Harry Turtledove

The Center Cannot Hold


Lieutenant Colonel Abner Dowling strode into the offices of the U.S. Army General Staff in Philadelphia, escaping the January snow outside. He was a big, beefy man-unkind people, of whom he'd met altogether too many, would have called him fat-and walked with a determination that made other, younger officers get out of his way, even though his green-gray uniform bore not a trace of the gold-and-black ribbon that marked a General Staff man.

He looked around with more than a little curiosity. He hadn't been in General Staff headquarters for many years-not since before the Great War, in fact. He'd spent the past ten years as adjutant to General George Armstrong Custer, and Custer's relationship with the General Staff had always been… combustible was the first word that came to mind. The first printable word, anyhow.

But Custer was retired now-retired at last, after more than sixty years of service in the Army-and Dowling needed a new assignment. I wonder what they'll give me. What ever it is, it's bound to be a walk in the park after what I've gone through with Custer. Anything this side of standing sentry on the battlements of hell would have seemed a walk in the park after ten years with Custer. The man was unquestionably a hero. Dowling would have been the first to admit it. Nevertheless…

He tried not to think of Custer, which was like trying not to think of a red fish. Then he got lost-General Staff headquarters had expanded a great deal since his last visit. Having to ask his way did take his mind off his former superior. At last, by turning left down a corridor where he had turned right, he made his way to the office of General Hunter Liggett, chief of the General Staff.

Liggett's adjutant was a sharp-looking lieutenant colonel named John Abell. When Dowling walked into the office, the fellow was talking on the telephone: "-the best we can, with the budget the Socialists are willing to let us have." He looked up and put his hand over the mouthpiece. "Yes, Lieutenant Colonel? May I help you?"

"I'm Abner Dowling. I have a ten o'clock appointment with General Liggett." By the clock on the wall, it was still a couple of minutes before ten. Dowling had built in time for things to go wrong. Custer never did anything like that. Custer never figured anything would go wrong. Dowling shook his head. Don't think about Custer.

Lieutenant Colonel Abell nodded. "Go right in. He's expecting you." He returned to his interrupted telephone conversation: "I know what we should be doing, and I know what we are doing. There will be trouble one day, but they're too sure of themselves to believe it."

However much Dowling wanted to linger and eavesdrop, he went on into General Liggett's inner office and closed the door behind him. Saluting, he said, "Reporting as ordered, sir."

Hunter Liggett returned the salute. He was a jowly man in his mid-sixties, with a penetrating stare and a white Kaiser Bill mustache waxed to pointed perfection. "At ease, Lieutenant Colonel. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable."

"Thank you, sir." Dowling eased his bulk down into a chair.

"What are we going to do with you?" Liggett said. It had to be a rhetorical question; the answer surely already lay there on his desk. He went on, "You've seen a lot these past few years, haven't you? By now, I suspect, you could handle just about anything. Couldn't you, Lieutenant Colonel?"

Dowling didn't like the sound of that. "I hope so, sir," he answered cautiously. Maybe he wouldn't get a walk in the park after all. "Ahh… What have you got in mind?"

"Everyone is very pleased with your performance in Canada," General Liggett said. "The assistant secretary of war, Mr. Thomas, spoke highly of you in his report to President Sinclair. He wrote that you did your best to make a difficult and unpleasant situation go more smoothly. Any time a soldier wins praise from the present administration, he must have done very well indeed."

"Thank you, sir." Dowling remembered that Liggett had become chief of the General Staff during the present Socialist administration, replacing General Leonard Wood. That made him watch his tongue. "I'm glad Mr. Thomas was pleased. I didn't really do that much. Mostly, I just sat there and kept my mouth shut." N. Mattoon Thomas had come up to Winnipeg to force General Custer into retirement. Custer hadn't wanted to go; Custer never wanted to do anything anyone told him to do, and he thoroughly despised the Socialists. But they'd held the high cards, and he hadn't.

"Well, what ever you did say, Mr. Thomas liked it," Liggett said. "He wrote of your tact and your discretion and your good sense-said if you were a diplomat instead of a soldier, you'd make a splendid ambassador." Liggett chuckled. "Damn me to hell if you're not blushing."

"I'm flattered, sir." Dowling was also embarrassed. Like a lot of fat men, he flushed easily, and he knew it.

General Liggett went on, "And it just so happens that we have a post where a man with such talents would be very useful, very useful indeed."

"Does it? Do you?" Dowling said, and Liggett gave him a genial nod. Dowling had a fair notion of where such a post might be. Hoping he was wrong, he asked, "What have you got in mind, sir?"

Sure enough, Liggett said, "I've had to relieve Colonel Sorenson as military governor of Salt Lake City. He's an able officer, Sorenson is; don't get me wrong. But he turned out to be a little too… unbending for the position. By President Sinclair's orders, we are trying to bring Utah back towards being a normal state in the Union once more. A tactful, diplomatic officer running things in Salt Lake could do us a lot of good there."

"I… see," Dowling said slowly. "The only trouble is, sir, I'm not sure I think Utah ought to be a normal state in the Union once more." The Mormons in Utah had caused trouble during the Second Mexican War, back at the start of the 1880s-as a result of which, the U.S. Army had landed on them with both feet. Then, in 1915, perhaps aided and abetted by the Confederates and the British from Canada, they'd risen in open rebellion. The Army had had to crush them one town at a time, and had made a peace only in the Tacitean sense of the word, leaving desert behind it.

"Between you and me and the four walls of my office, Lieutenant Colonel, I'm not sure I think so, either," Liggett answered. "But the Army doesn't make policy. That's the president's job. All we do is carry it out. And so… would you like to be the next military governor of Salt Lake City?"

Maybe I should have been a nasty son of a bitch when I was working for Custer, Dowling thought. But he said what he had to say: "Yes, sir." After a moment, he added, "If I'm being diplomatic…"

"Yes?" Liggett asked.

"Well, sir, wouldn't you say the good people of Salt Lake City might see it as an insult to them if a full colonel were replaced by a lieutenant colonel?" Dowling said. "Couldn't it lead them to believe the United States Army finds them less important than it once did?"

Amusement glinted in Liggett's eyes. "And how do you propose to make sure the good people of Salt Lake City-if there are any-don't find themselves insulted?"

"I can think of a couple of ways, sir," Dowling replied. "One would be to appoint somebody who's already a bird colonel as military governor there."

"Yes, that stands to reason," Liggett agreed. "And the other?" He leaned back in his swivel chair, which squeaked. He seemed to be enjoying himself, waiting to hear what Dowling would say.

Dowling had hoped the chief of the General Staff would come out and say it for him. When Liggett didn't, he had to speak for himself: "The other way, sir, would be to promote me to the appropriate rank."

"And you think you deserve such a promotion, eh?" Liggett rumbled.

"Yes, sir," Dowling said boldly. After ten years with Custer, I deserve to be a major general, by God. And if he said no, he knew he'd never be promoted again.

General Liggett shuffled through papers on his desk. Finding the one he wanted, he shoved it, face down, across the polished expanse of mahogany to Dowling. "This may be of some interest to you, then."

"Thank you," Dowling said, wondering if he ought to thank Liggett. He turned the paper over, glanced at it-and stared at his superior. "Thank you very much, sir!" he exclaimed.

"You're welcome, Colonel Dowling," Liggett replied. "Congratulations!"

"Thank you very much," Dowling repeated. "Uh, sir… Would you have given me this if I hadn't asked for it?"

Liggett's smile was as mysterious as the Mona Lisa's, though a good deal less benign. "You'll never know, will you?" His chuckle was not a pleasant sound. He found another sheet of paper, and passed it to Dowling, too. "Here are your orders, Colonel. Your train goes out of Broad Street Station tomorrow morning. I'm sure you'll do a fine job, and I know for a fact that General Pershing is looking forward to having you under his command."

" Do you?" All of a sudden, Dowling's world seemed less rosy. During the war, Pershing's Second Army had fought side by side with Custer's First in Kentucky and Tennessee. The two armies had been rivals, as neighbors often are, and their two commanders had been rivals, too. Custer was suspicious of his younger colleague, as he was suspicious of any other officer who might steal his glory. Dowling had forgotten Pershing was military governor of Utah these days.

"I think I know what's bothering you, Colonel," Liggett said. If anyone knew about rivalries, the chief of the General Staff would be the man. He went on, "You don't have to worry, not on that score. I meant what I said: General Pershing is eager to have you."

But what will he do with me-to me-once he's got me? Dowling wondered. He couldn't say that. All he could say was, "That's good to hear, sir."

"Which means you don't believe me," Liggett said. "Well, that's your privilege. You may even be right. I don't think you are, but you may be."

Dowling was by nature a pessimist. If he hadn't been before, ten years under General Custer would have made him one. "I'll do the best I can, sir, that's all," he said. And what ever Pershing does to me, by God, I'll have eagles on my shoulder straps. That makes up for a lot.

General Liggett nodded. "As long as you do that, no one can ask any more of you."

"All right, sir." Dowling started to rise, then checked himself. "May I ask you one more thing, sir? It's got nothing to do with Mormons."

"Go ahead and ask," Liggett told him. "I don't promise to answer, not till I've heard the question."

"I understand. What I want to know is, are we really cutting back on building new and better barrels? I've heard that, but it strikes me as foolish." Like most professional soldiers, Dowling had no use for the Socialist Party. There as in few other places, he agreed with the man under whom he'd served for so long. He would have expressed himself a lot more strongly had he been talking with General Leonard Wood, a lifelong Democrat and a friend of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt.

But Liggett nodded again, and didn't sound happy as he answered, "We aren't just cutting back, as a matter of fact. We're gutting the program. No money in the budget any more. That outfit at Fort Leavenworth called the Barrel Works…" He slashed a thumb across his throat. "As our German friends would say, kaputt."

"That's-unfortunate, sir." Dowling used the politest word he could. "Barrels won us the last war. They won't count less in the next one."

"Don't be silly, Colonel. There'll never, ever be another war. Just ask President Sinclair." He's still a soldier first, then, Dowling thought. Good. Both men laughed. But for the bitter undertone in each one's voice, the joke might have been funny.

A nne Colleton was studying the Wall Street Journal when the telephone rang. She muttered something under her breath, put down the five-day-old newspaper, and went to answer the phone. Back in the days when she'd lived on the Marshlands plantation, her butler, Scipio, or one of the other Negro servants would have done that for her and spared her the interruption. These days, though, the Marshlands mansion was a burnt-out ruin, the cotton fields around it going back to grass and bushes. Anne lived in town, not that St. Matthews, South Carolina, was much of a town.

"This is Anne Colleton," she said crisply. She was in her mid-thirties. With her sleek blond good looks, she could have lied ten years off her age with no one the wiser-till she spoke. Few people younger than she-few her own age, for that matter, but even fewer younger-could have so quickly made plain they put up with no nonsense at all.

"And a good day to you, Miss Colleton," replied the man on the other end of the line. By the hisses and pops accompanying his voice, he was calling from some distance away. He went on, "My name is Edward C.L. Wiggins, ma'am, and I'm in Richmond."

Long distance, sure enough, Anne thought-he sounded as if he were shouting down a rain barrel. "What is it, Mr. Wiggins?" she said. "I don't think we've met."

"No, ma'am, I haven't had the pleasure," he agreed, "but the Colleton name is famous all over the Confederate States."

He doubtless meant that as pleasant flattery. Anne Colleton had heard enough pleasant flattery to last the rest of her life by the time she was sixteen-one consequence of her looks men seldom thought about. "You can come to the point, Mr. Wiggins," she said pleasantly, "or I'll hang up on you no matter where you are."

"Once upon a time, President Semmes sent me up to Philadelphia to see if I could dicker a peace with the Yankees, but they wouldn't do it," Wiggins said.

That wasn't coming to the point, or Anne didn't think it was, but it did get her attention. "This would have been fairly early on, before we finally had to quit?" she asked.

"That's right, ma'am," he said.

"I heard rumors about that," she said. "With all the money I gave the Whigs in those days, I would have thought I deserved to hear something more than rumors, but evidently not. So you were representing President Semmes, were you?"

"Yes, ma'am, in an unofficial sort of way."

"And whose representative are you now, in an unofficial sort of way? I'm sure you're somebody's."

Edward C.L. Wiggins chuckled. "I heard you were one clever lady. I guess I heard right."

"Who told you so?" Anne asked sharply.

"Well, now, I was just getting to that. I-"

Anne did hang up then. She wasted not a minute getting back to work. With her finances in the state they were, they needed all the time she could give them. They needed more than that, too: they needed something close to a miracle. She wasn't a pauper, as so many prewar planters were these days. But she wasn't rich enough not to have to worry, either, and she didn't know if she ever would be.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. Anne picked it up. "Why, Mr. Wiggins. What a pleasant surprise," she said before whoever was on the other end of the line could speak. If it wasn't Wiggins, she would have to apologize to someone, but she thought the odds were good enough to take the chance.

And it was. "Miss Colleton, if you would let me explain myself-"

She cut him off, though she didn't-quite-hang up on him once more. "I gave you two chances to do that. You didn't. If you think I'm in the habit of wasting my time on strange men who call me out of the blue, you're mistaken-and whoever told you what you think you know about me hasn't got the faintest notion of what he's talking about."

"Oh, I don't know." Wiggins' voice was dry. "He told me you were sharp as a tack but a first-class bitch, and that doesn't seem so far out to me."

"I'm sure he meant it as an insult, but I'll take it for a compliment," Anne said. "Last chance, Mr. Wiggins-who told you that?"

"Jake Featherston."

Anne had expected almost any other name than that of the Freedom Party leader. Something she didn't want to call alarm shot through her. She took Jake Featherston very seriously. That didn't mean she wanted anything to do with him. She'd backed him for a while, yes, but she backed winners, and he didn't look like one any more. Trying to gain time to recover her composure, she asked, "If you used to work for the Whigs, why are you calling me for Featherston now?"

"On account of what I saw when I went to Philadelphia, ma'am," he replied. "The United States don't respect you when you're weak. If you're down, they'll kick you. But if you're strong, they have got to sit up and take notice. That's a fact."

"I agree with that. I think everyone in the Confederate States agrees with that," Anne said.

"Well, there you are," Wiggins said cheerily. "If you agree with that, the Freedom Party is really and truly the only place for you, because-"

"Nonsense." Anne didn't care about his reasons. She had reasons of her own: "The Freedom Party has about as much chance of electing the next president as I do of getting elected myself. I have no intention of giving Jake Featherston one more dime. Every since that madman of a Grady Calkins murdered President Hampton, it'd take a special miracle for anyone from the Freedom Party to get himself elected dog catcher, let alone anything more. I don't spend my money where it does me no good."

"I don't think the clouds are as black as you say, ma'am," Wiggins replied. "Yes, we lost a couple of seats in the election last November, but not as many as people said we would. We'll be back-you wait and see if we aren't. Folks don't have much in the way of memory-and besides, ma'am, we're right."

"If you can't win an election, whether you're right or not doesn't matter," Anne pointed out.

"We will." Wiggins sounded confident. She got the idea he sounded confident all the time. He went on, "I want to say a couple of other things, and then I'm through. First one is, Mr. Featherston, he knows who's for him, and he knows who's against him, and he never, ever, forgets the one or the other."

He was, without question, right about that. Featherston was as relentless as a barrel smashing through one line of trenches after another. Anne didn't intimidate easily, but Jake Featherston had done the job. That just gave her more reason to harden her voice and say, "I'll take my chances."

Edward C.L. Wiggins chuckled. "He told me you were near as stubborn as he is himself, and I see he's right. One more thing, and then I'm through, and I won't trouble you any more."

"Go ahead," Anne said. "Make it short." I've already wasted more than enough time on you.

"Yes, ma'am. Here's what I've got to say: there's only one party in the CSA that's got any notion at all about what the devil to do about the nigger problem in this country, and that's the Freedom Party. And now I'm done. Good-bye." He surprised her by hanging up.

Slowly, she put the mouthpiece back on its hook and set down the telephone. She said a word she was unlikely to use in public, one that would have made strong men gasp and women of delicate sensibilities blush and faint. Wiggins had known how to get through to her, after all. No one was likely to forget the Red Negro uprising that had tied the Confederacy in knots late in 1915 and early in 1916. No one knew how much it had helped the USA win the war, but it couldn't have hurt. The Freedom Party stood foursquare for vengeance, and so did Anne Colleton.

And why not? she thought. One brother dead, my plantation wrecked, me almost murdered… Oh, yes, I owe those black bastards just a little. The whole country owes them just a little, whether the Whigs and the Radical Liberals want to admit it or not.

She repeated that word, louder this time. Behind her, her surviving brother burst out laughing. She whirled around. "Confound it, Tom," she said angrily, "I didn't know you were there."

Tom Colleton laughed harder than ever. "I'll bet you didn't," he answered. "If you had, you would have said something like, 'Confound it,' instead." He was a couple of years younger than Anne, and a little darker, with hair light brown rather than gold. He'd gone into the war an irresponsible boy and come out of it a lieutenant-colonel and a man, something of which Anne still had to remind herself now and again.

She shrugged now. "I probably would have. But I meant what I did say."

"Who was on the telephone?" he asked.

"A man named Edward C.L. Wiggins," Anne replied. "He wanted money from us for the Freedom Party."

Tom frowned. "Those people don't take no for an answer, do they?"

"They never have," Anne said. "It's their greatest strength-and their greatest weakness."

"Did you find out why he travels with a herd of initials?" her brother asked. She shook her head. Tom went on, "What did you tell him?"

"No, of course," Anne answered. "The way things are now, I'd sooner cozy up to a cottonmouth than to Jake Featherston."

"Don't blame you a bit," Tom Colleton said. "He's an impressive man in a lot of ways, but…" He shook his head. "He puts me in mind of a time bomb, wound up and waiting to go off. And when he does, I don't think it'll be pretty."

"There were times when I thought he had all the answers," Anne said. "And there were times when I thought he was a little bit crazy. And there were times when I thought both those things at once. Those were the ones that scared me."

"Scared me, too," Tom agreed, "and we don't scare easy."

"No. We'd be dead by now if we did," Anne said, and Tom nodded. She eyed him. "And speaking of looking pretty, you're fancier than you need to be for staying around here. Is that a necktie?" She thought its gaudy stripes of crimson and gold excessive, but declined to criticize.

Her brother nodded again. "Sure is. Bought it from what's-his-name, the Jew tailor. And I'm going to pay a call on Bertha Talmadge in a little while."

Before the war, Anne would have discouraged such a call-with a bludgeon, if necessary. The Muncies, Bertha's parents, were grocers, and their daughter no fit match for a planter's son. These days… Well, grocers never starved. And Bertha Talmadge, though a widow whose husband, like so many others, had died in the trenches, was reasonably young, reasonably pretty, reasonably bright.

Anne nodded approval. "Have a nice time. You should find yourself a wife, settle down, have yourself some children."

He didn't get angry at her, as he would have before the war. In fact, he nodded again himself. "You're right. I should. And, as a matter of fact, so should you."

"That's different," Anne said quickly.


Because he was her brother, she told him: "Because my husband would want to try to run everything, because that's what men do. And odds are he wouldn't be as good at it as I am. That's why."

"And even if he was, you wouldn't admit it," Tom said.

That was also true. Anne Colleton, however, had not the slightest intention of admitting it. Giving her brother her most enigmatic smile, she went back to the Wall Street Journal.

M ary McGregor was only thirteen years old, but her course in life was already set. So she told herself, anyhow, and also told her mother and her older sister as they sat down to supper on their farm outside Rosenfeld, Manitoba: "The Yankees killed my brother. They killed my father, too. But I'm going to get even-you see if I don't."

Fright showed on her mother's careworn face. Maude McGregor touched the sleeve of her woolen blouse to show Mary she still wore mourning black. "You be careful," she said. "If anything happened to you after Alexander and Arthur, I don't think I could bear it."

She didn't tell Mary not to pursue vengeance against the Americans occupying Canada. Plainly, she knew better. That would have been telling the sun not to rise, the snow not to fall. Ever since the Americans arrested her older brother during the war on a charge of sabotage, lined him up against a wall, and shot him, she'd hated them with an altogether unchildlike ferocity.

"Of course I'll be careful," she said now, as if she were the adult and her mother the worried, fussy child. "Pa was careful. He just… wasn't lucky at the end. He should have got that… blamed General Custer." However much she hated Americans, she wasn't allowed to curse at the supper table.

Her older sister nodded. "Who would have thought Custer would be waiting for Father to throw that bomb and ready to throw it back?" Julia said. "That was bad luck, nothing else but." She sighed. She hadn't only lost her father. Arthur McGregor's failure had also cost her an engagement; the Culligans had decided it just wasn't safe to join their son, Ted, to a bomber's family.

"Part of it was," their mother said. "Mary, would you please pass the butter?" Mayhem and manners lived together under the McGregors' roof.

"Here you are, Ma," Mary said, and her mother buttered her mashed potatoes. Mary went on, "What do you mean, part of it was bad luck? It all was!"

Her mother shook her head. "No, only part. The Americans suspected your father. They came sniffing around here all the time, remember. If they hadn't suspected, Custer wouldn't have been ready to… to do what he did."

What he'd done by throwing the bomb back had blown Arthur McGregor to red rags; the family could have buried him in a jam tin. No one still alive wanted to think about that. "I'll be careful," Mary said again. She brushed a wisp of auburn hair back from her face in a gesture her mother might have made. Maude McGregor had reddish hair, too. Julia was darker, as her father had been.

Maude McGregor said, "I just thank God you're only thirteen, and not likely to get into too much mischief for a while. You know the Yankees will keep an eye on us forever, on account of what the menfolks in our family did."

"Alexander never did anything!" Mary said hotly.

"They thought he did, and that was all that mattered to them," her mother answered. "Your father never would have done any of the things he did if that hadn't happened-and we'd all be here together." She stared down at the heavy white earthenware plate in front of her.

"I'm sorry, Mother." Seeing her mother unhappy could still tear Mary to pieces inside. But she wasted little time amending that: "I'm sorry I made you unhappy." She wasn't sorry she wanted revenge on the Americans. Nothing could make her sorry about that.

"We've been through too much. I don't want us to have to go through any more," her mother said. Maude McGregor quickly brought her napkin up to her face. Pretending to wipe her mouth, she dabbed at her eyes instead. She tried not to let her children catch her crying. Sometimes, try as she would, she failed.

Mary said, "Canada's been through too much. There isn't even a Canada any more. That's what the Americans say, anyhow. If they say it loud enough and often enough, lots of people will start believing it. But I won't."

"I won't, either," Julia said. "I quit the schools when they started teaching American lies. But you're right-plenty of people are still going, and plenty of them will believe what ever they hear. What can we do about it?"

"We've got to do something!" Mary exclaimed, though she didn't know what.

Her mother got up from the table. "What ever we do, we won't do it now. What we will do now is wash the dishes and get ready for bed. We'll have a lot of work tomorrow, and it's not any easier because…" She shook her head. "It's not any easier, that's all."

It's not any easier because we haven't got any menfolk left alive to help us. That was what she'd started to say, that or something like it. And things would only get harder when winter of 1924 turned to spring and they would have to try to put a crop in the ground by themselves. Like any farm daughter, Mary had worked since she could stand on her own two feet. The idea didn't worry her. Having to do men's work as well as women's… How could the three of them manage without wearing down to nubs?

She didn't know that, either. She only knew they had to try. My father kept trying, and he made the Yankees pay. I will, too, somehow.

Julia washed dishes and silverware and scrubbed pots till her hands turned red. Mary dried things and put them away. Yesterday, they'd done it the other way round. Tomorrow, they would again.

After the last plate went where it belonged, Mary took a candle upstairs. She used it to light the kerosene lamp in her room. The Americans had started talking about bringing electricity out from the towns to the countryside, but all they'd done so far was talk. More lies, she thought.

She changed out of her shirtwaist and sweater and skirt into a long wool flannel nightgown. With thick wool blankets and a down comforter on the bed, she didn't fear even a Manitoba winter-and if that wasn't courage, what was? Before she lay down, she knelt beside the bed and prayed.

"And keep Mother safe and healthy, and keep Julia safe and healthy, and help me pay the Americans back," she whispered, as she did every night. "Please, God. I know You can do it if You try." God could do anything. She believed that with all her heart. Getting Him to do it-that was a different, and harder, business.

When Mary's head did hit the pillow, she fell asleep as if clubbed. She woke the next morning in exactly the same position as when she'd gone to sleep. Maybe she'd shifted back into it during the night. Maybe she hadn't had the energy to roll over.

Once she crawled out of bed, the aromas of tea and frying eggs and potatoes floating up to the bedroom from the kitchen helped get her moving. She put on the same skirt and sweater with a different shirtwaist and hurried downstairs. "Good," her mother said when she made her appearance. "Another five minutes and I'd've sent Julia after you. Here you are." She used a spatula to lift a couple of eggs from the skillet and set them on Mary's plate. Potatoes fried in lard went alongside them.

"Thanks, Ma." Mary put salt on the eggs and potatoes and pepper on the eggs. She ate like a wolf. Her mother gave her a thick china mug full of tea. Mary poured in milk from a pitcher and added a couple of spoonsful of sugar. She drank the tea as hot as she could bear it.

Julia was already on her second cup. "How do the Americans stand drinking coffee all the time?" she wondered aloud. "It's so nasty."

"It's disgusting," Mary said. She honestly believed she would have thought that even if the Yankees hadn't done what they'd done. She'd tried coffee a couple of times, and found it astonishingly bitter.

To her surprise, her mother said, "Coffee's not so bad. Oh, I like tea better, but coffee's not so bad. It'll pry your eyes open even better than tea will, and that's nice of a morning."

Hearing Maude McGregor defending something Mary thought of as American and therefore automatically corrupt rocked her. She didn't quarrel, though; she had no time to quarrel. As soon as she finished breakfast, she put on rubbers and an overcoat that had belonged to Alexander. It was much too big for her, even though she'd nearly matched her mother's height, but that didn't matter. Along with earmuffs and mittens, it would keep her warm while she did the chores.

"I'm going out to the barn," she said. Her older sister shut the door behind her.

Instead of heading straight to the barn, Mary paused at the outhouse first. It didn't stink the way it did in warmer weather, but she would almost rather have sat down on a pincushion than on those cold planks. She got out of there as fast as she could.

Several motorcars were coming up the road from the U.S. border toward Rosenfeld. The snow that scrunched under Mary's rubbers sprayed up from their tires. They were all painted green-gray, which marked them as U.S. Army machines. I hope something horrible happens to you, Mary thought. But the motorcars cared nothing for her curses. They just kept rolling north.

The railroad line ran to the west of the farm. Coal smoke spewing from the stack, a train rumbled past. The shriek of the whistle, far off in the distance, seemed the loneliest sound in the world. The train was probably full of Yankees, too. More and more these days, the Yankees were tying the Canadian railroads to their own.

"Damn them," Mary mouthed, and went into the barn. It was warmer there; the body heat of the horse and the cow and the sheep and the pigs and, she supposed, even the chickens helped keep it that way. And the work she had to do certainly kept her warm. She gathered eggs and fed the animals and shoveled manure that would go on the fields and the vegetable plots when warmer weather came again.

As she worked, she looked around. Somewhere in here, her father had made the bombs that did the Americans so much harm before one of them killed him. U.S. soldiers had torn the farmhouse and the barn to pieces, looking for his tools and fuses and explosives. They hadn't found them.

Of course they didn't find them, Mary thought. My father was cleverer than a hundred Yankees put together. He just… wasn't lucky with General Custer, that's all.

She picked up the basket of eggs, which she'd set on an old broken wagon wheel that had been sitting in the barn as long as she could remember-and probably a lot longer than that. She sighed. She didn't want to go back out into the cold, even to take the eggs back to the farmhouse. Idly, she wondered why her father had never repaired and used the wheel-either that or got a few cents for the iron on the tire and the hub. He hadn't been a man to waste much.

If I had the tools, if I knew how, would I make bombs and keep fighting the Americans? Mary nodded without a moment's hesitation, despite the thought that followed hard on the heels of the other: if they caught you, they'd shoot you. More than most children her age, she knew and understood how very permanent death was. Losing Alexander and her father had agonizingly driven home that lesson.

"I don't care," she said, as if someone had said she did. "It would be worth it. We have to hit back. We have to." One of these days, I'll learn how. It won't take so long, either. I promise it won't, Father. She picked up the basket of eggs from the old wagon wheel and, however little she wanted to, went back out into winter.

