Rose thanked the driver as she exited the carriage and made her way down the path to the door. She didn’t know what she expected, but the three-story structure with its curved front surprised her. The bay windows, one on each side of the house, were curved as well. She had the thought that it was a friendly place, that the windows were almost like eyes. The two columns on either side of the front steps created an open mouth, almost as if the house were saying: Who are you? A stranger? Welcome anyway.
What if he refused to see her? What if he sent her away?
That couldn’t happen. She couldn’t allow it to happen.
She’d come so far.
Scotland surprised her, almost as much as its people. Everyone, from the porter to her fellow travelers on the train, had been a delight, genial and exceedingly helpful. While it was true they were curious, almost intrusively so, she didn’t mind repeating that, yes, she was an American. Yes, the war was a terrible thing. Thankfully, most of the discussions of her country ended there. She didn’t have to explain where she came from, what she truly thought about the war, and why she wore mourning. Because she was unaccompanied, no doubt most assumed she was a widow.
Assumptions were wonderful things. They kept her from lying.
Rose had expected a country filled with unique vistas: tall, craggy mountains and heather bedecked glens. She saw those and more, heart-stopping bridges that arched over gorges and rivers crashing over rocks to settle in placid pools. Sections of Scotland were green and verdant. Other places were brown, gray, and black.
When they arrived in Glasgow, her opinion of Scotland underwent a transformation.
Here was a place as bustling as New York. Cranes and spires filled the horizon. The sound of hammering and shouting obscured the call of the seabirds overhead. Docks and ships, long buildings and bustling people, wagons and carriages, all gave the appearance of frenetic activity.
She had no idea Glasgow was so large, so hilly, or so crowded.
After carefully consulting the letter in her reticule, she gave the hired driver the address to the MacIain house.
How odd that after all these weeks, all she felt was an incredible urge to sleep.
The voyage from Nassau to England had been relatively swift, and a great deal less stressful than running the blockade from Charleston outward to the Bahamas.
The train from London had been a marvel of speed and efficiency. Had she been on a different errand, she would’ve enjoyed herself immensely. As it was, each day sounded like a gong in the back of her mind, a deep-throated noise to alert her to how long she’d been gone.
Time was not on her side.
She had debated finding lodgings before calling on the MacIains. But the carriage driver said he might be able to help her in that regard, so she needn’t worry. The only thing that concerned her was her dwindling resources.
He must agree. He simply must. If he didn’t, she was faced with having expended the funds on the voyage with no results to show for it. Even worse, she would have wasted the time it took to come to Scotland.
No, that wasn’t the way to think about the situation. Surely Mr. MacIain would see her since she was related by marriage. After all, the three branches of the MacIains had originated from the same family. She knew that because Bruce was forever repeating the MacIain family tree. He was absurdly proud of the fact that he had been descended from Highland warriors.
Her own family history was not so illustrious. Her great-grandfather had nearly starved in Ireland and found passage to the New World and a new life. Evidently, being an Irish laborer held no esteem. But her great-grandfather worked hard, put away his money so that his son had a small inheritance when he died, a habit that set his descendants on the road to prosperity.
Good fortune, however, had a way of turning on its head. She knew that only too well. She also remembered her great-grandfather’s words, repeated by her father often enough: “Opportunity must be met with effort.” That’s exactly what she was doing in Scotland. She had made the effort, because Mr. MacIain had provided the opportunity.
She steadied herself before the door, adjusted the string of her reticule, fiddled with the bow of her bonnet. She fluffed out her skirts and peered down to check if there was dust on her shoes.
Perhaps she should have found accommodations first and prepared herself better for this meeting. She should have washed her face, at the very least, put on a little pomade because her lips felt chapped. But she was very much afraid that if she had seen a bed, she would’ve fallen atop it and not awakened for a few days, at least.
Before she rested, however, she had to meet with Duncan MacIain.
He must agree. He simply must.
She dared herself to grab the knocker and let it fall, hearing the echo of the sound inside the house.