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.He had seen men howling with tears and attempting to cut their own wrists over the bodies of wives or lovers they had themselves disemboweled with broken bottles.And for all that she had the skin of a white woman, Angelique was colored, lesser in the eyes of the law and perhaps in her lover’s eyes as well.Perhaps that was what hurt him so much.“Yuh-yuh-you have s-something for me?”“Yes, sir.” January removed his soft cap and deliberately made his accent as backstreet as possible.“M’am Dreuze sent this.” He produced the clean bandanna from his jacket pocket, in which were wrapped Dominique’s gloves.The boy unwrapped them, stood looking down at them, and January could see the muscles of his jaw harden with the effort to command himself.Unlike Charles-Louis Trepagier, this was not a young man who accepted violence casually, not even the violence of his own nature.January wondered what Xavier Peralta had said to his son that first dawn, after the servants were dismissed.“D-did she …” He swallowed, and tried again.“D-did she s-send anything else?”“No, sir.”The boy looked up again, fighting hard not to shed tears in the presence of a stranger and a black man at that.“I s-see.” The downy brows pulled together for a moment, puzzling.At his height, January knew he was difficult to mistake, and he’d been one of the few in the building that night who wasn’t masked.They’d passed within twelve inches of each other in the doorway of the retiring room.All of Galen’s mind, all his heart, had been centered on that white, glittering Fata Morgana laughing at him in the candlelight … but it was just possible that he remembered.Panic went through him like a douse of ice water and he slumped his shoulders a little and scratched his chin.He’d found it was true also that many whites looked less closely at blacks or colored whom they did not know.“But she say, deliver ’em into your own hand, not to nobody else, so that’s what I do.” Anything not to sound like someone who would be in the ballroom that night.“You got a message for me to take back to her?”He could have cut out his tongue a moment later.If Galen said, Yes, wait here for two hours while I go back to the house and write one, the odds of Xavier Peralta returning in the meantime would be hideously multiplied.And of course a white would think nothing of telling him to wait half the morning.It would in any case cost him precious time to backtrack to where he’d hidden the horse.The thought that it might have been stolen flashed across his mind and turned him sick.On foot he’d have no chance at all in this country.A steamboat could cover the thirty miles from the city in five or six hours, depending on how many stops it had to make and what cargo had to be unloaded at any one of them.If Peralta had left at midnight …“N-no,” said Galen.“N-no, it’s all right.” He looked very young.He wrapped the gloves in the bandanna again, and slipped it into the pocket of his coarse tweed jacket.From his trouser pocket he took a Mexican silver dollar, which he put in January’s hand.“Thank y-you.If you’d c-care to come back to the house they’ll give you s-something in the kitchen.”“If it’s all right with you, sir, I’ll be gettin’ on.” He touched his cap brim politely.“M’am Dreuze, she gave me that ’cos she knew I was headin’ down to Grand Isle to see my wife, but it’s best I be on my road.Thank you kindly, though.”The excuse sounded hideously lame—what traveler would pass up the chance for free food and a chance to gossip at the plantation kitchen?—but Galen was clearly too shaken to notice any discrepancy.He turned back toward the house without a word, the last of the ground mist dissolving around his feet, his hand moving a little in his pocket, caressing the gloves.Minou’s gloves.January felt a little ashamed of himself.He strangled that woman whose body you found, he told himself.And he’s trying to shift the blame onto you.Passing off a souvenir d’amour that actually belonged to your sister is the least of what he deserves.It was difficult to say, however, what it was that Galen Peralta did deserve.Justice, he thought.Only justice.But we all of us deserve that.The slaves were emerging from the street between the cabins, singing softly in the dawn, as January picked his way along the packed trail between the fields, headed for the woods like a fox for its earth.It was years since January had traveled in rough country.Even as a child, he’d never formally learned woodcraft, only such that every country-raised slave knew: three sticks in a triangle, pointing back the way you came, blazes on tree trunks, watch your feet and legs, and be careful around anything a snake could bask on or hide under.The day was warm with the new warmth of the Louisiana spring, a damp, debilitating heat unlike the hottest days he had known in Paris.Among the oak and sweet gum woods the air felt dense, breathless, and its weight seemed to increase as he went.He tried to keep the brighter daylight beyond the thinning trees to his left, skirting the cane fields without losing sight of them, for he knew how easy it would be to lose his bearings completely in those endless woods.Distantly, like the sound of wind around the eaves at night, the singing from the fields still came to him [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]