F lags flying, horns blaring, rails decked in bunting of red, white, and blue, the USS O'Brien came into Cork harbor. The Irish had laid on a spectacular welcome for the destroyer with the fortunately Hibernian name, with fireboats shooting streams of water high into the air. On the shore, a brass band in fancy green uniforms blared away. Schoolchildren had the day off. Some of them waved American flags, others the orange, white, and green banner of the Republic of Ireland-which, with U.S. help, had finally gained control over the whole island.

From his station at the forward four-inch gun, Ensign Sam Carsten grinned at the celebration. He'd seen the like before, in Dublin. He was a tall, muscular, very blond man who burned whenever the sun came out, no matter how feebly. A cloudy day in Irish late winter suited him down to the ground. He didn't have to worry about smearing zinc-oxide ointment and other things that didn't work onto his poor, abused hide, not for a while he didn't.

He turned to the petty officer who was his number two at the gun. "They wouldn't have been so friendly if we'd come in while the limeys were still running this place, eh, Hirskowitz?"

"You're right about that, sir." Nathan Hirskowitz was a dour Jew from New York City, as dark as Carsten was fair. He had swarthy skin, brown eyes, and a blue-black stubble he had to shave twice a day.

Getting called sir still bemused Carsten. He was a mustang, up through the ranks; he'd spent going on twenty years working his way up from ordinary seaman. If the officer in charge of the gun he'd served on an aeroplane carrier hadn't encouraged him, he didn't think he would ever have had the nerve to take the qualifying examination. He wished he were still aboard the Remembrance; naval aviation fascinated him, even if he was a gunnery man first. But the carrier hadn't had any slots for a new-minted ensign, and so…

"Matter of fact, they'd've tried to blow our heads off," Sam said. Hirskowitz nodded. Carsten scanned the harbor. Lots of fishing boats, some merchant steamers, a couple of old U.S. destroyers now flying the Irish flag, and… He stiffened, then pointed. "We've got company. Nobody told me we were going to have company."

Hirskowitz let out a disdainful sniff. "You think they're going to tell you things you need to know just because you need to know them?"

The S135 was a German destroyer, a little smaller than the O'Brien, mounting three guns rather than four. The German naval ensign fluttered from her stern: a busy banner, with the black Hohenzollern eagle in a white circle at the center of a black cross on a white field. In the canton, where the stars went on an American flag, was a small version of the German national banner: a black Maltese cross on horizontal stripes of black, white, and red. As the O'Brien edged toward a quay, the S135 dipped her flag in salute. A moment later, the American ship returned the compliment.

"You see? They're allies," Nathan Hirskowitz said.

In a different tone of voice, that would have sounded light, cheery, optimistic-all words noticeably not suited to the petty officer's temper. As things were, Hirskowitz packed a world of doubt and menace into four words.

"Yeah." Carsten did his best to match him in one. Without a doubt, the United States and the German Empire were the two strongest nations in the world these days. What was in doubt was which of them was stronger. Officially, everything remained as it had been when they joined together to put Britain and France and the CSA in the shade. Unofficially…

"If our boys go drinking and their boys go drinking, there's liable to be trouble," Carsten said.

"Probably." Hirskowitz sounded as if he looked forward to it. After making a fist and looking at it in surprise-what was such a thing doing on the end of his arm? — he went on, "If there is trouble, they'll be sorry for it."

"Yeah," Sam Carsten said again. For one thing, the O'Brien had a bigger crew than the German destroyer. For another, winning the Great War had made him certain the USA could win any fight. He shook his head in bemusement. That was certainly a new attitude for an American to take. After losing the War of Secession and getting humiliated in the Second Mexican War, Americans had come to have a lot of self-doubt in their character. Amazing what victory can do, he thought.

He peered toward the S135. By the polished way the sailors over there went about their business, they'd never heard of self-doubt. And why should they have? Under Bismarck and under Kaiser Bill, Germany had gone from triumph to triumph. Victories over Denmark and Austria and France let her unite as a single kingdom. And victory in the Great War left her a colossus bestriding Europe in almost the same way the USA bestrode North America.

Sailors aboard the O'Brien threw lines to waiting longshoremen, who made the destroyer fast to the quay. "Welcome!" one of the longshoremen called in a musical brogue. "I'll be glad to buy some of you boys a pint of Guinness, that I will."

"What's Guinness?" Hirskowitz asked Carsten.

"It's what they make in Ireland instead of beer," Sam said helpfully. "It's black as fuel oil, and almost as thick. Tastes kind of burnt till you get used to it. After that, it's not so bad."

"Oh." Hirskowitz weighed that. "Well, I'll see. They make real beer, too?"

"Some. And whiskey. Got some good whiskey the last couple of times I was here."

"When was that, sir?"

"Once during the war," Carsten answered. "We were running guns to the micks to help 'em give the limeys hell. They paid us back in booze." He smacked his lips at the memory. "And then again in Remembrance afterwards, when we were helping the Republic put down the limeys and their pals up in the north."

The captain of the O'Brien, an improbably young lieutenant commander named Marsden, assembled the crew on the foredeck and said, "I'm pleased to grant you men liberty-this is a friendly port, and everybody has gone out of his way to make sure we're welcome. I know you'll want to drink a little and have a good time."

Sailors nudged one another and grinned. Somebody behind Sam said, "Skipper's all right, ain't he?" Carsten frowned. He knew boys would be boys, too, but that didn't mean an officer was supposed to encourage them. He wouldn't have done that as a petty officer, and he wouldn't do it now.

But then Marsden stiffened and seemed to grow taller. His voice went hard as armor plate as he continued, "Having a good time doesn't mean brawling. It especially doesn't mean brawling with the Kaiser's sailors. We're on the same side, us and the Germans. Anybody who's stupid enough to quarrel with them will have the book thrown at him, and that's a promise. Everybody understand?"

"Yes, sir!" the sailors chorused.

"What do you say, then?"

"Aye aye, sir!"

"Good." Lieutenant Commander Marsden's smile showed sharp teeth. "Because you'd better. Dismissed!"

Sam Carsten didn't get to go into Cork for a couple of days. He was less than impressed when he did. It wasn't a very big city, and it was grimy with coal smoke. And he almost got killed the first two or three times he tried to cross the street. Like their former English overlords, the Irish drove on the wrong side of the road. Looking right didn't help if a wagon was bearing down on you from the left.

Before long, Carsten discovered he'd given Nathan Hirskowitz at least half a bum steer. Along with the swarms of GUINNESS IS GOOD FOR YOU! signs, pubs hereabouts also extolled the virtues of a local stout called Murphy's. Sam strolled into one and, in the spirit of experiment, ordered a pint of the local stuff. He'd changed a little money, but the tapman shoved his sixpence back across the bar at him. "You're one o' them Yanks," he said. "Your money's no good here."

"Thanks very much," Carsten said.

"My pleasure, sir, that it is." The fellow left a little more than an inch of creamy head on the pint, and drew a shamrock in the thick froth with the drippings from the tap. Catching Sam's eye on him, he smiled sheepishly. "Just showing off a bit." Sam smiled back; he'd seen the same stunt and heard the same line in Dublin. Every tapman in the country probably used it on strangers. This one slid Sam the glass. "Enjoy it, now."

"I bet I will." Carsten took a sip. The tapman waited expectantly. Sam smiled and said, "That's mighty good." But in truth, he couldn't have told Murphy's from Guinness to save his life.

A couple of American sailors came in not long after he did. He nodded to them. They sat down well away from him-he was an officer, after all, even if he sometimes had trouble remembering it-and ordered drinks of their own. Then a couple of more sailors came in. An Irishman stuck his nose in the door, saw all the blue uniforms, and decided to do his drinking somewhere else.

Carsten raised his finger to order another Murphy's. The tapman was pouring it for him when half a dozen more sailors walked into the pub. They too wore navy blue uniforms, but theirs were of a different cut, and their hats struck Sam's eye as odd. They were off the S135, not the O'Brien.

They eyed the Americans already there with the same wariness those Americans were showing them. Sam didn't know German rank markings any too well, but one grizzled German sure had the look of a senior petty officer. The man spoke English, of a sort: "Friends, ja?"

"Yes, friends," Carsten said, before any of the O'Brien 's men could say anything like, No, not friends.

"Gut, gut," the German said. "England, Frankreich — " He shook his head. "No, France…" He made it sound more like a man's name-Franz-than a country's, but Carsten nodded to show he got it. "England, France-so." The squarehead made a thumbs-down gesture that might have come from a Roman amphitheater.

All the Americans got that. "Yeah," one of the sailors said. "To hell with England and France, and the horse they rode in on."

The German plainly didn't know about the horse they rode in on, but the smiles from the Americans encouraged his pals and him to come in and order beers for themselves. Sam noticed the tapman took their money, where he hadn't for any of the Americans. If the Germans noticed that, too, it might cause trouble.

Picking up his pint of Murphy's, he went over and sat down by the German who knew a little English. "Hello," he said.

"Good day, sir," the veteran said. He didn't come to ramrod attention, the way he would have for one of his own officers-the Germans were devils for discipline, even by the tough standards of the U.S. Navy-but he wasn't far from it. One of his own officers probably wouldn't have deigned to talk with him at all.

"We should stay friends, your country and mine, eh?" Sam said.

"Jawohl, mein Herr!" the petty officer said. He translated that for his pals. They all nodded. Sam got out a pack of cigarettes. He offered them to the Germans. The tobacco was as good as prewar, imported from the CSA. All the Germans took a cigarette or two except one man who apologetically showed him a clay pipe to explain why he didn't. "Danke," the petty officer said. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Carsten raised his mug. "Let's stay friends."

Again, the petty officer translated. Again, his men solemnly nodded. They all drank with Sam. A couple of the Americans came over. One spoke a little German, about as much as the petty officer spoke English. A couple of hours passed in a friendly enough way-especially since the tapman had the sense to stop charging the Germans. But Sam knew he would have to draft a report when he got back to the O'Brien. He suspected the German petty officer would be doing the same thing on the S135.

Friends? he thought. Well, maybe. He eyed the capable-looking German sailors. The fellow with the clay pipe sent up a cloud of smoke. Maybe friends, yeah. But rivals? Oh, you bet. Rivals for sure.

W inter, spring, summer, fall-they didn't matter much in the Sloss Works. It could be snowing outside-not that it snowed very often in Birmingham, Alabama-but it would still be hell on earth on the pouring floor in the steel mill.

Jefferson Pinkard shook his head. Sweat ran down his face. It was hot as hell in here, no doubt about that. But he'd seen hell on earth fighting the Red Negro rebels in Georgia, and again, worse, fighting the damnyankees in the trenches in west Texas. You could hurt yourself-you could kill yourself-right here, but nobody was trying to do it for you.

When the shift-change whistle screamed-a sound that pierced the din of the mill like an armor-tipped shell plowing through shoddy concrete-he nodded to his partner and to the men who'd come to take his crew's place. " 'Night, Fred. 'Night, Calvin. 'Night, Luke. See y'all tomorrow."

He clocked out by himself. Once upon a time, he'd worked side by side with his best friend and next-door neighbor, Bedford Cunningham. But Bedford had got conscripted before he did, and had come back to Birmingham without most of his right arm. Pinkard had stayed at the Sloss Works a while longer, working side by side with black men till he got conscripted, too.

But after he'd put on butternut… After he'd put on butternut, Emily had got lonely. She'd been used to getting it regular from him, and she wanted to keep getting it regular regardless of whether he was there or not. He'd come home on leave one night to find her on her knees in front of Bedford Cunningham, neither of them wearing any more than they'd been born with.

Pinkard growled, deep in his throat. "Stinking tramp," he muttered. "It was the war, it was the goddamn war, nothin' else but." Even after he'd come back when the fighting stopped, their marriage hadn't survived. Now he lived in the yellow-painted cottage-company housing-all by himself. It was none too clean these days-nothing like the way it had looked when Emily took care of things-but he didn't care. He had only himself to please, and he wasn't what anybody would call a tough audience.

He headed back toward the cottage, part of the stream of big, weary men in overalls and dungarees heading home. He walked by himself, as he always did these days. Another, similar, stream was coming in: the swing shift. It had a few more blacks mixed in than the outgoing day shift, but only a few. Blacks had taken a lot of better jobs during the war; now whites had almost all of them back.

"Hey, Jeff!" One of the whites waved to him. "Freedom!"

"Freedom!" Pinkard echoed. "When you gonna get your ass to another Party meeting, Travis?"

"I be go to hell if I know," the other steel worker answered. "When they take me off swing, I reckon, but God only knows when that is. Remember me to the boys tonight, will you?"

"Sure will," Pinkard said. "That's a promise." He walked on. When he got to the cottage, he lit a kerosene lamp (there was talk about putting electricity into the company housing, but so far it was nothing but talk), got a fire going in the coal-burning stove, and took a ham out of the icebox. He cut off a big slice and fried it in lard, then did up some potatoes in the same iron frying pan. The beer in the icebox was homebrew-Alabama had been formally dry since before the war-but it washed down supper as well as anything storebought could have.

He put the plate and the frying pan in the sink, atop a teetering mountain of dirty dishes. One day soon he'd have to wash them, because he was running out of clean ones. "Not tonight, Josephine," he muttered; he'd started talking to himself now that he was the only one in the house. "I got important things to do tonight, by God."

He scraped stubble from his chin with a straight razor, splashed on water, and then shed his overalls and work shirt for a clean white shirt and a pair of butternut wool trousers. He wished he had time to shine his shoes, but a glance at the wind-up alarm clock ticking on his nightstand told him he didn't, not if he wanted to get to the meeting on time. And there was nothing in the world he wanted more.

The trolley stopped at the edge of the company housing. Looking back over his shoulder, Jeff saw the mills throwing sparks into the night sky, almost as if it were the Fourth of July. A couple of other men came up to wait for the trolley. They too wore white shirts and khaki trousers. "Freedom!" Jefferson Pinkard said.

"Freedom!" they echoed.

Jeff sighed. Back in the days before Grady Calkins had shot down President Hampton when he came to Birmingham, a lot more men would have come to Party meetings. The Freedom Party had looked like the wave of the future then. Now… Only the dedicated, the men who really saw something wrong with the CSA and saw that Jake Featherston knew how to fix it, went to Freedom Party meetings these days. And even now… "Where's Virgil?" Jeff asked.

Both other men shrugged. "Don't rightly know," one of them said. "He was at the foundry, so I don't reckon he's feelin' poorly."

Bell clanging, the trolley came up. Jeff was glad to climb aboard and drop five cents in the fare box so he wouldn't have to think about what Virgil's absence might mean. He was also glad to pay a fare measured in cents and not in thousands or millions of dollars. After the war, inflation had ripped the guts out of the Confederate States. Its easing had hurt the Freedom Party, too, but that was one bargain Pinkard was willing to make.

Several more men in white shirts and butternut trousers got on the trolley at its next few stops. Jeff liked the uniform look they had. It reminded him of the days when he and a lot of others who were now Freedom Party members had worn Confederate butternut together. They'd been fighting for something important then, just as they were now. They'd lost then. This time, by Jesus, we won't!

The Freedom Party men all got out at the same stop. Not far away stood the old livery stable where the Party met in Birmingham. As a livery stable, the place was a failure, with motorcars and trucks driving more horses off the road every year. As a meeting hall, it was

… Tolerable, Jeff thought.

But he was smiling as he went inside. This was where he belonged. Emily was gone. She was gone, at least in part, because the Freedom Party had come to mean so much to him. Whatever the reason, though, she was gone. The Party remained. This was such family as he had left.

Party members crowded the floor. The hay bales on which men had once sat weren't there any more. Folding chairs replaced them. Their odor, though, and that of horses, still lingered in the building. The smells had probably soaked into the pine boards of the wall.

Jeff found a seat near the rostrum at the front. He shook hands with several men sitting close by. "Freedom!" they said. Pinkard had to be careful to whom he used the Party greeting at the Sloss Works. Whigs and especially Radical Liberals had no use for it.

Caleb Briggs, the Freedom Party leader in Birmingham, ascended to the rostrum and stood behind the podium, waiting for everyone's attention. The short, scrawny dentist looked very crisp, the next thing to military, even if he'd never be handsome. Party men who'd been standing around chatting slipped into their seats like schoolboys fearing the paddle.

"Freedom!" Briggs said.

"Freedom!" the members chorused, Jefferson Pinkard's shout one among many.

"I can't hear you." Briggs might have been a preacher heating up his congregation.

"Freedom!" they shouted again, louder-but not loud enough to suit Caleb Briggs, who cupped a hand behind his ear to show he still couldn't hear. "FREEDOM!" they roared. Pinkard's throat felt raw after that.

"Better," the leader allowed. Jeff heard him through ringing ears, almost as if after an artillery bombardment. Briggs took a sheet of paper from the breast pocket of his white shirt. "I have a couple of important announcements tonight," he said. "First one is, we'll be looking for an assault squad to hit a Whig rally Saturday afternoon." A host of hands shot into the air. Briggs grinned. "See me after the meeting. You need to know there'll be cops there, and they're taking a nastier line with us after the unfortunate incident." That was what the Party called President Hampton's assassination.

"I'll go," Pinkard muttered. "By God, I want to go." He hadn't been a brawler before he got conscripted, but he was now.

"Second thing," Briggs said briskly. "The damnyankees are backing the Popular Revolutionaries in the civil war down in the Empire of Mexico. Goddamn lickspittle Richmond government isn't doing anything about that but fussing. We need to do more. The Party's looking to raise a regiment of volunteers for the Emperor, to show the greasers how it's supposed to be done. If you're interested in that, see me after the meeting, too."

Jeff kept fidgeting in his seat through the rest of Briggs' presentation, and the rest of the meeting, too. Not even the patriotic songs and the ones from the trenches held his interest. He swarmed forward as soon as he got the chance. "I want to volunteer for both," he said.

"All right, Pinkard," Caleb Briggs replied. "Can't say I'm surprised." He knew about Emily. "I don't make any promises on the filibuster into the Mexican Empire, but the other… we'll find a way to get you over by city hall."

And they did. Pinkard worked a half day on Saturday. As soon as he got off, he hurried to the trolley and went downtown. He gathered with the other Freedom Party men at a little diner one of them owned. There he changed from his overalls into the white shirt and butternut trousers he carried in a denim duffel bag. There, too, he picked up a stout wooden bludgeon-two and a half feet of ash wood, so newly turned on the lathe it smelled of sawdust.

Along with the other Freedom Party men, he hurried up Seventh Avenue North toward the city hall. They naturally fell into column and fell into step. People scrambled off the sidewalk to get out of their way. Jeff made a horrible face at a little pickaninny. The boy wailed in fright and clung to his mother's skirts. She looked as if she might have wanted to say something, but she didn't dare. You better not, he thought.

In front of city hall, a Whig speaker with a megaphone was exhorting a crowd that didn't look to be paying too much attention to him. Eight or ten policemen stood around looking bored. "Outstanding!" Briggs exclaimed. "Nobody gave us away. They'd be a lot readier if they reckoned we were gonna hit 'em." His voice rose to a great roar: "Freedom!"

"Freedom!" Jefferson Pinkard bawled, along with his comrades. They charged forward, tough and disciplined as they'd been during the war. Whistles shrilling, the Birmingham policemen tried to get between them and the suddenly shouting and screaming Whigs. If the cops had opened fire, they might have done it. As things were, their billy clubs were no improvement on the Freedom Party bludgeons. Jeff got one of the men in gray in the side of the head.

Then he was in among the Whigs, yelling, "Freedom!" and "Damnyankee puppets!" at the top of his lungs. His bludgeon rose and fell, rose and fell. Sometimes he hit men, sometimes women. He wasn't fussy. Why fuss? They were all traitors, anyway. A few of them tried to fight back, but they didn't have much luck. The Whig rally smashed, their enemies bloodied, the Freedom Party men withdrew in good order. Jeff had a hard-on all the way back to the diner. Those bastards, he thought. They got just what they deserved.

S ylvia Enos wasn't used to being a celebrity. She wished people wouldn't stop her on the streets of Boston and tell her she was a hero. She didn't want to be a hero. She'd never wanted to be one. All I wanted was to have George back again, she thought as she hurried back toward her block of flats.

But she'd never see her husband again. George Enos had been aboard the USS Ericsson when the CSS Bonefish torpedoed her-after the Confederate States yielded to the USA. Roger Kimball, the captain of the Bonefish, had known the war was over, too. He'd known, but he hadn't cared. He'd sunk the destroyer that carried George and more than a hundred other sailors, and then he'd sailed away.

He'd tried to cover it up, too. No one could prove a British boat hadn't done the deed-till the Bonefish 's executive officer, in a political fight with Roger Kimball, broke the story in the papers to discredit him. The story said Kimball was living in Charleston, South Carolina.

And so Sylvia had taken a train down to Charleston. Customs at the border hadn't searched her luggage. Why should the Confederates have bothered? She looked like what she was: a widow in her thirties. That she also happened to be a widow in her thirties with a pistol in her suitcase had never crossed the Confederates' minds.

But she was. And when she got to Charleston and found out where Kimball lived, she'd knocked on his door and then fired several shots into him. She'd expected to spend the rest of her life in jail, or to hang, or to cook in an electric chair-she hadn't known how South Carolina disposed of murderers.

Instead, thanks to politics and thanks to an extraordinary woman named Anne Colleton, she found herself free and back in Boston. The CSA couldn't afford to be too hard on someone who killed a war criminal, she thought. And why? Because the United States are stronger than they are. That was heady as whiskey. Till the Great War, the CSA and England and France had called the tune. No more.

But, no matter how strong the United States were, they weren't strong enough to give her back her husband. The hole in her life, the hole in her family, would never heal. She had no choice but to go on from there.

A tall, skinny man in an expensive suit and homburg stopped in front of her, so that she either had to stop, too, or to run into him. "You're Sylvia Enos," he exclaimed. "I've been looking for you. Give me a moment of your time."

He didn't even say please. Sylvia's patience had worn thin. "Why should I?" she asked, and got ready to push past him. She reached up to fiddle with her hat. She had a hat pin with an artificial pearl at one end and a very sharp point at the other. Some men were interested in her for the sake of politics, others for other, murkier, reasons.

But this fellow proved one of the former sort. "Why? For the sake of your country, that's why." He had the map of Ireland on his face; the slightest hint of a brogue lay under his flat New England vowels.

"Look, whoever you are, I haven't got time for anything except my children, so if you'll excuse me-" She started forward. If he didn't get out of the way, maybe she'd use the hat pin whether he had designs on her person or not.

"My name is Kennedy, Mrs. Enos, Joe Kennedy," he said. "I'm the head of the Democratic Party in your ward."

No hat pin, then, except in an emergency. If she got on the wrong side of a politician, he could make life hard for her, and life was hard enough already. With a sigh, she said, "Speak your piece, then, Mr. Kennedy-though I don't know why you're bothering with me. After all, women can't vote in Massachusetts."

His answering smile was forced. The Democrats had always been less eager for women's suffrage than either the Socialists or what was left of the Republican Party. But he quickly rallied: "Do you want us weak, too weak to take our proper place in the world? If you do, the Socialist Party's the perfect place for you. They're trying to throw away everything we won in the war."

That did hit home. "What do you want from me, Mr. Kennedy? Tell me quickly, and I'll give you my answer, but I have to get home to my son and daughter."

Something glinted in his eyes. It made Sylvia half reach for the pin again. Kennedy wore a wedding ring, but Sylvia had long since seen how little that meant. Men got it where they could. George, she made herself remember, had been the same way. But all the ward leader said was, "An hour of your time at our next meeting would be very fine, to show you stand with us on the issues of the day."

He acted as if it were a small request, something where she wouldn't need to think twice before she said yes. But she shook her head. "You must be rich, to have hours you can throw around. When I'm not working, I'm cooking or minding the children. I'm sorry, but I've got no time to spare."

Kennedy's mouth tightened. He drummed the fingers of his right hand against his trouser leg. Sylvia got the feeling he wasn't used to hearing people tell him no. The vapor that steamed from his nostrils as he exhaled added to the impression. It also made him look a little like a demon.

But then, as suddenly as if he'd flipped the switch to an electric light, he gave Sylvia a bright smile. "If you like, my own wife will watch your children while you come. Rose would be glad to do it. She knows how important to the country winning the next election is."

That couldn't mean anything but, My wife will watch your children if I tell her to. Whatever it meant, it did put Sylvia in an awkward position. She said, "You know how to get what you want, don't you?"

"I try," Joe Kennedy said. This time, the smile he gave her had nothing to do with the automatic politician's version he'd used a moment before. This one was genuine: a little hard, a little predatory, and a little smug, too.

How could anyone marry a man with a smile like that? But that, thank heaven, wasn't Sylvia's worry. Kennedy stood there with that hot, fierce smile, waiting for her answer. Now he'd gone out of his way to give her what she'd said she wanted. How could she tell him no? She saw no way, though she still would have liked to.

With a sigh of her own, she told him, "I'll come to your meeting, if it's not at a time when I'm working."

"I hope it isn't," he said. The smile got broader-she'd given in. She might almost have let him take her to bed. He went on, "We hold them Saturday afternoons, so most people can use the half-holiday."

Sylvia sighed again. "All right, though heaven only knows how I'll get my shopping done-or why you think your people want to listen to me."

"Don't worry about your shopping," Kennedy said, which had to prove he didn't do much for himself. "And people want to hear you because you took action. You saw a wrong and you fixed it. Teddy Roosevelt would be proud of you. Even the Socialists had to take notice of the justice in what you did. And I'll be by to pick you up Saturday afternoon at one o'clock, if that's all right."

"I suppose so," Sylvia said, still more than a little dazed. Joe Kennedy tipped his homburg and went on his way. Sylvia checked the mailbox in the lobby of her block of flats, found nothing but advertising circulars, and walked up three flights of stairs to her apartment.

"What took you so long, Mother?" George, Jr., asked. He was thirteen now, which seemed incredible to her, and looked more like his dead father every day. Mary Jane, who was ten, was frying potatoes on the coal stove.

"I ran into a man," Sylvia answered. "He wants me to talk at the Democratic club's ward meeting. His wife will keep an eye on you two while I'm gone." She went to the icebox and got out the halibut steaks she'd fry along with the potatoes. Mary Jane still wasn't up to main courses.

"Saturday afternoon? I won't be here anyway," George, Jr., said.

"What? Why not?" Sylvia asked.

"Because I got a job carrying fish and ice down on T Wharf, that's why." Her son looked ready to burst with pride. "Thirty-five cents an hour, and it lets me get started, Ma."

Slowly, Sylvia nodded. "Your father started on T Wharf right about your age, too," she said. People who caught fish in Boston almost always started young. But George, Jr., suddenly didn't seem so young as all that. He was old enough to have convinced someone to hire him, anyhow.

He said, "I'll bring all my money home to you, Ma, every penny. Cross my heart and hope to die if I don't. I won't spend a bit on candy or pop or anything, honest I won't. I know we need it. So did the fellow who hired me. He asked if I was Pa's boy, and when I said yes he gave me the job right there. His name's Fred Butcher."

"Oh, yes. I know him-you've met him, too, you know." Sylvia nodded again. "He used to go out with your father on the Ripple. He was first mate in those days, and he's done well for himself since."

"As soon as I can, Ma, I'll go out and make money," Mary Jane promised, adding, "I don't much like school anyway."

"You need to keep going a while longer," Sylvia said sternly. She rounded on her son. "And so do you. If you study hard, maybe you can get a good job, and you won't stay down on T Wharf your whole life."

She might as well have spoken Chinese. Staring at her in perfect incomprehension, George, Jr., said, "But I like it down on T Wharf, Ma."

Sylvia flipped the halibut steaks with a spatula. She thought about explaining why all the backbreaking jobs associated with the fishing weren't necessarily good choices, but she could tell he wouldn't listen. His father wouldn't have, either. She didn't start a fight she had no hope of winning. Instead, she just said, "Supper will be ready in a couple of minutes. Go wash your hands, both of you."

Joe Kennedy and his wife knocked on the door that Saturday afternoon a few minutes after Sylvia got home. Rose Kennedy was pretty in a bony way, and more refined than Sylvia had expected. She did warm up, a little, to Mary Jane. "You're sweet, dear. Will we be friends?"

Mary Jane considered, then shrugged. Joe Kennedy said, "Come on, Mrs. Enos. My motorcar's out in front of the building. People are looking forward to hearing you; they really are."

