Excerpt: Murder at Beacon Rock
Newport, RI, July 1900
The high-sprung carriage, pulled by a matching pair of Cleveland bays, crossed the bridge that spanned a vast, rolling landscape between Harrison Avenue and the estate called Beacon Rock. To either side of the bridge below us, trees in full leaf, a profusion of coastal wildflowers, and flashes of exposed rock spoke of geological phenomena eons in the making.
Yet for all its natural appearance, what had once been a series of impassable ravines had been carefully landscaped by Frederick Law Olmstead to create pastoral harmony between the terrain, the bridge, the house, and the sea ninety feet below.
The house stretched nearly the breadth and width of a promontory overlooking Brenton Cove and Narragansett Bay. Its white marble façade gave it the image of being guarded by an army of Ionic columns standing tall across its three expansive wings. My breath caught at the sight of the house, and I felt transported to the great hillside Acropolis of Athens that I had seen in paintings.
As the drive turned and we neared the entrance of the forecourt, I understood, as my companion, Derrick Andrews, did not, that although we might enter arm in arm through the front door, I would be venturing into the lion’s den alone. Those waiting inside for us readily accepted him, a man born to wealth and pedigree, to power and privilege. But although I could trace my lineage to the first Cornelius Vanderbilt, my pedigree showed wear around the edges and my clan, the Crosses, who were descended from one of Cornelius’s daughters, dangled from the nether regions of the family tree.
“Do you remember when they blasted?” Derrick asked as he drew the carriage to a stop after circling the fountain. A fresh, bracing ocean breeze found its way beneath the vehicle’s leather roof, stirring the folds of my evening gown and curls framing my face. Moonlight danced across the waves. Several other posh landaus and broughams lined the circular drive, and a groom awaited us, ready to assist.
Derrick didn’t need to elaborate. Edwin Morgan had built his summer cottage on what had once been a small mountain that bordered the eastern shore of Brenton Cove. The once-rounded summit had hardly presented a fitting surface for Mr. Morgan’s Grecian-inspired, colonnaded masterpiece, so after purchasing the property he had ordered the top blasted away and the land leveled. The former mountain’s south slope formed the ravines that made the bridge necessary.
“Good heavens, yes. All of Newport shook that day, perhaps the entire island,” I replied, remembering the moment the dynamite had been activated. “I was fourteen and thought, this must be how an earthquake feels—terrifying.” I laughed. “The general consensus among Newporters was that Mr. Morgan had lost his mind.”
He joined me in laughter, a sound that tripped from his lips in his easy baritone, and then asked, “Ready?”
I nodded, attempting to hide my doubts from him. He handed the reins to the groom, swung down, and came around to my side to hand me down as well. Beneath the glove on my left hand, a diamond caught shards of moonlight through the weblike pattern of the lace. By rights I shouldn’t have been wearing such a ring, less than a year after the death of another Cornelius—Cornelius Vanderbilt II, a man I had considered like a second father. Derrick had insisted, gently, sweetly, but nonetheless adamantly, that it was time to let the world in on our secret of the past ten months. He and I were engaged, and whatever skepticism, disapproval, or downright scorn our situation provoked among the society dragons, we would face it together for better or worse.
Tonight was to be an intimate affair, with fewer than a dozen guests. Since I was not an immediate member of Uncle Cornelius’s family, I broke no rites of mourning by venturing out to a social occasion. I felt little tugs of guilt nonetheless. I half expected Derrick to offer words of encouragement. Chin up, all will be well—that sort of thing. But once my feet touched the ground, he merely bent over me, the stars and inky sky silhouetting his hair and shoulders, and raised my hand to his lips. My heart lifted as I realized his confidence in me was such that it simply didn’t cross his mind that I might need such encouragement. Out of his unquestioning faith in me my own grew, so that I held myself tall as we crossed the inner courtyard, were admitted to a spacious central hall, led to the drawing room, and announced to the others assembled there.
As we descended the two steps into the sunken room, Elizabeth Morgan greeted us first. She was a handsome woman in her mid-forties, tall and fine-boned, her hands long-fingered like those of a pianist, with a cloud of auburn curls arranged to frame her face in a style similar to my own but done with the superior skill of a lady’s maid.
“We’re so pleased you could come,” Elizabeth Morgan said in a voice that had obviously known both elocution and singing lessons. “I understand congratulations are in order?”
