THINGS ANNA GODBERSEN
For the Coven
Cover Title Page PROLOGUE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
ALSO BY ANNA GODBERSEN
About the Publisher
Something bright and alien flashed across the sky … and for a moment people set down theirglasses in country clubs and speakeasies and thought of their old best dreams. Maybe there wasa way out by flying, maybe our restless blood could find frontiers in the illimitable air. Butby that time we were all pretty well committed; and the Jazz Age continued; we would all haveone more.
The Crack-Up?— F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Echoes of the Jazz Age,”
IT IS EASY TO FORGET NOW, HOW EFFERVESCENT AND free we all felt that summer. Everything fades:the shimmer of gold over White Cove; the laughter in the night air; the lavender early morninglight on the faces of skyscrapers, which had suddenly become so heroically tall. Every dawnseemed to promise fresh miracles, among other joys that are in short supply these days. And soI will try to tell you, while I still remember, how it was then, before everythingchanged—that final season of an era that roared.
By the summer of 1929, when the weather was just getting warm enough that girls could exhibitexactly how high hemlines had risen, Prohibition had been in effect for so long it had ceasedto bother anyone much. The city had a speakeasy per every fifty souls, or so the preachersliked to exclaim on Sundays, and sweet-faced girls from the hinterlands were no longer blindedby wood alcohol, for the real stuff had become plenty easy to get. The Eighteenth Amendment hadconverted us all to grateful outlaws.
We did whatever we liked and dressed in whatever we thought smart and broke rules for the sportof it—diving into public fountains, mixing social classes as casually as we mixed cocktails.There were no longer exclusive balls given for a few people with old money and good names, andeven if there were, no one would have cared to go. Nice girls wore the kind of makeup thatthirty years before would only have been seen on actresses, and actresses were escortedpublicly by the scions of shipping fortunes, and some of them did not even bother to disguisetheir Bronx accents. Girls took to dressing like boys, and though women had obtained the vote,we had swiftly moved on to pursuing flashier freedoms: necking in cars and smoking cigarettesand walking down city streets in flesh-colored stockings.
New York was the capital of commerce and joy, and young people sought us from every direction.They came in droves, to join the kind of party only a great metropolis can host. They came fromwealthy families and farming families, from the north and south and west. They came to avoidkitchens and marriages, to a place where they could reasonably claim to be eighteen forever. Orfor the foreseeable future, anyway, which seemed to us the same thing. They came, mostly, forthe fun—especially the young things, especially the girls.
I cant remember very many now—although there are three, from that last incandescent summer,whom I resist forgetting. They were all marching toward their own secret fates, and long beforethe next decade rolled around, each would escape in her own way—one would be famous, one wouldbe married, and one would be dead.
That is what I want to tell you about: the girls with their short skirts and bright eyes andbig-city dreams.
The girls of 1929.
THE HANDFUL OF WEDDING GUESTS WERE ALREADY assembled in the clapboard Lutheran church on MainStreet, and though they had been waiting for a quarter hour, any stray passerby might havenoticed a lone girl still loitering outside. It was past four oclock on that sleepy Union,Ohio, Sunday, and the dappled afternoon sun played on her high, fine cheekbones and on thestrands of her loosely braided honey-and-bark-colored hair. The girl was just eighteen, and hadgraduated from Unions one-room high school two weeks earlier. If that passerby had bothered toponder her eyes—which were the sweet, translucent brown of Coca-Cola in a glass—he might haverecognized in them a brewing agitation.
She let those eyes drift to the glaze of sun between the tree branches overhead; her lipsparted, and she let out a breath. The homemade dress she wore was of simple white cotton, andthough the style was not entirely appropriate for the event—she had tried, but mostly failed,to sew it in the shorter, sportier fashion now worn in cities—the color marked her as thebride.
Through the narrow windows she could see the guests in their pews and the tall figure of theonly boy in Union who had ever paid her any attention, standing patiently at the altar. He waswearing his fathers black suit, and his sand-colored hair was a little overgrown and rougharound his face, which was big and pleasing but not yet a mans. The sight of him made heragitation worse, and she drew back a little and closed her eyes. Everything had happened soquickly. She hadnt really believed there would be a wedding until that morning, when she wokeup and it suddenly dawned on her that her situation was quite real.
She turned at the sound of her name and saw her best friend, Letty Haubstadt, whose eyes stoodout like two pure blue planets against the white oval of her face. Her dark hair was parteddown the middle and pinned back, and her petite body was clothed in the same black dress andblack tights and black shoes her father always insisted she wear. The sight of Letty reassuredCordelia some, even if her garb was a little funereal for a wedding, and she managed to almostsmile.
