Cover image for Angel trumpet : a Civil War mystery
Angel trumpet : a Civil War mystery
McMillan, Ann, 1952-
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Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 206 pages ; 24 cm
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Another unique Civil War mystery starring our intriguing crime-solvers: Judah Daniel, a free black doctoress; Narcissa Powers, a white nurse; and the British journalist, Brit Wallace. As the South waits impatiently to engage the Federals again, Confederate Colonel John Berton returns from the front to find his father, mother, and wife with their throats cut, and the servants nearby with knives in their hands. Despite this evidence, other puzzling clues suggest that the crime is not in fact a result of a slave revolt: The slaves appear catatonic, and the wounds do not match the weapons they are holding. An Army surgeon calls in Judah and Narcissa to investigate. While they are questioning the servants, another murder occurs, for which Judah Daniel is accused. Time begins to run out, and their journey to find the truth becomes dangerous as they risk their own lives to save others from becoming the latest victims.

Author Notes

Ann McMillan is the author of "Dead March" & "Angel Trumpet", the first two books in this series. Born in Georgia, she lives near Richmond, Virginia.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Narcissa Powers, a white widowed nurse, and Judah Daniel, a free black healer, as well as many secondary characters introduced in McMillan's debut Civil War mystery, 1998's Dead March, return for a second outing. In Richmond, Va., in October 1861, with the war at a temporary lull, Col. John Berton returns from the front to find his parents and wife slain and his house slaves in a stupor. The fear of slave rebellions is intense; if Berton's slaves committed the murders, it is important not only that they be punished, but that word of the slaughter be kept quiet. For not only might the news inspire further uprisings, but it could sap the will of the soldiers who have left loved ones behind. Surgeon Cameron Archer, Powers and Daniel find themselves unlikely and uneasy allies as each tries to unravel the same mystery for different reasons. McMillan's descriptions of 19th-century medicine, transportation and social customs are fascinating, but the novel's frequent shifts in viewpoint give it an episodic feel that blunts its dramatic thrust. Even so, this is a solid entry in a series of high interest and great promise. Agent, Nancy Yost. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Narcissa Powers, a rich white widow, and Judah Daniel, a free black herbalist, tackle another puzzling murder. They investigate the bizarre slaughter of a colonel's entire family near Richmond. A solid, satisfying Civil War-era historical. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One CHAMPS-ELYSÉES PLANTATION, NORTHERN VIRGINIA "Oh, I don't believe in ghosts," Narcissa Powers said, then wondered why she'd made the statement. It wasn't that she wanted to stop the old woman from telling the tale she had offered up. A distraction from musing on this fool's errand, and on the high-handed doctor who had requested it, would be welcome. Anyway, saying I don't believe in ghosts was like saying, You can't scare me . The very need to make the assertion called its veracity into question. Narcissa smiled at her own naïveté.     Auntie Lora smiled in return, revealing soft gums where a few teeth leaned like ancient gravestones. Three women--the young white widow Narcissa, the old slave Auntie Lora, and the free black doctoress Judah Daniel--sat snapping the ends off beans and tossing the beans into one pot for the day's meal, the ends into another pot for the hogs. The clearing where they sat held a dozen slave cabins made of boards rough-hewn from the huge oaks and chestnuts that had grown there once. Now the forest was returning, sending out onto the bare dirt a tangle of waist-high trees and honeysuckle from which crickets sang their maddening one-note song.     "That is," Narcissa added, her expression growing thoughtful, "I do believe that the souls of the dead are interested in us. Even that they may linger on earth to right some wrong." She thought of her brother Charley, who had died in the spring, and of how, after his death, his spirit had seemed to guide her through the frightening events that followed. "But I believe they wish to help us, not to hurt us."     The old woman nodded. "Well, miss," she said at last, "supposing they hurt. Suppose their suffering in life was so bad that they died wanting nothing more than to hurt back." She stopped and looked at Narcissa with a humoring condescension. "Nice lady such as you be, I reckon you can't understand how people could be so hate-filled. But maybe you understand this better: supposing they love. They love a thing here on earth so much that they can't stand to leave it when they die, even to get to the heavenly kingdom."     Auntie Lora paused to let the thought settle, her gap-toothed smile widening. "But the dead and their feelings don't belong here amongst the living. Gets things all jangled up. Folks say that's what cause a place to be haunted. Like Champs-Elysées."     Auntie Lora's eyes shifted over Narcissa's head. Narcissa turned, following her gaze to the top of the hill, about a quarter-mile distant, where the magnificent plantation house called Champs-Elysées stood overlooking the Potomac. The house had been built more than a century before of brick brought over from England, built as the fashionable new dwelling for a son whose name was one of the most ancient in the colony. On this side was visible the shallow portico whose four columns rose almost the height of the house, surmounted by an elegant pediment. Sinuous vines of wisteria as old as the house softened the severity of its perfection.     Narcissa and Judah Daniel had come to Champs-Elysées at the request of Dr. Cameron Archer to meet his cousin Jordan Archer. She was expected this day, returning at last from the Maryland boarding school where illness had detained her through the summer. Narcissa and Judah Daniel were to bring her back to Richmond. It was an extension, to say the least, of both women's duties at the medical college hospital supervised by Dr. Archer. But the surgeon had a way of giving orders that made it easier to acquiesce than to refuse, however good the reason for refusal.     