That still astonished Sylvia. So did Kennedy's motorcar. She'd expected a plain black Ford, the kind most people drove. But he had an enormous Oldsmobile roadster, painted fire-engine red. He drove as if he owned the only car on the street, too, which in Boston was an invitation to suicide. Somehow, he reached the Democratic Party hall unscathed. Sylvia discovered a belief in miracles.

"Here she is, ladies and gentlemen!" Kennedy introduced her as if she were a vaudeville star. "The brave lady you've been waiting for, Sylvia Enos!"

Looking out at that sea of faces frightened Sylvia. The wave of applause frightened and warmed her at the same time. She stammered a little at first, but gained fluency as she explained what she'd done in South Carolina, and why. She'd told the story before; it got easier each time. She finished, "If we forget about the war, try to pretend it never happened, what did we really win? Nothing!" The applause that came then rang louder still.


Jake Featherston drummed his fingers on his desk. Spring was in the air in Richmond; the trees were putting on new leaves, while birdsong gladdened every ear. Or almost every ear-it did very little for Featherston. He'd led a battery of three-inch guns during the war, and much preferred their bellowing to the sweet notes of catbird and sparrow. When the guns roared, at least a man knew he was in a fight.

"And we are, God damn it," Featherston muttered. The leader of the Freedom Party was a lanky man in his mid-thirties, with cheekbones and chin thrusting up under the flesh of his face like rocks under a thin coat of soil on some farm that would always yield more trouble than crops. His eyes… Some people were drawn to them, while others flinched away. He knew that. He didn't quite understand it, but he knew it and used it. I always mean what I say, he told himself. And that shows. With all the lying sons of bitches running around loose, you'd better believe it shows.

If he looked out his window, he could see Capitol Square, and the Confederate Capitol in it. His lip curled in fine contempt. If that wasn't the home of some of the biggest, lyingest sons of bitches in the whole wide world… "If it isn't, then I'm a nigger," Featherston declared. He talked to himself a fair amount, hardly noticing he was doing it. More than three years of serving a gun had taken a good deal of his hearing. People who didn't care for him claimed he was selectively deaf. They had a point, too, though he wasn't about to admit it.

The Capitol shared the square with a large equestrian statue of George Washington-who, being a Virginian, was much more revered in the CSA than in the USA these days-and an even larger one of Albert Sidney Johnston, hero and martyr during the War of Secession. Somewhere between one of those statues and the other, Woodrow Wilson had declared war on the USA almost ten years before.

"We should've licked those Yankee bastards," Featherston said, as if somebody'd claimed otherwise. "If the niggers hadn't risen up and stabbed us in the back, we would've licked those Yankee bastards." He believed it with every fiber of his being.

And if that jackass down in Birmingham hadn't blown out President Hampton's stinking brains, what there were of them, the Party'd be well on its way towards putting this country back on its feet again. Jake slammed a scarred, callused fist down on the desk. Papers jumped. I was so close, dammit. He'd come within a whisker-well, two whiskers-of winning the presidential election in 1921. Looking toward 1927, he'd seen nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

Of course, one of the reasons the Freedom Party had almost won in 1921 was that its members went out there and brawled with anybody rash enough to have a different opinion. If you looked at things from one angle, President Hampton's assassination followed from the Freedom Party's nature almost as inexorably as night followed day.

Jake Featherston was not, had never been, and never would be a man to look at things that way.

He'd watched the Party lose seats in the 1923 Congressional elections. He'd been glad the losses weren't worse. Other people celebrated because they were as large as they were. Up till that damned unfortunate incident, the Freedom Party had gone from success to success, each building momentum for the next. Unfortunately, he was finding the process worked the same way for failure.

What do we do if the money doesn't keep coming in? What can we do if the money doesn't keep coming in? he wondered. Only one answer occurred to him. We go under, that's what. When he'd first joined the Freedom Party in the dark days right after the war, it had been nothing to speak of: a handful of angry men meeting in a saloon, with the membership list and everything else in a cigar box. It could end up that way again, too; he knew as much. Plenty of groups of disgruntled veterans had never got any bigger, and the Party had swallowed up a lot of the ones that had. Some other group could swallow it the same way.

"No, goddammit," Jake snarled. For one thing, he remained convinced he was right. If the rest of the world didn't think so, the rest of the world was wrong. And, for another, he'd got used to leading an important political party. He liked it. Without false modesty-and he was singularly free of modesty, false and otherwise-he knew he was good at it. He didn't want to play second fiddle to anybody else, and he didn't want to go back to being a big fish in a tiny pond.

The telephone on his desk jangled. He picked it up. "Featherston," he barked into the mouthpiece.

"Yes, Mr. Featherston," his secretary said. "I just wanted to remind you that you've got that talk on the wireless coming up in a little more than an hour. You'll want to make sure you're at the studio on time."

"Thank you kindly, Lulu," Featherston answered. He was more polite to Lulu Mattox than to practically anybody else he could think of. Unlike most people, his secretary deserved it. She was a maiden lady, somewhere between forty and seventy. Once upon a time, he'd read or heard-he couldn't remember where or when-that Roman Catholic nuns were the brides of Christ. What he really knew about Catholicism would fit on the head of a pin; he'd been raised a hardshell Baptist, and he didn't get to any church very often these days. But Lulu Mattox, without a doubt, was married to the Freedom Party. She gave it a single-minded devotion that put the enthusiasm of any mere Party man to shame. She had all the files at her fingertips, too, for she was the best-organized person Jake had ever met. He didn't know what he would do without her.

A few minutes later, he went downstairs. Guards outside the building came to attention and saluted. "Freedom!" they said. The uniforms they wore were similar but not quite identical to those of the Confederate Army. The bayoneted Tredegar rifles they carried were Army issue. Someone might have asked questions about that, but the Freedom Party had gone out of its way to show the world that asking questions about it wasn't a good idea.

"Freedom!" Jake echoed, returning those salutes as if he were a general himself. Part of him loathed the fat fools with the wreathed stars on their collar tabs who'd done so much to help the CSA lose the war. The rest of him wished he had that kind of power himself. I'd do a better job with it than those bastards ever could have.

A motorcar driven by another uniformed Freedom Party man stopped in front of the building. It was a boxy Birmingham, built in the CSA. Jake Featherston was damned if he'd go around Richmond in a Yankee automobile. "That wireless place," he told the driver.

"Sure, Sarge," the man replied. He was a large, burly fellow named Virgil Joyner. He'd been with the Freedom Party almost as long as Featherston had, and he'd been through all of the faction fights and the brawls with the Whigs and the Radical Liberals. Not many people could get away with calling Jake anything but "boss," but he'd earned the right.

The broadcasting studio was in a new brick building on Franklin near Seventh, not far from the house in Richmond where Robert E. Lee and his family had lived for a time after the War of Secession. Featherston knew that only because he'd grown up in and around Richmond. Nothing remained of the house these days; Yankee bombs and the fires that so often followed them had leveled it.

"Hello, Mr. Featherston!" exclaimed the bright little man who ran the studio and the wireless station of which it was a part. His name was Saul Goldman. Since he was a Jew, Featherston assumed he sounded so cheerful, so friendly, because he was getting paid. He was bound to be a Radical Liberal himself, if not an out-and-out Red. Long as we give 'em the money, these bastards'll sell us the rope we use to hang 'em, Featherston thought scornfully.

But if Goldman acted friendly, he'd play along-for now. "Good to see you," he said, and shook hands polite as a banker. "Everything ready for me?"

"Yes, sir. You're in Studio B this time. Follow me. You have your script?"

"Oh, yeah. You bet I do." Featherston followed Goldman down a narrow, dingy hall to a cramped little studio whose walls and ceiling were covered by what looked like the cardboard bottoms of egg cartons. The stuff looked funny, but it helped kill echoes. The studio held a table with a microphone on it and a rickety chair. That was all. Jake pointed to the engineer in the next room, whom he could see through a window. "He'll give me the signal when it's time?"

Saul Goldman smiled. "That's right. You know the routine almost like you work here."

"I'd better by now, don't you think?" Featherston sat down in front of the microphone and set his script on the table. He went through it quickly to make sure he had all the pages. Once he'd lost one, and had to ad-lib a bridge to the next one he had. Goldman slid out of the studio, closing the door behind him. The back of the door had more of those egg-carton sound deadeners glued to it.

After a bit, the engineer flashed two fingers-two minutes to go. Jake nodded to show he got it. The engineer was a professional, a man whose competence Jake respected. One finger-one minute. Then the fellow pointed straight at him at the same time as a red light went on. For half an hour, the airwaves were his.

"Confederates, wake up!" he said harshly. "This is Jake Featherston of the Freedom Party, and I'm here to tell you the truth." He used that phrase to introduce every wireless talk.

He leaned toward the microphone, as he would have leaned toward a crowd. The first few times he'd done this, not having an audience in front of him had thrown him off stride. Now, though, he could imagine the crowd, hear it in his mind shouting for more. And he had more to give it.

"We can be a great country again," he said. "We can, but will we? Not likely, not with the cowards and idiots we've got running things in Richmond these days. All they want to do is lick the Yankees'… boots." You couldn't say some things on the air. No, you couldn't say them, but sometimes implication worked better anyhow.

"They want to lick the Yankees' boots," Jake repeated. "They're great ones for sucking up to people, the Whigs are. They even suck up to our Negroes, our own Negroes, if you can believe it. And do you know what, folks? They've got reason to do it, may I go to the Devil if I lie." He couldn't say hell on the air, either, but he got his message across. "I'll tell you what the reason is. Thanks to the Whigs, some of those niggers are citizens of the Confederate States, just like you and me.

"That's right, friends. This here was supposed to be a white man's country, but do the Whigs care about that? Not likely! Thanks to them, we've got niggers who can vote, niggers who can serve on juries, niggers who don't have to show passbooks to anybody. That'd be bad enough if they'd put the coons in the Army so we could win the war. But they put 'em in, and we lost anyways. And then the Whigs went out and won the next election even so. Maybe some of you all see the sense in that. I tell you frankly, I don't."

He went on till the engineer signaled it was time to wind down, and ended as the man drew a finger across his throat. When he walked out of the studio, his shirt was as sweaty as if he'd spoken before a crowd of thousands. Saul Goldman came up and shook his hand. "Very good speech," the Jew said. "Very good indeed."

"I will be damned," Featherston said. "I think you really mean it. You're not making fun of me." Goldman nodded. Jake asked the obvious question: "How come?"

"I'll tell you." Goldman had… not an accent, but the ghost of one, barely enough to suggest his parents would have spoken differently. "Anywhere else, when things go wrong, what do they do? They blame the Jews. Here, you blame the colored people. I am a Jew, a Jew in a country where things went wrong, and no one wants to kill me on account of it. Shouldn't I be grateful?"

Jake had never been much for seeing the other fellow's point of view, but he did this time. "Well, well," he said. "Isn't that interesting?"

P art of Colonel Irving Morrell-and the bigger part, at that-wanted to be back at Fort Leavenworth, making barrels larger and stronger and better. Part of him, but not all. The rest, the part that was a student of war rather than a combat soldier, found a lot to interest it back at the General Staff. Quite a few things crossed his desk that never made it into the newspapers.

He showed one of them to Lieutenant Colonel John Abell, asking, "Is this true?"

"Let me read through it first," Abell said. General Liggett's adjutant was thin and pale and almost sweatless, a pure student of war. Though probably brave enough, he would have been out of place on anything so untidy as a real battlefield. He and Morrell didn't much like each other, but over the years they'd developed a wary respect for each other's abilities. He took his own sweet time reading the report, then gave a judicious nod. "Yes, this ties in with some other things I've seen. I believe it's credible."

"The Turks really are massacring every Armenian they can get their hands on?" Morrell asked. Abell nodded again. Morrell took back the typewritten report, saying, "That's terrible! What can we do about it?"

"We, as in the United States?" Abell asked, precise as usual. Morrell gave him an impatient nod. He said, "As best I can see, Colonel, nothing. What influence can we bring to bear in that part of the world?"

Morrell grimaced and grunted. His colleague was all too likely to be right. He'd had to find Armenia on a map before fully understanding the report he'd received. How many Americans would even have known where to look? The distant land at the edge of the Caucasus might have been lost among the mountains of the moon, as far as most people were concerned. With the best will in the world, the Navy couldn't do a thing. And as for sending soldiers across a Russia whose civil strife looked eternal… The idea was absurd, and he knew it.

He tried a different tack: "Can Kaiser Bill do anything? When Germany spits, the Turks start swimming. And the Armenians are Christians, after all."

Lieutenant Colonel Abell started to say something, then let out his breath without a word. A moment later, after sending Morrell a thoughtful look, he said, "May I speak frankly, Colonel?"

"When have I ever stopped you?" Morrell asked in turn.

"A point," Abell admitted. "All right, then. There are times when you give the impression of being a man whose only solution to a problem is to hit something, and to keep hitting it till it falls over."

"Teddy Roosevelt spent a lot of time talking about the big stick, Lieutenant Colonel," Morrell said. "As far as I can see, he had a pretty good point."

John Abell looked distinctly pained. Sniffing, he said, "Our former president, however gifted, was not a General Staff officer, nor did he think like one. Which brings me back to what I was saying-you often give that same bull-moose impression, and then you turn around and come up with something not only clever but subtle. That might be worth pursuing. It would have to go through the State Department, of course."

Morrell grunted again. "And why should the boys in the cutaways and the striped trousers pay any attention to us green-gray types?"

For once, Abell's answering smile was sympathetic. The United States were one of the two most powerful countries in the world these days, sure enough. Very often, the American diplomatic corps behaved as if the U.S. Army had had nothing to do with that. Such a supercilious attitude infuriated Morrell. Of course, his fury mattered not at all; had people in the State Department known of it, it would more likely have amused them than anything else.

Abell said, "May I make a suggestion?"


"If it were I," the brainy lieutenant colonel said, flaunting his grammatical accuracy, "I would draft a memorandum on the subject, send it to General Liggett, and hope he could get it to the secretary of war or one of his assistants. Being civilians, they have a better chance than we of getting the diplomats to notice the paper."

"That's… not bad, Lieutenant Colonel," Morrell said. Abell hadn't even tried to steal the idea for himself, and he had Liggett's ear. Though it wasn't obvious at first glance, he could be useful. Morrell chuckled. He probably thinks the same about me. He went on, "I'll take care of it right away. Thanks."

"Always glad to be of service, sir." Now Abell sounded as coolly ironic as usual.

When Morrell spoke that evening of what he'd done during the day, his wife nodded vigorous approval. "I hope something comes of it, Irv," Agnes Morrell said. "Hasn't this poor, sorry world seen enough killing these past few years?"

"Well, I think so," Morrell answered. "You won't find many soldiers singing the praises of murder, you know."

"Of course I know that," Agnes told him, more than a little indignantly. She was in her early thirties, not far from his own age, and had been another soldier's widow before meeting him at a dance back in Leavenworth. She had brown eyes; her black hair, these days, was cut short in what the fashion magazines called a shingle bob. It was all the rage at the moment. Morrell didn't think it quite suited his wife, but didn't intend to tell her so. As far as he could see, such things were her business, not his. She went on, "Supper will be ready in a few minutes."

"Smells good." Morrell's nostrils flared. Compared to some of the things he'd eaten in Sonora and the Canadian Rockies and Kentucky and Tennessee, it smelled very good indeed. "What is it?" Back on the battlefield, there'd been plenty of times he hadn't wanted to know. Horse? Donkey? Cat? Buzzard? He couldn't prove it, which meant he didn't have to think about it… too often.

"Chicken stew with dumplings and carrots," Agnes said. "That's the way you like it, isn't it?"

Spit flooded his mouth as he nodded. "I knew I married you for a couple of reasons," he said.

"A couple of reasons?" Her eyebrows, plucked thin, flew up in mock surprise. "What on earth could the other one be?"

He walked over to her and let his hand rest lightly on her belly for a moment. "We'll find out if it's a boy or a girl sooner than we think."

"It won't be tomorrow," Agnes reminded him. She'd been sure she was in a family way for only a few weeks. There wasn't much doubt any more; not only had her time of the month twice failed to come, but she was perpetually sleepy. And she had trouble keeping food down. She gave Irving Morrell a much bigger helping than she took for herself, and she ate warily.

When they undressed for bed that night, he used a forefinger to follow the new tracery of blue veins that had sprung out on Agnes' breasts. She gave him a mischievous smile. "All those veins probably remind you of the rivers on a campaign map."

"Well, I wouldn't have thought of it just that way," Morrell answered, cupping her breast in the palm of her hand. "What sort of campaign did you have in mind, honey?"

"Oh, I expect you'll think of something," she answered. He squeezed, gently-but not quite gently enough. The corners of her mouth turned down. "They're sore. People say you get over that, but I haven't yet."

He tried to be more careful, and evidently succeeded, for things went on from there. When they'd progressed a good deal further, Agnes climbed on top of him. The idea had startled him when she first proposed it; he'd always thought a man belonged in the saddle. But she didn't have his weight on her tender breasts this way-and, he'd discovered, it was fine no matter who went where.

A couple of days later, he got called to General Hunter Liggett's office. With General Liggett was a tall, long-faced man five or ten years older than Morrell. "Colonel, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. N. Mattoon Thomas, the assistant secretary of war."

"Pleased to meet you, sir." Morrell lied without hesitation. Thomas was the man who'd gone up to Canada to put General Custer out to pasture. Morrell still didn't know if Custer was a good general. He had his doubts, in fact. But Custer had turned a whole great assault column of barrels loose against the CSA, and Morrell had ridden a barrel at the head of that column. Without the breakthroughs they'd won, the Great War might still be going on.

"Likewise, Colonel. I'm very glad to meet you." N. Mattoon Thomas was probably lying, too. In the Army, it was an axiom of faith that the Socialists wanted to get rid of everything that had let the USA win the war. That Thomas had forced George Custer into retirement didn't speak well for him, not in Morrell's eyes.

Hunter Liggett said, "Colonel, I passed your memorandum on the unfortunate situation in Armenia to the assistant secretary here, in the hope that he might send it on to the Department of State."

"A very perceptive document," Thomas said. "I dare hope it will do some good, although one never knows. Very perceptive indeed." He studied Morrell as an entomologist might study a new species of beetle. "I should hardly have expected such a thing from a soldier."

Morrell gave him a smile that was all sharp teeth. "Sorry, sir. We don't gas grandmothers and burn babies all the time."

Silence slammed down in General Liggett's office. The head of the General Staff broke it, saying, "What Colonel Morrell meant, sir, was-"

"I know perfectly well what Colonel Morrell meant," Thomas said, his voice cold as the middle of a meat locker. "He resents my party for telling him he may not play with big iron toys forever and tell the American people, 'Hang the expense! We may need these one day.' I wear his resentment as a badge of honor." He gave Morrell a nod that was almost a bow. "And what have you got to say about that, Colonel? You seem in an outspoken mood today."

"I've never said, 'Hang the expense,' sir," Morrell answered. "But we may need better barrels one day, and they aren't toys. If your party thinks what we do is play, why not get rid of the Army altogether, and the Navy, too?"

Before Thomas could reply, the telephone on General Liggett's desk rang. He snatched it up. "Confound it, you know what sort of meeting I'm in," he snapped, from which Morrell concluded he was talking to Lieutenant Colonel Abell in the outer office. But then Liggett said, "What? What's that?" Color drained from his face, leaving it corpse-yellow. "Dear God in heaven," he whispered, and hung up.

"What is it?" Morrell and N. Mattoon Thomas said the same thing at the same time.

General Liggett stared blindly from one of them to the other. Tears glistened in his eyes. All at once, he looked like an old, old man. "Teddy Roosevelt is dead," he said, sounding as stunned and disbelieving as a shell-shocked soldier. "He was playing a round of golf outside Syracuse, and he fell over, and he didn't get up. Cerebral hemorrhage, they think."

"Oh, my God." Again, Morrell and Thomas spoke together. Thomas might be a Socialist, but Theodore Roosevelt had been a mighty force in the United States for more than forty years. No one, regardless of party, could be indifferent to that.

So far Morrell thought, and no further. Then what he'd just heard really hit him. To his amazement and shame and dismay, he began to weep. A moment later, blurrily, he saw tears running down the faces of Hunter Liggett and N. Mattoon Thomas, too.

C ongresswoman Flora Blackford should have been packing for the trip from Philadelphia to Chicago, for the Socialist Party's nominating convention. President Upton Sinclair would surely get his party's nod for a second term: the Socialists' first president, elected almost forty years after the modern Socialist Party began in Chicago, when in the aftermath of the Second Mexican War Abraham Lincoln led the Republican left wing out of one organization and into another.

Yes, the presidential nomination was a foregone conclusion. The vice presidency? Flora smiled to herself. The vice presidency was a forgone conclusion, too. Nothing in the world, as far as she could see, would keep Hosea Blackford, her husband, from getting the nomination again. And then, in 1928… He'd once said he didn't expect to get the nod for the top of the ticket then. Maybe, though, maybe he was wrong.

Such things were what she should have been thinking about-what she had been thinking about up till a few days before. Now she put her most somber clothes into a suitcase. She wouldn't be going to Chicago, not yet, and neither would her husband. She'd always wanted to visit the city where the modern Party was born, and she would-but not yet. Instead, she packed for the short trip down to Washington, D.C., for the funeral of Theodore Roosevelt.

Hosea Blackford came into the bedroom carrying black trousers and a white shirt. As he put them in the suitcase, he shook his head. "I'm almost as old as Teddy Roosevelt, and I still feel as though my father just died."

Both of Flora's parents were still alive, but she nodded. "Everybody in the whole country feels that way, near enough," she answered. "We didn't always like him-"

"If we were Socialists, we practically never liked him," Hosea Blackford said.

Nodding, Flora went on, "But whether we liked him or not, he made us what we are. He raised us. He raised this whole country. It's no wonder we feel lost without him."

"No wonder at all," her husband said over his shoulder as he went back to the hall closet for a black jacket and a black homburg. "He was always sure he knew what was best for us. He wasn't always right, but he was always sure." He chuckled. "Sounds like my pa, I'll tell you that." His flat Great Plains accent was a world away from her Yiddish-flavored New York City speech.

He went back for a black cravat. Flora closed the suitcase. "Are we ready to go?" she asked.

"I expect so." He looked out the window of the flat that had been his alone-across the hall from hers-which they now shared. A motorcar waited in front of the building. Grunting, he picked up the suitcase.

When they went outside, the driver saw him carrying it and rushed to take it from him. Grudgingly, Blackford surrendered it. He gave Flora a wry grin. Ever since she was elected to Congress, she'd wrestled with the problem of the privileges members of government-even Socialist members of government-enjoyed. For all her wrestling, for all her commitment to class struggle, she had yet to come to a conclusion that satisfied her.

She and her husband enjoyed even more privilege on the southbound train: a fancy Pullman car all to themselves, and food brought to them from the diner. When they got to Washington, another motorcar whisked them to the White House.

The flag in front of the famous building flew at half staff. The White House itself looked much as it had before the Great War. Repairs there had been finished almost a year before. The Washington Monument off to the south, however, remained a truncated stub of its former self. Scaffolding surrounded it; it would rise again to its full majestic height.

"If there's ever another war, all this work will go to waste," Flora said.

"One more reason there'd better not be another war," her husband answered, and she nodded.

President Upton Sinclair met them in the downstairs entry hall. After shaking hands with his vice president and kissing Flora on the cheek, he said, "I would sooner have done this in Philadelphia, but Roosevelt left word he wanted the ceremony here, and I couldn't very well say no."

"Hardly," Hosea Blackford agreed. "What does it feel like? — staying in the White House, I mean."

"Well, look at the place. I feel as though I were living in a museum." Sinclair waved. He was a tall, slim man in his mid-forties: the youngest man ever elected president. His youthful vigor had served him well in 1920, when Teddy Roosevelt, even then past sixty, could be seen as a man whose time, however great, had passed him by. The president shook his head. "It's even worse than living in a museum. It's the reproduction of a museum. They didn't get a whole lot out of here before the Confederates bombarded the place in 1914. Frankly, I'd rather be in Philadelphia. The Powel House doesn't make me think I'll get thrown out if I speak above a whisper."

Flora found herself nodding. "It is more like the American Museum of Natural History than any place where you'd want to stay, isn't it?"

"That's right." President Sinclair nodded emphatically.

"Strange that we should be doing the honors for Roosevelt," Hosea Blackford observed.

"He was a great man," Flora said. "A class enemy, but a great man."

"Easier to admire a foe, especially an able one, after he's gone," Sinclair said.

Like a lot of men largely self-taught-Abraham Lincoln had been the same-her husband was fond of quoting Shakespeare: " 'Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus; and we petty men walk under his huge legs, and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.'

"An American Caesar." President Sinclair nodded. "That fits."

But Flora shook her head. "No. If he'd been Caesar, he never would have given up the presidency when he lost four years ago. He would have called out the troops instead. And if Teddy Roosevelt had called them, they might have marched, too."

No one cared to contemplate that. Hosea Blackford said, "Well, he's gone now, and… 'I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.' "

"And we'll give him a grand funeral, too," the president added. "We can afford to do that. He's a lot easier to deal with dead than he was alive."

Sleeping in the Mahan Bedroom felt strange to Flora; it was as big as the flat in which she and her whole family had lived in New York. The next morning, a colored servant-a reminder that Washington had once been closely aligned with the states now forming the Confederacy-brought her and her husband bacon and eggs and fried potatoes. She ate the eggs and potatoes; her husband demolished her bacon along with his own. "I shouldn't, I suppose," he said.

"Don't worry about it. I don't," she answered, which was true most of the time. Only later did she wonder in what the eggs and potatoes had been cooked. Bacon grease? Lard? She was Socialist and secular and very Jewish, all at the same time, and every so often one piece bounced off another and left her unsure of what she ought to feel.

Tens-hundreds-of thousands of people lined the route from the Capitol to the remains of the Washington Monument and then south. She and Hosea Blackford took their places on a reviewing stand near the Monument to watch Theodore Roosevelt's funeral procession, along with members of Congress and some foreign dignitaries: she recognized the ambassador from the Confederate States, who stood close by his colleagues from Britain, France, and the Empire of Mexico in a glum knot. No one else came very close to them.

Down among the ordinary spectators near the stand were a middle-aged woman wearing a gaudy medal-the Order of Remembrance, First Class-and a younger one who looked like her with the slightly less flamboyant Order of Remembrance, Second Class, hanging around her neck. They both held young children. The gray-haired man with them, who had a Distinguished Service Medal on his black jacket, said, "If she gets fussy, Nellie, give her to me."

"I will, Hal," the older woman answered. Flora wondered what she'd done during the war to earn such an important decoration.

She never found out. Indeed, a moment later, she forgot all about the people in the crowd, for flourishes of muffled drums announced that the procession was approaching. Behind the drummers-one each from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard-came a riderless black horse led by a soldier. As the animal slowly walked past, Flora saw that it had reversed boots thrust into the stirrups and a sheathed sword lashed to the saddle.

Six white horses, teamed in twos, drew the black caisson carrying Roosevelt's body in a flag-draped coffin. All six of the horses were saddled. The saddles of the three on the right were empty; a soldier, a sailor, and a Marine rode the three on the left.

President Upton Sinclair, in somber black, marched bareheaded behind the caisson, along with some of Roosevelt's relatives-including one man of about Flora's age who had to be pushed along in a wheelchair. She wondered what sort of injury he'd taken in the war that had crippled him so.

The premier of the Republic of Quebec strode along a few paces after Sinclair and the Roosevelt family, accompanied by a couple of Central American heads of state who'd taken a fast liner to reach the USA in time for the funeral. After them came the ambassadors from the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire: the great wartime allies, given pride of place. Envoys from Chile and Paraguay and the Empire of Brazil came next, followed by other emissaries from Europe and the Americas-and the ambassador from the Empire of Japan, elegant in a black cutaway. Alone of all the Entente nations, Japan hadn't yielded to the Central Powers. She'd just stopped fighting. It wasn't the same thing, and everyone knew it.

After the foreign dignitaries marched a band playing soft, somber music. Another riderless horse brought up the rear of the procession. Flora found that excessive, but nobody'd asked her opinion. And the Socialist Party, being in power, did have an obligation to send the departed Roosevelt to his final rest with as much grandeur as possible, to keep the Democrats from screaming about indifference or worse.