“Im sorry it took me so long,” Letty told her, smiling more broadly. Then she untucked thefolded yards of mosquito netting that shed been carrying under her arm, shook it out, and stoodon her tiptoes to arrange it over the taller girls head. “I know your aunt says you dontdeserve one, but I just think it wouldnt be a wedding if the bride wasnt wearing a veil.”
There was a sharp rapping on the windowpane, and both girls looked up to see Cordelias auntIda, her thin lips set in a hard grimace, looking down at them expectantly. Cordelia gave heraunt a curt nod and turned back to her friend.
Letty handed her a bouquet of yellow wildflowers, which she must have picked on the way there,and then asked, “Are you ready?”
Cordelia glanced up to make sure her aunt had returned to her seat, and then pulled the nettingaway from her face so that she could look directly at her friend. She swallowed hard, and said,“Lets go tonight.”
Lettys smile fell, and her face grew pale. “Tonight?”
“Youll never be a star if you stay here.” Cordelia fixed her friend with an intense gaze. Shewas merely saying out loud what they both knew to be true. “The train leaves at six fifty-twofrom the Defiance Station.”
There was only one train a day in that part of the state that would carry you all the way toNew York City—a fact Cordelia had known for years. She knew the timetable by heart, forrunning away was an obsessive fantasy that had carried no special urgency until the dawninghours of that particular day, when the notion that she was to be married had ceased to seemabsurd and faraway, and she had begun to apprehend it with a kind of dread. By the time shedrisen to help her aunt with breakfast, the plot to leave had taken on a decided shape, and
though her mind had pulsed with it all morning, Cordelia had not imagined she might be braveenough to go until she said it out loud to Letty.
There was no discussion. Letty repeated the trains departure time and nodded. Then Cordeliareplaced the netting over her face and followed her friend up the creaking wooden steps to thechurch. She glanced back once, at the little gabled structures—houses and storefronts andchurches—that constituted Union, where she knew everyone by name, and everyone knew her as theparentless girl with the perpetually scraped knees. In a few hours she would be on a train, andall this would be lost to her. By then the dusk would have settled in and the darkness would besoon to follow—and in that part of the world the darkness could go on and on forever, asthough there would never be light again. She hadnt ever been able to tolerate that very well.
Moving up the aisle, toward the head of the church, she could barely feel her own feet. It wasalmost as though she were floating; her movements had become automatic, beyond her control. Agreenish light filtered in through the narrow windows along the sidewalls, beneath the high,peaked ceiling with its unfinished wood beams. Johns parents and younger brothers were situatedon one side of the aisle, and on the other sat her aunt, with that same grimace, in an oldflowered dress with a large white lace collar, and Uncle Jeb, in his overalls, with her cousin,Michael, between them. In the pew behind her aunt and uncle sat Lettys two sisters, Louisa andLaura, wearing the same tight, old-fashioned bun.
In Union, the Haubstadt family was known for their dairy farm, for their austerity andreligious reverence, and for having worn all black since the death of Mrs. Haubstadt, duringthe birth of Lettys youngest sister, six years ago. She was remembered by her children as asaint, and Cordelia couldnt argue: Any woman who withstood the tempers and severe expectationsof old man Haubstadt deserved some kind of deification, although it seemed to Cordelia like adubious achievement, not to mention a questionable use of ones time on this Earth. In thefamily photographs, Mrs. Haubstadt appeared almost comically small when situated beside herhusband. Of the five siblings, only Letty was petite like her mother. “The little one,” theothers called her, and they treated her as though her size made her invisible.
The faces of each guest turned toward the bride, and though some of them tried to smile, theireyes seemed to say, I know what youve done.
Lest their looks cut her, Cordelia reminded herself that she was only half one of them. Whileher mother had been raised in Union, the other half of Cordelia came from some glittering, far-off place, and like Letty, she was too big for the town shed grown up in. Letty was right,Cordelia now realized with some relief, to have insisted on a veil. Not only to protect herfrom the guests’ stares and the judgment in their expressions, but also because of John, whowas now reaching for her hands. His eyes were shining, but she could not meet them. She didntwant any memory of the happy, expectant way he was gazing at her.
