How appropriate that it would rain on my wedding day. Eliza gazed out the window absently, trying to find some amusement in the weather. Behind her, Betsy bustled about the room, laying out her wedding clothes. The maid kept up a stream of bright chatter; she had noticed her mistress' melancholy and as determined to wring a smile out of her in time for the ceremony.

Eliza picked at a loose thread on her dressing gown. The last few days had passed in a constant state of business, yet she felt like she was endlessly waiting for something. She was jerked back to attention by Betsy's voice.

"I'm sorry, Betsy. What did you say?"

The girl stood by the small dressing table, a tiny frown on her usually clear face. "I said, are you ready for me to do up your hair now."

Eliza sighed and pushed herself out of the comfortable chair. "I suppose."

Betsy watched Eliza's face in the mirror as she deftly wound the short russet curls around her fingers. The girl seemed distant, as if her mind was a thousand miles away. It had been so, Betsy reflected, ever since the girl returned home. At last, Betsy laid the hairbrush don on the table and gently touched Eliza's shoulder. The girl glanced up, startled.

"Miss, if you don't mind me saying, you're about the unhappiest bride-to-be I've ever seen. Why are you marrying Mr. Mason?"

Eliza sighed and stared down at her fingernails. "Because my father says I must. You know as well as I. If I don't marry him, Papa will put me out. I've embarrassed Jack too much to hope that he'll take me in. I have no choice, Betsy—where would I go?"

Betsy tsked. "I know where I'd go, Miss."

"And where would that be, Betsy? With no money and no family and no skill to take a job? Perhaps I could be a scullery maid, hm?" Eliza regretted the snappish tone in her voice the moment she spoke, but Betsy brushed aside her foul temper.

"Seems to me that Halifax might make a right fine place to start over. If you were to ask me, which you aren't." Betsy picked up the brush again, quietly ignoring the tears on her mistress' face.


A sodden band of men huddled beneath the eaves of the great public house near the docks. One, a fair man in a tidy seaman's uniform, paced nervously before the door. He glanced up each time the door opened, seemed disappointed, and returned to pacing. The others watched him, grim faced.

Black nudged Thomas. "Have you ever seen the Captain in such a state sir?"

Thomas shook his head. "Not that I can recall. But then, I'd never think him the type to tear off the ship after a storm and ride four days through the wet to stop a wedding."

He turned his attention to the pacing figure. "Not that he'd admit that's what he has in mind, of course."

Walker fumbled a pocketwatch out of his trousers. Eleven. He had learned from one of his acquaintances that the wedding was at noon, but the rain seemed likely to delay things a bit. He shoved his thick hair back with one hand. What is it you're doing here? He asked himself the same question nearly hourly from the instant they had left the ship. The only satisfactory answer, the only answer he would allow himself, was that Miss Russell had been a trusted employee and it would be a shame not to attend. There was no other answer.

He pivoted on his heel, the precision in his movements betraying years of military service. He knew the men watched him, Thomas especially; the man seemed to have some insight into his mind that Walker wasn't sure he appreciated. The ride had been curiously silent, the mood of the men like that of soldiers marching toward a last desperate battle from which they did not expect to return. He kept himself under iron control, but his own stomach clenched into a tight knot that he recognized from his experiences in battle.

A surly groom led the group's horses around the corner into the courtyard just as Walker seemed likely to work himself into a fever of anxiety. He mounted quickly, dancing his mount impatiently as the others struggled into the saddle. His crisp tones rang out through the courtyard.

"All haste now, lads. No time for dawdling about."


She had already shredded the fine paper of the wedding leaflet. Her fingers picked at the lace on her dress, the soft folds of velvet, her hair, whatever was closest. Finally, Betsy grabbed both her hands and sat, preventing her from destroying her bouquet. Eliza continued to fidget, a mess of nerves and nausea.

Early, she thought. After everything else, he wants to start early. Mason had arrived at the house less than an hour after she had awoken, demanding that she be ready by eleven. He had pressing business that required his attention in Boston, he argued, and could not be delayed by so small a thing as a wedding. He had arranged it with the minister already. Eliza had no time to reply or to refuse.

The first organ notes of the service sounded through the small room in which she sat. There was a sudden flurry of activity; attendants settling their dresses and sweeping out the door, Betsy making a few last minute adjustments to Eliza's own dress, her father appearing in the doorway with his arm outstretched. Why is everything moving so quickly? Not enough time, I don't have enough time, I'm not ready to do this…

Mason at the head of the aisle, his stooped figure encased in his customary dusty black. His eyes glittered at her as she advanced toward him. Her fingers were icy as she took his arm; only that small support kept her upright as the minister's voice rolled through the church. Her focus blurred suddenly; she heard herself repeating the words the minister prompted without understanding. His final words broke over her like a wave, and they turned to face the congregation, a sea of smiling faces. Her father, triumphant and gloating. Several of the women from church looked pitying. Her brother Jack—she found his face and her gaze locked onto his. His gray eyes were troubled and dark; as her feet automatically propelled her back down the aisle, this time on Mason's arm, Jack wrenched his gaze from hers and turned to the familiar figure at his side. Another wash of faintness as she registered the naked despair on Walker's face.


