold of Black. Michael remembered Harlan and his reputation. There weren’t many in Ashland who liked the banker. He misused his position in town to get what he wanted, and it didn’t matter to him if others had to suffer. But he did have a reputation as a ladies’ man. In fact, at one time Michael had feared Becca might be attracted to him, but that was before she’d left to come here. At least she hadn’t come under his influence. And neither had Violet. He was thankful for that.
Still, Black held Violet’s inheritance in his hand, and Michael didn’t like that one bit. One of the things that bothered him was why Mrs. Burton had had any need to go to Black for money in the first place. His mother had said that she thought Mr. Burton had made provisions for his wife and daughter in his will. She’d been under the impression that while they might not have been well-off, they had enough money to provide for them in the manner they’d been accustomed to.
Evidently it had been much on his mother’s mind, because just this morning, she’d mentioned that she wondered if Harlan Black had made Mrs. Burton believe something other than the truth about her money situation.
As always, when he heard something like that, Michael wanted to know more, get to the bottom of it. Maybe he should send one of his men to look into things in Ashland. Yes, it might be time to do just that. It was certainly something to think about.
That Violet had turned down Black’s offer showed him that
was not a term that applied to her. Even so, a strong woman could be naive in ways. This city was far different from their hometown. But after yesterday, she must realize there was a darker side that hid behind all the mansions, the businesses on the Ladies’ Mile and the beauty of Central Park. The dangerous side that had swallowed up his sister. He couldn’t let that happen to Violet.
let it happen.
The noise of traffic seemed to intensify and Michael looked down to see that an omnibus had hit a street vendor’s wagon. It didn’t look as if anyone was seriously hurt from what he could tell three stories up, but he hoped traffic was better today and that no omnibuses came close to running into the streetcar Violet and Lila rode to work in.
Michael chuckled, remembering Violet’s reaction to the near accident on Saturday. To give her credit, had it not been for her scream, they might well have been in a horrible accident. All in all, except for that near calamity, it had been the most enjoyable weekend he’d had in a very long time. And he’d enjoyed yesterday even more. He hoped Violet had enjoyed it as much as he had.
He decided to take off a little early so that he would be sure to be home when she and Lila returned. As soon as he let himself into the house, the aroma coming from the kitchen assured him that his mother planned a special dinner to celebrate Violet’s first day of work.
That she was becoming attached to the young woman was obvious. Violet was a link to their hometown, to the woman who’d been his mother’s best friend and even to Rebecca, in his mother’s mind. He couldn’t blame her because he felt much the same way—only different—and definitely not brotherly.
Since the disappearance of his sister, Michael hadn’t given much thought to his personal life. He’d been more concerned with helping his mother and trying to find his sister. And for propriety’s sake, because of his mother’s business, he’d made a conscious decision not to let himself become interested in any of the women boarding with her.
But Violet Burton could very well be the exception. If the amount of time he spent thinking about her was any indication, she already was. Since the moment he’d first seen Violet all grown up, there had been something about her that drew him to her. He wasn’t comfortable with it, tried to ignore it—to no avail, but there it was. He enjoyed being around her. Already, he looked forward to seeing her each morning and evening.
And yet he had no intention of falling in love with her. Violet was going to return to Virginia when she got the mortgage paid off. She’d said as much. She had no intention of staying in New York City. And just as he wanted to warn his mother not to get too attached to her, he had to tell himself the same thing. Besides, after Amanda broke their engagement, refusing to postpone the wedding until he had a chance to look for his sister, he knew that not many women would accept his commitment to finding his sister or even helping his mother. There was no sense setting himself up for disappointment again.
Still, Violet was a family friend and he wanted to help her in any way he could. And he was curious to know how her day had gone.
Michael made his way down the hall, peeking into his mother’s study only to find it empty. He headed to the kitchen. His mother was icing a three-layer coconut cake, and she looked up with a smile when he entered the room.
“Michael! You’re home early today, son.”
“I am.” He joined her at the worktable and stuck a finger in the icing bowl before bringing it to his mouth. “Mmm. Love coconut cake.”
His mother playfully slapped at his hand when he went for another dip in the icing. “You didn’t know I was making this, so that isn’t why you came home early.”
“You’re right. Actually, I wanted to see how Violet’s first day went.”
His mother chuckled. “I understand. I’ve been a bit nervous for her all day. I’m sure everything has gone well—still I’m anxious for her to get home to find out.”
At the sound of the front door opening, Michael’s heart seemed to do some kind of funny little jump and twist and he decided that
described how he felt perfectly. It was all he could do to let his mother hurry to the foyer before him.
“How did your first day go?” his mother asked as soon as she spotted Violet.
Michael didn’t need to hear the answer. He could tell from the look on Violet’s face. A deep sigh of relief left his lungs before she answered.
“It was wonderful. Everyone was so friendly and kind. I’m sure I’m going to like working there.”
“Oh, yes,” Lila said. “Violet is going to fit right in.”
From the conflicting tone in Lila’s voice and the almost smile on her face, Michael couldn’t decide if she was being sarcastic or sincere.
“Lila was very kind to introduce me to everyone she could when we took lunch,” Violet said, turning to smile at the other girl. “Just knowing someone there helped put me at ease.”
Her words went a long way to convincing Michael that Lila was being genuine.