She wanted to remember John Field the way he had been on the day after graduation, when theydgone down to the place where the creek gets deep, and she had declared she wasnt going to ruina perfectly good slip by swimming in it, and that if she went naked, he was going to have to,too. John had swallowed hard and watched her as he pulled his own clothes over his head andfollowed her lead into the swimming hole, running in to the knees, diving headfirst after that.Later they had crawled onto the pebbly bank, shivering and breathless from the cold. In thesunshine it had been so hot, you might have burned the bottoms of your feet, but in the shadowsthere was a chill. Then shed kissed him, burrowing against him for warmth, and when shed gottenbored of that, she had told him not to hold back the way they usually did. At first hedinsisted they shouldnt, but eventually he couldnt resist her. His eyes were green, and they hadgazed into hers, impressed, a little fearful, full of wonder. What hed done hurt at first, butthen it was over, too quickly, and shed wanted to go on feeling that new sweet, searing painall over again.
And she might have too, without any real consequence, had her cousin Michael not been peepingand run all the way home to tell Aunt Ida. When Cordelia had returned to help prepare theevening meal, there was blood on her slip and her hair was a mess, so it was impossible to lie
about what shed done. Not that she wanted to.
“Just like your mother,” Aunt Ida had said, pressing her furious lips together so that thedeep, vertical wrinkles below her nose emerged.
Just like your mother was what Aunt Ida always said, even when Cordelia was a little girl,whenever she was late for church or slow fetching water from the well, or when she became toohappy or too sullen. Just like your mother, until young Cordelia began to wear the admonishment
like a badge of pride. Just like your mother, Aunt Ida had repeated over and again as she
bullied John, and Dr. and Mrs. Field, and Cordelia herself into agreeing to a private ceremonyin the Lutheran church on Main, on the next convenient Sunday afternoon. Thus Aunt Ida securedtwo things she had always wanted in one fell swoop: her trouble-seeking niece out of her hairforever and the whole transaction sanctified in her favorite place, Gods house.
Even standing with John now, at the front of the mostly empty church, all Cordelia could thinkof was escape. For though he was handsome and good, he would never be enough for her, and shecould not help but anticipate the next fifty years of bleak winters and church picnics andscreaming babies as no more than dreary distractions on the way to the grave. Not when she hadthat burning curiosity to see what lay beyond the straight-laid streets of Union, with itschurch spires and few lone telephone wires and its surrounding farms. Not when she knew forsure that her curiosity would scorch her if she didnt heed it. No, she wanted to see the world,and even as she promised to be Johns forever, in her head she was planning how to steal awaylong enough to grab her case—already packed with the few things she would be taking to theFields—and slip out the back window onto the alley, and make her way to the station for the6:52 train that went all night to New York City, where she had been born.
When she heard her aunt clearing her throat, Cordelia realized that she had missed everythingFather Andersen had said, including his prompting to her one and only line.
“I do,” she said, closing her eyes so John wouldnt see the dishonesty in them, and hoping hedforgive her someday.
Then Father Andersen pronounced them man and wife, and John moved toward her and folded thenetting back over the crown of her head. She was almost shocked to look at him straight on,with no barrier between them, but when he put his mouth to hers, it was in the same soft,intentional way hed always kissed her before. Someone—probably her aunt—let out an audiblesigh of relief. It was not until the newly married couple had turned to walk back down theaisle that Cordelia realized it was the last kiss John would ever give her.
THEY HEARD THE TRAIN A WHILE BEFORE THEY SAW IT, just as they passed out of the woods thatseparated Union, Ohio, from the next town over, and it was about that time that both girlsbroke into a run. Letty was shocked by how rapidly the trains noise approached, the screech ofsteel wheels against steel tracks. She looked over her shoulder to see how it towered overthem, but Cordelia, her long legs moving as fast as possible, did not turn her head once. Thecars shot by them, rearranging the sun-touched strands around Cordelias face. Lettys bun wastoo firmly in place for that, but her old peacoat flapped open as she tried to keep up.
Cordelia was a year ahead of her in school and always spoke with an enviable sureness. As longas theyd been friends, shed told Letty that they were both too good for Union, that somedaytheyd find a way out. But Letty had always known it. Shed known since she was a little girlthat there was something special about her. The way she moved, the purity of her voice—she hadan attention-drawing quality that her mother used to call her “magic.” And Mother had been atrue beauty whod danced with the Cleveland ballet when she was young, before shed met Father.She used to whisper that Letty was her favorite, the most gifted of her children, when theydhad their dance lessons on the first-floor parlor of the big house on Main Street—back whenthey were a happy family, before Mother was taken from them and Father decreed that dancing wasone of the devils tricks and that there would be no nicknames in the Haubstadt clan and begancalling her Letitia, her given name.