As the plantation was close to the Potomac, and to the armies camped on the river's northern and southern borders, its portable treasures had been removed to Richmond months before. But the Federal army that had been driven back at Manassas could march again at any moment and engulf Champs-Elysées. So the house remained deserted, guarded most nights by one or another of the soldiers from the Confederate encampment about ten miles away. Today--drawn no doubt by the news of Jordan Archer's expected arrival--the pickets were at their post earlier and in greater numbers than usual.     Narcissa turned back to find the old woman's eyes on her. Narcissa smiled inwardly. The ladies of Champs-Elysées no doubt stay aloof from this kind of work. So what does she see when she looks at me? She selected a bean from the pile in her apron. I'm not quite a lady, but not a servant . Snap! the stem was off. A widow, by my clothes . Snap! with the help of her thumbnail, the blossom end was off. Drop the bean into the iron pot on the left, the ends into the pot on the right. Select another bean. In straitened circumstances, perhaps, but young enough to marry again, pretty enough. Death, danger, loss of hope have come close to me, but they haven't marked me. Have they?     "You, now, Judah Daniel." Auntie Lora's gaze shifted to the third woman. "You understand about them lost souls well enough, I'll be bound."     "I do that, Auntie Lora. I do that," was Judah Daniel's reply.     Narcissa watched the two exchange a look and felt oddly excluded. The talk about ghosts had taken her back to a time only a few months past--a time when buried evil and living madness had combined to threaten both Narcissa and Judah Daniel. She had come to think of Judah Daniel as an ally. Now she was reminded of the gap that remained between them. Judah Daniel and Auntie Lora, within moments of their meeting, seemed to read each other's thoughts. Yet apart from their brown skin, the two could hardly be more different. Judah Daniel was lean, sharp-eyed, with a perceptible power that ran through her even when she held herself quiet and still. Auntie Lora's eyes were clouded, and she slumped as if bone-weary. Her ankles, visible where she sat with her slippered feet propped up on a pile of feed sacks, were swollen to elephantine size--the result, Narcissa assumed, of some dropsical condition.     What would be best to treat it? Narcissa's nursing experience now included every conceivable injury of war, as well as those plagues endemic to the campgrounds--measles, mumps, dysentery, fevers--but not dropsy. Her brother Charley's medical books might have something about it. But no doubt Judah Daniel had already made her diagnosis and thought out whatever bark, roots, or berries she would need to help the old woman with the time-honored arts of the herb doctor. Narcissa resolved to ask her about it later.     The sun was getting high, and it was hot. Narcissa looked over at the foot-high pile of snap beans still waiting their preparation and sighed a little. "Tell us about the ghosts of Champs-Elysées," she said to Auntie Lora.     The old woman was drawing her breath to begin the story when a whoop rang out up at the house. The women's hands fell still as they peered up toward the source of the commotion. Was the long-awaited battle at last engaged? Narcissa wondered for a moment, then dismissed the thought. She had heard no shots, no alarums. She rose, shaking the beans from her apron back onto the pile, and started running toward the house. She glanced back to see Judah Daniel close behind her. Even Auntie Lora was making surprisingly quick progress, walking in a fast, hitching stride.     At the top of the rise she could see four young soldiers fairly jumping up and down with excitement, could see coming along the road a cloud of dust that swirled around a figure bent low over the horse's mane, cloak streaming in the wind. As Narcissa came up, one of the boys turned to her and shouted, "It's her! It's Miss Archer!" Narcissa looked again. Yes, she could see that the figure rode sidesaddle.     With a drumroll of hooves and an ever more frenzied outcry from the soldiers--whose number had somehow swelled to a half-dozen--Jordan Archer rode up to the wide verandah with which Champs-Elysées fronted the river. The boys rushed forward, each offering his hand to her, but she slipped from the saddle unaided and swept through them, acknowledging their clamorous welcome with an elated smile. Jordan's heavy blond hair--which Narcissa had taken for a windblown cape--had come loose from its netting and streamed down her back almost to the hem of her emerald-hued riding jacket. Her triangular smile dimpled her cheeks and spoke of mischief. As she tugged off her pearl-colored kid gloves finger by finger, she looked around her, thin brows drawn down over her bright blue eyes. Then the frown vanished and her smile burst wide. She rushed past the others into the arms of Auntie Lora. Narcissa wondered what it must feel like to the young soldiers, to wish for a moment to change places with an old slave woman.     After a bit, Auntie Lora held Jordan away and frowned up into her beaming face. "Don't you be telling me you done rode all this way with no escort."     Jordan laughed. "No, Auntie, beat them here, is all. There's a slow old wagon with all my trunks should be here in a half hour or so. Is there anything to drink? I'm parched!" Jordan pulled out the pins that anchored the little straw hat, tore it off, and began to fan herself with it.     