Once the procession had passed the reviewing stand, it turned south, toward the Potomac. The crowds there were just as thick as they had been between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. The sounds of weeping rose above the music of the band. "Say what you will, the people loved him," Hosea Blackford remarked.

"I know." Flora shook her head in wonder. "In spite of the war he led them into, they loved him." That war had cost her brother-in-law his life and her brother a leg. And David voted Democratic despite-or maybe because of-that missing leg, though he'd been a Socialist before.

Her husband said, "Well, he won it, no matter how much it cost. And now he gets his last revenge on the Confederate States." He chuckled in reluctant admiration.

Flora didn't know whether to admire Teddy Roosevelt's final gesture or to be appalled by it. On the southern bank of the Potomac, in what had been Virginia but was now annexed to U.S. West Virginia, Robert E. Lee had had an estate. Since the Great War rolled over it, it had lain in ruins. That hadn't bothered Roosevelt at all. He'd left instructions-and President Sinclair had agreed-that his last resting place should be on the grounds of Arlington.

C larence Potter paid two cents for a copy of the Charleston Mercury. "Thanks very much," he told the boy from whom he bought it.

"You're welcome, sir," the boy said, the thick drawl of the old South Carolina coastal city flavoring his speech. He cocked his head to one side. "You a Yankee, sir? You sure don't talk like you're from hereabouts."

"Not me, son." Potter shook his head. The motion threatened to dislodge his steel-framed spectacles. He set them more firmly on the bridge of his long, thin nose. "I came to Charleston after the war, though. I grew up in Virginia."

"Oh." The newsboy relaxed. He probably hadn't gone more than ten miles outside of Charleston in his whole life, and wouldn't have known a Virginia accent from one from Massachusetts or Minnesota.

Holding his newspaper so he could read as he walked, Potter hurried down Queen Street toward the harbor. He moved like an ex-soldier, head up, shoulders back. And he had been a soldier-he'd served as a major in intelligence in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war. His accent had aroused some talk, and some suspicion, there, too. Even men who knew accents thought he sounded too much like a Yankee for comfort. And so he did; not long before the war, he'd gone to Yale, and the way people spoke in New Haven had rubbed off on him.

Below the fold on the front page was an account of a speech by Jake Featherston, raising holy hell because Teddy Roosevelt's bones were resting in the sacred soil of Virginia. Potter clucked and rolled his eyes and made as if to chuck the paper into the first trash can he saw. He would have bet Featherston would make a speech like that. But in the end, he didn't throw away the Mercury. He opened it and read till he'd seen as much of the speech as it reprinted.

He clicked his tongue between his teeth as he refolded the newspaper. Featherston would pick up points for what he'd said. Damn Teddy Roosevelt and his arrogance, Potter thought. As far as he was concerned, anything that helped the Freedom Party was bad for the Confederate States of America.

He'd got to know Jake Featherston pretty well during the war. Featherston had made the fatal mistake of being right when he said Jeb Stuart III's Negro servant, Pompey, was in fact a Red rebel. Young Captain Stuart, not believing it, had got Pompey off the hook, only to have his treason proved when the Negro uprising broke out a little while later. Stuart had gone into action seeking death after that, and, on a Great War battlefield, death was never hard to find.

General Jeb Stuart, Jr., a hero of the Second Mexican War, was a power in the War Department in Richmond. He'd made sure Jake Featherston, who'd been right about his son's error in judgment, never got promoted above the rank of sergeant no matter how well he fought-and Jake fought very well indeed. For that matter, Potter himself had also been involved in uncovering Jeb Stuart III's mistake, and he'd advanced only one grade in three years himself.

But his failure to get promoted affected only him. Had Jeb Stuart, Jr., relented and given Featherston the officer's rank he deserved, the CSA would have been saved endless grief. Clarence Potter was sure of that. Featherston had been taking out his rage and frustration against Confederate authorities ever since.

I knew even then he was monstrous good at hating, Potter thought. Did I ever imagine, while the fighting was going on, that he'd turn out to be as good at it as he has? He shook his head. He was honest enough to admit to himself that he hadn't. He'd thought Jake Featherston would disappear into obscurity once the war ended. Most men-almost all men-would have. The exceptions were the ones who had to be dealt with.

For the time being, it looked as if Featherston had been dealt with. Not so long before, his speech would have stood at the top of the front page, not below the fold. He was a falling star these days. With luck, he wouldn't rise again.

When Potter got to the harbor, he stiffened. A U.S. Navy gunboat was tied up at one of the quays. Seeing the Stars and Stripes here, where the Confederacy was born and the War of Secession began, raised his hackles. The flag stood out; the C.S. Navy used the Confederate battle flag as its ensign, not the Stars and Bars that so closely resembled the U.S. banner. And the U.S. Navy men's dark blue uniforms also contrasted with the dark gray their Confederate counterparts wore.

These days, Clarence Potter made his living as an investigator. He'd been looking into smuggling going through the harbor, and had headed there to report his findings to the harbormaster. But that warship flying the hated Northern flag drew him as a magnet drew iron.

He wasn't the only one, either. Men in both C.S. naval uniform and in civilian clothes converged on the U.S. gunboat. "Yankees, go home!" somebody yelled. Scores of throats roared agreement, Potter's among them.

"Avast that shouting!" a U.S. officer on the deck of the gunboat bawled through a megaphone. "We've got every right to be here under the armistice agreement, and you know it damned well. We're inspecting to make sure you Confederates aren't building submersibles in these parts. If you interfere with us while we're doing our duty, you'll be sorry, and so will your whole stinking country."

They love us no better than we love them, Clarence Potter reminded himself. And that lieutenant commander had a point. If he and his men couldn't make their inspection, the CSA would pay, in humiliation and maybe in gold as well. The Yankees had learned their lessons well; as victors, they were even more intolerable than the Confederates had been.

"Yankees, go home!" the crowd on the quay shouted, over and over.

At a barked order, the sailors on the gunboat swung their forward cannon to bear on the crowd. The gun was only a three-incher-a popgun by naval standards-but it could work a fearful slaughter if turned on soft flesh rather than steel armor. Sudden silence descended.

"That's better," the U.S. officer said. "If you think we won't open fire, you'd goddamn well better think again."

"You'll never get out of this harbor if you do," somebody called.

The U.S. lieutenant commander had spunk. He shrugged. "Maybe we will, maybe we won't. But if you want to start a brand new war against the United States of America, go right ahead. If you start it, we'll finish it."

No one from the United States would have talked like that before the Great War. The Confederate States had been on top of the world then. No more. The Yankees had the whip hand nowadays. And people in Charleston knew it. The crowd in front of the U.S. gunboat dispersed sullenly, but it dispersed. Some of the men who walked away knuckled their eyes to hold back tears. The Confederates were a proud folk, and choking on that pride came hard.

Potter made his way to the harbormaster's office. That worthy, a plump man named Ambrose Spawforth, fumed about Yankee arrogance. "Those sons of bitches don't own the world, no matter what they think," he said.

"You know that, and I know that, but do the damnyankees know it?" Potter answered. "I'll tell you something else I know: the way that bastard in a blue jacket acted, he just handed the Freedom Party a raft of new votes."

Spawforth was normally a man with a good deal of common sense. When he said, "Well, good," a chill ran through Clarence Potter. The harbormaster went on, "Isn't it about time we start standing up to the USA again?"

"That depends," Potter said judiciously. "Standing up to them isn't such a good idea if they go and knock us down again. Right now, they can do that, you know."

"Don't I just!" Spawforth said. "We're weaklings now. We need to get strong again. We can do it. We will do it, too."

"Not behind Jake Featherston." Potter spoke with absolute conviction.

But he didn't impress Spawforth, no matter how certain he sounded. The fat man said, "He'll tell the Yankees off. He'll tell the niggers off. He'll tell the fools in Richmond off, too. That all needs doing, every bit of it."

One of Potter's eyebrows rose. "Splendid," he said. "And what happens after he tells the Yankees off?"

"Huh?" Plainly, that hadn't occurred to Spawforth.

"The likeliest thing is, they take some more of our land or they make us start paying them reparations again," Potter said. "We aren't strong enough to stop them, you know. Do you want another round of inflation to wipe out the currency?"

He was-he always had been-a coldly logical man. That made it easy for him to resist, even to laugh at, Jake Featherston's fervent speechmaking. It also made him have trouble understanding why so many people took Featherston seriously. Ambrose Spawforth was one of those people. "Well, what we need to do is get strong enough so the USA can't kick us around any more," he said. "The Freedom Party's for that, too."

"Splendid," Potter said again, even more sardonically than before. "We tell the United States we aim to kick them in the teeth as soon as we get the chance. I'm sure they'll just go right ahead and let us."

"You've got the wrong attitude, you know that?" the harbormaster said. "You don't understand the way things work."

What Potter understood was that you couldn't have whatever you wanted just because you wanted it. Even if you held your breath till you turned blue, that didn't mean you were entitled to it. As far as he could see, the Freedom Party hadn't figured that out and didn't want to.

He also understood getting deeper into an argument with Spawforth would do him no good at all. The man didn't have to hire him to snoop around the harbor. Yes, he'd been in intelligence during the war. But plenty of beady-eyed, needle-nosed men were at liberty in Charleston these days. A lot of them could do his job, and do it about as well as he did.

And so, however much he wanted to prove to the world at large-and to Ambrose Spawforth in particular-that Spawforth was an ass, an imbecile, an idiot, he restrained himself. Instead of laying into the man, he said only, "Well, I didn't come here to fight about politics with you, Mr. Spawforth. I came to tell you about the fellows who're sneaking dirty moving pictures into the CSA and taking tobacco out."

"Tobacco? So that's what they're getting for that filthy stuff, is it?" Spawforth said, and Potter nodded. The harbormaster looked shrewd. "If it's tobacco, they're likely Yankees. I would've reckoned 'em some other kind of foreigners-goddamn Germans, maybe-from the girls on the films, but they don't talk or nothin', so I couldn't prove it."

"Yes, the films are coming in from the USA. I'm sure of that." Potter looked at Ambrose Spawforth over the tops of his spectacles. "So you've seen some of these moving pictures, have you?"

The harbormaster turned red. "It was in the line of duty, damn it. Have to know what's going on, don't I? I'd look like a right chucklehead if I didn't know what all was coming through Charleston harbor."

He had enough of a point to keep Potter from pressing him. And the veteran, in the course of his own duties, had seen some of the films himself. He didn't think the girls looked German. They were certainly limber, though. He took some papers from his briefcase. "Here's my report-and my bill."

J onathan Moss hadn't taken up the law to help Canadians gain justice from the U.S. occupying authorities. Such thoughts, in fact, had been as distant from his mind as the far side of the moon before the Great War started. He'd spent the whole war as an American pilot in Ontario, beginning in observation aircraft and ending in fighting scouts. He'd come through without a scratch and as an ace. Not many of the men who'd started the war with him were still there at the end. He knew exactly how lucky he was to be here these days, and not to need a cane or a hook or a patch over one eye.

U.S. forces had planned to take Toronto within a few weeks of the war's beginning. But the Canadians and the English had had plans of their own. The U.S. Army had taken three years to get there. Almost every inch of ground around Lake Erie from Niagara Falls to Toronto had seen shells land on it. The city itself…

Having spent a lot of time shooting it up from the air, Moss knew what sort of shape Toronto had been in when the fighting finally stopped. It was far from the only Canadian place in such condition, either. Towns came back to life only little by little. Wrecked buildings got demolished, new ones went up to take their places. But the key words were little by little. Canadians, these days, didn't have much money, and the American government was anything but interested in helping them with their troubles.

That meant a lot of people doing the wrecking and the rebuilding weren't Canadians at all, but fast-buck artists up from the States. That was certainly true in Berlin, where Moss had has practice. (The town had briefly been known as Empire during the war, but had reverted to its original name after the Americans finally drove out stubborn Canadian and British defenders.) Americans in conquered Canada often behaved as if the law were for other people, not for them. Sometimes the military government looked the other way or encouraged them to act like that.

Moss had defended one Canadian's right to reclaim a building he incontrovertibly owned-that it was the building where he'd had his office made the case especially interesting for him. Not only had he taken the case, he'd won it. That got him more such business. These days, most of his clients were Canucks. Some of his own countrymen accused him of being more Canadian than the Canadians. He took it as praise, though doubting they meant it that way.

And, when Saturday rolled around and the courts closed till the following Monday, he got into his powerful Bucephalus and roared off to the west. The motorcar did more to prove his family had money than to prove he did. The road to the little town of Arthur proved nobody in the province of Ontario had much money to set things to rights.

What had been shell holes in ground torn down to the bone were now ponds or simply grassy dimples in fertile soil. Rain and ice and grass and bushes softened the outlines of the trenches that had furrowed the countryside like scourge marks on a bare back. Even the ugly lumps of concrete that marked machine-gun nests and larger fortifications were beginning to soften with the passage of time, weathering and getting a coating of moss. Though cities were slow in recovering, the farmland in the countryside was back in business. Several trucks hauling broken concrete and rusted barbed wire back toward scrap dealers in Berlin or Toronto passed Moss on the opposite side of the road.

Here and there, fresh barbed wire stayed up: not in the thickets of the stuff used during the war, but single, sometimes double, strands. Signboards showed a skull and crossbones and a two-word warning in big red letters: DANGER! MINES! How long will those mines stay in the ground? Moss wondered.

From Berlin over to Arthur was about thirty miles. Even with his powerful automobile, Moss needed almost an hour and a half to get to the little farm outside of Arthur. That wasn't the Bucephalus' fault, but the road's-especially after rains like the ones they'd had a couple of days earlier, it was truly appalling.

His squadron had been stationed at an aerodrome only a mile or so from this little farm. It had been stationed here for a long time; the front hadn't moved fast enough to make frequent relocations necessary. And so Jonathan Moss, wandering the countryside in search of whatever-and whomever-he might find, had got to know a woman whose maiden name, she'd bragged, was Laura Secord.

She was named for a relative who'd made herself famous during the War of 1812, warning that the Americans were coming in much the same way as Paul Revere had warned that the British were coming during the Revolution. If that hadn't been enough to make her a Canadian patriot, she'd been married to a soldier who was either missing or captured.

She hadn't wanted to look at Jonathan. He'd certainly wanted to look at her. She was tall and blond and shapely and pretty-and she was more of a man than most of the men he knew. She could take care of herself. In fact, she insisted on taking care of herself. He'd come back right after the war ended. Her husband hadn't. She sent him off with a flea in his ear anyhow.

But, when she was desperate for money to keep from being taxed off the farm, she'd written to him while he was in law school. He'd lent it to her. That had helped ease him into her good graces, though she'd paid back every dime. Helping that fellow over in Berlin regain his building had done far more. Any practical-minded American would say what happened mattered more than how it happened. Now…

Now, when Moss pulled onto the track that led from the road to her farmhouse and barn, he squeezed the bulb on the motorcar's horn. The raucous noise made a cow look up from the long, green grass it was cropping. The cow didn't act too startled. It had heard that noise before.

So had Laura Secord. Moss stopped the automobile just in front of her house. She came toward him, nodding a greeting. She carried a headless chicken, still dripping blood, by the feet. A hatchet was buried in a red-stained stump that did duty for a chopping block.

"Hello, Yank," she said, and held up the chicken. "Once I settle her, she'll make us a fine stew. Her laying's down, so I don't care about culling her."

"Suits me," Moss said. "How have you been?"

"Not bad," she replied.

By a year's custom, they were decorous with each other as long as they stayed outside, which made Moss want to hurry into the farmhouse. But this… Moss frowned. She sounded more-or rather, less-than merely decorous. He asked, "Is something wrong?"

She didn't answer right away. When she did, all she said was, "We can talk about it a little later, if that's all right."

"Sure. Whatever you want." Moss didn't see what else he could say. He wondered if he'd done something to put her nose out of joint. He didn't think so, but how could a mere male-worse, an American male-know for sure?

When they went inside, she gutted the chicken and threw the offal out for the farm cats, which were the wildest beasts Moss had ever known. She plucked the carcass with automatic competence, hardly looking at what her hands were doing. Then she got a fire going in the stove, cut up the bird, threw it in a pot with carrots and onions and potatoes and a cabbage, and put it over the fire to cook.

As soon as she'd got the chicken stew going, he expected her to throw herself into his arms. That was how things had gone since they became lovers. When they got inside the farmhouse, all bets were off. The first time they'd gone to bed together, they hadn't gone to bed. He'd taken her on the kitchen floor. If she hadn't got splinters in her behind, it wasn't because he hadn't rammed her against the floorboards.

Today, though, she shook her head when he took a step toward her. "We need to talk," she said.

"What about?" Moss asked with a sinking feeling worse than any he'd known while diving to escape an enemy pilot. Whenever a woman said something like that, the first careless joy of two people as a couple was over.

"Come into the parlor," Laura Secord told him. That surprised him, too; she hardly ever used the impressive-looking room. He'd walked past it on the way to the stairs that led to her bedroom, but he wasn't sure he'd ever actually been inside it. What could he do now, though, but nod and let her lead the way?

At her gesture, he sat down on the sofa. The upholstery crackled under his weight; the sofa wasn't used to working. On the table in front of the sofa stood a framed photograph of her late husband in Canadian uniform. Moss had resolutely forgotten his surname; thinking of Laura by her maiden name made it easier for him to forget the dead man altogether. But how could you forget someone whose image stared at you out of eyes that looked hard and dangerous?

The chair in which Laura Secord sat also made noises that suggested it wasn't used to having anyone actually sit in it. She looked at Moss, but didn't say anything. "You were the one who wanted to talk," he reminded her. "I asked you once, what about?"

She bit her lip and looked away. Something close to a sob burst from her. She's going to send me packing, Moss thought with sudden sick certainty. She can't stand a damn Yank rumpling her drawers any more, no matter how much she likes it. What do I do then? he wondered, panic somewhere not far under the surface of his mind. He'd spent years alternately chasing her and trying-always without much luck-to get her out of his mind. Now that he'd finally got her, finally found out just how much woman she was, losing her was the last thing he wanted. But two had to say yes. One was plenty for no.

"What is it?" he said again, like a man bracing himself for the dentist's drill. "After this buildup, don't you think you'd better tell me?"

Laura nodded jerkily. But then, instead of talking, she sprang up to light a kerosene lamp. The yellow glow added enough light to the parlor for him to see how pale she was. Another thought intruded on him- she's going to have a baby. He gave a tiny shrug. We'll deal with that, dammit. Shakespeare's first kid came along seven months after he got married. The world won't end.

She sat down again, biting her lip. Moss' nostrils twitched-not at the way she was behaving, but because he'd just got the first whiff of the stew. At last she said, so low he had to lean forward to hear her (which made the couch rustle again), "There's going to be… an uprising. Here. In Canada. Against… against the United…" She didn't get States out. Instead, she buried her face in her hands and wept as if her heart were breaking.

It probably is, Moss realized. "Why are you telling me? I thought you'd be…"

"Cheering them on?" Laura asked. He nodded, though leading them on was more what he'd had in mind. She said, "Because I don't want you to get hurt. Because I-" She stopped again.

"Well!" he said, quite taken aback. He didn't say anything else for close to a minute; what man wouldn't savor such a compliment? She cares for me, he thought dizzily, and not just for my… He shook his head and asked the other question that needed asking: "How do you know about this?"

Laura looked at him as if he'd been foolish. And so I have, he decided. She answered as she might have to a child: "I am who I am-I am what I am-after all."

"They thought you'd be cheering them on, too," Moss said. "Cheering them on or helping them, I mean."

"Yes." In the one word, Laura Secord unwittingly spoke volumes on how close they'd come to being right. Then she burst into tears. When Moss tried to comfort her, she pushed him away as fiercely as if he were still the enemy she'd thought him for so long.

L ucien Galtier took life a day at a time. As far as he could see, that was a good idea for any man, and an especially good idea for a farmer like himself. Sometimes you got sunshine, sometimes rain or snow or just clouds. Sometimes you got peace. Sometimes, he'd seen, you got war.

Sometimes you got a whole new country. He still had trouble remembering he lived in the Republic of Quebec. The USA had invaded the Canadian province of Quebec and found enough men willing to detach it from its longtime home to make a new nation. Without the United States, my country would not be, Galtier thought.

That had been a very strange notion, the first time it crossed his mind. By now, though, he'd realized the United States did as they pleased all through North America. When they point at this one and say Come! he cometh, and when they point at that one and say Go! he goeth.

"That's from the Bible, isn't it?" his wife asked when he spoke the thought aloud to her.

"I think so, Marie," he answered, scratching his head as he tried to remember where he'd found the language in which he robed his thought. He wasn't a tall man, or broad through the shoulders; his strength was of the wiry sort that didn't show. It was also of the wiry sort that endured after a bigger man's youthful power faded with the passing years. He'd seen his fiftieth birthday. The only real difference between it and his fortieth was that he'd gone gray over the past ten years. He'd had only a few silver strands among the midnight at forty. Now the black hairs were the ones that were few and far between.

Marie, as far as he could tell, hadn't aged a day. He marveled at how she'd managed that. She'd lived with him for thirty years now. If that wasn't enough to give her gray hair, nothing ever would.

She said, "The Romans in our Lord's day didn't use their power for good, did they?"

"I don't know these things," Lucien exclaimed. "If you wanted someone who knows about Romans, you shouldn't have married a farmer." He raised a sly eyebrow. "Maybe you should have married Bishop Pascal."

"You're trying to make me angry," Marie said. "You're doing a good job of it, too. It's not so much that Bishop Pascal can't marry. It's thinking I might want to marry him if he could. You could squeeze enough oil out of that man to light a house for a year."

"But it would be sweet oil," Galtier said. His wife made a face at him.

Before they could start up again, Georges, their younger son, came into the farmhouse with a newspaper from Riviere-du-Loup in his hand. "They've gone and done it!" he said, waving the paper at Lucien and Marie.

"Who has gone and done what?" Lucien Galtier asked. With Georges with newspaper in hand, he might settle on anything. Charles, his older brother, was much more like the elder Galtier, both in looks and character. Georges towered over his father-and also, as he had since he was a boy, delighted in whimsy for its own sake. Had someone gone and hauled a cow onto a roof? Georges might well make a story like that out to be the end of the world.

Not this time, though. "The Canadians have risen against the United States!" he said, and held the paper still long enough to let his father and mother see the big black headline.

"Calisse!" Galtier muttered. "Mauvais tabernac!" Marie clucked at his swearing, but he didn't care. He reached for the newspaper. "Oh, the fools! The stupid fools!" He crossed himself.

"They'll get what's coming to them," Georges said. He took the Republic of Quebec for granted. He'd lived the last third of his life in it. To him, as his words showed, Canada was a foreign country.

Things were different for Lucien. Back in the 1890s, he'd been conscripted into the Canadian Army. He'd soldiered side by side with men who spoke English. He'd learned some himself; its remembered fragments had come in handy in ways he hadn't expected. He'd also been told, "Talk white!" when he spouted French at the wrong time. Despite that, though, he'd seen that English-speaking Canadians weren't so very different from their Quebecois counterparts. And memories of when Quebec had been part of something stretching from Atlantic to Pacific remained strong in him.

"Give me the paper," he said. "I want to see what they say about this."

Something in his tone warned Georges this would not be a good time to argue or joke. "Here, Papa," he said, and handed him the newspaper without another word.

Galtier had to hold it out at arm's length to read it. His sight had lengthened over the past ten years, too. "Shall I get your reading glasses?" Marie asked. "I know where you left them-on the nightstand by the bed."

"Never mind," he answered. "I can manage well enough… Uprisings in Toronto and Ottawa and Winnipeg, in Calgary and Edmonton and Vancouver."

"The Americans say they are putting them down," Georges said.

"Of course they say that. What else would you expect them to say?" Galtier replied. "During the war, both sides told lies as fast as they could. The Americans must have captured Quebec City and Montreal and Toronto half a dozen times each-and they must have been chased south over the border just as often."

Georges pointed to a paragraph Lucien was about to read on his own. "The premier of the Republic is sending soldiers to help his American allies-that's what he calls it, anyhow."

" 'Osti," Galtier muttered. He wasn't surprised so much as disgusted. He'd been thinking of the Bible. The Americans were saying Come! — and the Quebecois were duly coming. Or was that fair? Didn't allies help allies? Weren't Quebec and the USA allies? Why wouldn't French-speaking troops in blue-gray help Americans in green-gray?

"Can the Canadians win, do you think?" Georges asked. He certainly thought of his former countrymen as foreigners.

"No." Galtier shook his head. "The Americans are soft in certain things-they have certainly been softer here in Quebec than they might have been." Yes, he had to admit that. "But think even of your brother-in-law. Remember what he thinks of the British. The United States will not be kind in Canada. They will crucify the whole country, and they will laugh while they are doing it."

"The Canadians are brave," his son said.

"They're foolish," Galtier replied.

"Haven't we seen enough war? Haven't we seen too much war?" Marie said. Actually, this part of Quebec had fallen to the Americans fairly fast. It had seen occupation, but not too much true combat. Near Montreal, near Quebec City, the story was different.

" They don't think so." Georges sounded excited. He knows no better, Galtier thought. War around here hadn't seemed too bad.

"Listen to this, son," Galtier said after turning the paper to an inside page so he could see the rest of the story. "Listen carefully. 'American occupying authorities vow that these uprisings will be put down, and all rebels punished under martial law. This is a rebellion against duly constituted authority, not a war; captured rebels do not have the privileges granted to legitimate prisoners of war.' Do you know what that means? Do you understand it?"

"I think so, Father." Georges, for once, sounded serious. He didn't try to make a joke of it.

Lucien Galtier spelled things out anyhow: "It means the Americans will hang or shoot anyone they catch who rose up against them. They won't waste time with a lot of questions before they do it, either."

"And we take money from the Americans for the hospital they built on our patrimony," Georges said. "We even have an American in our family."

"You have a half-American nephew," Galtier replied. "You have an American brother-in-law, as I have an American son-in-law. And Leonard O'Doull is a good fellow and a good doctor, and you cannot say otherwise."

"Nooo," Georges admitted reluctantly. "But if they're doing these things in Canada-"

"They're doing them because the Canadians have risen up," Galtier said. "If the Canadians had stayed quiet, none of this would have happened. None of it has happened here in Quebec, n'est-ce pas? "

"Oui, tu as raison, Papa," Georges said. "But even if you are right, is it not that we have made a deal with the Devil, you might say?"

That same thought had crossed Galtier's mind, too. He did his best to fight it down whenever it did. Now he said, "No. We are a small man. The United States, they are a large, strong man who carries a gun. Are we foolish because we do not go out of our way to step on his toes? I think not."

"Maybe," his son said, more reluctantly still. Then he asked, "What time is it?"

"Am I a clock?" Galtier said. "You can look at one as easily as I."

Georges did, and then exclaimed in dismay. "Is it half past four already? Tabernac! I thought it was earlier."

"And why does the hour matter so much?" Galtier inquired with a certain ironic curiosity, part of which was about whether his guess was right.

Sure enough, his younger son shuffled his feet a couple of times before answering, "When I was in town, I heard there would be a dance tonight. I thought I might go."

"Did you?"

"Yes, I did." Georges attempted defiance. He didn't do a good job of it. His older brother, Charles, or any of his four sisters could have given him lessons.

Lucien and Marie shared amused looks. They'd met at a dance, somewhere a little more than thirty years before. Nor were they the only couple in the neighborhood who had-far from it. Galtier said, "All right, son. Have a good time."

Georges started to argue, to protest. Then he really heard what his father had said. He blinked. "It's all right?" he asked suspiciously.

"I said so, didn't I?"

Marie added, "There's plenty of hot water on the stove, if you have time to bathe and shave before you go."

"Merci, chere Maman. I'll do that quick as a wink." Georges still looked as if he didn't trust his ears. He went off to the kitchen to take the hot water to the bathroom, still scratching his head.

When he was, or at least might have been, out of earshot, Marie said, "High time he got married. I began to worry about Charles when he waited so long."

"Madeleine Boileau is a nice girl, and she made him a good match this past winter," Galtier said. His wife nodded. He went on, "She is a better match than we could have got without our American doctor son-in-law, or without the money from the Americans for the property on which the hospital stands."

"I know that," Marie said. "You must know it, too. Why bring it up now? We've had these things for some time."