“We are engaged,” Derrick told her in a low voice meant to convey her special privilege in being among the first to know. He placed his hand over mine, still resting in his elbow.
“How delightful.” Her eyes sparkled with enjoyment. “We must help you celebrate. Miss Cross, do you sail?”
“Not with any regularity,” I confessed. “I haven’t the steadiest sea legs, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, dear, I’m quite surprised at that,” she replied with a quiet laugh. One finely shaped eyebrow twitched inward. “One would think growing up on an island would acquaint one with all manner of water sports.”
“I do well enough in a skiff,” I said. “As a child I enjoyed rowing about the bay with my brother. And I ride the ferry occasionally. But except for our local fishermen and sailors, most Newporters are landlubbers. And don’t forget, ma’am, I’m busy working for the Messenger. That doesn’t leave much time for sailing.”
“How extraordinary.” Mrs. Morgan’s gaze shifted to include Derrick. “We must remedy that immediately, mustn’t we?”
“That’s up to Emma,” he replied without hesitation. In a gesture that was both protective and a show of solidarity, the warmth of his hand moved to hover at the small of my back.
“Nonsense. It sounds as though if we leave it up to Miss Cross, she might never venture out upon the seas.” With a teasing toss of her head, Mrs. Morgan went on, “Do you not own a yacht of your own, Mr. Andrews? The Polaris, I believe, a small but smart vessel. And are you or are you not a member of the New York Yacht Club?” She didn’t wait for his reply. “Of course you are. Your wife-to-be, then, must sail.”
I suddenly felt as though I was no longer there, as though I had become the absentee subject of conversation.
“Elizabeth, please, they’ve only just arrived. Don’t hound them.” Her husband, a trim, robust-looking man also in his mid to late forties, came up beside his wife. “If Miss Cross wishes to sail, she’ll sail.”
Elizabeth Morgan would not be daunted. “We’ll take them on the May this week, won’t we, Edwin? We’ll have luncheon on the water.” It wasn’t a question, but a silken command, issued as only a genteel woman of the Four Hundred could utter. By the mild acquiescence on Mr. Morgan’s face, I deduced her demands were always met.
“If Miss Cross and Andrews here are available, we’ll plan it for Tuesday or Wednesday.” He clapped Derrick on the shoulder, kissed my hand in welcome, and led us across the Persian carpet. I followed with a distinct sense that I had failed my first test as Derrick’s future wife.
I had never been inside Beacon Rock before, though the view of it from the water had become familiar enough. The house’s interior showed little sign of its outward Greek influence, but instead comprised an array of European design elements. The rooms flowed from the central hall, one leading into the next, allowing guests to circulate throughout the house with ease. On the way in, I had glimpsed an oval reception room decorated with gilded pilasters, each pair framing a mural depicting an outdoor scene of coaching and riding in the English countryside. Opposite that, an octagonal dining room paneled in rich, burled walnut held a gleaming inlaid table and at least a dozen Hepplewhite chairs. A crystal vase at the center of the table held a profusion of pristine white lilies.
Here, in the sunken drawing room, the dark paneling and pilasters continued, interrupted by bookcases and crowned by crenelated molding. The room ended at a semicircular bank of windows, which had been thrown open to the night air. In the distance, lights twinkled from vessels on the water. I could hear the distant rush of the ocean where it fed into the bay, and could only imagine the spectacular views in daytime.
By the standards of the Four Hundred, it was indeed a small gathering; Derrick and I rounded out a group of ten. Mrs. Morgan made the introductions, presenting first her husband’s cousin, John Pierpont Morgan, and his wife Fanny. I had seen portraits of J.P. Morgan—industrialist and financier, with a leading role in steel, railroads, energy, and countless other enterprises—and had glimpsed him from a distance, but as the couple only frequented Newport for the sailing, they usually stayed on their yacht, the Corsair. He was a good two decades older than his cousin Edwin, with a broad figure well-disguised by his tailor’s skills, bold eyebrows above discerning eyes, a large nose, and a handlebar mustache that bisected the sagging lines of his jowls.
My hand disappeared inside his as he shook it. “Miss Cross, yes, yes, the lady journalist. Here to ferret out our secrets and sell them to the enemy?”
