“Look! Just ahead!” The glittering shop windows of the “Ladies’ Mile” came into view as the omnibus rumbled through the traffic. Emily had to shout to be heard above the clang of trolley bells and shrieks of the elevated railways. But Molly, the housemaid with whom Emily shared a room, had already got to her feet, eager to make the most of their time off.
Emily’s eyes were as wide as they’d been the day she and the Farringtons had sailed past the Statue of Liberty a few months earlier. No sooner had Florence and Lady Farrington been shown to their suites than invitations had arrived for “the Royalty who were staying with Charlie Allbright”. Emily had been run off her feet, unpacking trunks and assisting the ladies’ launch into New York society.
But this had been just a prelude to the rigorous testing that had awaited them at Newport, with 10 weeks of socialising in the palaces overlooking the Atlantic. Lord Farrington’s departure for California was hardly noticed.
“There’s A.T. Stewart’s!” Emily and Molly stepped off to join the river of people who flocked to the magnificent store. While in Newport, Emily had overheard conversations about the rooms of gowns, the silk from Lyon and lace from Paris. On the journey back to the city a week ago, she’d dreamed of the chance to see it all.
Molly hung back, gripping Emily’s arm.
“It’s too grand. And won’t they be throwing us out before we can turn around!”
She drew her threadbare coat round her skinny frame. When she’d arrived from Ireland she’d had little more with her than the clothes she’d worn. But she’d got through the dreaded inspection at Ellis Island, unlike many of her companions.
“We have as much right as anyone.” Emily smiled mysteriously. “Besides, I’ve saved some money for a treat!” She hooked her arm into Molly’s and marched to the entrance.
“Isn’t it delicious!” Emily said, poking a spoon through a cloud of foam which puffed from a tall glass. “Miss Allbright – I mean the Countess – said I had to try one!”
Molly giggled as bubbles from the ice-cream soda tickled her nose. The sparkling concoction boosted her spirits.
“I hardly remember her. The maid before me left just after Miss Allbright came back from that Fair. Didn’t I turn up at the right time! Then she went off to England with that lord of hers.”
“She does love him.” Emily’s voice was wistful. There had been stars in the Countess’s eyes when she’d told Emily about the fun they’d had at the Fair. With Will . . .
“Emily Callow, I’d say you know something of love yourself. Are you missing a sweetheart back home?”
“Actually, I’m like a sister to him, but I like to think he felt something more.”
She spilled it all out. Her love for Will, the terrifying thought of him soaring through the sky in an airplane, and the Countess’s promise of her father’s help in locating him.
“I’ve been trying to forget him, especially since he hasn’t written a line since that first postcard. But I must know if he’s all right!”
“If the Countess said she’d ask her father to help find him, you could ask Mr Allbright.”
“I couldn’t! Although . . .”
Molly raised her eyebrows.
“I could write and ask Jenny to mention it to the Countess.”
“Do that! A sister’s worth a thousand friends. But won’t I miss you when you go back home!”
“I’ll miss you, too, Molly.” Emily smiled across the table.