TWO STRANGERS BORN WORLDS APART. ONE DESTINY THAT WOULD DEFINE THEM BOTH...
William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, one the son of a Boston millionaire, the other a penniless Polish immigrant—born on the same day near the turn of the century on opposite sides of the world—are brought together by fate and the quest of a dream.
Two men—ambitious, powerful, ruthless—are locked in a relentless struggle to build an empire, fueled by their all-consuming hatred. Over sixty years and three generations, through war, marriage, fortune, and disaster, Kane and Abel battle for the success and triumph that only one man can have.
“Archer is a master entertainer.”—Time
Related collections and offers
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Hometown:London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester
Date of Birth:April 15, 1940
Education:Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute
Read an Excerpt
April 18, 1906 Slonim, Poland
She only stopped screaming when she died. It was then that he started to scream.
The young boy who was hunting rabbits in the forest was not sure whether it was the woman's last cry or the child's first that alerted his youthful ears. He turned suddenly, sensing the possible danger, his eyes searching for an animal that was so obviously in pain. He had never known any animal to scream in quite that way before. He edged toward the noise cautiously; the scream had now turned to a whine, but it still did not sound like any animal he knew. He hoped it would be small enough to kill; at least that would make a change from rabbit for dinner.
The young hunter moved stealthily toward the river, where the strange noise came from, running from tree to tree, feeling the protection of the bark against his shoulder blades, something to touch. Never stay in the open, his father had taught him. When he reached the edge of the forest, he had a clear line of vision all the way down the valley to the river, and even then it took him some time to realize that the strange cry emanated from no ordinary animal. He continued to creep toward the whining, but he was out in the open on his own now. Then suddenly he saw the woman, with her dress above her waist, her bare legs splayed wide apart. He had never seen a woman like that before. He ran quickly to her side and stared down at her belly, quite frightened to touch. There, lying between the woman's legs, was the body of a small, damp, pink animal, attached only by something that looked like rope. The young hunter dropped his freshly skinned rabbits and collapsed on his knees beside the little creature.
He gazed for a long, stunned moment and then turned his eyes toward the woman, immediately regretting the decision. She was already blue with cold; her tired twenty-three-year-old face looked middle-aged to the boy; he did not need to be told that she was dead. He picked up the slippery little body — had you asked him why, and no one ever did, he would have told you that the tiny fingernails clawing the crumpled face had worried him — and then he became aware that mother and child were inseparable because of the slimy rope.
He had watched the birth of a lamb a few days earlier and he tried to remember. Yes, that's what the shepherd had done, but dare he, with a child? The whining had stopped and he sensed that a decision was now urgent. He unsheathed his knife, the one he had skinned the rabbits with, wiped it on his sleeve and, hesitating only for a moment, cut the rope close to the child's body. Blood flowed freely from the severed ends. Then what had the shepherd done when the lamb was born? He had tied a knot to stop the blood. Of course, of course. He pulled some long grass out of the earth beside him and hastily tied a crude knot in the cord. Then he took the child in his arms. He rose slowly from his knees, leaving behind him three dead rabbits and a dead woman who had given birth to this child. Before finally turning his back on the mother, he put her legs together and pulled her dress down over her knees. It seemed to be the right thing to do.
"Holy God," he said aloud, the first thing he always said when he had done something very good or very bad. He wasn't yet sure which this was.
The young hunter then ran toward the cottage where he knew his mother would be cooking supper, waiting only for his rabbits; all else would be prepared. She would be wondering how many he might have caught today; with a family of eight to feed, she needed at least three. Sometimes he managed a duck, a goose or even a pheasant that had strayed from the Baron's estate, on which his father worked. Tonight he had caught a different animal, and when he reached the cottage the young hunter dared not let go of his prize even with one hand, so he kicked at the door with his bare foot until his mother opened it. Silently, he held out his offering to her. She made no immediate move to take the creature from him but stood, one hand on her breast, gazing at the wretched sight.
"Holy God," she said, and crossed herself. The boy stared up at his mother's face for some sign of pleasure or anger. Her eyes were now showing a tenderness the boy had never seen in them before. He knew then that the thing he had done must be good.
"Is it a baby, Matka?"
"It's a little boy," said his mother, nodding sorrowfully. "Where did you find him?"
"Down by the river, Matka," he said.
"And the mother?"
She crossed herself again.
"Quickly, run and tell your father what has happened. He will find Urszula Wojnak on the estate and you must take them both to the mother, and then be sure they come back to me."
The young hunter handed over the little boy to his mother, happy enough not to have dropped the slippery creature. Now, free of his quarry, he rubbed his hands on his trousers and ran off to look for his father.
The mother closed the door with her shoulder and called out for her eldest child, a girl, to put the pot on the stove. She sat down on a wooden stool, unbuttoned her bodice and pushed a tired nipple toward the little puckered mouth. Sophia, her younger daughter, only six months old, would have to go without her supper tonight. Come to think of it, so would the whole family.