Up ahead, at the Defiance Station, the waiting passengers stepped forward across the platformin anticipation. There was a flurry of activity—everyone shouting, luggage being thrustupward, boys whod been raised on farms saying good-bye to their mothers for a long time. Theyprobably wore new coats over humble denim, which would of course give them away. But then, thedour quality of Lettys own dress and her straitlaced bun also gave her away, too, as theproduct of a very backward place. In the city, she used to like to tell herself before she fellasleep, all her most brilliant qualities would be instantly recognized and celebrated. Foryears, she had dreamed of going there—only, she could scarcely believe that dream was nowabout to become real, on this summer evening in mid-May of the year 1929.
That is, if she could keep her pace up. She had become breathless, and her legs were tired, andthe duffel she carried over her narrow shoulders must have grown in size since theyd leftUnion. It seemed to weigh almost as much as her younger sister Laura, who still demandedpiggyback rides even though she was tall for her age, and even though their father frowned uponthat sort of thing.
Up ahead the conductor yelled, “All aboard!”
“Wait!” Cordelia tried to yell, but her lungs were working hard already.
The porters had finished loading the crates of red berries and milk onto the freight car downthe line, and all the passengers had disappeared behind the high glass windows. The family andfriends who had come from miles around to wish them good-bye had stepped back. Beyond thestation, the land stretched out, revealing clusters of clapboard houses and farms.
“All aboard!” the conductor bellowed, and then turned and took hold of the iron handle topull himself up.
The girls were still a good way down the tracks, and in a moment of horror, Letty saw that theywere going to miss the train. Then she would have no place to go home to. For once Fatherrealized she was gone, he would never permit her to return. Father did not tolerate disloyaltyor what he would deem frivolous daydreams. Summoning all the power her voice was capable of,Letty lifted her free arm and sang out, “Wait! Wait for us!”
The conductor paused, holding on to the side of the train, and squinted in their direction.
“Please, wait!” Lettys voice rang out.
“All aboard!” the conductor yelled.
They kept up their pace as they climbed the steps at the edge of the platform, and by the timethey reached the conductor, their cheeks were rosy with exertion.
“Two more,” Cordelia managed once they were just in front of him.
“I can see that.” The conductor jumped down so the girls could go ahead of him into the car.Cordelia reached back for Lettys hand, and they ascended the ladder together. Letty barelynoticed the rungs—they were only moving up into the train, and then down the car, along theaisle between green felt-covered seats. The bells began to clang, and the doors slammed shut,sealing the passengers in.
“I cant believe it.” Lettys voice was musical with wonder. “I cant believe were reallyleaving!”
“I thought we wouldnt make it,” Cordelia returned in the same awestruck tone, as her breathslowed to normal.
Letty nodded in agreement. The terror of having to go back to the Haubstadt home ebbed, and inher relief she began to laugh. The laughter became contagious as they located their seats andfell into them. Cordelia went first, sitting close to the window, and Letty followed, slumpingagainst her shoulder in giggles.
It had not occurred to Letty, in all the furious excitement of leaving, that it would costanything to ride a train. But before she could reply, Cordelia had taken a worn notebook fromthe inside pocket of the old trench she wore, and from the middle pages she removed an envelope
stuffed with bills.
“Names?” the conductor demanded, as he positioned his pencil over two soft red booklets.
“Cordelia Grey and Letitia Haubstadt,” Cordelia announced, handing over the fare.
“Actually, its just Letty now,” she corrected brightly, twisting to face the conductor. Sheplucked the ticket back from his hand, and then taking his pencil, carefully began to rewritethe name hed entered for her. “Letty Larkspur.”
There was a touch of knowing disdain in the way he punched their tickets, but Letty decided toignore the contortion at the corner of his mouth. “To the end of the line?” he concluded.
“Yes,” said Cordelia. “To New York City.”
“Well get there sometime tomorrow afternoon.”
“Yes, I know,” she replied, in that crisp voice that brushed aside any criticism or doubt.That voice had been used over the years to protect herself and Letty both—from cruelclassmates and bullying siblings and Lettys own doubts. Even now, Letty shuddered at the ideaof bearing Union alone, without her friends protection.