“I’m so glad everything went well,” his mother said. “I was sure it would, but it’s good to hear that I was right to plan a dinner to celebrate your first day. I remembered that coconut cake is one of your favorites and I’d best get back to icing it. You girls have plenty of time to freshen up.”
“I believe I have the beginning of a migraine,” Lila said abruptly. “If I’m not down for dinner, please don’t be concerned. I think I might need to lie down and close my eyes for a bit.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Lila,” Michael’s mother said. “Would you like me to send you up some tea?”
“No, thank you.” Lila turned to the stairs.
“I’ll be sure to save a plate for you and a big slice of cake for later if you don’t come down to dinner.”
Lila said nothing as she began to climb the stairs.
“Is there anything I can get you?” Violet asked. “A cool cloth?”
“No. I just need some quiet and a dark room. I’ll be fine.” Her voice trailed off as she reached the landing.
“I hope she feels better soon. Does she have these headaches often?” Violet asked.
Mrs. Heaton shrugged. “Occasionally. But she usually recovers quickly.”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Michael said. Lila had looked more irritated than in pain, and he had a feeling that she didn’t like all the attention Violet was getting. She’d acted much the same way when one of the other girls was getting more attention than she was.
“I hope so. Is there anything I can do to help in the kitchen, Mrs. Heaton?”
“No, dear. Dinner will be in about an hour and a half. You have time to relax and rest.”
“Oh, I don’t think I can rest. My mind is still in a whirl.” Violet gave a light laugh. “There is so much going on at Butterick it’s hard to take it all in. But I have much more appreciation to what goes into making the patterns to make it easier for the home sewer.”
“Maybe you should go sit in the garden for a bit. It’s very relaxing out there this time of day. I’ve got to go finish icing the cake.” She started back to the kitchen and then turned back. “Michael, why don’t you show Violet the garden? It’s a nice place to relax.”
Michael surprised himself by saying, “I’ll be glad to, if you want to see it, Violet?”
“That would be nice,” Violet said as Michael took her elbow and led her through the hall to the doors at the end.
“Mother’s pride and joy is the garden. It is very small, but she’s done a lot of work getting it just the way she likes it.” He opened the door and let Violet go through first.
“Oh, it is beautiful.” The air was sweet smelling from the roses and all the other flowers in bloom. It felt much cooler here than anywhere else she’d been that day.
Michael led her to a small bench and waited until she sat down before joining her. “I’m glad your first day went well.”
“I am, too.” Something about the way he was looking at her had her feeling warm and...fluttery. Michael was such a handsome man and very considerate of others. How could a woman’s heart not beat a little faster when his attention was turned on her?
She told herself that he was just acting as any old friend would, being happy for her, as she continued, “I must admit I was very nervous. I hope I can live up to their expectations. I was so surprised when they offered me a position as a seamstress instead of the pattern folding.”
Michael leaned a little closer and grinned down at her. “What? You’re going to be a seamstress? You aren’t going to be working alongside Lila in the pattern room?”
Violet tried not to think about how deep his dimples were up this close. She shook her head. “No. I don’t think she’s very happy about it, and I can understand how she might not be. I expected to be folding patterns right along with her, but after lunch I was summoned to the office and told that one of the seamstresses was leaving to get married. They asked if I would be interested in taking her place since I was familiar with sewing from their patterns.”
“Violet, that is very good news for you. It pays better than the pattern folding, I’m sure.”
She nodded. “It does, and I’m so glad. I think I’ll be able to make an extra payment to the bank every other month or so. I just feel bad for Lila. And I’m a little apprehensive. I tried to tell them that I am not an excellent seamstress, but they said that since they target the home seamstress, that is exactly who should be making their sample wardrobes.”
“Mother is going to be so excited for you. And so will the other boarders.”
Violet sighed. “All except for Lila. I feel so bad—”
“Don’t worry about Lila. You didn’t seek out the position and, besides, I’m pretty sure Lila doesn’t know how to sew.”
Violet jumped up from the bench as an idea came to her. “Maybe I could offer to teach her to sew, so that next time an opening comes up she could apply for it.”
“That would be nice of you.”
She let out a sigh and shook her head. “But I don’t have my sewing machine with me.”
“I’m sure Mother would loan you hers.”
“Or maybe I could have Beth, my friend from home, send me mine.”
“Either way would work. But don’t be surprised if Lila doesn’t take to your suggestion. She might not really want to learn. Or she might not want to—”
“Learn from me?” Violet finished for him.
Michael shrugged. “One can never tell how Lila is going to react to an idea. But it’s very kind of you to want to make the offer.”
“No, it’s more selfish than anything. I’ll feel better if I do. She was kind enough to introduce me to several coworkers today and, well, I might feel the same way if I’d been at the company first. In fact, I’m sure I would.”
Violet saw no need to mention that Lila had barely spoken to her on the way home—or even on the way to work that morning. She might have known Michael and his mother longer than Lila had, but Lila had been living in their home longer than she. At this point Violet had no idea how close any of them were.
“That’s understandable. Still, if she doesn’t know how to sew, she wouldn’t have gotten the position anyway. Try not to blame yourself for her attitude.”
Violet had to ask, “How long has Lila lived here?”
“She’s only been with us about eleven months.”
“Oh. I thought she’d lived here much longer.”
“No. Although sometimes it feels as if she has been here much longer.”