"Why bring it up now?" Galtier echoed. "To convince myself what we've done is worthwhile, that's why. Because there are times when I feel our money is like Judas' thirty pieces of silver, that's why. Because I almost envy the Canadians for rising, that's why."

Marie eyed him. "Would you disown your grandson?"

"No. Never." Lucien didn't hesitate. He did laugh. "All right. You have me."

"I should hope so," Marie said.


A cold, nasty rain poured down on Augusta, Georgia. Had the town been up in the USA, Scipio suspected it would have got snow, even though this was only the end of October. He'd seen snow a few times, here and in South Carolina, where he'd lived most of his life. He didn't like it a bit.

The rain drummed on his cheap black umbrella. Some of the Negroes in the Terry, Augusta's black quarter, had no umbrellas. They dashed through the streets on the way to work, water splashing up under their galoshes-when they had galoshes. Scipio did. He was fastidious about his person. Part of that was personal inclination, part habit ingrained in him by more than half a lifetime spent as Anne Colleton's butler. She'd always insisted on perfection in everything, and she'd known how to get what she wanted.

His foot slipped out from under him. He had to make a mad grab for a lamppost with his free hand. That kept him from falling on his backside, but the desperate embrace left his arm and one side of his chest almost as wet as if he had fallen.

He muttered under his breath all the way to Erasmus' fish market and restaurant. YOU BUY-WE FRY! was painted on the window in big letters. The front door was unlocked. Scipio gladly ducked inside, closing the umbrella as he did so.

Erasmus, as always, had got there before him. The gray-haired black man was sipping on a steaming cup of coffee almost white with cream-he'd already been to the fish market alongside the Savannah River to get the best of the day's catch and put it on ice here.

"Mornin'," he said to Scipio, and then, "Wet out." He got the most mileage from every word he used.

"Do Jesus, sho' is!" Scipio exclaimed. "I's soaked clean through." His accent was that of the Congaree, thicker and more ignorant-sounding than Erasmus'. He could also use the English of an educated white man-again, Anne Colleton's doing-but he had nothing between the one and the other.

"Can't be helped." Erasmus took another sip of coffee. He pointed to the pot. "Pour yourself some if you got a mind to, Xerxes."

"I do dat," Scipio said. No one in Augusta, not even Bathsheba, his wife, knew his rightful name. He'd used several aliases since escaping from the wreckage of the Congaree Socialist Republic. His passbook said he was Xerxes, and he wasn't about to argue with it. Xerxes was as free as a black man in the Confederate States could be. Scipio still had a large price on his head back in South Carolina.

He poured less cream-the pitcher sat on ice next to some catfish-into his coffee than Erasmus used, but added a couple of teaspoons of sugar. His boss' eyes were on him. Erasmus didn't approve of anyone standing around idle, especially not someone he was paying. Getting a cup of coffee didn't mean lollygagging around for half an hour till Scipio finished it. He took the cup out in front of the display full of ice and fish, grabbed a push broom, and started sweeping up under and around the restaurant tables.

Erasmus said, "You's a pretty good fellow, Xerxes."

"I thanks you," Scipio answered, chivvying small specks of dust to destruction.

"Yes, suh, you's a pretty good fellow," Erasmus said again. "You works." By the way he spoke, those two traits were intimately connected. He watched Scipio sweep a little longer, then added, "You know what I say? I say you ought to git your own place, work for your own self. I hates to lose you, but you smart if you go."

Scipio stopped sweeping. Erasmus must have been serious, for he didn't give his employee a put-upon stare. Slowly, Scipio said, "Ain't never thought about that none."

He told the truth. Never in his life had he contemplated being his own master. He'd been born a slave, before the Confederate States manumitted their Negroes in the aftermath of the Second Mexican War. Even after manumission, he'd always been a house nigger, first in the kitchens at Marshlands, then as butler there. He'd done factory labor and worked as a waiter since. Every single place, he'd had somebody telling him what to do. (Whenever he thought of Anne Colleton, he shivered, even now. Getting out of South Carolina had put some distance between them, the state border being more important than the miles. Was it enough? He hoped so.)

"Ought to do some thinkin', then, I reckon," Erasmus said. "You ain't stupid. You kin read'n write'n cipher-more'n I kin do my ownself. You works hard, an' you saves your money. What else you need?"

Maybe he didn't expect an answer, but Scipio gave him one: "Dunno dat I wants to boss other niggers around. You hear what I sayin'?"

"Yeah, I hears it. But you ain't real likely to hire no white folks." Erasmus bared his teeth to show that was meant for a joke. Scipio dutifully smiled back. His boss went on, "I hear what you say. But you gots to have people working' fo' you. Job gits too big fo' one man to do it all by hisself."

"Don' want to play de buckra." Scipio made as if to crack a whip. He might have been driving along a slave coffle in the days before manumission.

"I hear black folks say that every now and again," Erasmus admitted. "But you tell me true, now-I treat you like white folks treats niggers?"

"No," Scipio admitted. "Had one fella, he weren't too bad, but de rest-" He shook his head.

"Oglethorpe," Erasmus said. Scipio nodded in surprise; he hadn't mentioned his earlier boss for quite a while. Erasmus owned a stubborn memory. He continued, "I knows Aurelius a bit. He been waitin' tables for John Oglethorpe since dirt. He says that there buckra a lot like me, you work for him, he don't give you no trouble. He could do that, too."

"Could," Scipio said. "Mebbe could. Dunno dat I gots it in me to give no orders, though, not no way." He hadn't even liked giving orders as a butler, when Anne Colleton was the ultimate authority behind them. Doing it on his own hook? No, he wasn't sure about that at all.

"Well, you don't want to do what you kin do, that's your business," Erasmus said. "Like I told you, I ain't sorry you works for me. But you is wastin' yourself, you wants to know what I think."

How many Negroes in the Confederate States aren't wasting themselves? Scipio wondered. He'd got himself an education as good as any white man's. What could he do with it? Sound impressive as the butler at Marshlands during the war. Now, wait tables. If he'd tried to set up as a businessman-not in the sense Erasmus meant, but as an investor, a capitalist-he would have been lucky if whites here only laughed at him. More likely, they would have lynched him.

And most blacks? Besides having whites hate them, most blacks never got the education that would have let them make the most of their abilities-that would have let them discover what abilities they had. And then whites called them stupid and inferior because they didn't succeed.

"Sometimes I reckons dem Red niggers, dey knew what dey was doin'," he said. He'd never dared say anything like that to Erasmus before.

The older man studied him, then slowly shook his head. "Them Reds, they was about tearin' down, not buildin' up. Tearin' down don't do no good. Never has, never will." He sounded very certain.

Before Scipio could answer, the day's first customer came in: a fat black man dripping rain from the brim of his homburg and from the hem of his rubberized-cotton raincoat. "Bacon an' a couple eggs over medium an' grits an' coffee," he called to Erasmus.

Erasmus already had the eggs and bacon on the stove. "Like I don't know what you has for breakfast, Sophocles," he said reproachfully.

Scipio poured coffee for Sophocles and brought it to him. As soon as Erasmus had the rest of the man's breakfast ready, he carried that over, too. "Half a dollar, all told," he said.

"Here y'are." Sophocles slapped down sixty cents. "Things is up a little from last year," he remarked.

"But only a little," Scipio said. "Do Jesus, when dey was playin' games wid de money, breakfas' cost you fifty million dollars, maybe fifty billion dollars. I's powerful glad dey fix it-dey pretty much fix it, anyways."

Sophocles and Erasmus both nodded. Inflation had almost destroyed the CSA. How could anybody do business when money might lose half its value between the morning when you got it and the afternoon when you found a chance to spend it? Prices were higher now than they had been when the currency was restored; the C.S. dollar didn't trade at par with its U.S. counterpart. But it was still close, and didn't seem to be sinking very fast.

Erasmus said, "The white folks don't go runnin' to the Freedom Party fast as their legs can take 'em when their money worth somethin'."

Sophocles nodded again, chewing a mouthful of bacon. So did Scipio. "De Freedom Party buckra, dey scares me plenty," he said. "Dey wish we was all dead. Dey he'ps we along, too, case we don' feel like dyin'." More nods.

More customers came in. On such a miserable morning, business was slower than usual. Scipio kept hopping even so. When he wasn't carrying food out to hungry men and women, he was washing dirty dishes or making fresh coffee or stirring the big pot of grits. Erasmus didn't let him do much real cooking, but did give him jobs like that. He also wrapped fish for people who didn't come in to eat there.

However much he did, he would have felt like a fool complaining about it, for Erasmus did more. Erasmus worked harder than anybody he'd ever seen, save possibly John Oglethorpe. Maybe their both owning their businesses had something to do with that.

Erasmus certainly worked harder than any other black man Scipio had ever seen. And he'd been born a slave; he'd spent more time in bondage than Scipio had. A lot of Negroes still held to the slave's pace of labor, doing just enough to satisfy an overseer, even though they were free now. Erasmus worked to satisfy an overseer, too, but his lived inside his head. He had a harsher straw boss than any cursing, whip-wielding, tobacco-chewing white man. His boss whipped him on from within.

Could I do that? Scipio wondered. He had his doubts. He wanted things done properly, yes; Anne Colleton had made sure to instill that into him. But did he have the driving need to get things done, even when he was the only one urging himself on? He'd rarely seen it in himself. He'd rarely had to look for it, either. If he ever got his own place, he'd have to.

After the breakfast rush, such as it was, eased, Erasmus put on a wide-brimmed hat of no known make and a rain slicker. "Mind the store a spell, Xerxes," he said. "I gwine buy some more fish. One of the boats was late, and I reckon I kin git some prime deals, on account of most folks ain't comin' back."

"I do dat," Scipio said. Erasmus hurried out into the rain. Would I do the same? Scipio wondered. He was honest enough to admit to himself he didn't know.

T he closing whistle shrilled in the Toledo steel mill. Chester Martin pushed his helmet up onto the top of his head. He blinked against the glare as he hurried to clock out. He'd been looking at molten steel through smoked-glass rectangles all day. Now he saw all the light there was to see. It was almost too much to bear.

As he stuck his card in the time clock, he spoke up to anyone who'd listen: "Election day today. Don't forget to vote, dammit. Only way you should forget to vote is if you want the Democrats back in Powel House."

That made most of the men around him grin and wave and call out agreement. Socialists filled the Toledo steel mills, as they filled so many factories. After the postwar strikes, the Socialist Party had gained more ground than at any time since the 1880s.

Funny, Martin thought as he hurried out of the big building to catch a streetcar to his polling place and his home. I saved Teddy Roosevelt's life when he came into the trenches to see what the war was like. Well, maybe I did-I sure made him get down when the Confederates started shelling us. He had a letter from Roosevelt, written after he got wounded. He intended to keep that letter forever. But he was a Socialist all the same.

A streetcar clanged to a stop. That wasn't his route. Then the right one came. He climbed aboard, throwing five cents in the fare box. A lot of the passengers looked like him: tired, grubby men in overalls and heavy shoes and collarless shirts and cloth caps. He had sandy hair and a pointed nose to distinguish himself from most of the rest. The odor of perspiration filled the streetcar. Even in November, Toledo factory workers had no trouble breaking a sweat.

The American flag flew in front of the elementary school that housed his polling place. The new stars in the canton that represented Kentucky and Houston gave it a pattern he still hadn't got used to. The polling place itself was in the school auditorium, which was full of seats too small for grown-up backsides. Martin smiled, remembering the days when he'd sat in chairs like that. I'd never killed anybody then, he thought, and the smile slipped.

He had to wait in line to get his ballot. Lots of men-and women, who could vote in presidential elections in Ohio-lined up to get their ballots. "Here you are," the clerk said when he came to the front of the line. "Take the first available voting booth." He sounded bored. How many times had he said those identical words since the polls opened this morning? Too many, by all the signs.

A pretty woman a few years younger than Chester Martin pushed aside the curtain that kept her ballot secret and came out with the folded paper in her hand. They did a little accidental dance, each trying to get around the other, and were laughing by the time she went past him and he made his way into the booth.

He voted quickly. He put an X by the names of Upton Sinclair and Hosea Blackford, then went on to vote for the other Socialist candidates. He wasn't altogether happy with the way the Party had handled the Canadian uprising; had he been in charge of things, he would have taken an even stronger line than President Sinclair had. Why did we fight the war, if we coddle the Canucks once it's done? But the Socialists were his party, he was making good money, and there were plenty of jobs. He wasn't about to abandon the Party over foreign policy. He went down the line, from Congressman to state officials, voting the straight ticket.

After he'd finished, he handed the clerk the ballot. The fellow ceremoniously stuck it in the locked ballot box, declaring, "Chester Martin has voted." Martin felt proud, as if his vote had singlehandedly saved the country. He knew how silly that was, but couldn't help it.

He hurried out of the auditorium, out of the school. His family's flat was only four blocks away. He'd intended to walk it and save himself five cents, but seeing the pretty woman at the streetcar stop made him change his mind. "Did you vote for President Sinclair?" he asked, fumbling in his pocket for a nickel.

"As a matter of fact, I did," she said. That made him grin with relief; he wouldn't have wanted much to do with a staunch Democrat. He didn't think he would, anyhow. She added, "He's the only one I could vote for, of course. I don't think that's right."

"I don't, either," Martin said, more sincerely than otherwise. "My sister gets to vote for the first time today, and that's all she gets to mark: one square. It really doesn't seem fair."

They chatted, waiting for the streetcar. He found out her name was Rita Habicht, and that she was a typist for a company that made galvanized pipe. He gave her his own name just when the trolley clattered up. Slow down, he thought as it rattled along the tracks. Slow down, dammit. But it didn't. In no time at all, the streetcar got to his stop.

He let it start up again without getting off. "Have you got a telephone?" he asked.

She hesitated. Then she took a scrap of paper from her handbag, wrote on it, and gave it to him. "Here."

He tucked it into the front pocket of his overalls. "Thanks," he said. "I'll call you." He did leave at the next stop, and had to walk most of a mile back in the direction from which he'd come.

"What took you so long?" his younger sister asked when he finally came through the door. Sue had a sharp nose much like his, but her hair was brown, not sandy. Without waiting for an answer, she went on, "I got to vote. It took forever, but I got to vote." She'd been just too young at the last presidential election.

"Good for you, Sis." Chester gave her a hug. "I remember how that felt-the first time, I mean."

"What took you so long coming home?" Sue asked again.

"Trolley went past the stop, and I had to walk back," he answered.

She looked at him. "It must have gone a long way past the stop, for you to be as late as you are." He could feel himself turning red. His sister started to laugh. "You're blushing!" she exclaimed, as she might have done when they were both children. She wagged a saucy finger at him. "Was she pretty?"

He looked down at the carpet, and at the woven flowers and birds he'd seen every day for years without really looking at them. "Well.. yeah," he mumbled.

Now Sue stared. "You're not doing that just to drive me crazy," she said. "You really did meet somebody."

"I met her at the polling place, matter of fact," Martin said. "We got to talking, and we seemed to like each other all right, and I got a telephone number from her."

"Will you call her?" Sue asked.

"I'd be a fool not to, don't you think?" he answered.

The door opened behind him. His father came into the flat. "What would you be a fool about this time, Chester?" Stephen Douglas Martin asked. He was an older version of his son, also a steelworker, and a man who'd stubbornly remained a Democrat.

"I'd be a fool to think I could say anything without you making a crack about it," Chester replied.

His sister said, "He met a girl."

"Happens to a lot of people," his father observed. "Well, to a lot of fellows, anyhow." He turned to Chester. "Come on, boy, tell me more. Who is she? What does she do? How did you meet her? Why didn't you tell me about it sooner?"

"How could I tell you about it sooner when it only just now happened?" Martin asked in some irritation. "Her name's Rita. She's a typist. I met her at the polling place. There. Are you happy now?"

"I don't know." His father looked as surprised as his sister had. "This all sounds pretty sudden."

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Chester said. "I didn't propose to her. All I did was ask for her telephone number."

"Ask for whose telephone number?" his mother asked. Louisa Martin had heard her husband come in, where she hadn't heard her son. She hurried out from the kitchen to give them both a peck on the cheek.

Chester told the whole story over again for the third time. By then, he'd started to feel as if it had happened to somebody else. His mother exclaimed. So did his father, in chorus with her. They sounded pleased and dubious at the same time.

At the supper table, over a pork roast stuffed with cabbage, his mother said, "It really is about time you settled down, son, and started raising a family of your own."

He rolled his eyes. "I haven't even asked if she wants to go to a picture show with me, and you've already got me married off."

"You shouldn't rush into things with a girl you just met," his father said.

He could have pointed out that he wasn't rushing into anything. He could have, but he didn't. What point? Neither his father nor his mother would pay the least attention. He was sure of that. He changed the subject: "I wish we had one of those wireless machines. Then we could find out who's winning the election tonight without waiting for the morning paper."

"They're so expensive," his mother said.

"They're less than they were last year," Chester said.

"Maybe they'll be still less next year, or the year after that," his mother said. "If they are, maybe I'll think about getting one. But I've got better things to do with a few hundred dollars right now than to put them into a cabinet that sits there and makes noise all the time."

"It's not just noise, Mother," Sue said. "It's music and people talking and all sorts of exciting things."

"I think it's nothing but a fad, myself," Stephen Douglas Martin said. "After all, once you've heard a band playing John Philip Sousa marches once, how many more times are you going to want to?"

"You could hear something different the next time," Chester said.

"Yes, but are there enough different new things to put on the wireless every hour of the day, every day of the week, every week of the year?" His father shook his head. "I don't think so."

Since Chester had no idea whether there would be or not-and since he didn't think his father had any idea, either-he didn't argue. He said, "I could go over to the Socialists' hall and find out."

"Well, if you want to," his mother said, her tone suggesting she would sooner he stayed.

In the end, he did stay. He'd already put in a long, hard day, one made longer and harder by voting and by walking back to the flat after he'd met Rita Habicht. He went to sleep in his cramped little bedroom. Whenever he thought about how crowded things were, he remembered three years of sleeping in the trenches, sometimes under rain or snow. Compared to that, this didn't look so bad.

In the morning, newsboys hawked papers with big, black headlines: SINCLAIR REELECTED! They shouted out the same thing. Chester felt like cheering; his father, no doubt, would be irate. His father could lump it, for all of him. Four more years to show the country what we can do, he thought, and went off to his own dangerous, backbreaking job whistling a cheery tune.

C incinnatus Driver was sure he was the happiest black man in Des Moines, Iowa. Des Moines didn't have a whole lot of black men in it, happy or otherwise, but he would have bet he led the parade. The reason he was a man with a song in his heart was simple: he'd just found the perfect Christmas present for his son, Achilles.

The tin fire engine was a foot and a half long, with rubber tires, a ladder that went up almost a yard, a bell that made a godawful racket, and half a dozen lead firemen. He was sure Achilles, who was nine, would play with it not just for hours but for weeks. Grinning, he carried it over to the clerk behind the cash register.

"That'll be a dollar and ninety-nine cents," the woman said briskly.

"Here y'are, ma'am." Cincinnatus gave her two dollar bills. His accent was softer than the sharp local English; along with his family, he'd left Covington, Kentucky, not long after the war ended. He'd hoped he'd left his troubles behind him. So far, his hopes looked like coming true.

"Here's your change." The clerk handed him a penny. She smiled. "I hope your little boy enjoys it."

"Thank you kindly, ma'am." Cincinnatus smiled, too. He wouldn't have got so much politeness from a white woman in Covington. He might not have got it here, either. He'd seen that-some places, they wouldn't sell him things till they saw his money. But, on the whole, Negroes didn't have too hard a time in Des Moines. They were thin enough on the ground here to be reckoned a novelty, not a menace.

Still smiling, Cincinnatus took the fire engine out to his truck. The machine was a beat-up White of Great War vintage. Cincinnatus had driven such snorting beasts all through Kentucky and down into Tennessee during the war, in the service of the U.S. Army. Now he worked on his own behalf-and a White made in 1916 or 1917 was, by the end of 1924, something less than it had been.

He didn't care. The truck was a lot better than the spavined Duryea he'd driven from Covington to Des Moines. It held a lot. He was able to make a good many repairs on it himself; he'd had practice. And, when he couldn't fix the truck, he'd found a mechanic who was both cheap and competent: an immigrant from Italy for whom a black man was but one wonder of a wonder-filled America.

He cranked the engine to get it to turn over. One of these days, I'm going to put a self-starter in this machine. He'd had that thought before, too. But the motor hadn't had a chance to cool down, so cranking it was easy. He got behind the wheel, trod on the clutch, put the truck in gear, and drove off. Night fell as he made his way to the northwestern side of town. The White was of recent enough vintage to have electric headlights and not acetylene lamps; he could turn them on from the cabin, and didn't have to get out and fiddle with matches.

The truck wheezed to a stop in front of the apartment building where his family lived. The motor shook and coughed a couple of times after he took out the ignition key, then fell silent. He got out. Wrapping the toy fire engine in some burlap, he carried it into the building.

In the lobby, Joey Chang, who ran a laundry and whose family lived on the floor above Cincinnatus, nodded to him and said, "Hello."

"Hello, Joey," he answered, doing his best to hide a smile. The Chinaman seemed as exotic to him as a mere Negro did to an Italian immigrant. There might have been a couple of Chinese in Covington back when it was part of the CSA. On the other hand, there might not have, too. He'd never eaten chop suey before coming to Des Moines. He liked Chinese food. It was cheap and good and something out of the ordinary.

As soon as he walked into his own flat, Cincinnatus was glad he'd camouflaged the fire engine, because Achilles sat at the kitchen table doing homework. The boy pointed. "What you got, Pa?"

"None o' your business. Get back to work," Cincinnatus answered. Back in Covington, before the war, there'd been no public schools for Negroes. Finding school not only present but required in Des Moines had made a lot of the hardships in uprooting his family worthwhile. Wagging a finger at Achilles, he went on, "I had to sneak around to learn my letters. You got help. I expect you to take advantage of it."

"I am, Pa," his son said. "But you still haven't told me what you got there." Achilles' accent was an odd mix of Kentucky and Iowa. Cincinnatus knew he would have said ain't told me himself. He also knew that was wrong, but it seemed natural to him in a way it didn't to the boy.

He went into the kitchen, where Elizabeth had a beef tongue boiling in a pot with potatoes and carrots, and with some cloves that gave the air a spicy smell. She too pointed to the burlap-wrapped toy. "What's that?"

Cincinnatus showed her-the fire engine wasn't for her, after all. Her eyes widened. She nodded. He said, "You got a place in here where we can hide this till the day?"

"Right here." She opened a cabinet and pointed to a top shelf. He stood on tiptoe to push the fire engine back as far as he could. That done, he gave her a kiss. She smiled, as if to say something might come of that later on.

Then Amanda toddled into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around his shins. "Dada!" she said. Hard to believe she was a year and a half old now. Above her head, Cincinnatus and Elizabeth exchanged wry, tired grins. Something might not come of Elizabeth's inviting smile, too. Before Amanda was born, Cincinnatus had forgotten, perhaps mercifully, how much of a handful a baby in the house was. She'd reminded him, though.

"Oh, I almost forgot," Elizabeth said. "We got us a letter today."

"A letter?" Cincinnatus said in surprise. "Who from?" Most-almost all-the mail they got was either bills or advertising circulars. Only a few people they knew, either friends or relatives, could read and write.

For that matter, Elizabeth could hardly read and write herself. Till Achilles started going to school, she hadn't even known the ABCs. But he'd taught her some of what he'd learned. Now she said, "It came from Covington, I know that. But I can't make out who sent it, and I didn't open it up. Didn't reckon I could cipher it out myself, and I didn't know if it was anything Achilles ought to see, you know what I mean?"

"Sure do." Cincinnatus looked in the icebox and took out a bottle of beer. Iowa was a dry state that took being dry seriously. The beer was unofficial, illegal homebrew, made by Mr. Chang upstairs. Till he came to Des Moines, Cincinnatus hadn't know that Chinamen drank beer, let alone made it themselves. As he yanked the cork out of the bottle, he said, "Why don't you let me have a look at it now?"

"I do that," she said. When she left the kitchen, her skirt swirled, showing off her ankles and several inches of shapely calf. She'd finally given in to what everyone else was wearing these days. Cincinnatus thought the new styles risque, but that didn't keep him from looking. On the contrary. She brought back the envelope. "Here."

Sure enough, it bore a Covington postmark. Cincinnatus tried to puzzle out the return address, but couldn't. He took a clasp knife from his pocket and opened the envelope. Looking up from the letter, he asked Elizabeth, "You recollect a fellow name of Hadrian, moved next door to my folks a little after the war ended?"

She thought, then nodded. "Believe I do. Never had nothin' much to do with him, though. How come? What's he say?"

"Says Pa's sick, mighty sick, maybe fixin'-to-die sick." Cincinnatus wished he'd never got the letter. He went on, "Says Ma asked him to write me, get me to come back down there 'fore Pa goes." Tears blurred his vision. His father wasn't an old man, but anybody could take sick.

"Mama Livia, she can't very well write you her own self," Elizabeth said. That was true; Cincinnatus' mother and his father, Seneca, were both illiterate. They'd grown up as slaves, back in the days when teaching a Negro his letters was against the law.

"I know." Cincinnatus took a long pull at the beer bottle, wishing it were something stronger. He read the letter again, as if expecting it to say something different the second time around. That was foolish, but who wasn't foolish sometimes?

"What you gwine do?" Elizabeth asked.

"I got to go," Cincinnatus said. "We got enough money to pull through if I'm gone a week or two." They had more money than that, even after he'd bought the bigger truck. He'd always salted away as much as he could. Even when Kentucky was still a Confederate state, he'd done his best to get ahead, and his best had been about as good as a Negro's could be in the CSA.

Elizabeth nodded. "All right. You take the truck or you ride a train?"

"Train," he answered. "Hadrian, he say to wire him when I come, an' he'll meet me at the station." He finished his beer in a couple of big gulps. "Wish he would've wired me. I be there by now." He sighed. "Letter's cheaper, I reckon. What can you do?"

"I say prayers Sunday an' every night for your father," Elizabeth said. "Papa Seneca, he's a nice man."

"Yeah," Cincinnatus said tonelessly. As people will, he'd come to take his father for granted. The idea that the older man might not be there forever-might not be there for very much longer-hit him hard, and all the harder because it caught him by surprise. Everything had been going so well. Everything still was-for him. But with his father sick, that didn't matter any more.

There was a Western Union office in the Des Moines train station. Cincinnatus sent Hadrian a telegram from there. A couple of hours later, he boarded an eastbound train. A crow flying from Des Moines to Covington would have gone about six hundred miles. The train took a longer route, and took its own sweet time getting there. It seemed to stop at every worthless little town along the way, too. Cincinnatus stared out the window, now and then drumming his fingers on his trouser leg in impatience.

On a train in the CSA, the attendants would have been black men. Here, they were almost all foreigners of one sort or another. They muttered things about Cincinnatus that he couldn't understand, but he didn't think any of them were compliments.

The Confederates had dropped the old railroad bridge from Cincinnati to Covington into the Ohio when the Great War broke out. The train rattled over its replacement in the wee small hours. Cincinnatus yawned and knuckled his eyes. He hadn't slept a wink. He hoped his father was still breathing.

He had no trouble spotting Hadrian: his family's neighbor was the only Negro waiting on the platform. He didn't look to have slept much, either. "C-come along with me," he said. Cincinnatus didn't remember him stammering. He had a nervous tic under one eye, too.

No sooner had they got off the platform than four big, tough-looking white men in plain clothes surrounded them. "You fuckin' bastard!" Cincinnatus exclaimed. He knew he'd been betrayed-he just didn't know to whom yet. Hadrian miserably hung his head. What had these people done or threatened to get him to write that letter?

They all piled into a big Oldsmobile. When it stopped in front of the city hall, Cincinnatus knew who had him. It didn't make him feel any better-worse, in fact. "Come along, boy," one of the whites snapped. He'd probably been a cop in the days when Covington belonged to the CSA.

However unwillingly, Cincinnatus went. The man waiting for him inside gave him a smile that might have come from a hunting hound. His luminous, yellow-brown eyes strengthened the resemblance. "Howdy, Cincinnatus," Luther Bliss said. "Been a while, hasn't it?" The head of the Kentucky State Police-the Kentucky secret police-didn't wait for an answer. He turned to Cincinnatus' hard-faced escorts and spoke three words: "Lock him up."

