She turned slowly to face
him. "Hello, Barnabas. You're looking very well."
"So are you." That was an understatement. She was a beautiful as ever. He had been unable to go to Paris after receiving her letter telling him she wanted to sever all ties to her past - including him. He had been under the Leviathan curse, and during Julia's six month search for a cure, he had slowly come to accept that Angelique might have been correct: there was too much hurt between them. He might still love her, but forgiving her would be next to impossible. He watched her move around the room now, and realized that she was nervous. The nurses' words about the mother of Julia's patient came back to him. "Why are you here?"
"Is there some reason why I can't visit Collinsport?" she asked, not looking at him.
"Of course not. But your letter was most emphatic about breaking with your past - "
"I found it wasn't that easy," she told him. "You needn't worry, Barnabas. I'm not here because of you. In fact, the less we see of each other, the better."
Her cool resolve merely served to increase Barnabas' determination to discover the true reason behind her visit. "Why did you come to see Julia?"
"Why shouldn't I?"
"You're answering questions with questions," he observed.
"Julia and I have developed a rather - strange friendship over the years. She was the only person I know here who ISN'T a Collins."
"The nurse outside told me that Julia was with a patient - and that the patient's mother was in here, waiting."
"She was mistaken," Angelique said quickly.
"I see." He stood there, watching her closely. "I wonder how much longer Julia will be?"
"I don't know. She didn't say."
"Then I think I will go and find her - "
"NO." She knew that she had spoken more sharply than intended, but she couldn't let him go in search of Julia and find -"I'll do it. I have to be going, anyway."
"Where are you staying?" he asked, not certain why he wanted to know.
"I have a room at the Inn," she told him, her hand on the doorknob. "Excuse me."
The nurse directed her to a room
just down the corridor. A lab technician was just coming out,
and Angelique opened the door quietly. Sarah was on the
bed, her eyes closed, and Julia was writing something on the clipboard
in her hands. "Julia?"
Sarah opened her eyes and smiled weakly. "Mother."
"You look all in," Angelique said, smoothing her brown hair.
"She is. Why don't we let her rest for awhile?" Julia suggested. "We can go back to my office."
"No." She glanced down at Sarah. "Barnabas is there."
"Did you tell him?"
Angelique shook her head sharply. "No."
Taking a deep breath, Julia told her, "Stay here. I'll go and send him on his way."
"Julia-" Angelique said, obviously concerned.
"Don't worry. I won't tell him. I think that's something YOU should do."
Angelique looked down at her daughter again. "I like Dr. Hoffman, Mother," the girl said.
"I hoped you would."
"Mother, who is -Barnabas?"
Angelique busied herself straightening the bedclothes. "Just - someone I once knew."
"Did - Did he know my father?"
It was seldom that Sarah ever asked about her father. Only when she was extremely tired did she do so. "You need to rest, darling. We'll talk later."
Julia laid Sarah's file on her
desk. "I thought you were going to call - "
"And would you have told me that Angelique was here if I had?"
"Probably not," Julia admitted.
"Because she's not here to see you."
Seeing that he was getting nowhere with this line of questions, Barnabas changed the subject. "Tell me, Julia, when did you start accepting children as patients?"
"The nurse outside said you were with a patient and that the patient's mother was waiting in here."
"The patient is twenty-five, and his mother was with me in her son's room."
"I see. Are you ready to leave now?"
"Not yet. I have some things to take care of. I'll probably have dinner at the Inn, so you needn't wait."
"If I were a suspicious man, Julia, I'd think you were trying to get rid of me."
Julia smiled up at him. "And why would I do that?"
"Why indeed? Should I tell Elizabeth that Angelique is in town, or does she intend to keep her visit a secret?"
"Tell her, by all means. But she's not using Rumsen's name anymore."
"It's Angelique Blair now."
"No doubt she'll have an explanation."
"I'd like to hear it before I go back to Collinwood."
Julia picked up the telephone and dialed an extension number. "She's in the doctor's lounge," she told Barnabas. "Angelique- . . .Could you come back to my office? . . . Yes, he is." She hung up.
"She'll be right here."
Three quarters of an hour later,
Barnabas let himself into Collinwood and took off his coat.
He had agreed to stay here for the duration of Roger's trip to
Japan on business. His cousin was due back in the next few
days, and Barnabas would be glad to return to the Old House.
"Good evening, Barnabas," Elizabeth said as she came
slowly down the stairs. "Where is Julia?"
He waited for her, then gave her his arm. "Still at the hospital. She's having dinner with Angelique Rumsen."
"Angelique? When did she arrive?"
"This afternoon, apparently," he said. "She told me that she's here on a brief visit."
Carolyn looked up from the newspaper as they entered the drawing room. "Did I hear you say Angelique was in Collinsport, Barnabas?"
"What was her name before she married?"
"Actually, she's using it again," he told her. "It's Blair. Why do you ask?"
"There's something about her in the New York paper. You know that social column 'Comings and Goings'?"
"Vaguely. What does it say?"
"Let's see," she murmured, finding the column again. "Here it is. 'Seen at Kennedy, returning from an extended trip to Paris: Angelique Blair, widow of Schyler Rumsen. But the lovely lady was not alone. Accompanying her was a pretty little girl of about ten. She was heard to call Ms. Blair 'Mother'. One has to wonder who the father is - it certainly wasn't Rumsen . . .' That's it. Did you know she had a daughter?"
"No," Barnabas said quietly. "No, I didn't."
Elizabeth's look was thoughtful. "That's who Angelique reminded me of. Cassandra. Were they related?"
"They were twins, Elizabeth," he told them.
Carolyn's eyes were wide. "Then-Nicholas was Angelique's brother too. She never said a word -"
"With reason. Their parents divorced when Angelique and Cassandra were very young. Nicholas went to Philadelphia with their father-as did Cassandra. Angelique remained in Europe with their mother. As a result, she was never really close to her siblings. They saw each other
infrequently. After I left England, Angelique ran into them in Paris. She told Cassandra about me and Nicholas decided that Cassandra would succeed where Angelique had failed. She would marry a Collins. Ideally, me. Instead, she married Roger. Even Angelique isn't sure what Nicholas' exact plan was or what they hoped to gain. But she did write me and try to warn me. Unfortunately, I received her letter on the same day that Roger brought Cassandra here."
"I see," Elizabeth mused.
"Well, I don't," Carolyn said. "Why didn't Angelique mention her relationship to Nicholas the last time she was here?"
"She didn't like to make the admission. Her discovery that Nicholas was behind much of Rumsen's success contributed to her leaving him."
"I don't doubt it," Carolyn commented dryly. "Excuse me, I'd better go and see if Mrs. Johnson has dinner ready."
Barnabas picked up the paper and read the part about Angelique again. "Barnabas, did you know Angelique ten years ago?" Elizabeth asked.
His answer was distracted. "Yes. Yes, I knew her then."
"Is there a possibility that - " She was trying to phrase her question as delicately as possible.
"Yes," he admitted. "It's possible."
Carolyn returned. "Dinner's ready."