Arm in arm with Auntie Lora, Jordan mounted the wide stairs of Champs-Elysées, Narcissa and Judah Daniel following behind. At the top of the stairs, she looked back over her shoulder and called to the young men gathered below, "I want you all to come for supper this evening, as many of you as can. I'll send a letter to your commanding officer." Jordan turned to Auntie Lora but spoke loudly enough so the young men could hear. "I saw some chickens in the yard. Better we feed them to our boys than let the Yankees get them." The soldiers hollered approval. Jordan glanced at them over her shoulder and went on. "This will be the last gathering at Champs-Elysées, until we drive the Yankees out once and for all!" For the next three hours, Narcissa worked alongside Judah Daniel and Auntie Lora to prepare a meal of plain country fare. They fried chicken, sliced sweet-cured Virginia ham, beat dough into biscuits and pie crusts, finished the snap beans, and put them on to simmer with chunks of red-streaked pork fat.     Jordan changed from her dusty riding habit into a girlish white dress and occupied herself pulling gowns, shoes, and swaths of lace from the trunks she had brought back from Washington. When Auntie Lora gave her a talking-to, she stuffed most of them back in, saving out a few from which to choose her ensemble for dinner. Apparently chastened, Jordan joined Narcissa in laying the table--boards placed on trestles brought up from the kitchen, covered with a mended linen cloth--with whatever odds and ends of cutlery had not already been shipped south to Jordan's relations in Richmond.     Narcissa saw Jordan eyeing her with interest, making no secret of surveying her black dress, and was not surprised when the girl came out with an abrupt question. "Who is it for--your mourning?"     Narcissa went on folding the napkin she held. "For my husband, almost three years ago now; and my brother, eight months ago."     "Oh" Jordan replied, "not a soldier then. You could be in half-mourning by now?"     She looked a question, but Narcissa only smiled in response. Jordan persevered. "It's too melancholic. Especially on this day, the day Champs-Elysées is to be left desolate for the first time in a hundred and thirty years. I have an idea!" Now she was staring frankly at Narcissa's face and figure. "I believe you can wear my dark red silk. The color's so dark it's practically half-mourning. Everyone says it's too old for me anyway, and I've lost so much weight with the scarlet fever, it would swallow me."     Narcissa had to laugh at the young girl's unself-conscious rudeness. At seventeen, would she herself have so patronized a woman of four-and-twenty?     "There!" Jordan exclaimed, holding up the napkin she had been folding so that it framed Narcissa's face. "You are so much prettier when you smile"     Torn between amusement and irritation, Narcissa nevertheless remembered the moment that morning when she had seen Jordan ride up, glowing like a jewel in brilliant green--when she had looked down at her own familiar black and felt herself wanting to shake it off, to fly free. THE CONFEDERATE ENCAMPMENT NEAR LEESBURG, VIRGINIA The sun was low, the air was cooling, the sky a spotless expanse of blue. The moon that would rise later was just off the full. Here in "Camp Havoc"--named for its "dogs of war" mongrels that kept up a continual reconnaissance for scraps--a comfortable monotony reigned.     Camp Havoc had commenced its daily preparations for dinner in the midafternoon. The men had become crack cooks, striving to outdo one another in inventing new dishes from the wealth of meats and produce provided by the store tent, or sold or traded to them by the country people.     Brit Wallace had copied out the day's bill of fare for a dispatch to his newspaper, the Weekly Argus of London. Soups: beef Virginia style and mutton à la francais . Roasts: beef à la mode, shoat stuffed with vegetables, mouton French style. Entrees: beans, potatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, peas. Wines and liquors: whiskey, brandy (a home-brewed variety called "red-eye"), and cider. Dessert: cakes, rice pudding, monkey pudding, apple dumplings, fruit, coffee.     The dinner had been a success, only the mutton soup having been ruled inedible and given to the eager dogs. The well-fed men had settled to games of cards and marbles. Those not made sedentary by the heavy meal tossed a football and scrambled for it on a patch of ground worn smooth by past games.     Brit threaded his way through the tents and came out onto a group of about a dozen soldiers dressed in dusty fatigues lounging in the clearing--some playing cards, some reading. Those who happened to glance his way hailed him with a laconic wave or nod. In the ten days he had spent at this encampment near the Potomac, the British journalist had ceased to be a cause for remark. At first the soldiers had sought him out to boast of exploits at Manassas or state in the strongest terms their desire to cross the river and invade the oppressor's land. Then they had settled back into what had been their pursuit for the last month and a half, since they had won the field at Manassas: waiting.     Brit had grown accustomed to them, as well. He had heard all their stories at least twice, and some of their tales he had written up and sent off to the Argus . He had separated in his mind the quietly courageous from the braggarts, the comradely men from the thieves and cheats. "In every ten, six true men" he had heard, and the proportion seemed about right to him.     Now he, too, was waiting.     He spotted the one he was looking for, a slender, fair-haired youth who seemed to be engaged in writing upon slips of paper. Brit smiled to himself. Archer Langdon was only seventeen, but already battle-tested, having acquitted himself well at Manassas. The young man had become Brit's personal guide through the intricacies of army routine and the even greater intricacies involved in escaping that routine. Langdon had just returned from picket duty, and Brit looked forward to hearing an account. The previous week Brit had sent off a dispatch to the Argus concerning the escape of Langdon and his friends (names omitted, of course) from camp to a party in Centreville. Disguised in rags, faces blackened with burned cork, the boy and three friends had got themselves an evening's freedom by raising such a ruckus with an old fiddle that their own captain had given the order, "Turn those darkies out of my camp!"     As Brit approached, Langdon looked up, motioned him over. "I know you are in funds," the boy said, "since you won most of my pay at poker. So here"--he held out his fist, in which were gathered perhaps a dozen slips of paper--"it's a lottery. A dollar a chance."     "What's the prize?" asked Brit, crouching on his haunches beside the boy.     "Supper at Champs-Elysées, with my cousin Jordan Archer as hostess. Jordan is a madcap, not one to tell tales on a fellow, and Champs-Elysées is quite worth seeing. One of the foremost plantations on the Potomac, fine example of the grand old style, etc., etc. But it can only be tonight. She has just come down from Maryland, where she was detained with an illness, and tomorrow she leaves for Richmond. Of course, it's quite good luck Colonel Berton is away--" Brit understood what he left unsaid: discipline would be looser in the colonel's absence.     "Champs-Elysées?" Brit asked with interest. "Is that the house that is supposed to be haunted?" He settled onto the ground next to Langdon, stretched out his legs, and began the business of lighting his pipe.     "Well," said Langdon, lowering his voice, "it's true no one wants to pull picket duty there. It's a lonely spot at night, and one does hear noises. It's all foolishness, of course" he added airily. "But the story ... well, you should ask Cousin Jordan. She tells it with great conviction. She grew up there, lived there till she was fourteen, then got packed off to a female seminary in Maryland. She ran away twice" he added, smiling his approval for his cousin's spirited behavior. "Found she could crawl out her window, shinny down the drainpipe, then launch herself out over the rose hedge and land on the grass."     Brit smiled, thinking of his fearless sister, the youngest child in his family of boys. Yes, he might like to meet this hoyden. He hid his interest, concentrating on the tobacco he was tamping into his pipe. "How much are you asking for your chances?"     "There are ten slips here. I thought I might find ten fellows who'd be willing to spend a dollar on the chance of an evening's diversion."     A few of the regular poker players had already won the pay--and in some cases, several months' future pay--of the others. Brit himself had been one of the lucky ones. Archer Langdon had not.     "Um. Just a moment," Brit said. He rose and strolled over to the fire, stuck in a twig and held it there until it flamed, then applied it to his pipe. As he did so, his eyes scanned the scene before him. Free from the ennobling presence of mothers, wives, and sweethearts, the men had gradually sunk into a state in which any urge to slouch, spit, or scratch was indulged without restraint. Brit made his decision: a visit to Champs-Elysées was just the adventure the evening called for. And a haunted plantation house would surely yield a dispatch for the Argus .     He returned to Langdon's side, puffing busily to keep the pipe lit, then said, "Look: you'll get nothing but `Order on Paymaster' from most of these fellows. Put away your slips, and I'll cancel your debt to me. Twelve dollars, that's more than a month's pay. More than fair" he added persuasively.     Langdon looked very serious. "Cancel my debt, and five dollars in cash."     "Five dollars! Is your cousin a siren?     "Four dollars. She is said to be quite a belle."     "Three!" Brit countered.     "Four. There is another lady there as well, for chaperone, butt--" A slight smile and raise of the eyebrows completed the thought: the other lady was attractive, too.     "Very well," Brit said with a sigh. "Four."     Langdon grinned and stretched his hand out. Brit pulled his notebook from his coat pocket and fished out a roll of notes, still crisp from their recent printing. He fanned through notes issued for values ranging from fifty cents to fifty dollars; issued by the Confederate States of America, by the various states, even one issued by the city of Staunton. Payable one year from date, Payable two years from date . Some featured Liberty, an idealized female figure posed with a Phrygian cap, familiar emblem of the French Revolution; some depicted slaves at work in a field of cotton. Appropriate, that, since the notes were backed not by gold, which with the election of Lincoln had become a hoarded commodity in the South, but by cotton. He peeled off two two-dollar bills and handed them to Langdon.     His action caught the eye of the nearby poker players, who had just folded their cards. "Care for a game?" called one loser, ever hopeful. Brit shook his head and put his money back in his pocket.     The winner was raking in a pile that included banknotes, handwritten "Order on Paymaster" notes, a novel in a battered cover, and a pipe with a curved stem. He was an Irishman named O'Donnell, in civilian life a brick mason, now a private in the Confederate army. Langdon and O'Donnell were as unlike as two men could be, almost, Brit mused. O'Donnell, with his rough black beard and reddened blue eyes that disappeared into creases when he smiled, was a shaggy old mongrel; the slender and beardless Langdon a greyhound pup of the best blood. But both had drilled, and marched, and risked their lives at Manassas, and they now belonged to a brotherhood whose response to the beating of the long roll was as instinctive as the hound's to the hunter's horn.     O'Donnell rose, cradling his winnings in his arm, and came to stand by them. "Did you see the newspapers, then?" he asked, not waiting for a reply. "President Davis regrets no reinforcements can be furnished to chase the enemy across the Potomac and take Washington. His expectation of arms from abroad was disappointed ." O'Donnell's glare implied that Brit was somehow personally responsible for this disappointment--a flattering sort of accusation, however unfair.     Langdon spoke up. "And they won't come across to us. `All quiet along the Potomac' has become a jeer in Washington."     O'Donnell could not be mollified. "We're as ready as we'll ever be. They all admit it, Johnston and Beauregard and Smith, even Davis himself. Meanwhile the Yankees been shamed into stiffening their backbones. And our president is disappointed that we let our chance to win it run through our fingers." He shook his head of graying black hair and walked on.     Langdon glanced over at Brit. "I hope you can do us some good with your dispatches," he said, his face solemn. "They must know our cause is just. And they need our cotton."     