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The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood

The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood

Author:Tracey Enerson Wood
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Published: 2019-12-26T16:00:00+00:00


Twenty-One

Mother stayed for many weeks during Wash’s recuperation. Soon, her circle of friends visited as well, delighting in his stories of Civil War exploits. Wash was never so happy as when he had a new audience for a story. Mother, Henrietta, Carrie, and Eleanor gathered around Wash, who was propped on pillows on the long chaise in the parlor. The ladies pulled needles in and out of squares of white fabric nesting in their laps. A fire burned brightly in the fireplace, sending flashes of light and shadow across their faces.

I sat between Henrietta and Eleanor on the divan, admiring their work. Eleanor passed me a palm-full of new hairpins like a schoolgirl passing a note. I snuck a peek at them before secreting them away between the cushions. These were shaped like the others—which had rusted into uselessness—but the metal had more spring to it. Along with the tiny rounded blob of hardened glue on the tips, they were coated with bright blue paint. “Blue?” I asked in a hushed tone.

“Isn’t it pretty?” she whispered back.

As Carrie stoked the fire and Mother fussed with Wash’s blanket, he launched into a familiar yarn. “This reminds me of a night so dark, I saw nothing but the glowing tip of my cigar. I was all alone, deep in enemy territory—”

Having heard this story a time or two or ten, I was relieved by the knock at the door, providing the opportunity to excuse myself. I opened the door to PT, sporting a broad smile and a bottle of whiskey. Next to him was Henri, dressed for a night on the town.

Miss Mann and Henri departed, and I invited PT into the library. Maps and diagrams papered the desk and every horizontal surface; steel samples glittered on a marble-topped table. His scent of cherry tobacco and clove at once stimulated and calmed me.

“Sorry to arrive unannounced, but I’ve promised a progress report to the Connecticut investors.”

“And I apologize for neglecting your requests.”

He waved away my comment. “Your priorities are in order, my dear.”

I reviewed our progress and described my meeting with Benjamin Stone. PT pretended to be Stone. He sank into Wash’s leather chair and plopped his feet on the desk. Tossing a ream of paper into the air, he bellowed, “Ahhhemmm! You should be bending over backward, missy!”

I was laughing so hard, I could barely choke out, “PT, have you no respect?”

A polite cough from the doorway. Mother. Her lips were drawn tight enough to sling the arrows her eyes aimed at us.

“Oh, Mother, PT was doing the most marvelous imitation of Benjamin Stone.”

“So I see. Perhaps Mr. Barnum would like to join your husband and our other guests in the parlor?”

“I’d be delighted, but please call me PT. And may I be so bold as to call you Phebe?”

“You may not,” Mother said.

“We’ve heard those stories time and time again, Mother, and we’re conducting business here.” A familiar profile appeared behind Mother’s head. Wonder of wonders, it was my tall, handsome brother.



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