E very once in a while, Nellie Jacobs would take her Order of Remembrance out of its velvet box and look at it. She didn't wear it much-where would a woman who ran a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., have occasion to wear the USA's highest civilian decoration? The last time she'd put it on was for Teddy Roosevelt's funeral. Roosevelt had presented the medal to her with his own hands. He'd given Nellie's daughter, Edna, a medal, too, but hers was only second class, not first.

She didn't know she was being a spy, Nellie thought. Lord, she wouldn't have cared if the Confederates held Washington forever. It was funny, if you looked at it the right way.

The eagle on the Order of Remembrance stared fiercely back at her. Of course, Roosevelt hadn't known the whole story, any more than Edna had. Roosevelt hadn't known she'd stuck a knife into Bill Reach, the U.S. spymaster in Washington. Nobody knew that, nobody but Nellie. Not even her husband knew, and Hal Jacobs had reported directly to Reach.

"He had it coming, the filthy son of a bitch," Nellie muttered. It wasn't that Bill Reach had been a drunkard, though he had. But he'd also been a lecher and, in his younger days, a man who'd had-and paid for-assignations with Nellie. He'd thought he could keep on having them, too, if he just slapped down the cash.

Nellie's long oval face settled into the lines of disapproval it had worn so often since she'd escaped the demimonde. Shows how much he knew, she thought. She'd fought hard for respectability. She hadn't been about to throw it away for a drunken bastard and his red, throbbing prick. One of the things she liked about her husband was that he didn't trouble her in the bedroom very often. Old men have their advantages.

Her mouth twisted. You're no spring chicken yourself, she thought. She'd turned fifty earlier in the year. She felt every year of her age, too. It wasn't so much that she was going gray, though she was. That aside, she looked a good deal younger than her years. But keeping up with a four-year-old would have made anybody feel her years.

As if the thought of Clara were enough to make her get into mischief, she called, "Ma! Help me tie my shoe!"

"I'm coming," Nellie said. Her back twinged when she got off her bed. Clara couldn't tie her shoes yet. Sometimes she insisted on trying anyhow. Four-year-olds were nothing if not independent. That they drove their parents mad never once crossed their minds, of course. That was part of their… charm.

"I'm going to go out and play," Clara declared when Nellie hurried into her bedroom.

"Not yet, you're not." Nellie surveyed the damage. "Oh, child, what have you gone and done?"

Actually, the damage itself left little room for doubt. Clara had put her shoes on the wrong feet and then tied as many knots as she could in the shoelaces. She couldn't manage a bow, but knots she had no trouble with. The shoes came up well over her ankles; they were almost boots, and fit snugly even before Clara created her knotty problem.

Nellie couldn't even get the shoes off her daughter till she untied some-several-of the knots. Clara didn't want to hold still for the process. Four-year-olds didn't hold still unless they were asleep or coming down with something. Nellie asked her twice not to squirm. That failing, she swatted Clara's bottom. Her daughter squalled, but then did hold still… for a little while.

It was, Nellie decided, long enough. It was, at any rate, long enough for her to get the shoes on their proper feet and tie a couple of bows. "Play on the sidewalk in front of the shop here," Nellie warned. "Don't you go out in the street. I'm going to come downstairs and keep an eye on you. If you even go near the street, you'll get a spanking like you'll never forget. No, you'll get two-one from me, and one from your pa."

"I promise, Ma." Clara solemnly crossed her heart. "Hope to die."

No, it's so you don't die, Nellie thought, but Clara wouldn't have had the faintest idea what she was talking about. "Let's go downstairs," Nellie said. Clara took her favorite toy, a rag doll named Louise, and went down to the ground floor at what Nellie would have reckoned a suicidal pace. Nellie followed more sedately.

Nellie turned away for a moment to get a whisk broom and a dust pan. The coffee shop was closed on Sundays, of course; Washington's blue laws were as strict as any in the USA. But the more cleaning she did now, the less she would have to worry about come Monday morning, when she'd also be busy brewing coffee, frying eggs and ham and bacon and potatoes, toasting bread, and serving her customers. Her door might be shut, but she didn't reckon Sunday a day of rest.

Before Nellie had taken more than three steps, brakes screeched out in the street. Metal crumpled. Glass tinkled musically. It reminded her of artillery bombardments during the war, but wasn't so dramatic.

Or it wouldn't have been… "Oh, God in heaven!" Nellie said, and dashed outside. "Clara!" she shouted. "Where are you, Clara?"

No answer. Fear rising in her like the tide, Nellie stared at the accident. A Ford and a Packard had locked horns. The Ford, predictably, was the loser. Steam gushed from its ruptured radiator. Its driver descended to the street holding a handkerchief to his head, which he'd bloodied when he greeted his windshield face first.

"Clara!" Nellie called again. "Dear God, please…" The last time she'd prayed had been during the U.S. artillery barrage that nearly leveled Washington before the Confederates finally, sullenly, drew back into Virginia. God must have heard that prayer-she'd come through alive. But everything back then seemed small and unimportant when set against her daughter's safety. "Clara!"

The gray-haired man who'd been driving the Packard had to kick at his door before it would open. He didn't seem badly hurt, and started shouting at the other man: "You idiot! You moron! You thumb-fingered baboon!"

"Fuck you, Grandpa," the man with the bloodied face replied. "You drove right into me."


"Liar yourself!"

Neither one of them said anything about a little girl, and neither one of them paid any attention to Nellie. "Clara!" she called once more. She didn't want to look closely at the accident, for fear she would see little legs sticking out from under a wheel. "Clara!"


Nellie sprang a foot in the air. There stood her daughter, coming out from behind the stout iron base of a street lamp. "Thank you, Jesus," Nellie whispered. She ran to her little girl and held her tight.

"Fooled you, Mama!" Clara said happily. "I got down there and- Ow! " Nellie applied her hand to the part on which her daughter was in the habit of sitting, much harder than she had before they went outside. Clara started to howl. "What's that for, Mama? I didn't do nothing!"

"Oh, yes, you did," Nellie said, and spanked her again. "You scared me out of a year's growth, that's what you did. I was afraid one of those cars ran over you, do you know that?"

Clara, at the moment, knew nothing except that her fanny hurt. She tried to get away, and had no luck whatsoever. Nellie dragged her back into the coffee shop. "Louise!" Clara wailed.

Although Nellie was tempted to leave the doll out on the sidewalk, that would have cost more tears and hysterics than it was worth. She snarled, "You stay here. Don't move a muscle!" at Clara, and then went back to retrieve Louise. She all but threw the rag doll at her daughter. "Here!"

"Thank you, Mama," Clara said in an unwontedly small voice. She hadn't moved a muscle, and evidently had figured out this was no time to say or do anything that might land her in more trouble.

When Nellie's husband came back from a friend's later that morning, Nellie told him the whole story. Clara looked at him in silent appeal; he was often softer than her mother. But not this time. Hal Jacobs sighed, wuffling out his white mustache. "Clara, you must not play games like that," he said. "Your mother thought you were hurt, maybe even killed."

"I'm sorry, Pa," Clara said. Maybe she even meant it. She seemed more inclined to be good for Hal than she was for Nellie. She takes after her half sister, Nellie thought sourly. Edna had always done what she wanted, not what Nellie wanted. She'd taken great pleasure in flaunting it, too.

And she'd married well in spite of everything. When she came to visit as the sun was setting, she wore a maroon silk dress that daringly showed her legs halfway to her knees. Nellie, who'd had a really gamy past, had spent more than thirty years trying to live it down. Edna, in keeping with young people everywhere these days-or so it seemed to Nellie-flaunted her fast life.

"Be good, Armstrong," she told her son. Armstrong Grimes-Edna's husband, Merle, came from the same town in Michigan as General Custer-was two, only a couple of years younger than Clara, his aunt. Having told him to be good, Edna let him run wild-that seemed to be her idea of how to raise children.

"How are you, dear?" Nellie asked, pouring Edna a cup of coffee.

"Couldn't be better, Ma," Edna answered expansively. She looked like a twenty years' younger version of her mother, but without the pinched, anxious expression Nellie so often wore. She still thought she could beat the game of life. Nellie was convinced nobody could. But Edna had her reasons. She went on, "Merle just got himself promoted in the Reconstruction Agency. That's another forty dollars a month, and you'd best believe it'll come in handy."

"Bully," Nellie said, meaning perhaps a third of it. She'd had to fret and scrape for every dime she ever made-she'd had to do worse things than fret and scrape for some of the dimes she'd made before Edna was born. As far as she could see, her daughter had things easy but didn't begin to guess how lucky she was.

Before Edna could go on bragging, a shriek rose from the direction of the kitchen. "Ma!" Clara squealed. "Armstrong just pulled my hair, Ma!"

Edna laughed. Nellie didn't. "Well, pull his back," she said.

Her older daughter bristled. A moment later, Armstrong Grimes started to cry. Then Clara shrieked again. "Ma! He bit me!"

"You going to tell her to bite him back, too?" Edna asked. Nellie glared. Children, whether four or thirty, could drive you right out of your mind.

R eggie Bartlett was a first-rate weather prophet. He looked at his boss and said, "Reckon it'll rain tomorrow."

Jeremiah Harmon looked up from the pills he was compounding. "Shoulder kicking up again?" the druggist asked.

"Sure is," Bartlett answered. "Leg, too, matter of fact. I took me a couple of aspirins, but they don't shift the ache." He'd spent the end of the war in a U.S. military hospital after catching two bullets from a machine-gun burst and getting captured down in Sequoyah. The wounds had finally healed, but their memory lingered on.

"Wouldn't surprise me if you were right." Harmon added a little water to his mix and put it in a twenty-pill mold. He swung the hinged top of the mold into place. "There we go. These'll make somebody piss like a racehorse."

"I've heard that one a million times. How do racehorses piss?" Reggie asked, and then, before his boss could, he answered his own question: "Pretty damn quick, I bet."

Jeremiah Harmon snorted. "You've always got a snappy comeback, don't you?"

"I do my best," Bartlett answered. He had an engaging grin, one that let him say things a dour man could never have got away with.

The bell over the front door jangled. A customer came in. "Help you with something, sir?" Reggie asked.

"Yes. Thanks. Chilly out there." The man came up to the counter. Bartlett wished he hadn't. His breath was so dreadful, he might not have used a toothbrush since before the Great War. Maybe, if God were kind, he'd ask about one now, or about mouthwash. But no such luck; he said, "What have you got in the way of rat poison?"

You could breathe on them, Reggie thought. That'd do the job, the way the Yankees' chlorine killed the rats in the trenches on the Roanoke front. No matter how engaging his grin, though, he knew he couldn't get away with that. Life in Richmond was too civilized for such blunt truths. "Here, let me look," he said, and pulled up a bright yellow box with an upside-down rat with X's for eyes on the front of it. "This ought to do the job."

"It'll shift 'em, will it?" the man asked, breathing decay into Reggie's face.

"Sure will, sir." Reggie drew back as far as he could, which wasn't nearly far enough. "Rats, mice, even cockroaches. You put it down, they eat it, and they die."

"Reckon I can manage that." The customer dug a hand in his pocket. Coins jingled. "How much?"

"Twenty-two cents," Bartlett said. The man gave him a quarter. He solemnly returned three pennies.

"Thanks." The fellow put them in his pocket. He took the box of rat poison and headed out the door. "Freedom!" Without waiting for an answer, he left the drugstore.

Reggie's boss looked up from the pills, which he was removing from the mold. "You showed fine patience there," he said. "I don't know if I could have done the same. I could smell him all the way over here."

"You could give a man like that a straight flush in a poker game, and he'd still find a way to lose," Bartlett said. "No wonder he's a Freedom Party man."

"His money is as good as anyone else's," Harmon said. "In fact, you can gloat if you like, because his money's going into my pocket, and into yours, and neither one of us can stand Jake Featherston."

"We're not fools. I hope to God we're not fools, anyway," Reggie answered. "The only thing Featherston can do is make a speech that sounds good if you're a sorry so-and-so who can't add six and five without taking off your shoes."

"I'm not going to try to tell you you're wrong-you ought to know that." Harmon looked at the clock on the wall. "Just about quitting time. Why don't you knock off a couple of minutes early? Call it a bonus for the way you dealt with that fellow."

"Thank you kindly. I don't mind if I do." Bartlett put on his coat and his fedora. "I'll see you in the morning."

"See you then." Jeremiah Harmon was busy making more pills. Reggie sometimes wondered if he ever went home at night.

The man with slit-trench breath had been right: it was chilly outside. Bartlett wished he'd brought along a pair of earmuffs. As he hurried toward the trolley stop a couple of blocks away, he went past some posters that hadn't been pasted to a half ruinous wall when he walked by it on the way to work that morning.

VOTE FREEDOM IN 1925! they shouted in red letters on a white background. Below that, in smaller type, they added, Jake Featherston talks straight. Every Wednesday on the wireless. The truth shall set you free.

"And when will you ever hear the truth from that son of a bitch?" Reggie muttered. He'd heard Jake Featherston on the stump in the very earliest days of the Freedom Party. He hadn't liked what he heard then, and he hadn't liked anything he'd heard from Featherston or the Freedom Party since.

Only difference is, Featherston was a little snake then, and he's a big snake now, Bartlett thought. But even a big snake could lose some hide now and then. Reggie hooked his fingernails under the top of one of those posters and yanked. As he'd hoped, most of it tore away. The fellows who'd hung the posters had done a fast job, a cheap job, but not a good one. They hadn't used enough paste to stick them down tight. Whistling "Dixie," he ripped down one poster after another.

He hadn't got all of them, though, before a raucous voice shouted, "Hey, you bastard, what the hell you think you're doing?"

"Taking down lies," Reggie answered calmly.

"Them ain't lies!" the man said. He was about Reggie's age, but shabby, scrawny, still wearing a threadbare butternut uniform tunic that had seen a lot of better years. Veterans down on their luck swelled the ranks of the Freedom Party. This one snarled, "You touch another one o' them posters, and I'll beat the living shit out of you."

"You don't want to try that, buddy," Bartlett said. Down came another poster. The shabby veteran howled with rage and trotted toward him. Thanks to the wounds Reggie had taken in Sequoyah, he wasn't much good either at fisticuffs or running away. He'd had run-ins with Freedom Party men before, too.

During the war, a. 45 had been an officer's weapon, nothing to speak of when set against the Tredegar rifles most ordinary soldiers carried. These days, the. 45 in a hidden holster on Reggie's belt put him in mind of an extra ace up his sleeve. He took it out and pointed it at the onrushing would-be tough guy. His two-handed grip said he knew exactly what to do with it, too.

The Freedom Party man skidded to a stop in the middle of the street, so abruptly that he flailed his arms and rocked back on his heels. The barrel of the. 45 had to look the size of a railroad tunnel as Reggie aimed it at his midriff. "I told you, you don't want to try that," Reggie said.

"You'll pay for this," the scruffy veteran said. "Everybody's gonna pay for fucking with us. You're going on a list, you-" He decided not to do any more cussing. Running your mouth at a man with a pistol when you didn't have one of your own wasn't the smartest thing you could do. Even a Freedom Party muscle man could figure that out.

"Get lost," Bartlett told him. He gestured with the. 45 to emphasize the words. "Go on down to the corner there, turn it, and keep walking. You do anything else, you'll be holding up a lily."

Face working with all the things he dared not say, the other man did as he was told. Bartlett finished tearing down the posters, then went on to the trolley stop. His only worry was that the Freedom Party man had a weapon of his own, one he hadn't had a chance to use. But the fellow had talked about beating him up, not shooting him. And he didn't reappear.

Up came the trolley, bell clanging. Reggie tossed a dime into the fare box and took a seat. The dime should have been five cents; prices weren't quite what they had been before the war. But they weren't what they had been afterwards, either-he wasn't paying a million dollars, or a billion, for the privilege of riding across town to his flat.

Nobody on the trolley car had the slightest idea who he was or what he'd just done. That suited him fine, too. He had a chance to relax a little and look out the window. Before long, the trolley passed more of those VOTE FREEDOM IN 1925! posters. Reggie's lip curled. He couldn't rip them all down, however much he wished he could.

Seven and a half years after the Great War ended, not all the destruction U.S. aeroplanes had visited on Richmond was yet repaired. Plenty of burnt-out and bombed building fronts stared at the street through window frames naked of glass; they might have been so many skulls peering out through empty eye sockets. The damnyankees made my home town into Golgotha, Bartlett thought. One of these days, we'll have to pay them back. But how?

He shivered, though the crowded trolley was warm with humanity. That was how the Freedom Party thought, and how it got its members. Haven't you had enough of war? he asked himself. Asked that way, he could hardly say no.

He got off at the shop nearest his flat. For supper, he fried up a ham steak and some potatoes. After he did the dishes-he was a fussy, neat bachelor-he read for a while and went to bed. He wouldn't have minded a wireless set, so he could listen to music or a football game, but not on the salary of a druggist's assistant.

The next day did bring a chilly drizzle. Work at the drugstore went much as the previous day had. He didn't bother telling his boss about the fuss over the posters. Jeremiah Harmon had no use for the Freedom Party, no, but Reggie didn't want him fussing like a mother hen, which was just what he would have done.

"Hey, you!" somebody called to Reggie when he walked to the trolley stop that evening. It was the veteran he'd quarreled with. He wore a disreputable hat to keep the rain off his face.

His hand went to the. 45. "Told you I didn't want you bothering me," he said.

"No bother, pal," the fellow said. He pasted on a smile as he came up to Bartlett, and he made sure he kept his hands in plain sight. "We've all got to live and let live, ain't that right?"

Reggie stared. "That's not how you talked yesterday," he said, his voice hard with suspicion. "What's wrong with you now?"

"Not a thing," the Freedom Party man said. "I just got a little hasty, is all. You went through some of the things I did, you'd get hasty, too."

"I went through plenty myself," Bartlett said. "You want to go through it again? That's what that damn Featherston's got in mind."

"No, pal. You don't understand at all," the veteran said. He still had on the same ancient tunic he'd worn the evening before.

Noticing that, Reggie didn't notice the footsteps coming up behind him till they stopped. That made him notice, and made him start to turn, his pistol coming out of the holster. Too late. He heard three shots. Two slugs hammered him in the chest. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground, reaching for the. 45 that had fallen from his fingers.

The veteran scooped it up. "Nice piece," he said, and then, grinning, "Freedom!" Reggie heard him as if from far away, and further every moment. He didn't hear the man and his friend running away at all, or anything else ever again.

Three guards came up to Cincinnatus Driver's cell. Two of them stood in the corridor, their pistols aimed at his midsection. The third opened the cell door. "Come along," he said.

"Where you takin' me?" Cincinnatus asked.

"That ain't none o' your business, boy," the guard snapped, for all the world as if Kentucky were still part of the CSA, not the USA. "Come along, you hear?"

"Yes, suh." Cincinnatus got up off his cot and came. He'd quickly learned how far he could go with these guards before they stopped talking and started persuading him by other means. One beating had been plenty to drive the lesson home: not just the beating itself, but how much they enjoyed giving it to him. If they ever decided to beat him to death, they would do it with smiles on their faces.

"Hands behind your back," the guard told him. He obeyed. The guard clicked handcuffs onto his wrists. They were cruelly tight, but Cincinnatus kept his mouth shut about that, too. Complaining just got them tightened more.

The guards marched him along the corridor. He recognized some of the men sitting or lying in their cells. Some, black like him, were Reds. Others, whites, were men who'd been Confederate diehards during the war and probably belonged to the Freedom Party nowadays. Maybe some of the other prisoners recognized him, too. If so, no one gave a sign.

"This way," one of the guards told him. They led him across the exercise yard he normally saw for an hour a week, down another corridor, and into an office. A tall, backless stool sat in front of the desk. Luther Bliss sat behind it. The guards slammed Cincinnatus down on the stool, hard.

"Here we are again," the head of the Kentucky State Police said.

"Yes, suh," Cincinnatus said. "I want a lawyer, suh." He hadn't tried that one in a while. The worst the other man could tell him was no.

Bliss' smile never touched his hunting-dog eyes. "If you was still in Des Moines, maybe you could have one," he answered. "But this here's Kentucky, and the rules are different here. This is one of the reclaimed states, and we aren't about to put up with treason or rebellion. You mess around with that stuff and you get caught, we take care of you our own way."

"I wasn't messin' around with nothin' here," Cincinnatus said bitterly. "I was just livin' my life up in Iowa till you got that sorry Hadrian nigger to write that lyin' letter to get me down here in the first place. You call that fair… suh?"

"I had you once before," Luther Bliss replied in meditative tones. "I had you, and I was going to squeeze you, and Teddy Roosevelt made me turn you loose. He made me pay you a hundred dollars out of my own pocket, too. I have… a long memory for these things, Cincinnatus."

Cincinnatus hadn't forgotten that, either, though Bliss hadn't mentioned it till now. "Do Jesus, Mr. Bliss, you want your hundred dollars back, I'll pay it to you. Just let me wire my wife an'-"

Bliss shook his head. "I get paid back with interest."

"I'll pay you interest. I got the money. I done pretty good for myself up there."

"I don't want your money. I get paid back my kind of interest."

He was what he was. His kind of interest involved pain and misery. That was what he dished out. That was what the people who told him what to do wanted him to dish out. If, every once in a while, he dished them out to people who didn't really deserve them, the people who told him what to do probably didn't mind. They might even figure he deserved a little fun on the job.

Like a hunting dog taking a scent, Luther Bliss leaned forward. "Enough chitchat. About time we get down to business, I reckon."

Before Cincinnatus could brace himself, one of the guards slapped him in the face. He tumbled off the stool and also banged his funny bone on the floor as he fell. "Why'd he do that, Mr. Bliss?" he said, slowly climbing to his feet. "I ain't done nothin' to nobody."

"You lie. Everyone lies." Luther Bliss sounded sad but certain. Policemen got used to people lying to them. Maybe they even got to where they expected it. Secret policemen probably heard and expected even more lies than any other kind. Bliss pointed to the stool. "Sit your nigger ass back down, Cincinnatus. You got to tell the truth when I ask my questions."

"You didn't ask me no questions," Cincinnatus said reproachfully. "Joe there, he jus' hauled off an' hit me."

"That's for all the lies you've already told me, and to remind you not to tell me any more," Luther Bliss answered. Again, his smile never reached his eyes. "You ought to be thankful we've gone easy on you so far."

"Easy!" Cincinnatus exclaimed. "He damn near knocked my head off." A few months in jail-and years of sparring before then-had given him and the secret policeman an odd sort of camaraderie. He could, up to a point, speak his mind without making Luther Bliss any more likely to do something dreadful to him.

Bliss nodded now. "He just thumped you a bit. Worse we've done, we've beaten you up. That ain't so much of a much, Cincinnatus, believe you me it ain't. It's a new age we're livin' in. Electricity's everywhere. You take an ordinary car battery and some wires, and you clip 'em to a man's ears, or to the skin of his belly, or maybe to his privates…"

Cincinnatus didn't want to show fear. But his mouth went dry at the thought of electricity trickling through his balls. Would he ever be able to get it up again after something like that? Please, Jesus, don't let me find out!

Meditatively, Bliss went on, "Other nice thing about that is, it doesn't leave any marks. You niggers don't show bruises as much as a white man would, but even so…" He leaned forward. "I reckon you already told me everything you know about Kennedy and Conroy and the rest of those goddamn diehards."

"Mr. Bliss, I done sung like a canary 'bout them bastards." There Cincinnatus spoke the truth. He owed no loyalty to the white men who'd done all they could to help the Confederate cause in Kentucky. They might have killed him or betrayed him to U.S. authorities, but they'd had no great hold on his loyalty. As far as he could see, any Negro who backed the Confederates from anything but compulsion was some kind of idiot.

The secret policeman pointed to him. "You're still holding out, though, when it comes to Apicius and the rest of the Reds. Like calls to like. Just like the diehards, you coons stick together."

"Do Jesus, how can I know what they're up to when I moved away years ag-" Cincinnatus got that far before the guard belted him again. This time, he was braced for it, and didn't fall off the stool. He tasted blood in his mouth.

"You don't expect me to believe anything like that, do you?" Luther Bliss sounded sad, like a preacher contemplating sinful mankind. "I ain't stupid, Cincinnatus, no matter what you think."

"I never reckoned you was." Again, Cincinnatus told the exact truth. Fear of Bliss had helped him decide to leave Kentucky, but he'd never thought the other man was dumb. Just the opposite: he didn't care to live under Bliss' magnifying glass for the rest of this days. Living under his thumb, though, was even worse.

"You get letters. You know what's going on here," the secret policeman said.

"Not hardly," Cincinnatus told him. "Don't hardly know that many folks what can read an' write. You keepin' tabs on me all the time like I reckon you been doin', you know that's true."

For a moment, he thought he'd got through to Bliss. The man's eyes narrowed. He looked thoughtful. But then, a moment before he spoke, Cincinnatus realized he was playing a part. He was building up hope in his captive only to dash it: "Well, sonny, so what? Long as you're here, you'll pay for everything you done anyways."

Cincinnatus would have been more devastated if he'd had more hope to lose. He wanted to tell Bliss where to head in. A couple of times, back in the days when he was still free, he had told Bliss where to head in. He'd enjoyed it mightily then, too. But he was paying for it now.

"What you got to tell me about them Reds?" Luther Bliss asked now.

"I done told you everything I ever knew," Cincinnatus answered. It wasn't quite true, but he didn't think Bliss knew that.

He did know what was coming next. It came. Joe and the other guards got to work on him. They enjoyed what they did, yes, but not to the point of getting carried away and doing him permanent harm: they were, in their way, professionals. It went on for a very long, painful time.

What hurt most of all, though, was a casual remark Bliss made halfway through the torment: "You might as well sing, by God. It isn't like anybody on the outside gives a damn about what happens to one miserable nigger in a Kentucky jail."

At last, the beating stopped. The guards dragged Cincinnatus back to his cell. He probably could have walked. He made himself out to be weaker and hurt worse than he really was. Maybe that made them go a little easier on him than they would have otherwise. On the other hand, maybe it didn't do a single goddamn thing.

"See you next time, boy," Joe said as his pal undid the manacles from Cincinnatus' wrists.

Cincinnatus lay on his cot like a dead man. Had Luther Bliss sent for him more often, he would have been a dead man in short order. Maybe Bliss didn't want to kill him right away. Maybe, on the other hand, the secret policeman was taking so many different vengeances, he wasn't in a hurry about finishing off any one of them.

It isn't like anybody on the outside gives a damn about what happens to one miserable nigger in a Kentucky jail. In a way, that was a lie. Cincinnatus knew as much. Elizabeth cared. Achilles cared. Amanda cared. But what could they do? They were black, too, black in a white man's country. Nobody who could do anything cared about Cincinnatus. That burned like acid. It would keep on burning long after the pain of this latest beating eased, too.

He ran his tongue over his teeth. So far, the goons had broken only one. He'd taken no new damage there today. They hadn't done anything to him this time that wouldn't fade in a couple of weeks. In the meantime… In the meantime, it's gonna hurt, and ain't nothin' you can do about it.

A cart squeaked up the corridor: supper trays. Cincinnatus wondered if he'd be able to eat. You better. You got to stay strong. A redheaded white man shoved a tray of something that smelled greasy into Cincinnatus' cell. The fellow wore the same sort of uniform as the guards who'd beaten him.

In a low voice, the redhead said, "Freedom." Cincinnatus suppressed a groan. Just what he needed-somebody with diehard sympathies mocking him. I ought to report you, you bastard. Luther Bliss'd make you pay. But then the fellow went on, "We'll get you out." He pushed the cart away. Cincinnatus stared after him. Did he mean that? And, if he did, whose side was he really on?


Another trip down to Washington. Flora Blackford preferred Philadelphia, and didn't care who knew it. But she was willing to excuse the trip to the formal capital of the USA for one reason: so her husband could for the second time take the oath of office as vice president of the United States.

"Now we think about 1928," she told him as the Pullman car rattled south from Philadelphia. Then she shook her head. "No. That's not right. We should have been thinking about 1928 since the minute we won last November."

Hosea Blackford's smile showed amusement-and, she was glad to see, ambition, too. "I don't know about you, Flora," he said, "but I have been thinking about it since the minute we won last November, and a while before that, too. When I first saw what the office was, I didn't think I could do much with it or go any further. I've changed my mind, though."

"Good," Flora said. "You should have, and you'd better think about it. You can be president of the United States. You really can."

