About the Author
Eugenia Price (1916–1996) was a New York Times bestselling author of 39 books, with over 40 million copies sold. She is best known for her historical romantic antebellum novels.
Read an Excerpt
Just at sunrise on June 13, 1838, forty-six-year-old Mark Browning stood at the open east window of his mercantile office on Savannah’s Commerce Row and stared out over the brightening expanse of water toward the wide bend that turns the river toward the sea.
From the moment of his first glimpse of this view when he was twenty and had cast his lot with this small city, the bend in the river had lifted Mark’s spirit and confirmed his choice that Savannah was, indeed, his place-to-be for all the days of his life.
Year after intervening year, from this very window, even when the room where he now stood had been the office of his late, revered friend, Robert Mackay, Mark had taken delight in scanning the river traffic—an odd assortment of local boats and mighty sailing ships—as it moved slowly around that bend, each vessel nourishing the life of his city. Now, and for the past few years, steam packets plied the gray waters, speeding the town’s growth, expanding his own pride in Savannah.
But on this early morning, so many troubled and contradictory thoughts tangled in his mind that he seemed almost unaware of what he saw. Trying to think his way through the vexing problem learned moments ago from his warehouse inspector, he crossed the spacious office furnished with a few fine pieces brought down from his old home in Philadelphia, and looked out the west window. Three slips away from his wharf, beyond the furled sails of two of his own schooners, he could see unusual bustle and activity where the new steam packet Pulaski now lay at anchor—white bow dazzling in the early sun, flags snapping in a rising breeze off the water. He could hear the commotion, far noisier than usual, because at 8 A.M., less than two hours from now, the Pulaski, carrying a large and prominent group of passengers on her fourth voyage, would steam away from the city and head for Charleston and then Baltimore.
Half an hour ago, when Mark left his home on Reynolds Square, the entire household had been in confusion. His wife, Caroline, their two children, Natalie, sixteen, and twelve-year-old Jonathan, and all the servants had been in a state of turmoil as everyone seemed to be checking at once to make sure that for her much-anticipated pleasure excursion, Natalie had everything she might need. Mark and Caroline had feigned cheerfulness at breakfast while inside both were anxious because their spirited, red-haired, willful firstborn was about to make a sea voyage without them. As far as Natalie was concerned, she was going for pleasure, although she had agreed to help Virginia Mackay, a family friend, care for her two small children during the journey and at Virginia’s aunt’s home in Baltimore. Some responsibility would be good for Natalie, but most worrisome of all was the girl’s obvious delight to be going in the care of Mark’s strange, troubling uncle, Osmund Kott. Both parents had exchanged concerned glances when Natalie announced as they sat down to breakfast that “the very best part of all this is that dear Kottie will be watching over me. No one, but no one understands me the way Kottie does!”
Their daughter’s stubborn devotion to Mark’s uncle had deepened the strain Kott’s very existence had caused between him and Caroline for all the years of their married life—and before.
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