“I’m sorry?” His insinuation baffled me, and I found myself unable to parry in response to his advance-lunge. Yes, I had come, in the past few moments, to think of the evening in terms of swordplay. “The enemy?”
“The other yacht clubs we’re likely to face in the run-up to next year’s America’s Cup challenge,” he clarified. He puffed out his considerably barrel-shaped chest. “Not to mention the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. No one stands a chance against my Columbia. No one. That’s a promise and you can quote me in your newspaper, Miss Cross. That goes for you, too, Andrews.” With that, the man pulled a cigar out of his breast pocket and stuck it between his teeth, though he did not light it.
“Oh, John, leave the poor child alone. Stop frightening her.” Fanny Morgan, a pleasant-looking woman who wore her dark hair in a simple braid arched across the crown of her head, shook my hand. Large diamond earbobs dangled above her shoulders. Despite her even countenance, I believed I detected genuine annoyance in her gaze, but whether aimed at me or her husband, I wasn’t certain. Her next words suggested the latter. “You mustn’t pay any mind to my husband, Miss Cross. He rather enjoys playing the bully with unsuspecting young damsels.”
I nearly laughed aloud at being called a damsel. If only Mrs. Fanny Morgan knew the truth of it; if only she had witnessed some of what I had witnessed these past years. “I’m not frightened in the least, Mrs. Morgan.”
“Hmm.” She looked me over, a slight smile turning the corners of her mouth upward. “That certainly sets you apart, Miss Cross. Incidentally, I overheard that you do not sail. Do you ride?”
“Not with any great expertise, I’m afraid.”
“What do you do to amuse yourself, then?” she wished to know. Ah, another test failed.
A twittering laugh came from nearby, and then Elizabeth Morgan set a hand on my shoulder. “Fanny,” she said to her cousin-in-law, “you and I shall take Miss Cross under our wing and teach her all she’ll need to know as a wife of the Four Hundred.” A small frown marred her brow, still smooth for a woman of her age. “Then again, I suppose Mr. Andrews isn’t technically of the Four Hundred, considering his family hails from Providence and not New York. Still, they are good old New England stock, and Mr. Andrews . . . well . . .”
She left off, never completing whatever thought she had concerning Mr. Andrews. Perhaps that, as good old New England stock, he deserved better than a local Newport girl who neither sailed nor rode, nor boasted any other refinements that might offset the vulgarity of her workaday ambitions.
I was being sensitive, perhaps even peevish, though I let the others see no sign of it. Typically, I allowed society’s disapproval to roll off me without effect, but for some reason my engagement had left me vulnerable, my sensibilities closer to the surface than ever before. Perhaps it was because now I hadn’t merely my own social position to consider, but Derrick’s as well.
That left one final couple to meet, the Delafields, whom I recognized but had never had reason to speak to directly. That didn’t mean I knew nothing about them. They were younger than the others, closer in age to Derrick and myself, and made a handsome couple—she a shapely, dark-haired beauty with impeccable taste in fashion and furnishings, while he was tall and elegant, with a sportsman’s physique and impish green eyes. Through the grapevine I had learned that while he might be an investor in the next America’s Cup Races, she had brought the money to the marriage—nearly all of it. Her family had made its fortune money in the Colorado silver mines before settling in New York, so one would imagine her dowry had been considerable.
I also understood the reason for Ruth Delafield’s sulky expression when Bernard Delafield bent over me and pressed a lingering kiss to my hand—until I nearly yanked it out from beneath his lips. I darted a glance at Derrick; he had noticed, too, and looked on with a steely-eyed calculation.
Rumor had it Ruth Delafield had asked her husband for a divorce, which he had denied her. Yes, divorce among the Four Hundred had once been strictly taboo, and yes, my aunt Alva Vanderbilt, now Belmont, had changed all that five years ago by divorcing my uncle William, but Uncle William had gone along with her wishes, even so far as to claim responsibility for the marriage falling apart due to his infidelity. Whether or not he had been untrue to his wife didn’t matter. He had acted the gentleman and taken the blame.
Apparently, Bernard Delafield didn’t possess as generous a nature. Whether he had threatened to keep the children from her, or smear her reputation, or employ some other means of retaliation, I didn’t know, but it was plain to see from their expressions and mannerisms that they held little esteem for each other.
