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Daughters of the Summer Storm

Frances Patton Statham

Daughters of the

Summer Storm

1

Charleston, S.C.

September, 1831

No one stirred in the Charleston townhouse that faced the battery. It was the hottest part of the afternoon, and even the sea breeze had deserted the city. Marigold, sitting in the gazebo at the end of the enclosed garden, impatiently brushed away the fly that lit on her ecru-colored dress.

If only their houseguests would leave. Because of them, Marigold had not been able to meet Shaun at the battery as she usually did. And she had had no way to send word to him. It was all she could do to avoid her cousin, Crane, who was determined to court her.

On impulse, Marigold stood up, her tawny eyes seeking the distant seawall that separated the ocean from land. What if Shaun were waiting for her at that very moment?

She stepped from the gazebo and hurried toward the side gate. But just as her hand reached to push the gate open, a voice behind her inquired, "You are going somewhere, ma petite, without a parasol to cover your head?"

Filled with disappointment at being caught, Marigold gazed into the wrinkled face of the black servant, Feena. "I was going. . . I was. . . Oh, drat it, Feena. Why do you have to pop up every time I try to leave the house? Has my father asked you to watch me every minute of the day?"

"Oui."

"I suspected as much," Marigold said. She retraced her steps toward the gazebo with the servant at her side. As she glanced at Feena, Marigold's petulant expression changed. The white-haired old woman looked tired.

"Go and take a nap, Feena. It's much too hot for you to be chasing after me."

When Feena opened her mouth to protest, Marigold said, "I'll be in my bed for the next hour. I promise. You'd better take advantage," she urged. "It's probably the last time I shall make such a promise."

Feena stared at the golden-haired girl and then, taking her at her word, turned to walk along the pathway to the carriage house and the servants' quarters.

Marigold tiptoed into the upstairs bedroom that she shared with her dark-haired twin, Maranta. No sound came from the other bed. Maranta was asleep, with her small foot dangling outside the netting—vulnerable to the stray mosquito that buzzed about the room.

Marigold walked to the bed and covered the foot with the thinly woven drapery. For a moment she stood, frowning down at her meek, circumspect twin. It made sense for the Condessa Louisa, their important houseguest, to take a liking to Maranta. But if Maranta had any sense at all, she would not encourage a friendship with the elderly Portuguese dowager. Far better for her sister to keep her distance, or she might find herself whisked off to the other end of the world.

Marigold made a face, remembering her first encounter with the woman and her companion, Dona Isobel. She couldn't have made a very good impression on the visitors, having made no effort to conceal her instant dislike for both of them. But Marigold didn't care what the woman thought of her. She was far too busy thinking of Shaun.

While she walked to the other tester bed, she unbuttoned her afternoon dress. She let it slip to the floor and, kicking off her soft kid slippers, she climbed under the protective mosquito netting.

Frustrated, Marigold punched at the feather pillow before she laid her head against it. She felt angry and disconcerted. To think that her father had forced Feena to spy on her. Did he imagine the old servant could keep her from seeing Shaun?

Perspiration began to form on her forehead, and in a pique at the uncompromising heat that enveloped her, she pitched the pillow from the bed and removed her petticoats and camisole. Now more comfortable, Marigold closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

The next afternoon, Marigold sat in the carriage beside Maranta.

Only two more days, and they would both be eighteen. September's children—that's what they had always been called. The twins were as opposite in temperament as the day that had given them birth—the dark, calm serenity of early morning shattered by the restless winds of the spawning hurricane.

Marigold's mind was restless as they traveled down the cobblestoned street to Mrs. Windom's shop to be fitted for their birthday dresses. A plan to see Shaun again began to form in Marigold's mind. He would not be pleased to see her at the railway station, but that couldn't be helped. Marigold glanced at Feena and then quickly lowered her parasol to hide the mutinous gleam in her eye.

The carriage came to a stop under the shade tree in front of Mrs. Windom's shop. "Do not take too long," Feena admonished. "We must be back in time for your little brother's christening."

"Are you coming in with us?" Maranta asked.

Feena shook her head. "It is more pleasant to wait in the shade. Now, run along, and do not waste time."

Marigold said nothing as she and Maranta stepped down from the carriage and walked through the front door of the shop.

At first, the shop appeared to be deserted. The sound of voices from one of the dressing rooms, however, corrected that illusion. Maranta started to speak, but Marigold held her finger to her lips. She walked to the back of the shop, unlatched the door, and motioned for her dark-haired sister to follow.

Maranta, puzzled at Marigold's action, didn't move.

"Hurry up, Maranta," she whispered. "We don't have all day." Marigold reached out for Maranta to push her through the open door.

"Where are you going, Marigold?"

"We are going to the railway station—to see Shaun."

"No, Marigold. Feena'll get suspicious and come inside to look for us."

"We'll be back before she gets worried, if you'll only hurry."

"But what about Papa?"

"Are you going to be a frightened ninny all your life, Maranta? You know I'll be the

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