Brit couldn't answer. Day after day, the front pages of the Southern papers were given over to news from England and France, to reports and speculation concerning those countries' need for cotton, and to repetition of what Lord So-and-So or Minister So-and-So had said concerning slavery. Many in England regarded the institution as an absolute evil--he himself regarded it as such, come to that--even deplored their own country's dependence on cotton produced by slave labor. What good would it do to show his readers in England, many of whom had wept over Uncle Tom's Cabin , that his friends in the Confederate army, slave owners or not, were good fellows--not so different, after all, from the great British public? He was a journalist, with the limitations that entailed. And likely enough it would come down not to words, his or Mrs. Stowe's, but to cotton.     "Well," Langdon said with satisfaction, rising from the ground and dusting off his pants. "That's done, then. See you in a half hour." He smiled at Brit as if he hadn't a care in the world and strode off to his tent, hands in his pockets.     Brit chuckled, realizing that young Langdon, with his earnest eyes and unfurrowed brow, had pulled his nose in the matter of the supposed raffle. Then he stretched, squared his shoulders, and looked up at the indigo sky. He found he didn't care. He was tired of the doldrums of camp life. He was very much looking forward to the excursion to Champs-Elysées. CHAMPS-ELYSÉES The silver candelabra of Champs-Elysées had already gone south to Richmond for safekeeping. On the beautiful carved mantel and the rough trestle table burned smoky tallow candles in every conceivable manner of holder, gathered from around the house, from heavy iron bases topped with sharp spikes onto which the candle was speared to empty wine bottles to tin candleholders used by the house servants. Their flickering light played over not the usual brilliant display of silver and gilt but bent tin spoons and forks and old horn-handled knives that were made for rougher hands.     The thudding of hoofbeats in the road alerted them that the guests were arriving. Jordan caught up one of the candlesticks, grabbed Narcissa's hand, and pelted up the stairs, laughing, white lace petticoats foaming around her velvet-shod feet. In the big bedroom at the head of the stairs, the bed had proved too large and heavy to be moved, so on it Jordan had draped the gowns from which she would choose her dress for the evening. She set the candle on a low table, where it lit the silks to glowing in shades of strawberry, persimmon, sky blue, and deep wine. Using cold water from a bucket, the women freshened up as best they could.     "Put this on, Narcissa--don't argue." Jordan was holding out the wine-colored gown. "You've been wearing that dreary black all day, you'll be taken for my governess, and no one will speak to you." Please, for my last night at Champs-Elysées, wear something beautiful"     Narcissa took the gown that Jordan pressed upon her. Jordan's eyes were large and bright in a face that, lacking its earlier animation, looked thin and sad. Was it because of her illness, or was there some deeper cause? Then Jordan turned away to run her long white fingers through the silks and laces on the bed. In the few hours she had known Jordan, thought Narcissa, the girl had been by turns giddy, satirical, affectionate--everything, in short, but reflective. This lapse into quiet seemed to make the girl edgy and distressed.     When Narcissa came out of her reverie concerning the capricious Jordan, she was surprised to find herself smoothing the bodice of the wine-red dress into the waistband of the skirt. She knew the color would flatter her black hair and dark eyes and reflect a flush against her sometimes matte skin.     Jordan grinned her sharp-cornered grin and then turned back to the mirror. "Is your maid any good with hair?"     Narcissa replied, "I don't have a maid" before she realized Jordan was referring to Judah Daniel. The idea of the strong-willed doctoress as a lady's maid was so incongruous that it made her smile. "Come, I will do your hair. I am used to doing my own." She looked at Jordan, who had chosen the strawberry-colored silk. "Let's pull it up on this side--"     As she busied herself with Jordan's coiffure, Narcissa found herself remembering the exquisite parure Rives had given to her on the first anniversary of their marriage: garnets mounted in gold filigree, a necklace, earrings, a bracelet. Their color might be perfect with this dress. Where were they? She remembered the box of olive green velvet, the delight with which she had opened it, which had no doubt shown on her face, for Rives had whispered into her ear, "Rubies, next time." With the Powers family wealth invested in railroads that were coming to span the growing, thriving nation, the promise seemed assured. Then he had grown sick, and sicker still, and the garnets had disappeared into their box. After Rives's death, the box was put away and forgotten.     In another twenty minutes the two were ready to join the guests. In the parlor, the young men had discovered the old, out-of-tune spinnet that had been judged not worthy of refugeeing and were banging out "The Girl I Left Behind Me." Then a posted lookout called above the boisterous singing that the ladies were descending the stairs. The playing ceased and the soldiers rushed into the hall, jostling each other for the favored positions. Narcissa felt herself blushing, though most of the soldiers looked by their slight forms and smooth cheeks to be closer to Jordan's age than her own.     "Mrs. Powers! As I live and breathe."     Narcissa stopped in confusion, then smiled as her friend the British war correspondent Brit Wallace stepped into view. She had met him in the spring, just after her own arrival in Richmond from the Hanover countryside. He had been new to the city as well, just in from the home country that had supplied his nickname. Brit Wallace, together with Judah Daniel and Narcissa's sister-in-law, Mirrie Powers, had become involved with her in investigating deadly events involving the medical college. In the course of finding the truth, Wallace had become an ally. His regard for her held an unspoken element of personal admiration that she found flattering even as she ignored it.     "You have shed your raven's feathers to become a bird of paradise" Brit said, taking her hand at the last step and pulling it through his arm. Jordan, meanwhile, was greeting with presses of the hand and pecks on the cheek an assortment of friends and relations among the eight or nine young men in uniform gathered there.     Brit explained that he had spent the past ten days touring the Confederate encampments on the Potomac for a series of dispatches concerning how the young men were spending their time while awaiting the next engagement. "I made the acquaintance of Private Langdon-- Archer Langdon; the first families of Virginia don't give up their family names easily with marriage--and he invited me along this evening. Actually, I got the invitation in payment of his poker debt! If only I had filled my pockets with playing cards when I came back south," Brit said with a wry smile, "I would be a rich man today."     Narcissa smiled back, admiring his resilient good humor. Just a few weeks before, Brit had been a prisoner of war. At Manassas in his capacity as a reporter, he had been caught up in the rout of Federals, captured by the Confederates, herded into a railroad car, and sent to Richmond, to be imprisoned in a tobacco warehouse less than half a mile from his lodgings at the fashionable Exchange Hotel. Surely, judging by his elegant dress and his rather indulgent manner of living, Brit had means beyond whatever salary or payment he might obtain by his dispatches. Not for the first time, she wondered about his family and his home in England.     "And how do you come to be here?" Brit inquired in turn. "I assume our mutual acquaintance --not to say friend , at least for my own part--Dr. Cameron Archer deserves my thanks?"     "Yes," Narcissa replied with an exhalation of breath not quite a sigh. "He asked me, and Judah Daniel, to come to meet Miss Archer, who had been preparing to return home from school in Baltimore when she fell ill with brain fever. Dr. Archer was concerned about her health," she added unnecessarily, wondering if Wallace had heard of Jordan's cavalry-raid dash over the dozen or so miles from the ferry to Champs-Elysées. The slight smile that came to his lips suggested he had.     "Then does this mean," Brit asked, "that the sick and wounded soldiers in Richmond have taken up their beds and walked? That would indeed be a miracle."     Narcissa shook her head. A thousand soldiers languished in hospitals throughout the city, many more suffering from disease than from wounds. Two hundred crowded the medical college hospital where she served as a nurse, with others filling public buildings and private homes turned into hospitals to meet the need. A new hospital being prepared on Chimborazo Heights would house more than three thousand. Again she fought down her irritation at being diverted from her duties, being consigned to the role of Jordan's duenna.     Jordan turned to see the two of them. "You are acquainted, I perceive?" she remarked with enough sharpness to make Narcissa aware of the intimacy of their conversation. It was not an unpleasant feeling: Mr. Wallace was a handsome man, with his blue eyes and black, curling hair, and the company of these very young soldiers lent a mature cast to his usual boyishness.     "Miss Archer, allow me to present Mr. William Wallace, war correspondent for the Weekly Argus of London. Mr. Wallace, Miss Archer. Miss Archer is the cousin of our mutual ... acquaintance, Dr. Cameron Archer."     "Miss Archer," Brit said formally, bowing over her hand. "And I owe my invitation tonight to another of your cousins, young Langdon. I think most highly of both your cousins, more so than ever now that I have met the flowering branch of the family tree." Narcissa noted the look Jordan gave him, filled with all that a seventeen-year-old charmer could muster of beckoning warmth. When Brit looked back at Narcissa, his freshly shaven cheeks were pinker than they had been before.     A sandy-haired soldier with the ambitious startings of a mustache was looking intently at Narcissa. He stepped forward. "Mrs. Powers?" he asked doubtfully. At her answering smile he said, "It is! Fellows, this is the lady who saved my life in the Richmond hospital after ... well, a terrible illness. She's a regular Florence Nightingale!" The young men gathered around to be introduced. It seemed that many remembered--or had heard tell of--Porter Andrews's bout with measles, and of the dark-haired lady who had been a ministering angel. Andrews retold the story with zest.     Brit smiled and said in an aside to Narcissa, "See the interest you inspire? And yet you always resist my attempts to write about you in my dispatches! Readers of the Argus would be most taken with an accounting of Richmond's `lady of the lamp.'"     Narcissa, self-conscious in the glowing, low-cut silk so different from her familiar nursing garb, looked over at Jordan to see her chewing on her bottom lip, frowning. Then the frown disappeared, and the impish, three-cornered smile returned.     "How fascinating!" Jordan exclaimed. "You must show me around the hospital when I am in Richmond." She paused and looked mischievously around at her audience. "And now, would anyone like to take a candle and help me venture down into the cellars? I believe there is some very old French wine down there, which my father dare not have moved." The crowd around Narcissa dispersed, and Jordan was borne off as the fairy queen Titania among her taper-bearing subjects.     At Narcissa's urging, Brit went with the others--casting a flatteringly regretful glance over his shoulder--and Narcissa had time to examine her surroundings more closely. The interior of Champs-Elysées was built on lines as majestic as its exterior; but, stripped of superficial decoration, the rooms had a forlorn look. Darker rectangles where pictures had been removed showed up the fading of its paint. The elaborate plaster molding that ornamented the ceiling had crumbled in places, and more than one mouse hole was visible along the baseboard. One would not expect a place like Champs-Elysées to be slicked up in the latest fashion, but the state of the house bordered on neglect.     