Ruth Delafield soon drew me aside. “Congratulations. Derrick Andrews is quite a catch for you, Miss Cross.” She smiled and darted a glance at her husband from beneath her lashes. “But are you quite sure you wish to spoil a good thing by marrying the man?”
I chuckled and pretended to know nothing of her familial woes. “What would you suggest instead, Mrs. Delafield?”
One eyebrow, thin and sculpted, rose in a perfect arch. “Hold him at bay, keep him wanting. It’s the only way to keep them from wandering.”
This was far more candidness than I would have expected from a woman of her social class. Of any woman, to be frank. I fumbled for a response, but was saved from having to give one when Derrick returned to my side.
Further relief from the tensions of the gathering came in the form of footmen, uniformed in gold-trimmed livery, circulating through the room with platters of seafood canapés and tiny pastry shells filled with pâté and truffle paste. A glass of champagne found its way into my hand. I remained with the women when the men—Derrick, the two Morgan cousins, Bernard Delafield, and another gentleman, introduced to me as Tyrone Kerr—moved off to a bridge table at the far end of the room, farthest from the half round wall of windows. Each of them was a principal investor in the upcoming America’s Cup Races, having formed a syndicate backing John Morgan’s Columbia.
Seated around the table, they discussed whatever strategies they would employ over the coming months to prepare for the next year’s challenge. I had known this to be the reason for tonight’s soiree; known that the women would be left to amuse themselves for at least part of the evening; known, also, that whatever I heard discussed here must be kept in strictest confidence. But each time I thought of John Morgan fairly accusing me of gathering information for the enemy, a chuckle rose in my throat and I had to resist the urge to shake my head.
In truth, only one detail about those gathered around the card table caught my attention: the presence of an older woman, perhaps nearing fifty, who seemed to have as much to say about racing strategy as the men. We had met only briefly before she had excused herself to me and the other women and seated herself at the card table as though she had every right in the world to be there. Her voice carried across the room, sometimes drowning out the lower tones of the men. I half expected them to send her on her way, but they didn’t.
I had heard of Lucy Carnegie but had never met her previously. The widow of Andrew Carnegie’s brother Thomas, she had become an avid yachter in her own right and six years ago had gained membership in the New York Yacht Club—something no woman had ever done before. Though a diminutive five feet tall at most, she had nonetheless projected a lofty stature and a jaunty self-assurance when we shook hands. Unlike the other two women present, Mrs. Carnegie didn’t offer any subtle frowns or make a friendly fuss about my lack of experience either in the saddle or before the mast. And for that, I silently thanked her and was determined to know her better.
The yacht club meeting broke for dinner. We gathered at the lengthy table in the octagonal dining room and enjoyed a several-course meal of seafood and game birds served in a variety of sauces. A lovely Charlotte Russe followed for dessert. I sat across from Derrick, and between J.P. Morgan and Tyrone Kerr. Mr. Kerr, it seemed, was a dedicated bachelor who spent nearly all his time sailing, racing his yachts, and hunting in the mountains of both this country and Europe. I found myself forced to add a lack of hunting know-how to my multitude of sins. Honestly, in these people’s eyes, Derrick and I could have nothing in common. I redeemed myself slightly in Mr. Kerr’s eyes when I told him I possessed a sharp eye and a steady hand when it came to a bow and arrow, and he suggested I might try that method of hunting. I didn’t bother to explain that, while I enjoyed a hearty meal as much as the next person, hunting for sport held no appeal for me.
Finally, Elizabeth Morgan came to her feet, prompting the rest of us around the table to do the same. The footmen held the ladies’ chairs while the men bowed politely to us, and Elizabeth Morgan led us—Mrs. Carnegie included—out of the room and back to the drawing room. Derrick winked at me as I turned away from the table, and I went away grinning.
Conversation turned to the coming weeks of the summer Season. It had once been my job to keep track of who wore what gowns to whose parties and balls at which cottages along Bellevue Avenue, but I had since graduated from society columnist to news journalist, and I found the discussion not only inconsequential, but disheartening. Such was the society I would enter as Derrick’s wife, unless I could manage to inhabit both worlds—theirs and mine—simultaneously.
The terrace doors stood open, proving too much of a temptation for me. I drifted to them and, after pausing for a half glance over my shoulder, stepped out. The voices of the ladies behind me faded as the sounds of the breeze and the waves filled my ears. Clouds had moved across the sky, blotting out most of the stars, and a low fog crept across the bay.