"And to what purpose?" the woman said out loud, tucking a shawl around her arm and the child together. "Poor little mite, you'll be dead by morning."
But she did not repeat these feelings to old Urszula Wojnak when the midwife washed the little body and tended to the twisted umbilical stump late that night. Her husband stood silently by observing the scene.
"A guest in the house is God in the house," declared the woman, quoting the old Polish proverb.
Her husband spat. "To the cholera with him. We have enough children of our own."
The woman pretended not to hear him as she stroked the dark, thin hairs on the baby's head.
"What shall we call him?" the woman asked, looking up at her husband.
He shrugged. "Who cares? Let him go to his grave nameless."
April 18, 1906 Boston, Massachusetts
The doctor picked up the newborn child by the ankles and slapped its bottom. The infant started to cry.
In Boston, Massachusetts, there is a hospital that caters mainly to those who suffer from the diseases of the rich, and on selected occasions allows itself to deliver the new rich. At the Massachusetts General Hospital the mothers don't scream, and certainly they don't give birth fully dressed. It is not the done thing.
A young man was pacing up and down outside the delivery room; inside, two obstetricians and the family doctor were on duty. This father did not believe in taking risks with his firstborn. The two obstetricians would be paid a large fee merely to stand by and witness events. One of them who wore evening clothes under his long white coat had a dinner party to attend later, but he could not afford to absent himself from this particular birth. The three had earlier drawn straws to decide who should deliver the child, and Doctor MacKenzie, the family G.P., had won. A sound, secure name, the father considered, as he paced up and down the corridor. Not that he had any reason to be anxious. Roberts had driven the young man's wife, Anne, to the hospital in the hansom carriage that morning, which she had calculated was the twenty-eighth day of her ninth month. She had started labor soon after breakfast, and he had been assured that delivery would not take place until his bank had closed for the day. The father was a disciplined man and saw no reason why a birth should interrupt his well-ordered life. Nevertheless, he continued to pace. Nurses and young doctors hurried past him, aware of his presence, their voices lowered when they were near him and raised again only when they were out of his earshot. He didn't notice, because everybody had always treated him this way. Most of them had never seen him in person, but all of them knew who he was.
If it was a boy, a son, he would probably build the new children's wing that the hospital so badly needed. He had already built a library and a school. The expectant father tried to read the evening paper, looking over the words but not taking in their meaning. He was nervous, even worried. It would never do for them (he looked upon almost everyone as "them") to realize that it had to be a boy, a boy who would one day take his place as president and chairman of the bank. He turned the pages of the Evening Transcript. The Boston Red Sox had tied with the New York Highlanders — others would be celebrating. Then he recalled the headline on the front page and returned to it. The worst earthquake ever in the history of America. Devastation in San Francisco, at least four hundred people dead — others would be mourning. He hated that. It would take away from the birth of his son. People would remember that something else had happened on this day.
It never occurred to him, not even for a moment, that the baby might be a girl. He turned to the financial pages and checked the stock market: it had dropped a few points; that damned earthquake had taken $100,000 off the value of his own holdings in the bank, but as his personal fortune remained comfortably over $16 million, it was going to take more than a California earthquake to move him. He could now live on the interest, so the $16 million capital would always remain intact, ready for his son, still unborn. He continued to pace and pretend to read the Transcript.
The obstetrician in evening dress pushed through the swinging doors of the delivery room to report the news. He felt he must do something for his large unearned fee and he was the most suitably dressed for the announcement. The two men stared at each other for a moment. The doctor also felt a little nervous, but he wasn't going to show it in front of the father.
"Congratulations, sir, you have a son, a fine-looking little boy."
What silly remarks people make when a child is born, the father thought; how could he be anything but little? The news hadn't yet dawned on him — a son. He almost thanked God. The obstetrician ventured a question to break the silence.
"Have you decided what you will name him?" The father answered without hesitation: "William Lowell Kane."
Long after the excitement of the baby's arrival had passed and the rest of the family had gone to bed, the mother remained awake with the child in her arms. Helena Koskiewicz believed in life, and she had borne six children to prove it. Although she had lost three more in infancy, she had not let any of them go easily.
Now at thirty-five she knew that her once lusty Jasio would give her no more sons or daughters: God had given her this one; surely he was destined to live. Helena's was a simple faith, which was good, for her destiny was never to afford her more than a simple life. She was gray and thin, not through choice but through little food, hard work and no spare money. It never occurred to her to complain, but the lines on her face would have been more in keeping with a grandmother than a mother in today's world. She had never worn new clothes even once in her life.
Helena squeezed her breasts so hard that dull red marks appeared around the nipples. Little drops of milk squirted out. At thirty-five, halfway through life's contract, we all have some useful piece of expertise to pass on, and Helena Koskiewicz's was now at a premium.