"That wouldn't be too bad for a boy off a Dakota farm, would it?" he said. "You always hear talk about such things. 'Any mother's son can grow up to be president.' That's what people say. Having the chance to make it come true, though…"

"Of course, if you thought being president was the most important thing in the world, you never should have married me." Flora tried to keep her tone light. Other people would be saying the same thing much more pointedly in the years to come. She was as sure of that as she was of her own name. A presidential candidate with a Jew for a wife? Unheard of! How many votes would it cost him?

"That has occurred to me," Hosea Blackford said slowly. "It couldn't very well not have occurred to me. But then I decided that, if I had to choose between the two, I would rather spend the rest of my life with you than be president. So I'll take my chances, and the country can take its."

Flora stared at him. Then she kissed him. One thing led to another. The run from Philadelphia down to Washington wasn't a very long one, especially not when traveling on President Sinclair's express. They barely had time to get dressed again and set their clothes to rights before the train came in to Union Station.

"It's a good thing you don't have to wrestle with a corset, the way you would have before the war," Hosea said, adjusting his necktie in the mirror.

"Don't speak of such things-you don't know what you're talking about," Flora answered. "The only thing I can think of is, whoever put women in corsets must have hated us. Especially in summertime. A corset on a hot summer day…" She shuddered.

"Well, you wouldn't have had to worry about the heat today." Her husband looked out the window. "The snow's still coming down."

"March is late in the year for a snowstorm," Flora said. "I wonder if what people say is true: that the weather's been peculiar since the Great War, and that it made the weather peculiar."

Hosea Blackford laughed. "Back in Dakota, I would have said May was late for a snowstorm, but nothing sooner than that. If you ask me, the weather's always peculiar. I have a suspicion it's peculiar because it's peculiar, too, and not because we made it that way. I can't prove that, but it's what I think. The weather's bigger than anything we can do, even the Great War."

"I hope you're right," she said.

On the platform, a military band blared away. Flora didn't care for that. It wasn't a proper Socialist symbol, even if it was a symbol of the presidency. But if President Sinclair wanted it-and he did-she could hardly complain. People called her the conscience of the Congress, but this wasn't a question of conscience-only one of taste.

A limousine whisked the president and his wife to the White House. Another one brought the Blackfords there. The journey took only a few minutes. When Flora saw the Washington Monument, she pointed. "It's taller than it was when we came down here for Roosevelt's funeral. You can really tell."

Her husband nodded. "Before President Sinclair's term is up, it'll be back to its full height. No mark on the sides to show how much of it the Confederates knocked down, either. I think that's good."

"So do I," Flora agreed. "No matter what the Democrats say, there can be such a thing as too much remembrance."

"Yes." Hosea sighed. "Some people just can't see that. Why anyone would want to remember all the horror we went through during the Great War… Well, it's beyond me."

"Beyond me, too," Flora said. "Try not to get into an argument with my brother tomorrow."

"I won't argue if David doesn't," her husband said. "I'll try not to argue even if he does." David Hamburger had lost a leg in the last year of the war. In spite of that-or maybe because of it-he'd gone from Socialist to conservative Democrat since. Having paid so much, he couldn't, wouldn't, believe that payment hadn't been worthwhile.

During President Sinclair's-and Vice President Blackford's-first inauguration, Flora had been a Congresswoman, yes. But she hadn't been Blackford's wife, and hadn't been fully swept up into the social whirl surrounding the occasion. Now she went from one reception to another. She found it more wearing than enjoyable.

When she said as much, Hosea Blackford laughed. "Are you sure you're a New York Jew, and not one of those gloomy Protestants from New England? No matter what they say, there's nothing in the Bible against having a good time."

"I didn't say there was," Flora answered. "But it all seems so-excessive."

"Oh, is that all you're worrying about?" Hosea laughed again. "Of course it's excessive. That's the point of it."

She gave him a disapproving look. "I'm sure Louis XVI said the same thing just before the French Revolution."

"Not fair," Hosea said.

"Maybe not." Flora didn't want to argue with her husband, any more than she wanted him quarreling with her brother. But she wasn't altogether convinced, either.

She found believing him easier when Inauguration Day came. When the Socialists won the election in 1920, electricity had filled the air. The Democrats had dominated U.S. politics since the election of 1884. Some people had feared proletarian revolution. Some had looked for it.

It hadn't come. Politics had gone on as usual-the same song, but in a different key. Flora supposed that was a good thing. She still sometimes had a sense of opportunity missed, though.

This second Socialist inauguration seemed different. Now no one acted astonished the day had ever come. People took it for granted, in fact. Flora didn't know whether that was good or bad, either. She did know that, up on the reviewing stand in front of the White House, she wondered if she'd freeze to death before her husband and President Sinclair took the oaths of office for their second terms.

But having her family up on the stand with her made up for a lot. Her older sister Sophie's son Yossel was very big now-he was almost ten. He'd never seen his father, who'd been killed in action before he was born. Flora had hardly seen her younger sister Esther's new husband, a clerk named Meyer Katz. She was also startled at how gray her parents were getting.

She wished her brother David hadn't worn his Soldiers' Circle pin, with a sword through the year of his conscription class. Only reactionaries did. But he wore his Purple Heart next to it. That and the stick he used and the slow, rolling gait of a man who made do with an artificial leg after an above-the-knee amputation meant no one near him said a word about it. His younger brother, Isaac, had gone through his turn in the Army after the Great War. His tour had been quiet, uneventful. He didn't wear a pin on his lapel.

In President Sinclair's second inaugural address, he talked about justice for the working man, old-age pensions, and "getting along with our neighbors on this great continent." The first two drew fierce applause from the crowd, the third rather less.

"Memories of the war are still too fresh," Hosea Blackford said when all the speeches and parades were over. "In another ten years, people will look more kindly on the Confederate States."

"Not everyone will," David Hamburger said. He was only a tailor talking to the vice president of the United States, but he spoke his mind.

His brother-in-law frowned. They were going to argue after all. "Would you want your children to go through what you did? Do you think the Confederates are mad enough to want their children to go through it again?"

"I hope there's never a war again," Flora said.

"I hope the same thing," David answered. "But hoping there won't be and staying ready in case there is are two different animals."

"We'd do better if we'd made a just peace, not the harsh one Teddy Roosevelt forced the CSA to swallow," Hosea Blackford said. "And we're still trying to figure out what to do with Canada."

"You try giving away anything Roosevelt won and you'll lose the next election quicker than you ever thought you could," David said.

"I don't think so," Flora said. "If we aren't a just nation, what are we?"

"A strong one, I hope," her brother answered. They eyed each other. They both used English, but they didn't speak the same language.

No one questioned the Socialist Party's agenda at any of the inaugural banquets and balls that night. Even the Democratic Congressmen and Senators who made their appearance were smiling and polite. They wouldn't show their teeth till Congress went back into session up in Philadelphia.

Flora was just as well pleased to return to the de facto capital. Over the past eight years, it had become home to her. Her husband teased her as the train pulled into Broad Street Station: "You'll be busier than I will. The vice president's main job is growing moss on his north side."

"You knew that when you accepted the nomination the first time," Flora said.

He nodded. "Well, yes. Even so, these past four years have really rammed it home."

But Flora had trouble charging into the new session as she was used to doing. She found herself sleepy all the time, without the energy she usually took for granted. Before long, she was pretty sure she knew why. When she no longer had room for doubt, she said, "Hosea, I'm going to have a baby."

His eyes grew very wide. After a moment, he started to laugh. "So much for prophylactics!" he blurted. Then he gave her a kiss and said, "That's wonderful news!"

Flora wished he'd said that before the other. "I think so, too," she said. "The world he'll see…"

"I know. That's astonishing to think about." Hosea Blackford ran a hand through his hair. It was thick, but gray. "I only hope I'll see enough of it with him for him to remember me. This is one of those times that reminds me I'm not so young as I wish I were."

"You're not too old," Flora said slyly. Her husband laughed again. Even so, the moment didn't quite turn out the way she wished it would have.

T he McGregors' wagon plodded toward Rosenfeld. The horse's tail switched back and forth, back and forth, flicking at the flies that came to life in the springtime. Mary McGregor felt like a turtle poking its head out of its shell. All through the harsh Manitoba winter, she'd stayed on the farm. Going into town then wasn't for the fainthearted. Her mother had done it, for kerosene and other things they couldn't make for themselves, but she hadn't wanted to take Mary or Julia along.

A Ford whizzed past them. The horse snorted at the dust the motorcar kicked up. Mary coughed, too. "Those things are ugly and noisy," she said. This one had been particularly ugly-it was painted barn red, so anyone could see it coming, or going, for miles.

"They go so fast, though," Julia said wistfully. "You can get from here to there in nothing flat. And more and more people have 'em nowadays."

"People who suck up to the Yankees," Mary said.

Her older sister shook her head. "Not all of them. Not any more."

From the seat in front of them, their mother looked back over her shoulder. "We're not getting one any time soon," Maude McGregor said, and brushed a wisp of hair back from her face. Her voice was harsh and flat, as it so often was these days. "Hasn't got anything to do with politics, either. They're expensive, is what they are."

That silenced both Mary and Julia. The farm kept them all fed, but it could do no more than that-or rather, they could make it do no more than that. If Pa were alive, and Alexander, we'd be fine, Mary thought. But there was always too much work and not enough time. She didn't know what to do about that. She didn't think anybody could do anything about it.

"We ought to be coming up to the checkpoint outside of town pretty soon," Julia said.

"We've passed it by now," Maude McGregor said, even more flatly than before. "It's not up any more."

Mary felt like bursting into tears. Two or three years before, she would have. Now she faced life with a thoroughly adult bleakness. "The rebellion's all over, then," she said, and nothing more lived in her voice than had in her mother's.

"It never had a chance," Julia said.

That was enough to rouse Mary, whose red hair did advertise her temper. "It would have," she said, "if so many people hadn't sat on their hands. And if there hadn't been so many traitors."

For some little while, the clopping of the horse's hooves, the squeak of an axle that was getting on toward needing grease, and the occasional clank as an iron tire ran over a rock in the roadway were the only sounds. "Traitors" is an ugly word, Mary thought. But it was the only one that fit. The Americans had known the uprising was coming before it really got started. The Rosenfeld Register — the weekly newspaper-had even said a Canadian woman with a name famous for patriotism helped with information about it because she was in love with a Yank. The only famous woman patriot Mary could think of offhand was Laura Secord. Did she have descendants? Mary wouldn't have been surprised. She didn't think the uprising would have had much of a chance anyhow. With such handicaps, it had had none. All that was left now was punishing those who'd done their best for their country.

Maude McGregor drove around a muddy crater in the road. This one was new; it didn't date back to the days of the Great War. Mary hoped it had blown up something large and American.

Before long, Julia pointed ahead and said, "There it is! I see it."

Mary McGregor saw Rosenfeld, too. Like her sister, she couldn't help getting excited. Rosenfeld had perhaps a thousand souls. If two railroads hadn't come together there, the town would have had no reason for existing. But there it was. It boasted a post office, a general store, the weekly newspaper, a doctor's office, and an allegedly painless dentist. He'd filled a couple of Mary's teeth. It hadn't hurt him a bit. She wished she could say the same.

"I suppose Winnipeg's bigger," Mary said, "but it can't be much bigger."

"I wouldn't think so," Julia agreed. Neither of them had ever seen a town bigger than Rosenfeld. Up in front of them, Maude McGregor chuckled quietly. Mary wondered why.

Regardless of whether there were towns bigger than Rosenfeld, it was quite crowded and bustling enough. Wagons and motorcars clogged its main street. Locals in city clothes-white shirts, neckties, jackets with lapels-and U.S. Army men in green-gray shared the sidewalk. Women wore city clothes, too. Julia pointed again. "Will you look at that?" she said, deliciously scandalized. Mary looked-and gaped.

"Disgraceful," her mother said grimly. Maude McGregor's skirt came down to her ankle, as her skirts had done for as long as Mary could remember. But this woman showed off half her legs, or so it seemed.

"If it's the style, Ma-" Julia began, her voice hesitant.

"No." Her mother hesitated not at all. "I don't care what the style is. No decent woman would wear anything like that. No daughter of mine will." Several women in Rosenfeld wore dresses and skirts that short. Were they all scarlet? Mary didn't know, but she wouldn't have been surprised.

Her mother had to pull off the main street to find a place to hitch the wagon. As Maude McGregor got down to give the horse the feed bag, Mary pointed to a signboard plastered to a wall. "Ma, what's a Bijou?" She knew she was probably mispronouncing the unfamiliar word.

"It's a motion-picture house," her mother answered after reading some of the small print under the big name.

"A motion-picture house? In Rosenfeld?" Mary and Julia exclaimed together. Julia went on, "This is the big city," while Mary asked, "Can we go see something, Ma? Can we, please?" She knew she sounded like a wheedling little girl, but she couldn't help it.

"I don't know." Here her mother wavered, where she'd been very sure about skirts. "The flyer says it costs a quarter each to get in, and seventy-five cents is a lot of money."

"We'd only do it once, Ma. It's not like we come here every day," Mary said, wheedling harder than ever.

Julia added, "It's a new business in town. It's not like those start up every day, either."

"Well-all right," Maude McGregor said. Mary clapped her hands. "But only this once, understand? You pester me about it every time we come to town and you'll find out your backsides aren't too big to switch."

"We promise, Ma," Mary and Julia chorused. They looked at each other and winked. They'd won! That didn't happen very often.

A line snaked toward the Bijou's box office. A lot of the people in the line were American soldiers. Mary ignored them. The soldiers ignored her, too, though they plainly noticed her older sister and her mother. Julia and Maude McGregor paid no attention to the men in green-gray.

Three quarters slapped down on the counter. Mary heard her mother sigh. The fellow behind the counter peeled three tickets off an enormous roll and handed them to her mother. Another young man at the door importantly tore the tickets in two. Inside the theater, the smell of buttered popcorn almost drove Mary mad. Along with the popcorn, the girl behind the counter sold lemonade and more different kinds of candy than Henry Gibbon carried in his general store.

Maude McGregor led Mary and Julia past such temptations and into the theater itself. Both her daughters let out pitiful, piteous sighs. She took no notice of them. She was made of stern stuff.

The maroon velvet chairs inside the theater swung down when you put your weight on them. That proved entertaining enough to take Mary's mind off candy, at least for a little while. A couple of rows in front of her, a little boy bounced up and down, up and down, up and down. She wanted to spank him. Before too long, his father did.

Without warning, the lights went dim. A man at a piano-a man Mary hadn't noticed up till then-began to play melodramatic music. The curtains slid back from an enormous screen. Some sort of machine behind her began making noise: the projector. Then the screen filled with light, and she forgot everything else.

"It's… photographs come to life," she whispered to Julia. Her sister nodded, but never took her eyes away from the screen. Mary didn't, either. Those enormous, moving black-and-white people up there held her mesmerized.

NEWS OF THE WORLD, a headline read, briefly interrupting the motion. Then she saw a man in a silly uniform and an even sillier hat waving to soldiers marching past. KAISER WILHELM REVIEWS TROOPS RETURNING FROM OCCUPIED PARTS OF FRANCE, another headline explained.

Swarthy men, many of them wearing big black mustaches, fired rifles and machine guns at one another in a country that looked dry and hot. SCENES FROM THE CIVIL WAR IN THE EMPIRE OF MEXICO, the caption said. Mary stared, entranced. She'd never been farther from the farm than Rosenfeld, but here was the whole world in front of her eyes.

Two men in suits crossed a bridge from opposite sides and shook hands. That was labeled, PRESIDENT OF USA, PREMIER OF QUEBEC MEET IN FRIENDSHIP. All of a sudden, Mary wasn't so sure she wanted the whole world in front of her eyes.

And then she saw ruined city blocks, explosions, diving aeroplanes with machine guns blazing, glum survivors, grim prisoners with hands in the air, overturned motorcars and dead bodies lying in the street, and other bodies swinging from a gallows. SCENES FROM THE REBELLION IN CANADA, the explanatory sign said. She hadn't seen much war. It had swept through Rosenfeld and stayed to the north. And she'd only been a little girl then. She gulped. This was what she wanted, was it?

Not even the main feature, a melodrama with a car chase, a chase through and on top of the cars of a train, and an astonishingly handsome leading man who wed the astonishingly beautiful leading lady and gave her a tender kiss just before the lights came back up, could take all those images of devastation out of her mind.

"That's what they're doing to our country," she said as she and her mother and sister filed out of the theater. "They want us to know it, too."

"They want us to be afraid," Julia said.

"They know how to get what they want, too," Maude McGregor said grimly. "Come on. Let's buy what we need and get back to the farm."

They were on their way to Henry Gibbon's general store when Mary saw a SCENE FROM THE REBELLION IN CANADA that wasn't what the Americans who'd made and approved the moving picture had in mind. Through the streets of Rosenfeld came a column of prisoners, on their way to the train station from God only knew where. They were scrawny and hollow-eyed and wore only rags. They must have been some of the last men captured, for most of the rebels had given up weeks, even a couple of months, before. The McGregors bathed once a week or so, like most farm families; Mary was used to strong odors. The stench that came from the prisoners made her stomach want to turn over.

One of the men started to sing "God Save the King." An American guard in green-gray hit him in the head with a rifle butt. Blood streamed down his face. The guard laughed. The prisoner stumbled on. Tears stung Mary's eyes. She didn't let them fall. She kept her face still and vowed… remembrance.

A bner Dowling looked down at what had been a plate of ham and fried potatoes. "By God, that was good," he said.

"Yes, sir," said his adjutant, a dapper young captain named Angelo Toricelli. He had only about half of Dowling's girth, but he'd worked similar execution on a beefsteak and a couple of baked spuds.

"Nothing wrong with the way the Mormons cook," Dowling said, blotting his lips on his napkin.

"No, sir," Captain Toricelli agreed.

Having spent a lot of time as an adjutant, Dowling recognized the younger man's resigned tone, though he was resolved not to do so much to deserve resigned agreement as his own cross, General Custer, had done. Thinking of a cross made him suspect he knew what was bothering Toricelli. "Does it bother you that I eat so much, Captain?"

One of Toricelli's eyebrows twitched in surprise. "Not… really, sir," he said after a moment. "It's none of my business. I would never ask anyone to be anything he's not."

"Interesting way to put it," Dowling remarked. Then he laughed, which set several of his chins jiggling. Laugh or not, though, he changed the subject: "How do you like being a gentile in Utah? Me, I think it's pretty funny."

"The Mormons can say we're gentiles," Toricelli answered. "You can go around saying all sorts of things. That doesn't mean they're true."

"I suppose not." Dowling left a silver dollar on the table to cover their meals. He got to his feet. So did Toricelli, who hurried to open the restaurant's front door for him. That was one of the things adjutants were for, as Dowling knew only too well.

"Pretty day," Toricelli remarked as they came out onto the street.

"It is, isn't it?" Dowling said. Spring was in the air. Snow had retreated up the slopes of the Wasatch Mountains to the east. Sea gulls wheeled overhead, which Dowling never failed to find strange so far inland. And, as always, sounds of building filled the air.

Salt Lake City had surrendered to U.S. forces nine years before. Dowling had seen photographs of it just after the Mormon rebels finally yielded to superior force. They'd fought till they couldn't fight any more. The city had looked more like the mountains of the moon than anything that sprang from human hands and minds. Hardly one stone remained atop another. The Mormons had simmered resentfully under the harsh treatment they'd got from U.S. authorities ever since the Second Mexican War. When they rose during the Great War, they'd done a lot more than simmer.

Now… Now, on the outside, everything here seemed calm. Salt Lake City-and Provo to the south and Ogden to the north-were three of the newest, shiniest towns in the USA. Most of the rubble had been cleared away. Most of the Mormons who'd survived the uprising were getting on with their lives. On the surface, Utah seemed much like any other state. When Dowling's train first brought him to Salt Lake City, he'd wondered if his presence, if the U.S. Army's presence, was necessary.

He'd been here more than a year now. He no longer wondered. As he and Toricelli walked east along South Temple Street towards Army headquarters, no fewer than three people-two men and a woman-shouted "Murderer!" at them: one from a second-story window, one from behind them, and one from a passing Ford.

Toricelli eyed the motorcar as it sped away, then muttered something pungent that might not have been English under his breath. "I wasn't able to read the license plate," he said. "If I had, we could have tracked that son of a bitch down."

"What difference does it make?" Dowling said. "They all feel that way about us. One more, one less-so what?"

"It makes a lot of difference, sir," his adjutant said earnestly. "Yes, they're going to hate us, but they need to fear us, too. Otherwise, they start up again, and we did all that for nothing." To show what he meant by that, he waved across South Temple Street to Temple Square.

No rebuilding there. By order of the military administration, the Mormon Tabernacle and the Temple and the other great buildings of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints remained as they had fallen during the Federal conquest of Salt Lake City: another reminder to the locals of the cost of rising against the United States. Rattlesnakes dwelt among the tumbled stones. They were the least the occupiers had to worry about.

Colonel Dowling murmured a few lines from Shelley:

" 'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

Nothing besides remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Angelo Toricelli gave him a quizzical look. "I've heard other officers recite that poem, sir."

"Have you? Well, I'm not surprised," Dowling said. Even fallen, the gray granite Temple inspired awe. A gilded copper statue of the angel Moroni had topped the tallest spire, which the Mormons had used as an observation post till U.S. artillery knocked it down. No American soldiers had ever found a trace of that statue. Persistent rumor said the Mormons had spirited away its wreckage and venerated it as a holy relic, as the Crusaders had venerated pieces of the True Cross. Dowling didn't know about that. He did know there was an enormous reward for information leading to the capture of the statue, or of any significant part of it. No one had ever collected. No one had ever tried to collect.

At the corner of Temple and Main, Captain Toricelli said, "You want to be careful crossing, sir. For some reason or other, Mormons in motorcars have a devil of a time seeing soldiers."

"Yes, I've noticed that," Dowling agreed. His hand fell to the grip of the. 45 on his hip. Most places, an officer's pistol was a formality almost as archaic as a sword. Even more than in occupied Canada, Dowling felt the need for a weapon here.

Soldiers in machine-gun emplacements protected by reinforced concrete and barbed wire surrounded U.S. Army headquarters in Salt Lake City. Sentries carefully checked Dowling and Toricelli's identification cards. They'd discovered the unfortunate consequences of not checking such things. The Mormons had Army uniforms they'd taken during the Great War, and some of them would kill even at the cost of their own lives. Not much news of such assassinations had got out of Utah, but that made them no less real.

"Oh-Colonel Dowling," a soldier said as Dowling walked down the hall to his office. "General Pershing is looking for you, sir."

"Is he? Well, he's just about to find me, then." Dowling turned to his adjutant. "I'll see you in a while, Captain."

"Of course, sir," Angelo Toricelli said. "I have a couple of reports to keep me busy."

"If you can't stay busy in Utah, something's wrong with you," Dowling agreed. And off he went to see the commanding general.

John J. Pershing was in his mid-sixties. He didn't look younger than his years so much as tough and well-preserved for them. His jaw jutted. His gray Kaiser Bill mustache-the style was now falling out of favor with younger men-added to his bulldog appearance. His icy blue eyes seized and held Dowling. "Hello, Colonel. Take a seat. There's coffee in the pot, if you care for some."

"No, thank you, sir. I'm just back from lunch," Dowling answered.

General Custer would have been even money or better to make some snide crack about his weight. Pershing simply nodded and got down to business: "I'm worried, Colonel Dowling. This place is like a powder keg, and I'm afraid the fuse is lit."

"Really, sir?" Dowling said in surprise. "I know Utah's been a powder keg for more than forty years, but why do you think it'll go off now? If the Mormons were going to rise against us, wouldn't they have tried it when the Canucks did?"

"Strategically, that makes good sense," Pershing agreed. "But the trouble that may come here hasn't got anything to do with what happened up in Canada. You are of course aware how we hold this state?"

"Yes, sir: by the railroads, and by the fertile belt from Provo up to Ogden," Dowling answered. "Past that, there's a lot of land and not a lot of people, so we don't worry very much."

"Exactly." Pershing nodded. "We just send patrols through the desert now and again to make sure people aren't plotting too openly." He sighed. "Out in the desert, maybe a hundred and seventy-five miles south of here, there's a little no-account village called Teasdale. A troop of cavalry rode through it a couple of weeks ago. The captain in command discovered several families that were pretty obviously polygamous."

"Uh-oh," Dowling said.

"I couldn't have put it better myself," Pershing replied.

Polygamy had been formally illegal in Utah since the Army occupation during the Second Mexican War. It hadn't disappeared, though. Dowling wished it had, because, more than anything else, it got people exercised. Fearing he already knew the answer, he asked, "What did the cavalry captain do, sir?"

"He applied the law," Pershing said. "He arrested everyone he could catch, and he burned the offending houses to the ground."

"And he came out of this place alive? I'm impressed."

"Teasdale's a very small town-smaller still, after he seized the polygamists," Pershing replied. "And he is an able young man. Or he would be, if he had any sense to go with his tactical expertise. Naturally, even though this happened in the middle of nowhere, news got out right away. And, just as naturally, even a lot of Mormons who aren't ardent polygamists are up in arms about it."

"Not literally, I hope," Dowling said.

"So do I, Colonel. But we must be ready, just in case," Pershing said. "I've asked Philadelphia to send us some barrels to use against them at need. If the War Department decides to do it instead of reprimanding me for asking for something that costs money, I'm going to put you in charge of them. You became something of an expert on barrels, didn't you, serving under General Custer and with Colonel Morrell during the war?"

I became an expert on not getting myself court-martialed on account of barrels, is what I became, Dowling thought. Custer wanted to use them against War Department doctrine, and I had to cover for him. Does that make me an expert? Aloud, he answered, "I'll do whatever I can, sir."

"I'm sure of it," Pershing said. "This may all turn out to be so much moonshine, you understand. The War Department may need a real rising from the Mormons before they send in the weapons that would have overawed them and stopped the rising in its tracks. And the powers that be may not send us anything even in case of rebellion. They're in a cheese-paring mood back there, sure enough. They've stopped spending any money on improving barrels, you know."

"Yes, I do know that," Dowling replied. "I don't like it."

"Who would, with a brain in his head?" Pershing said. "But soldiers don't make policy. We only carry it out, and get blamed when it goes wrong. I wonder how fast and how well the Confederate States are rearming."

"They aren't supposed to be doing anything of the sort, sir," Dowling said.

Pershing tossed his head, like a horse bedeviled by flies. "I know that, Colonel. I wonder anyway."

A bullet cracked past Jefferson Pinkard's head. He ducked, not that that would do him any good if the bullet had his name on it. Somewhere not far off, rebel Mexican machine gunners started firing at something they imagined they saw. A field gun banged away, flinging shells into the uplands town of San Luis Potosi.

Like most Confederates, Pinkard had thought of the Empire of Mexico as his country's feebleminded little brother-when he'd bothered thinking of it at all, which wasn't very often. In the comfortable days before the war, the Empire did as the Confederacy asked. The Confederates, after all, shielded Mexico from the wrath of the USA, which had hated the Empire since its creation during the War of Secession.

The truth, nowadays, was more complicated. The USA backed the rebels against the Empire. The CSA couldn't officially back Maximilian III, but Freedom Party volunteers like Pinkard numbered in the thousands-and the Freedom Party wasn't the only outfit sending volunteers south to fight the Yankees and their proxies.

That all seemed straightforward enough. What Jeff hadn't counted on was that there would have been-hell, there had been-rebels even without U.S. backing. Maximilian III would never land on anybody's list for sainthood.

Pinkard shrugged. "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch, by God," he muttered. Behind him, another field gun, this one on his side, started answering the rebels' piece. It seemed to be firing as much at random as the enemy gun.

Stupid bastards, he thought, not sure whether he meant the enemy or his own side. None of them would have lasted long during the Great War; he was sure of that. Both sides were brave enough, but neither seemed to know just what it was supposed to do. They lacked the experience C.S. and U.S. forces had so painfully accumulated.

Another machine gun started rattling. Ammunition was tight. Both sides imported most of it. That didn't keep gunners from shooting it off for the hell of it. Who was going to tell 'em they couldn't? They had the weapons, after all.

A Mexican private came up to Jeff. Like Pinkard's, his cotton uniform was dyed a particularly nasty shade of yellow-brown. It looked more like something from a dog with bad digestion than a proper butternut, but all the greasers and the Confederate volunteers wore it, so Jeff could only grouse when he got the chance. He couldn't change a thing. The Mexican said, " Buenos dias, Sergeant Jeff." It came out of his mouth sounding like Heff. "The teniente, he wants to see you."