I turned the corner of the house, now walking beside the wing that held the kitchen and servants’ quarters. I could just about make out the muted lights of Fort Adams across Brenton Cove. Beyond it, across the bay, Jamestown lay invisible, its lamplights unable to pierce the murky night. I breathed the salty air deep into my lungs and held it there while I savored the taste of it on my tongue. At the same time, I tugged the gloves from my hands and draped them over the low wall before me.
Always here, in close proximity to Aquidneck Island’s briny waters, did I find my balance, my steadiness. I might not be much of a sailor, but that didn’t mean I didn’t understand the ebb and flow of the tides, couldn’t read the sudden quickening of the winds that whipped the waves to a froth, or recognize the doldrums that flattened the water to a glossy, undulating mirror.
Those people in the house loved their yachts, their adventures across the world’s oceans, but I couldn’t help feeling that I loved something deeper and more lasting, and that I belonged to it—belonged to this rocky, windy, salty island I called home, and to the waters that struck its shores unendingly, year in and year out.
The side terrace led down to the driveway, and then a walkway along the edge of the promontory. Little separated the path from the rocky descent but the sculpted hedges that ran its length. I kept going, all the way to the service driveway and the entrance of a wooden staircase that zigzagged downward to the water’s edge at the base of Beacon Rock.
Intertwined with the sounds of the sea came the toll of buoys, marking the rocky dangers at the mouth of the harbor. Through the fog, dull circles of illumination from several yachts anchored within Brenton Cove rose and dipped in a leisurely rhythm on the waves. Derrick’s Polaris, which he had purchased this past autumn, was not among them, but these belonged to Edwin Morgan and his guests, their private steamers on which they had traveled to Newport. Their sails were furled, their decks quiet, yet on the lower levels, activity remained constant as the crews conducted never-ending maintenance and cleaning. One yacht stood alone, closer in toward the Morgans’ boathouse and pier: the Columbia, the object of tonight’s gathering. Far sleeker than the others, clearly intended to cut knife-like through the surf, this vessel carried the high hopes of the yacht club members in the house behind me.
I lingered at the top of the stairs, enjoying the evening, when a voice called to me. I’m not sure I had intended going down. I had only wished to put a bit of distance—breathing room—between me and the effort of maintaining a suitable expression for the four Morgans and the others, when, really, I wished to roll my eyes and go home.
“Miss Cross, do wait. Are you going down? I’ll join you if you are.”
I needn’t have turned around to recognize the speaker as Lucy Carnegie. Though one could not say her voice lacked the refinement of the other wives, she nonetheless spoke with . . . I suppose one might call it authority. Directness. She reminded me somewhat of Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish—Mamie to her friends—who never minced words or hesitated to speak her mind.
She came to stand at the rail beside me. Her head barely reached my shoulder, making me feel giant-like, though I had never considered myself particularly tall. “It’s too nice a night to spend it cooped up inside. Wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes, it’s a lovely evening,” I agreed, and gazed out over the darkened waters with what I hoped appeared to be an appreciative expression. “And I can’t help admiring the boats.”
She studied me a moment, then grinned. “Fiddlesticks! You were as bored in there as I was.”
“No, really . . .”
“It’s quite all right, my dear. I thought my eyes would cross just now when they started talking about which parties they’ll attend this summer. I tell you, I’ll go or not go if invited, but with hardly a second thought. It is industry and personal challenges that I thrive on. Give me a yacht to sail or a home to design any day of the week, and I’m happy.”
“You’ve an interest in architecture, then,” I commented with genuine appreciation. When she nodded, I continued, “My aunt Alva Vanderbilt, now Belmont, worked very closely with Mr. Hunt in designing Marble House.”
“Yes, and good for her. Me, I’m setting my sights on building a recreational camp for my family up in the Adirondacks. Horses, swimming, golf, hiking, boating—you name it, we’ll have it there. A body must be active at all times to be healthy. Ever been to the Adirondacks, Miss Cross?”
“Actually, no, I haven’t.”
“God’s country, up there. Wild, rugged, magnificent. You must go at the first opportunity. Your honeymoon, perhaps? When is the big day?”
“Oh, not for another year, probably. We haven’t set a date yet.”