Walker pushed through the crowd at the door of the church, fighting to be free of the press of people. He desperately needed air, needed to be away from the sight of Eliza on Mason's arm. His mind played the expression on her face over and over; she had been so pale, so drawn. Brides should be happy, his mind shouted at him. He shook his head, struggling to keep some measure of control. A hand fell on his shoulder.

Thomas gripped his captain's arm, guiding him through the crowd to the side of the church building. Walker leaned against the stone wall, shaking. Thomas turned his back, uncomfortable with the obvious emotion on the other man's face. He stepped in front of Walker as another man rounded the corner, then relaxed when Jack spoke.

"You should have been earlier, sir." Jack's voice was stretched tight and thin. "You should have been earlier."

Walker drew a shaky breath and stared at the younger man. Russell gripped his upper arm. "I know you saw her, sir. She didn't want to marry him, and I was a fool to urge her to do so."

Jack visibly collected himself and spun on his heel. Before he rejoined the crowd at the front of the church, he glanced over his shoulder at Walker.

"You should come to the party, sir. Mason's leaving on business immediately when they return home. It might do Lizzie good to see a friendly face."


The party went on around her. Eliza was still in a fog of disbelief and confusion. She was married, and her husband was already gone.

She smiled vacantly but politely as one of the neighbors stopped to congratulate her. Her father was holding court in the center of the room surrounded by a group of local businessmen and politicians. He was drinking already, she noticed, and he seemed jovial. She picked at a plate of cake as she watched her father joking with the men who had only last week declined his application to join a prestigious gentlemen's club. She had no doubt that he would be accepted sometime this afternoon.

"You should eat that cake. It's a waste to mash it into crumbs like that," Betsy chided gently. Eliza sighed and obediently forked a small bite into her mouth. It tasted dry and the thick icing threatened to choke her.

"Don't you like it?" Betsy whispered. "It's such a lovely cake."

"Maybe wedding cake only tastes good when the groom helps to cut it." Eliza didn't bother to hide her bitterness. Mason had walked her out of the church, turned her over to her father, and boarded a carriage for Boston. Betsy patted her hand and slipped away.

"Lizzie." Jack's voice surprised her. He lowered himself onto the chair next to hers. "How are you?"

"As well as one might expect, I suppose," she replied faintly. He frowned slightly and took her hand.

"Lizzie, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I pushed you to give in to Father."

"A bit late, Jack, but thank you." She turned away slightly, setting the plate of cake crumbs on the occasional table. He rose abruptly, leaning over to murmur in her ear.

"There's someone who wants to speak to you. I tried, Lizzie, I really did."

She stared after him as he edged through the crowd to the doorway. Her heart sank; Walker and several of the men stood just outside the doorway to the sitting room. Jack motioned them over; he said something to Walker and pointed toward her. AS Walker passed him, Jack blocked Thomas, hustling him outside.

Eliza clenched her fists as Walker approached her chair. He bowed over her hand, his hazel eyes on her. She gestured him into the chair opposite her.

"I appreciate your coming, Captain Walker. It was very kind of you." She avoided his eyes, unable to bear the expression of sorrow so much like her own.

His voice, when he answered, was low and cold. "I had hoped to arrive on time. My apologies."

She waved her hand vaguely. "An unexpected change of plans. Mr. Mason was needed to attend to something."

Walker nodded gravely. "A pity."

They sat in silence, the emptiness spinning out between them. She fidgeted. He shifted in his chair.

"Miss Russell." She jumped a little. Walker leaned toward her, taking her hands between his own. "I wish to God I had been earlier. I wish that…"

She jumped in, cutting off the sudden outburst. "Captain Walker, please. Do not. What is done cannot be undone. As you said to me once, we must all do our duty."

She longed to touch him, to stroke the thick hair as he sat, head bowed, fighting to remain calm. He took several deep breaths and raised his face to hers. He cleared his throat with difficulty.

"Eliza, if you should need me, for any reason, send for me. Let me do this one small service for you." She smiled gently and laid one hand against his cheek.

"I would like it very much if I might write to you. I value your advice, and I would be quite unhappy to lose your good counsel." He smiled sadly and rose, still clasping her hand. She rose with him, trembling.

"I shall do so." He dropped her fingers and turned to walk away. Impulsively, she grasped his sleeve.


His eyes, when he faced her again, were dark with pain. She felt a tear slip down one cheek.

"Do visit me when you are in town. You are always welcome."

He nodded briefly. As his trim form edged away from her, she pressed the back of her hand to staunch the rest of her tears.