As the conductor moved down the aisle, greeting the other passengers, Cordelia put her feet upagainst the back of the next row of seats, stretching her long legs, turning the scuffed,narrow toes of her boots in toward each other. She slouched into her seat, sinking until theywere the same height; when she turned her face to her left, her eyes just met Lettys.
“So what do you think?” Letty whispered, almost afraid to hear the opinion she nonethelessbadly wanted.
“What do I think of what?”
“My new name.” She paused and widened her eyes. “Letty Larkspur!”
“You do?” Letty whispered, relieved, even though shed known in her heart that the name shehad chosen was incomparably pretty. Shed been turning over those four syllables in her mind fora long time now, to make herself feel better during a long workday, or almost humming them justbefore she went to sleep, telling herself that everything would be different once she was knownby them. That then, finally, her life would be buoyant and shiny and worthy of notice.
Cordelia pressed the back of her head into the seat and smiled wide. “I think its perfect foryou.”
“Isnt it?” Letty squeezed her eyes closed. “Doesnt it sound like the kind of girl who stepsoff the train into a big city and stumbles into a series of lucky breaks, each new one moreglorious than the last, until she is known all around town and her name is up in lights?” Thesun outside was fading, but what was left of it was playing in Lettys blue eyes. Cordeliareached over and drew the pins from Lettys hair so that it fell in straight, dark strandsaround her shoulders. “Doesnt it sound like the kind of name that almost guarantees Ill be afamous singer? Doesnt it sound like me?”
“Yes, it sounds just like you. Except—you in the big city, far away from drab parlors and thesmall-minded people who occupy them, and their itsy-bitsy idea of the world.”
“The version of me wearing fur coats, with a puppy under my arm, and a retinue.”
“Yes, a retinue. A chauffeur and a maid and a cook—”
“Yes!” Letty sighed and shook her hair loose around the prim collar of her black dress.
Besides the three Haubstadt girls, there were two boys who wore their hair with militarybrevity and the same black trousers and shirts every day, even in the late-summer heat, evenwhen they worked twelve-hour days on the family dairy farm. It hadnt always been like that—herfather had been a joyful person once, but that was a long time ago, when Mother was still there
to show him how. He must have been happy when they were married, because people were alwayshappy when they got married.
But then Letty remembered the events of the day, and realized that was perhaps not always true.“How John must be crying,” she said softly, thinking what a tender person was at the core of
There was to haveI do.that tall, strong boy and how sincere he had sounded when hed said,
been a celebration at the Fields’ that evening, and Letty thought of all those uneaten pieswith pity, for surely no one in their house was in a festive mood now. John had been a worseone than Letty for following Cordelia around, hanging on her words, trusting in whatever shethought was interesting or correct, and it pained her to imagine him alone back in Union andyearning terribly. But that pain gave way to another melancholy realization: Lettys own fleshand blood probably had not heeded her absence with even half so much woe.
“John isnt the kind to cry.” Cordelia spoke with a sad certainty as she pulled the skirt ofher dress down over her knees.
“I cant believe we made it,” Letty marveled again, because she could see her friend didntwant to pursue the topic. But some of the glitter had gone out of her voice now, and there wasa tightness in her throat.
“Well, we havent made it yet,” Cordelia corrected.
But as if in response, the train lurched into motion. And though Letty was afraid of what shehad done, she was relieved, too, that she wouldnt have to sit around that sad, silent dinnertable anymore, always doing as her father told her, and her tender ears would no longer beexposed to his shouting when he was in one of his foul moods. She leaned forward and began toundo the tight lacing of her boots. Once she had shucked them, she folded her black stockingedfeet under her thighs and put her head against her friends shoulder.
“We havent made it yet, but we did make it out of Union.” Letty closed her eyes and tried todwell only on the audaciousness, and not the sadness, of their feat.
“Yes!” Cordelia replied, and then she turned to gaze a final time at the only world shed everknown. It was a landscape Cordelia felt no love for: Dull and repetitive, any beauty in thegreenery only reminding her how bare and brown everything would soon enough become, before theharsh winter. That monotonous and familiar brown that infused everything as seasons stacked upinto years. And yet as Cordelia placed a palm against the window, what she saw outside didcause her to feel something like surprise.
