The Best Of Both Worlds – Episode 52

The roar of applause still echoed from inside the Mission Opera House long after the rapturous audience had drifted on to the street. The doctor held Emily’s gloved hand on his arm as he guided them between clusters of theatre-goers. Emily had taken Florence at her word, having only a brief moment of anxiety before taking in the bodice and raising the hem of the rejected turquoise gown. She’d finished with barely enough time to bathe and do her hair, and it had been a stroke of luck that, only the week before, Florence had ruthlessly weeded out her collection of gloves and accessories.

Emily’s only concern had been her shoes, which she’d polished as best she could. She hoped they wouldn’t be noticed under the swirling skirt, which she’d shortened only a fraction, with this problem in mind. But now worries were forgotten as her heart soared with the magic of all that she’d seen.

“I’ve never even dreamed of such singing!” she said breathlessly. “And the acting, and costumes!”

“I’m sure there will never be another Don Jose to match Caruso’s,” he replied. “Thank you for accompanying me, Emily. May I say, you look very beautiful.”

She blushed scarlet.

“You’re very kind, Doctor Campbell.”

He laughed.

“Please, will you call me James? I may be ten years your senior, but I hate to feel like an old man.”

“I couldn’t!”

“In the company of the Farringtons, I’ll consent to formality. But this evening, I’ll answer only to James! Now, it’s time to celebrate with the rest of San Francisco. Champagne and supper, then we shall dance the night away.”

“But . . .!”

“Your employers will be out till long after dawn. Besides, Cheng Tao is fetching his sister to assist the ladies, should they return earlier than expected. Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!”


Emily lay in the drowsy warmth of her bed. All evening their conversation had flowed and bubbled. She’d been enthralled to learn of James’s work, and his hopes of helping to improve conditions in poverty-stricken Chinatown. And he’d wanted to hear every detail about her family, and of her dreams of working as an independent designer, with a shop of her own.

As the room began to fill with milky light, she dozed, her memories and dreams swirling together. The gilded restaurant, bursts of laughter and popping corks, the swish of her skirt as James whirled her round the dance floor . . .

Then she was back home, climbing a tree with Will. A rumble of thunder shook the branches; she reached out to him but it was too late, he was gone and she was falling . . .

With a jerk she was wide awake. Her bed had hurtled across the room and from downstairs there was a crash and frantic calling out in Chinese. Then there was a great crack, and Emily watched in horror as the floor began to heave up and down in great waves.


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