A staccato beat of footfalls on some unseen staircase, and then a voice--"Mrs. Powers!"--joined by others calling her name. Narcissa felt her heart jump at the urgency in the voices. In a moment the young soldiers were crowded around her, all talking at once. "She's gone!" "Disappeared!" "Miss Archer--she was with us one minute, then--"     Narcissa looked over their heads to meet Brit's eyes. He nodded, his mouth twisted strangely. The boys fell silent, waiting for him to speak. "Miss Archer was with us in the wine cellar. A sudden rush of air blew the candles out, all except for the one Langdon had out in the hall. We thought she was hiding in the shadows, but when we got our candles lit again, she was nowhere to be found."     A rush of air, Narcissa thought. A door had been opened somewhere, to the outside of the house, or perhaps to a passageway within the house.     "Did you call out?" she asked.     "Yes!" "Of course we did!" They were all speaking again, frowning and gesturing. Then she noticed the wine bottles they were clasping. Surely, had their alarm been serious, they would have set aside the bottles? She looked again at Brit. Was his mouth twisted that strange way so as to hold in a laugh?     "Shame on all of you for making such a jest!" Narcissa said, frowning and smiling at the same time. The laughter Brit had been holding in burst out.     Then, as if by a conjuring trick, Jordan stepped through the wall into the room. A section of paneling under the stairs had rotated on some hidden pivot to make the narrow opening through which she appeared, pressing down her wide skirts with one hand and holding a bottle of wine in the other. She pushed the panel back into place and stood laughing.     Brit came over to Narcissa, an expression of contrition on his face. "Langdon mentioned the hidden passage--it's always been a favorite game of the young people at this house--and Miss Archer wanted to demonstrate."     A favorite trick to play on a new governess, no doubt, Narcissa thought, and was glad she had not been truly alarmed. The candles had guttered, and a dozen excellent bottles of wine had been liberated in advance from the Yankee invaders, when Jordan turned to the subject of her sudden reappearance.     "The secret passageway has always been very useful in times of trouble. It was originally made as an escape route in case of Indian attack. But soon there will be no one here to be troubled. No one ... but the ghosts." Jordan rested her cheek on her hand and stared dreamily into the glow of the candles.     The soldier boys knew the part they were being called on to play and played it with relish. "The ghosts? Tell us!"     "Almost a half-century ago now, a young woman was living in this house. She met a young man, and fell in love."     The young men whistled, rolled their eyes, or otherwise demonstrated appreciation.     "But not with a friend of the family, or even a Virginian."     Groans and hisses arose from the family friends and Virginians gathered.     "No one ever knew his name, but it was said her lover was descended from a French aristocrat who had fought alongside the marquis de Lafayette for America's independence. He returned to his native land but was executed in the Terror. His son escaped death and later returned to the New World. While a visitor here, he won the love of this young woman, whose name was Eulalie. Of course her parents disapproved, but she persuaded one of her sisters--my great-aunt Caroline--to take her side. Eulalie made plans to run away with her lover and be married. She borrowed my great-aunt's wedding gown, satin and lace, with a net veil, and satin slippers embroidered with seed pearls. On the night of the elopement, her lover was to come up from the river through a tunnel into the wine cellar--the cellar we were in tonight--and into the hall through the secret panel. Eulalie stood just there, waiting for him, at the top of the stairs." Jordan gestured through the wide archway to where the staircase flowed into the marble-floored grand hall. "She waited and waited. All at once, there was a rumbling sound from somewhere under the house. It was the tunnel caving in! She started to run down the stairs, and she tripped! She fell all the way to the bottom of the stairs, and there she died. Her neck was broken. And her lover was crushed in the tunnel."     The young men were enjoying the story; Brit Wallace had taken out his little notebook and pencil and was making notes under the table. But Narcissa felt herself uneasy at Jordan's wide-eyed earnestness, the tremor in her voice. It was as if the accident had happened only a few days before, to her sister or her close friend. The lively Jordan Archer was moved almost to tears by this story of her relative, whose youthful recklessness so many years ago had had fatal consequences.     Jordan went on, her voice hushed with portent. "Eulalie was buried here at Champs-Elysées. Sometimes at night you can see her there on the stairs. I can see her, so clearly it's as if I remember it, as if I were there. The gown, ivory satin, gathered high in the Empire style ... the band of tiny pearls that attached the veil to her blond hair.... You look again, and she is gone, but at the bottom of the stairs ... something ... a sound ... like weeping. And then, from beneath the house, a scratching sound, like someone digging, clawing at the dirt with his hands--"     "You've seen the ghost?" an eager voice called out.     Jordan sat very still, frowning, her eyes fixed on nothing. Then she shrugged her shoulders as if giving up the effort. "Sometimes I think that's what it was. I try and try, but I don't remember seeing the ghost. And yet I've had the memory of her in my mind for as far back as my memory goes--a real person, not floating or transparent like a ghost. Her dress, her veil, her hair ... and there is a treasure, pearls, diamonds, gold, heaped up and glinting. The brightness hurts my eyes sometimes when I see it."     Some of the young soldiers looked taken aback, as if they were having second thoughts about leading this particular belle to the altar.     