The tallest boy in Union High Schools class of ‘29 sat on a pile of railroad ties east of thestation, watching her. His legs too long, bent upwards, elbows rested on knees, the boyishnessof his features suddenly effaced by sorrow. The cuffs of the white dress shirt he had worn tothe ceremony were rolled up, and his tie had been removed, so that his Adams apple created apoignant shadow in the dying light. His feet were too large for his lean limbs, and they lookedespecially ridiculous in the fancy borrowed shoes he wore. As the train went past, Cordeliaseyes met his, but he didnt raise a hand to make even the slightest wave. It was as though hehad been sitting there a while, waiting to see her pass. He must have realized she had leftsome time before, and then guessed where shed be going.
But a train travels faster than she could ever have imagined, and with cruel concision, he wasgone.
Cordelia gazed out at the cabins on the horizon line, with their kerosene lanterns in thewindows. The sky was heavily curtained with purple now, and the small towns and the greatspaces in between passed by at a speed that she had known was possible but had neverexperienced. It was all receding into their past just as quickly as they could have hoped,framed neatly by the trains rectangular, black-rimmed windows.
“I walked right out the front door,” Letty murmured. The lids of her eyes were falling shut,each word following the last more slowly now as the haziness of sleep settled around her. Nodoubt her day had been long already—she must have been up with the dawn, milking cows,finishing her chores so as to be on time for the wedding—and when she started talking of sad
things, she often became tired and withdrawn. “None of them even noticed.”
Cordelia watched her friends face, which was as quiet and white as the moon, though it glowedwith the full vibrancy of the life beneath the skin.
“Louisa was making dinner, I guess, and the boys mustve still been on the farm …”
Despite her familys long history of insensibility, Cordelia knew her friend was wounded bytheir final indifference, by their failure to recognize that she was leaving forever. It wasobvious in the way Letty had gone limp against her shoulder.
“They probably wont even realize until, one day, they open the newspaper and find the nameLetty Larkspur … which I suppose wont mean anything to them. But they will recognize the
picture next to it … maybe a picture of me onstage, during a standing ovation, heaps of rosesat my feet …”
By the time Letty trailed off, her eyes were sealed shut and her lips had parted just slightlyso she could exhale the soft, warm breaths of the unconscious.
Cordelia was relieved she didnt have to respond. Escaping Union for the big city was the ideathat had bonded Letty and Cordelia to one another, but Cordelia was an altogether more durablecreature than her friend, and she knew nothing came so easily as all that—especially fame andfortune and all those treasures that everyone desires.
Perhaps it was this sharper sense of the realities of life that made Cordelia tight-lippedabout her own dream. She had allowed her best friend—her only friend, really—to believe shewas simply running for the fun of it. But the real reason was the kind of story an orphan girlcan feed on for years, and she knew in some buried way that if anyone had questioned or doubtedit, she might have had to curl up and die.
Outside, Ohio fell away in the night; she was traveling at unprecedented speed toward the placeshe had always dreamed of going back to. The other passengers in the car had stopped talking.It was quiet, and the lights above had dimmed. If she could have foreseen everything that wasto happen in the next couple of weeks, how sleepless and manic and full they would be, shemight have tried to get some rest, too. But her eyes were wild, and there was so muchelectricity in every corner of her head and heart—she was too alive with awake dreams to tryto have any of the other variety. She wanted to see the sun coming up in another state, andeverything else the world had been holding just out of her reach.
THE MARSH ESTATE WAS DECEPTIVELY NAMED, FOR THE grounds were expertly manicured by a team often gardeners so that its appearance would have none of the wildness that name might otherwiseconjure. The place was called Marsh only because the man who had built it had been calledMarsh. It sat on the lovely finger of land that marked the eastern border of White Cove, on thenorth shore of Long Island—a short drive to Wall Street and all the money that was made there,but a long way from the citys more sordid quarters.
The impossibly green lawns were populated as far as the eye could see by a hundred varieties oftree, many imported from the English countryside. Beneath the arbor of their branches walked agirl wearing loose-fitting, pale peach silk pajamas, an old tennis visor, and a mink jacketthat was short enough to reveal the fast cadence of her slim hips, even though it was lateenough in the day that somewhere, people were already dressing for dinner, and a season whenfur is hardly necessary.
Her name was Astrid Donal. She had a full head of egg yolk yellow hair, cut so that its tipscurled against her jaw, and the soft, heart-shaped face of a girl young enough to still have ataste for sweets but old enough to have been quite frequently kissed. If she had been asked thetime, she might have guessed from recent experience that it was no longer morning, but it wouldhave been impossible for her to name the exact hour. As for the coat, it was merely anaberration of Astrids temperament that she often felt cold when no one else did. But now, asshe wandered across the lawns, she began to feel truly warm, and let the mink slip from her