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>1. Daughters The brakemen called to one another from above, a whistle pierced the drone of the engine, and the train slowed to pass through another station. Perhaps they would stop at this one, she thought; she longed to walk in fresh air for a moment or two and renew her perspective. A slate-frame building passed by the window before she could read the name of the town on the sign over the platform.The only break from the scenic monotony was a glimpse of a rotund station master leaning over to scratch his knee and the sound of the brass pounder furiously tapping Morse code messages onto wires reeled out over the hills.Their destination lay less than an hour away when Camille realized she had no idea of what was to happen when they arrived.They couldn’t stay the night in their house; they had no furniture. Brooks snored softly beside her. She eased the watch out of his vest pocket—only half-past four in the afternoon, but the sky was so heavy with dark clouds it felt much later. “I’m going to stretch my legs a bit,” she whispered to her sleeping husband as she gently pushed his weight off her shoulder, stood up, and smoothed the creases out of her woolen skirt. She strolled toward the back of the car, trying not to look into the faces of the few weary travelers who hadn’t fallen asleep. As she neared the door to the adjoining car, a gruff voice from the rear window seat addressed her, “I wouldn’t go 5 back there, if I were you.” An elderly man with masses of graying black hair around his face glared at her.“A pretty little white lady like you would never make it back in one piece.” Camille looked down at her feet; several of her shoe buttons had come unfastened. Her cheeks flushed. She strained to see through the layers of earth-beaten windows into the car behind them, but she couldn’t make out the faces of the passengers.“That’s the Jim Crow car.” He eyed her intensely. A young woman seated next to him appeared from under a wide-brimmed black hat with a huge silk Castilian red rose spilling over the brim.The pungency of her perfume and the deep purple and black bruises around her right eye sent a quiver of nausea through the pit of Camille’s stomach. The man dropped a heavy hand on the woman’s arm, and she looked back into her lap. Camille nodded and quickly made her way back to her seat, hounded all the way by his guttural laughter. “Newlyweds?” A petite woman with flaming hair and close features smiled from the seat across the aisle; a redheaded daughter napped under each arm. “How could you tell?” Camille sighed as she rebuttoned her shoes. The woman nodded toward Brooks.“Your husband spends much less time in the smoking car than the other men.” Camille sat back and smiled. The little girls looked like angels in their sleep.How lovely to have daughters.She imagined her own with Brooks’ dark curls and her rosy complexion . They would have two—perhaps even three. “Your girls are beautiful,” she said. “And heavy,” the woman answered as she shifted the weight of one. “Tess Dunning. How long you been married ?” 6 Comfort and Mirth “Not quite a week. I suppose you could say this is our honeymoon.” Tess shook her fiery locks and closed her eyes. “How romantic! I remember when Carl and I were first married. He couldn’t stand to leave me when it was time for him to go out.” She giggled. “Now he practically celebrates the whole day before.” “Go out?” “He works the rail. We’re on our way to Louisiana because the Southern Pacific offered him a better rate—the trips are longer.They gave us free fare, only they don’t go past Houston, so Carl has to work for fare while we’re still on the U.P. He’s the flagman in the caboose.What’s your name?” “Camille De . . . uh—Abernathy.” Tess laughed.“What does your husband do?” Camille sat up straighter.A thrill shot through her at the word “husband.”The man who slept next to her was still so mysterious—so unknown—eight years her elder, so intelligent and so worldly. It didn’t seem possible he had become a part...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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