This house may or may not be haunted, Narcissa thought, but its daughter certainly is. Out back, in the little brick building that served as the plantation's kitchen, Judah Daniel and Auntie Lora sat drinking coffee. The cooking fires had died, and the night breeze cooled the room, making welcome the warmth of the coffee. Judah Daniel felt the old woman wanted to talk but was unsure how to begin, so she bided her time.     At last the old woman spoke, looking down at the dark liquid in her mug. "I don't hardly know how to speak my feelings, Judah Daniel. About leaving this place. Champs-Elysées been my home since my mammy give me birth. I figured to die here." She took a drink of the coffee, put the mug down, and rubbed her swollen fingers. "I ain't afraid to go when my time come, but to die so far from home.... At the last trump, I don't want to be raised up from the grave in some strange place, in amongst a bunch of souls I don't know, and don't know me."     Judah Daniel tilted her head back and shot an appraising look at Auntie Lora. "Now I know a man in Richmond, a man of God, can talk with you about that. Seem like he always got a word to salve the soul. But I expect God's got some work for you yet in this life, and you got to keep strong for it."     "Don't you be telling me my work is to run after that nuisancy child Jordan Archer," Auntie Lora shot back. Then she sighed. "I love her like she was my own. And she wears me out like she was, too. Seem that child can't stand to be alone, to be quiet. If it's just the two of us, seem like she always calling for me, `Auntie Lora!'"     Not much different from Jordan's cousin, Dr. Cameron Archer, Judah Daniel thought wryly. She didn't know that she'd expected a reward, exactly, for having saved his life. But the reward she'd gotten was to be called on whenever the surgeon needed help with an especially difficult patient, and now when he needed help with his spoiled young cousin. The hospital paid her pretty well, she had to admit that. She was better off in that regard than Narcissa Powers, who also had to jump when Archer called but was an unpaid volunteer.     "How long her mother been dead?" Judah Daniel asked.     "Ever since she was three. I raised her, not that I'm bragging about that. That father of hers she dote on, he always turning up, making a pet out of her, then going off again, not seeing her for months at a time. He can't settle to nothing. How come he ain't come back down to Virginia? How come he sold so much away, sold his slaves, let his house run down?" The old woman held Judah Daniel's gaze and nodded slowly as if the answer was obvious. "It'd about kill the child if he turn traitor. That girl loyal, I give her that."     Judah Daniel was silent. If Jordan's father had turned his back on his home, his state, even his daughter, he sure wasn't likely to consider the wishes of an aged slave to remain in the only home she'd ever known. Yet the old servant, sharp-tongued though she was on the subject of her young mistress, seemed to worry more about Jordan Archer than she did about her own self.     "Any doctor been to see you about that swelling in your ankles?" Judah Daniel asked after a moment.     "Oh, a doctor a few years back told me something. I don't recollect what it was. You get to be eighty years old, you expect some troubles."     Judah Daniel leaned forward. "Holly-leaf tea good for that. Help you piss out some of that water collecting in your ankles. You could do with a good tonic too. You get to Richmond, I'll see you get some. Blue-flag root boiled down into a syrup, maybe mixed with spirits."     "I don't take no spirits," Auntie Lora responded, dismissing the temptation to sin with a wave of her hand.     "Well," Judah Daniel answered back with a quick grin, "you being eighty years old, I reckon there ain't much chance of you becoming a drunk."     Auntie Lora laughed heartily at that, rocking back and forth on the plank bench.     "And talking of spirits," Judah Daniel went on, "tell me about the ghost that's supposed to haunt Champs-Elysées."     "Oh, that was a tale," the old woman said, still now and wiping away the tears of her laughter. "A great disgrace, though the white folks don't tell it that way. There was two daughters in the house then. The son, Miss Jordan's grandpa, was off at school. The older daughter, Miss Caroline, was married to a Mr. Jennings, but she come back to her Champs-Elysées whenever she could in those days. It's her house we going to in Richmond. Anyway, the younger, Miss Eulalie, was a beautiful girl, but headstrong, just like Miss Jordan. She fell in love with a man and wanted to marry him, but her folks wouldn't have none of it. So she got it into her head to run off with him. On the night they was to meet, she was coming down the stairs in the dark. She fell and tumbled all the way down them long stairs and laid there moaning at the bottom. The servants called my momma, she was the midwife then. She saw Miss Eulalie been in the family way, just a few months along, and the fall made it come before term. Miss Caroline sent my momma away. Next thing we know, Miss Eulalie dead, not laid out or nothing, just shut up in her coffin and buried in the family plot. The way Miss Jordan tell it, the tunnel fell in and buried the man. But didn't nobody go digging for him. All I knows is, no lover ever did show hisself. The family blocked up the tunnel so wouldn't no other young ladies get the notion to run off."     "And the ghost?"     Auntie Lora nodded. "I ain't never seen it myself, but I knows some who has. A woman, all misty-white, at the top of the stairs. Then a sound of something falling, and a moaning. Well, I ain't seen it, but I done heard the moaning plenty times. Once it get the hounds started up, it's an eerie thing." She paused, sipped her coffee, and went on.     "With this war, and Mr. Archer gone so long, the hounds all been sent away. Wonder will the ghost be lonesome, with nobody here to haunt? Maybe it'll cheer her up to see the boys in their uniforms. Seems to me I heard tell her lover was a soldier? I reckon he wasn't so much of a brave man, though; reckon he ran away." Copyright © 1999 Ann H. McMillan. All rights reserved.