“Whyever not? My dear, one mustn’t leave these things to happenstance. Scrupulous planning—that’s how one gets things done. I suggest you and Mr. Andrews decide on a date tonight. No more delays.”
Such different advice than Ruth Delafield had offered. “I’ll think about it.”
“You do that, and give the Adirondacks serious consideration for at least a portion of your wedding trip. Unless you’ve set your sights on Europe?”
“I haven’t thought about it, to be honest.”
She shook her head at me, her amused smile letting me know she didn’t disapprove of me, but perhaps didn’t quite understand me, either. In the ensuing pause, I became aware of a slap-thumping sound from below, like that of some large ocean debris caught against the pilings of a pier. It was a common enough sound along the wharves, but here, away from the commercial endeavors of the main harbor, it struck me as unusual.
“What could that be?” I mused aloud.
“What? I don’t hear anything. Just the waves and the beat of the rigging against the masts.” She pointed out over the water. “Speaking of which, that one there is mine. The Dungeness. Can you make her out against the mist? Steel construction, one hundred and thirty-five feet long, and superbly appointed. Named for the estate my husband, God rest him, and I built in Georgia. I understand you don’t sail, Miss Cross, but even you must admit, she is a beauty.”
“That she certainly is, Mrs. Carnegie. I might not sail, and it might be nighttime and foggy, but I can see she’s a fine ship.” I spoke earnestly, yet that thumping tide still held my attention.
The woman beside me nodded vigorously. “She helped me become accepted as a full-fledged member of the yacht club. For one, she’s a finer ship than most of those old buckets owned by the men. And two, I’ve entertained enough of them on her decks that they couldn’t but return the favor by opening the club doors to me.”
“I’m glad. I can’t see what difference it makes who owns a craft, man or woman.” I pricked my ears. Whap, thud, thump. What was that sound?
Mrs. Carnegie said something I missed, for she then asked with concern, “Miss Cross, are you quite all right?”
My eyebrows gathered as I held the railing and leaned forward to listen. Mrs. Carnegie was probably right. The bay carried a symphony of sounds, especially at night. But something about this particular thud-thud, clearly just below the waterline, accompanied by a hollow echo, ran beneath my skin and spiked the hair at my nape. Whatever was caught by the tide had clearly lodged against one of the vessels, the Columbia itself, perhaps, and was certainly heavier than the usual flotsam or jetsam.
“I’m going down.” I placed my foot on the top step, but Mrs. Carnegie put a hand on my wrist.
“I’m sure it’s merely driftwood.”
I held her gaze an instant, and then continued down. Behind me, I heard her footsteps on the treads, following my own. Upon stepping onto the dock, I realized the thumping was not coming from the Columbia, but much closer, practically on the dock itself. Years ago, an old, three-masted barque had run aground on the shoals just beyond Brenton Cove. They had tried to put into the cove but had taken on too much water too quickly. They’d sunk, but when Edwin Morgan had Beacon Rock built, he’d raised the Bessie Rogers and had her placed beside his boathouse, in the crook of the dock and the longer pier, as a kind of picturesque feature harkening back to Newport’s past.
I leapt from the dock onto the deck of the barque and paused to listen. The thumping sounded like slow, steady drumbeats now, the vibrations tickling the bottoms of my feet and traveling up my legs. The regular, pulsing quality of it seemed to control my own heartbeat. A lifetime of living beside the sea had taught me when to dismiss a sound and when to take notice. I was positive that if my dog, Patch, had been here, he would be barking up a storm.
Mrs. Carnegie went farther down the dock, closer to the boathouse, where a short gangplank connected the dock to the Bessie Rogers. She came aboard, holding her skirts aloft, pausing in a silver shaft of moonlight that had made its way through the clouds. A swirl of fog swallowed the details of her jeweled pumps. “Well, Miss Cross?” Then, she, too, frowned. She turned her head aside, listening. Her forehead tightened. “Yes, I hear it. I see what you mean.”
She turned her head this way and that, as I was doing. Then we both froze, our attention riveted on the same spot. In the next instant, we crossed to the starboard side of the Bessie Rogers, gripped the gunwale, and leaned over. Through wisps of fog, an object took shape below us.
The blood rushed to my head, rendering me dizzy. I tightened my grip until my fingers ached and a splinter pierced my forefinger.
“Dear God,” Mrs. Carnegie murmured. “Oh, dear, dear, God.”