"Matka's littlest one," she whispered tenderly to the child, and drew the milky teat across its pursed mouth. The blue eyes opened and tiny drops of sweat broke out on the baby's nose as he tried to suck. Finally the mother slumped unwillingly into a deep sleep.
Jasio Koskiewicz, a heavy, dull man with a full mustache, his only gesture of self-assertion in an otherwise servile existence, discovered his wife and the baby asleep in the rocking chair when he rose at five. He hadn't noticed her absence from their bed that night. He stared down at the bastard who had, thank God, at least stopped wailing. Was it dead? Jasio considered the easiest way out of the dilemma was to get himself to work and not interfere with the intruder; let the woman worry about life and death: his preoccupation was to be on the Baron's estate by first light. He took a few long swallows of goat's milk and wiped his luxuriant mustache on his sleeve. Then he grabbed a hunk of bread with one hand and his traps with the other and slipped noiselessly out of the cottage, for fear of waking the woman and getting himself involved. He strode away toward the forest, giving no more thought to the little intruder other than to assume that he had seen him for the last time.
Florentyna, the elder daughter, was next to enter the kitchen, just before the old clock that for many years had kept its own time, claimed that 6 A.M. had arrived. It was of no more than ancillary assistance to those who wished to know if it was the hour to get up or go to bed. Among Florentyna's daily duties was the preparation of breakfast, in itself a minor task involving the simple division of a skin of goat's milk and a lump of rye bread among a family of eight. Nevertheless, it required the wisdom of Solomon to carry out the task in such a way that no one complained about another's portion.
Florentyna struck those who saw her for the first time as a pretty, frail, shabby little thing. It was unfair that for the last two years she had had only one dress to wear, but those who could separate their opinion of the child from that of her surroundings understood why Jasio had fallen in love with her mother. Florentyna's long fair hair shone and her hazel eyes sparkled in defiance of her birth and diet.
She tiptoed up to the rocking chair and stared down at her mother and the little boy, whom Florentyna had adored at first sight. She had never in her eight years owned a doll. Actually she had seen one only once, when the family had been invited to a celebration of the feast of St. Nicholas at the Baron's castle. Even then she had not actually touched the beautiful object, but now she felt an inexplicable urge to hold this baby in her arms. She bent down and eased the child away from her mother, and staring down into the little blue eyes — such blue eyes — she began to hum. The change of temperature from the warmth of the mother's breast to the cold of the little girl's hands made the baby indignant. He immediately started crying and woke the mother, whose only reaction was of guilt for having fallen asleep.
"Holy God, he's still alive," she said to Florentyna. "You prepare breakfast for the boys while I try to feed him again."
Florentyna reluctantly handed the infant back and watched her mother once again pump her aching breasts. The little girl was mesmerized.
"Hurry up, Florcia," chided her mother. "The rest of the family must eat as well."
Florentyna obeyed, and as her brothers arrived from the loft where they all slept, they kissed their mother's hands in greeting and stared at the newcomer in awe. All they knew was that this one had not come from Matka's stomach. Florentyna was too excited to eat her breakfast this morning, so the boys divided her portion among them without a second thought and left their mother's share on the table. No one noticed, as they went about their daily tasks, that the mother hadn't eaten anything since the baby's arrival.
Helena Koskiewicz was pleased that her children had learned so early in life to fend for themselves. They could feed the animals, milk the goats and cows and tend the vegetable garden without her help or prodding. When Jasio returned home in the evening she suddenly realized that she had not prepared supper for him, but that Florentyna had taken the rabbits from Franck, her brother the hunter, and had already started to cook them. Florentyna was proud to be in charge of the evening meal, a responsibility she was entrusted with only when her mother was unwell, and Helena Koskiewicz rarely allowed herself that luxury. The young hunter had brought home four rabbits, and the father six mushrooms and three potatoes: tonight would be a veritable feast.
After dinner, Jasio Koskiewicz sat in his chair by the fire and studied the child properly for the first time. Holding the little baby under the armpits, with his splayed fingers supporting the helpless head, he cast a trapper's eye over the infant. Wrinkled and toothless, the face was redeemed only by the fine, blue unfocusing eyes. As the man directed his gaze toward the thin body, something immediately attracted his attention. He scowled and rubbed the delicate chest with his thumbs.
"Have you noticed this, Helena?" said the trapper, prodding the baby's ribs. "The ugly little bastard has only one nipple?"
His wife frowned as she in turn rubbed the skin with her thumb, as though the action would supply the missing organ. Her husband was right: the minute and colorless left nipple was there, but where its mirror image should have appeared on the right-hand side, the shallow breast was completely smooth and uniformly pink.
Excerpted from "Kane & Abel"
Copyright © 1980 Jeffrey Archer.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: 1906–1923,
Part Two: 1923–1928,
Part Three: 1928–1932,
Part Four: 1932–1941,
Part Five: 1941–1952,
Part Six: 1952–1963,
Part Seven: 1963–1967,