"All right, Manuel. I'm coming." Pinkard pronounced the Spanish name Man-you-well. He took that for granted, though what the locals did to his never ceased to annoy him. He walked bent over. The Mexicans built trenches for men of their size, and he overtopped most of them by half a head. The rebel snipers weren't nearly so good as the damnyankees had been up in Texas, but he didn't want to give 'em a target. He nodded to Lieutenant Hernando Guitierrez. "What can I do for you, sir? En que puedo servirle? " Again, he made a hash of the Spanish.

It didn't matter, not here. Lieutenant Guitierrez probably spoke better English than Pinkard did. He was every bit as tall, too, though not much more than half as wide through the shoulders. By his looks, he had a lot more Spaniard and a lot less Indian in him than did most of the men he commanded. He said, "I have a job for you, Sergeant."

"That's what I'm here for," Pinkard agreed.

"Er-yes." The Mexican lieutenant drummed his fingers on his thigh. Jeff had a pretty good idea what was eating the fellow. He was only a sergeant himself (and he'd never risen higher than PFC in the C.S. Army), but he got more money every month than Guitierrez did. And, although he was only a sergeant, it wasn't always obvious that his rank was inferior to the other man's. Why else were Confederate volunteers down here, if not to show the greasers the way real soldiers did things?

"What can I do for you, Lieutenant?" Jeff asked again, not feeling like pushing things today.

Guitierrez gave him what might have been a grateful look. "You are familiar, Sergeant, with the machines called barrels?"

"Uh… yeah." Pinkard was familiar enough to start worrying, even though the clanking monsters had been few and far between in Texas during the Great War-especially on the Confederate side. "What's the matter? The rebels going to start throwing 'em at us? That's real bad news, if they are."

"No, no, no." The Mexican officer shook his head. He had a sort of melancholy pride different from anything Pinkard had known in his own countrymen. " We have three, built in Tampico by the sea and coming up here to the highlands by railroad. I want you to lead the infantry when we move forward with them against the peasant rabble who dare to oppose Emperor Maximilian."

" You people built barrels?" Once he'd said it, Jeff wished he hadn't sounded quite so astonished. But that was too late, of course.

Lieutenant Guitierrez's lips thinned. "Yes, we did." But then he coughed. He was a proud man, but also an honest man. "I understand the design may have come from the Confederate States-unofficially, of course."

"Ah. I get you." Jeff laid a finger by the side of his nose and winked. The Confederates couldn't build barrels on their own. The Yankees would land on them with both feet if they tried. But what happened south of the border was a different story. "When does the attack go in, and what are we aiming for?"

"We want to drive them from those little hills where they can observe our movements. They are shelling San Luis Potosi from that forward position, too," Guitierrez replied. "If all goes well, this will be a heavy blow against them. As for when, the attack begins the morning after the barrels come into place."

He didn't say when that morning would be. He was probably wise not to. For one thing, Pinkard had already discovered what manana meant. For another, barrels, no matter who built them, broke down if you looked at them sideways. Pinkard grunted. "All right, Lieutenant. Soon as they get here, I'll lead your infantry against the rebels. You'll follow along yourself to see how it's done, right?"

He wasn't calling Guitierrez a coward. He'd seen the other man had courage and to spare. And Guitierrez nodded now. " Claro que si, Sergeant. Of course. That is why you are here: to show us how it is done."

Jeff grunted again. In one sense, the Mexican lieutenant was right. In another… Pinkard was here because his marriage was as much a casualty of the Great War as a fellow with a hook for a hand. He was here because he had a fierce, restless energy and an urgent desire to kill something, almost anything. He couldn't satisfy that desire back in Birmingham, not unless he wanted to fry in the electric chair shortly thereafter.

Three days later-not a bad case of manana, all things considered-the barrels came into position, clanking and rattling and belching and farting every inch of the way. Pinkard wasn't surprised to find more than half their crewmen were Confederate volunteers. He was surprised when he got a look at the barrels themselves. They weren't the rhomboids with tracks all around that the CSA, following the British lead, had used during the Great War. And they weren't quite the squat, hulking monsters with a cannon in the nose and machine guns bristling on flanks and rear the USA had thrown at the Confederacy.

They did have a conning tower like that of a U.S. barrel-their crewmen called it a turret. It revolved through some sort of gear mechanism, and carried a cannon and a machine gun mounted alongside it. Two more bow-mounted machine guns completed their armament. "Since the turret spins, we don't need nothin' else," a crewman said. "Means we don't have to try and shoehorn so many men inside, neither."

"Sounds like somebody's been doing a lot of thinking about this business," Pinkard said.

"Reckon so," the other man agreed. "Now if the same somebody would've thunk about the engine, too, we'd all be better off. A good horse can still outrun these miserable iron sons of bitches without breathing hard."

During the Great War-even the attenuated version of it fought out in Texas-a big artillery barrage would have preceded the barrels' advance. Neither side in this fight had enough artillery to lay down a big barrage. It didn't seem to matter. The barrels rolled forward, crushing the enemy's barbed wire and shooting up his machine-gun nests. "Come on!" Pinkard shouted to the foot soldiers loyal to Maximilian III. "Keep up with 'em! They make the hole, an' we go through it. Stick tight, and the enemy'll shoot at the barrels and not at you so much."

That was how things had worked during the Great War. In English and horrible Spanish, Jeff urged his men forward. Forward they went, too. The only thing he hadn't counted on was the effect barrels, even a ragged handful of barrels, had on troops who'd never faced them before. The rebels, or the braver men among them, tried shooting at the great machines. When their rifle and machine-gun bullets bounced off the barrels' armor, they seemed to decide the end of the world was at hand. Some ran away. The barrels' machine guns scythed them down like wheat at harvest time. Others threw down their rifles, threw up their hands, and surrendered. "Amigo!" they shouted hopefully.

Jefferson Pinkard had never had so many strangers call him friend in all his born days. In Texas, the Confederates had gone raiding to catch a handful of Yankee prisoners. Here, prisoners were coming out of his ears. "What do we do with 'em, Sergeant?" asked a soldier who spoke English-maybe he'd worked in the CSA once upon a time. "We go-?" The gesture he made wasn't the throat-cutting one Pinkard would have used, but it meant the same thing.

For once, Jeff's blood lust was sated. Slaughter in the heat of battle was as fine as taking a woman, maybe finer. Killing prisoners felt like murder. Maybe I'm still a Christian, after all. "Nah, they've surrendered," he answered. "We'll take 'em back with us. We'd better. Till those barrels break down, they're gonna keep bringin' in plenty more."

"Si, es verdad," the soldier said, and translated Pinkard's words for the other Mexicans. They all assumed he knew how to handle a flood of prisoners of war, too-including the prisoners themselves, who swarmed up to him to kiss his hands and even try to kiss his cheeks in gratitude for being spared.

"Cut that out!" he roared. It made him wish he had ordered a massacre. Instead, he led the captured rebels-who were even more ragged and sorry-looking than the Mexican imperialists-back out of the fighting. Once he got them behind the line, he had to figure out what to do with them next. Nobody else seemed to want to do anything that looked like thinking.

He commandeered some barbed wire and some posts to string it from. After he herded the prisoners into the big square he'd made, he told off guards to make sure they didn't head for the high country. Then he had to yell to make sure they got something-not much, but something-to eat and drink. And he had to go on yelling, to make sure manana didn't foul things up. By the time three or four days went by, all the Mexicans assumed he was in charge of the prisoner-of-war camp. Before very much longer, he started thinking the same thing himself.

C olonel Irving Morrell hated soldiering from behind a desk. He always had. As best he could tell, he always would. And he especially hated it when there was fighting going on and he found himself a thousand miles away. The reports filtering north from the civil war in the Empire of Mexico struck him as particularly maddening-and all the more so because he couldn't get anybody else in the War Department to take them seriously.

"God damn it, the imperialists are cleaning up with these new barrels of theirs," he raged to his superior, a stolid senior colonel named Virgil Donaldson. He waved papers in Donaldson's face. "Has anybody besides me read this material? By what it's saying, they've got just about all the features we put on our fancy prototype at Fort Leavenworth. But we built our prototype and said to hell with it. Those bastards have got a production line going in Tampico."

Colonel Donaldson puffed on his pipe. He had a big red face and a big gray mustache. He looked more like somebody's kindly uncle than a General Staff officer. He sounded like somebody's kindly uncle, too, when he said, "Take an even strain, Colonel Morrell. You'll burst a blood vessel if you don't, and then where will you be?"

"But, sir-!" Morrell waved the papers again.

"Take an even strain," Donaldson repeated. He liked the phrase. Before Morrell could explode, Donaldson went on, "Who cares what a bunch of goddamn greasers are up to, anyway?"

"But it's not just greasers, sir," Morrell said desperately. "These barrels have Confederate mercenaries as crew. They've got to have Confederates designing them, too. And the Confederate States aren't allowed to build barrels. The armistice agreement makes that as plain as the nose on my face."

A ceiling fan spun lazily. A fly buzzed. Outside Donaldson's window, summer heat made the air shimmer. The government building across the street from General Staff headquarters might have belonged to some other world, some other universe. Morrell laughed softly. He'd had that feeling about the General Staff before, with no tricks of the eye to start it going.

Trying to come back to what he was sure was reality, he said, "We ought to protest to Richmond. The Confederate government is turning a blind eye toward what has to be several regiments' worth of their veterans going south to fight on Maximilian's side. That may not be against the letter of their agreements with us, but it's dead against the spirit."

After another puff on that pipe, Colonel Donaldson said, "Nice idea, but don't hold your breath. President Sinclair is looking for good relations with the CSA. He doesn't want to bother Richmond with trifles, and he thinks anything this side of a Confederate invasion of Kentucky is a trifle."

Morrell muttered something under his breath. It wasn't that he thought Donaldson was wrong. No, he feared his superior was right. "Why did we bother to win the war, if we won't make it count?"

"You'd have to talk to President Sinclair about that, Colonel Morrell," Donaldson answered. " Why isn't my job, or yours, either. It's for the civilians. They decide what to do, and they tell us. Doing it is our department."

"I know, sir." The lesson had been drilled into Morrell since his West Point days. During the War of Secession, U.S. generals had spoken of overthrowing the republic and becoming military dictator. Then they'd gone out and lost the war, so they'd never had the chance to do more than talk about it. No one had wanted to take the risk of such things since, though it was only now, a lifetime later, that the United States had to deal with the consequences of victory rather than defeat.

"In fairness, we could use some peace and quiet with Richmond right about now," Donaldson said. "After all, we've got Germany to worry about, too."

"Well, yes," Morrell admitted reluctantly. He knew why he was reluctant to admit any such thing, too: "But if we ever do fight the Kaiser, that'll be the Navy's worry, not the Army's. At least, I have a devil of a time seeing how the Germans could invade us, or how we could land troops in Europe."

"It wouldn't be easy, would it?" Donaldson said. "But, of course, a lot depends on who's friends with whom. The Germans have the same worries about France and England as we do about the CSA. And God only knows what's going to happen to the Russians, even now. They're having more trouble putting down their Reds than the Confederates ever did during the war."

"Not our worry, thank God." Morrell chuckled. The puff of smoke Donaldson sent up might have been a fragrant question mark. Morrell explained: "The Russian Reds make up the best names for themselves. I especially like the two who are operating in that town on the Volga-Tsaritsin, that's the name of the place. The Red general is the Man of Steel, and his second-in-command goes by the Hammer. The Reds in the CSA weren't so fancy."

"They were nothing but a bunch of coons," Donaldson said. "You can't expect much from them."

That made Morrell thoughtful. "I wonder," he said. "I do wonder, sir. When I was in the field, I ran up against Negro regiments a few times. Far as I could tell, they didn't fight any worse than raw regiments of white Confederate troops."

"Huh." The older man sounded deeply skeptical. But then he shrugged. " That's not our worry, either, thank God."

"No, sir," Morrell agreed. "Are you sure there's no point to writing that report about the barrels down in Mexico, sir? I really do think that's alarming."

Donaldson sighed the sigh of a man who'd been a cog in a bureaucratic machine for a long time. "You can write the report, Colonel, if it makes you happy. I'll even endorse it and send it on. But I can tell you what will happen. The most likely thing is, nothing. It'll go into a file here along with a million other reports. That's what happens if you're lucky."

"I don't call that luck," Morrell said.

"Compared to the other thing that could happen, it's luck," Donaldson told him. "Believe you me, it's luck. Because the other thing that could happen is, somebody reads the report and passes it on to somebody else, somebody outside the General Staff, and it gets into the hands of one of those precious civilians-say, somebody like N. Mattoon Thomas, the assistant secretary of war."

"But he's just the man-just the sort of man-who ought to see a report like this one," Morrell said. "He thought well of the one I did on the mess in Armenia."

"Well, maybe. But maybe not, too. Armenia's a long ways off, you see. The Confederate States are right next door," Colonel Donaldson said. "If you're lucky, he reads it and then he throws it into a file in the War Department offices. Different file, but that's all right." He held up a hand to silence Morrell, then went on, "If you're not so lucky, he reads it and he thinks, Who's this smart-aleck soldier trying to tell me how to do my job? And if that's what somebody like N. Mattoon Thomas thinks, pretty soon you're not here in Philadelphia any more. You're commanding a garrison in the middle of nowhere: Alberta or Utah or New Mexico, somewhere like that."

He spoke as if of a fate worse than death. That was probably how he saw it. That was how any soldier who was first of all a cog in a bureaucratic machine and only afterwards a fighting man would have seen it. But Morrell didn't want to be here in the first place. Getting back out into the field, even somewhere in the back of beyond, sounded pretty good to him.

Yes, it does-to you, he thought then, several beats later than he should have. What will Agnes think about it? You've got a little girl now, Morrell. Do you want to haul Mildred off to God knows where, just because you couldn't stand to keep your big mouth shut?

He muttered unhappily. Colonel Donaldson thought he was contemplating the horrors of life outside Philadelphia. "Dismissed," Donaldson said.

Unhappily, Morrell left his superior's office. Even more unhappily, he went back to his own. Where does your first loyalty lie? To your wife and daughter, or to the United States of America?

He cursed softly. But he didn't need long to make up his mind. Agnes had been a soldier's widow before she met him, dammit. She knew what the price of duty could be. If they had to go off to Lethbridge or Nehi or Flagstaff, she'd take that in stride. It might even end up better for Mildred.

Morrell nodded to himself. He fed a sheet of paper into the typewriter that squatted on his desk like some heathen god. He typed with his two index fingers-a slower way of doing things than proper touch-typing, but it got the job done well enough. If the powers that be chose to ignore his report, that was their business. But he was going to make sure they saw what he saw.

He did warn his wife what he'd done, and what might happen as a result. To his relief, she only shrugged. "Philadelphia's a nice town," she said. "But I got along well enough in Leavenworth, too."

He kissed her. "I like the way you think."

"It isn't a question of thinking," Agnes said. "It's a question of doing what you have to do." Mildred Morrell didn't say anything. She just kicked her legs and grinned up at her father from her cradle, showing off her first two brand new baby teeth. Some of her babbles and gurgles had dada in them, but she didn't yet associate the sound with him.

"What will you think, if you grow up in Lethbridge or Nehi instead of Philadelphia?" Morrell asked her. Mildred only laughed. She didn't care one way or the other. "Maybe, just maybe," her father said, "I'm fixing things so you don't have to go through a war when you grow up. I hope I am, anyway."

He was eating lunch the next day when Lieutenant Colonel John Abell came up to him. Without preamble, General Liggett's adjutant said, "You do believe in cooking your own goose, don't you, Colonel?"

"Ah." Morrell smiled. "You've read it, then?"

"Yes, I've read it." The astringently intellectual General Staff officer shook his head in slow wonder. "Amazing how a man can analyze so brilliantly and be so blind to politics, all at the same time."

After another bite of meat loaf, Morrell said, "You've told me as much before. What am I being blind to today?"

"One and a half million dead men, Colonel, and I'd think even you should notice them," Lieutenant Colonel Abell answered with a certain somber relish. "One and a half million dead men, or a few more than that-all the reasons why there's no stomach in the USA for another war against the Confederate States."

Morrell winced. His smile faded. John Abell was a snob. That didn't mean he was a fool-anything but. "Don't you believe most people would rather fight a small war now if the Confederates don't back down-which I think they would-than fight a big one ten or twenty years down the road?"

"Some people would. A few people would. But most?" Abell shook his head. "No, sir. Most people don't want to fight any war at all, and they'll do almost anything to keep from fighting. Meaning no offense, sir, but I think you've just cooked your own goose."

With a shrug, Morrell said, "Well, even if I have, I won't mind getting back in the field again." Lieutenant Colonel Abell looked at him as if he'd spoken in Hindustani, or maybe Choctaw. Like Colonel Donaldson, Abell was a creature of the General Staff, and didn't care to contemplate life outside it. Morrell did, which gave him a certain moral advantage. And how much good will that do you in Lethbridge when the blizzards come? he wondered, and wished he hadn't.

T om Colleton held out a package too well wrapped for him to have done it himself. "Happy birthday, Sis!" he told Anne.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," she said in fond exasperation. "You shouldn't have." She kissed him on the cheek, but at least half of her meant every word of that. The birthday in question was her thirty-ninth, and the only one she would have felt less like celebrating was her fortieth.

"Well, whether I should have or not, I damn well did," her younger brother answered. Tom still had a few years to go before facing middle age-and forty meant less to a man than it did to a woman, anyhow. From forty, a woman could see all too well the approaching end of too many things, beauty among them. From thirty-nine, too, Anne thought gloomily. But Tom was grinning at her. "Go on-open it."

"I will," she said, and she did, tearing into the wrapping paper as she would have liked to tear into Father Time. "What on earth have you got here?"

"I found it the last time I was in Columbia," he said. "There. Now you've got it. See? It's-"

"A book of photographs of Marcel Duchamp's paintings!" Anne exclaimed.

"Seeing as he exhibited at Marshlands, I thought you'd like it," her brother said. "And take a look at page one seventy-three."

"Why? What's he done there?" Anne asked suspiciously. Tom's grin only got wider and more annoying. She flipped through the book till she got to page 173. The painting, especially in a black-and-white reproduction, resembled nothing so much as an explosion in a prism factory. That didn't surprise Anne. When Duchamp displayed his Nude Descending a Staircase at Marshlands just before the Great War broke out, the work had hung upside down for several days before anyone, including the artist, noticed. But here…

Tom looked over her shoulder to make sure she'd got to the right page. "You see?" he said. "You see?" He pointed to the title below the photograph.

" 'Mademoiselle Anne Colleton of North Carolina, Confederate States of America,' " Anne read. She said something most unladylike, and then, "For God's sake, he doesn't even remember what state he was in! I'm not surprised, I suppose-all he cared about while he was here was getting drunk and laying the nigger serving girls."

"What do you think of the likeness?" her brother asked.

Before the war, Anne had been a champion of everything modern. Life was harder now. She had little time for such fripperies. And I'm older than I was then, she thought bleakly. It's harder to stay up to date, and to stay excited about being up to date.

She took a longer look at "Mlle. Anne Colleton." It still seemed made up of squares and triangles and rectangles flying in all directions. But lurking among them, cunningly hidden, were features that might have been her own. Slowly, she said, "It's not as bad as you make it out to be."

"No, it's worse," Tom said. "When I was in the trenches, I saw men who got hit by shells and didn't look this bad afterwards." He brought his experience to the abstract painting, just as Anne brought hers. That was bound to be what Marcel Duchamp had had in mind. Anne might have cared more if he hadn't made such a nuisance of himself while at Marshlands, and if he hadn't been such a coward about recrossing the Atlantic after the war began and both sides' submersibles started prowling.

As things were, she only shrugged and said, "It is a compliment of sorts. Whatever he thought of me, he didn't forget me once he got back to France."

"Nobody ever forgets you, Sis," Tom Colleton said. Then he added something he never would have dared say before the war. Going into the Army had made a man of him; he'd been a boy, a comfortable boy, till then. He asked, "How come you never married any of the fellows who sniffed around after you? There were always enough of 'em."

Had he presumed to ask such a question before the Great War, she would have slapped him down, hard. Now, though she didn't like it, she gave it a serious answer: "Some of them wanted to run me and to run my money. Nobody runs me, and I run the money better than most men could. I've said that before. And the others, the ones who didn't care so much about the money…" She laughed a hard and bitter laugh. "They were sons of bitches, just about all of them. I recognize the breed. I'd better-takes one to know one, people say."

Almost fondly, she remembered Roger Kimball. The submarine officer had been a thoroughgoing son of a bitch. He'd also been far and away the best lover she ever had. She didn't know what that said. (Actually, she did know, but she didn't care to dwell on it.) But, in the end, Kimball had chosen the Freedom Party over her. And he was dead now, shot by the widow of a U.S. seaman whose destroyer he'd sunk after the CSA had asked for and been granted an armistice.

She waited for Tom to give her a lecture. But he only asked another question: "Can you go on by yourself for the rest of your days?"

"I don't know," Anne admitted. To keep from having to think about it, she tried to change the subject: "What about you, Tom? You're as single as I am."

"Yeah, I know," he said with a calm that surprised her. "But there are a couple of differences between us. For one thing, I'm a few years younger than you are. For another, I'm starting to look hard, and you're not."

"Are you?" she said, surprised. "You didn't tell me anything about that."

Tom nodded, almost defiantly. "Well, I am, and yes, I know I haven't told you anything. No offense, Sis, but you like running people's lives so much, you don't like it when they try and run their own." That held enough truth to make Anne give him a wry nod in return. He dipped his head, acknowledging it, and continued, "There's one more thing, no offense. A lot of ways, when a man gets married matters a lot less than when a woman does."

And that was all too true, as well. In a fair, just world it wouldn't have been, but Anne had never been naive enough to imagine the world either fair or just. Looks weren't what kept a man, but they were what lured him. She'd used her own blond beauty to advantage more times than she could count. Again, turning thirty-nine reminded her she wouldn't be able to do that forever. If she wanted to have a baby or two, she wouldn't be able to do that forever, either.

She sighed. "Well, Tom, when you're right, you're right, and you're right, dammit. I'm going to have to do something about it."

Her brother blinked. He'd probably been expecting a shouting match, not agreement. "Just like that?" he asked.

Anne nodded briskly. "Yes, just like that, or as close to just like that as I can make it. Or don't you think I can do what I set my mind to doing?" If he said he didn't, he would have a shouting match on his hands.

But he only laughed. "Anybody who thinks that about you is a damn fool, Sis. Now, I may be a damn fool-plenty of people have called me one, and they've had their reasons-but I'm not that particular kind of a damn fool, thank you kindly."

Although Anne laughed, too, she also gave him another nod. "Good. You'd better not be."

She meant what she said. As if to prove it, she drove up to Columbia a couple of days later. She knew the eligible bachelors in little St. Matthews, South Carolina, much too well to have the slightest interest in marrying any of them. He was too old; he was too dull; he was too grouchy; he couldn't count to twenty-one without dropping his pants. The pickings had to be better, or at least wider, in the state capital.

They would be better still down in Charleston, but Columbia was a lot closer. That made it more convenient both for her and for the battered Ford she drove. Keeping the motorcar alive would probably let the local mechanic send his children to college, but she had to let it keep nibbling her to death a bit at a time. She couldn't afford a new one, however much she wanted one.

Before the war-that phrase again! — and even into it, she'd driven a powerful, comfortable Vauxhall, imported from England. Confederate soldiers had confiscated it at gunpoint during the Red uprising of 1915. Almost ten years ago now, she thought with slow wonder. The Ford, now, the Ford was a boneshaker that couldn't get past thirty-five miles an hour unless it went over a cliff. And it was a Yankee machine. But it was what she had, and it ran… after a fashion.

She did like driving into Columbia. The town's gracious architecture spoke of the better days of the last century. When the Negroes rebelled here, some houses, some blocks, had gone up in flames, but most of the city remained intact-and the damage, at last, was largely repaired. She couldn't imagine a conflagration big enough to destroy the whole town. Columbia was too big for such disasters.

Charleston had better hotels than Columbia, but the Essex House, only a few blocks from the green bronze dome of the State Capitol, would do. The Essex House also boasted a first-rate switchboard. She had no trouble keeping up with her investments while away from home. And she could even study day-old copies of the New Orleans Financial Mercury and three-day-old editions of the Wall Street Journal. Since she kept most of her money in U.S. rather than C.S. markets, the latter did her more good.

But here she was more interested in men who might have investments of their own than in investments themselves. Dinner at the hotel restaurant the first night she got into town made her wonder if she'd waited several years too long to make this particular hunting expedition. Before the war, she couldn't possibly have eaten without shooing away anywhere from two to half a dozen men more interested in other pleasures than in those of the table. Here, she enjoyed-or didn't so much enjoy-some very tasty fried chicken without drawing so much as a single eye.

I might as well be eating crow, she thought as she rose, unhappy, from the table.

A visit to her assemblyman the next day was no more reassuring. Edgar Stow was younger than she was. He wore the ribbon for the Purple Heart in his lapel; the three missing fingers on his left hand explained why. Because of those missing digits, he had what she took to be a wedding band on the surviving index finger. He was polite to Anne, but polite to Anne as if she was an influential constituent (true) rather than a good-looking woman (false?). He also seemed maddeningly unaware of what she was trying to tell him.

"Parties? Banquets?" He shook his head. "It's pretty quiet here these days, ma'am. The old-timers, the men who've held their seats since before the war, they complain all the time about how dead it is. But we get a lot more business done nowadays than they ever did."

Stow sounded pleased with himself. He had an ashtray on his desk made from the brass base of a shell casing, with a couple of dimes bent into semicircles and welded to it to hold cigarettes. He'd surely made it, or had it made, while he was in the Army. Anne wanted to pick it up and brain him with it. His blindness stung. But that ma'am hurt worse. By the way he said it, he might have been talking to his grandmother.

"So what exactly can I help you with today, ma'am?" he asked, polite, efficient-and stupid.

Anne didn't tell him. Why waste my time? she thought as she left his office. But she had to wonder if she'd already wasted too much time.


Sam Carsten smeared zinc-oxide ointment on the bridge of his nose. It wouldn't do him any good. He was dolefully certain of that. When summer came, he got a sunburn. He'd got sunburned in San Francisco, which wasn't easy. Hell, he'd got sunburned in Seattle, which was damn near impossible.

The port of Brest, France, toward which the USS O'Brien was steaming, lay on the same parallel of latitude as Seattle. Somebody'd told that to Carsten, but he'd had to look it up for himself in an atlas before he would believe it. The bright sunshine dancing off the ocean-and off the green land ahead-seemed almost tropical in comparison to what Seattle usually got.

He patted the breech of the destroyer's forward four-inch gun. "This here is one more place I figured I'd have to fight my way into," he remarked.

"Yes, sir," Nathan Hirskowitz agreed. The petty officer shrugged. "But we've got one thing going for us, even on a little courtesy call like this."

"You bet we do," Sam said. "We aren't Germans."

Hirskowitz nodded. He scratched his chin. Whiskers rasped under his nails, though he'd shaved that morning. "Yes, sir," he said. "That's what I was thinking, all right."

"They just don't like Germans here in France, same as they just don't like Englishmen in Ireland." Carsten thought for a moment, then went on, "And same as they just don't like us in the CSA-what do you want to bet a ship from the Kaiser's High Seas Fleet gets the same sort of big hello in Charleston as we do here?"

"I won't touch that one. You got to be right," Hirskowitz said.

"Damn funny business, though," Sam said. "We were at war with the froggies, too, same as Kaiser Bill was at war with the Confederates."

"But we didn't lick France, same as the Germans didn't lick the Confederate States. That makes all the difference." Hirskowitz added something in French.

"What the hell's that mean?" Sam asked in surprise.

"Something like, the better you know somebody, the more reasons you can find to despise him," the gunner's mate answered.

"Well, I've known you for a while, and this is the first I knew you spoke any French."

Nathan Hirskowitz surprised Sam again, this time by looking and sounding faintly embarrassed: "It's my old man's fault, sir. He came to the United States out of this little Romanian village in the middle of nowhere-that's what he has to say about it, anyway. But he'd taught himself French and German and English while he was still there."

"That's pretty good," Sam said. "He taught you, too, eh?"

"Yeah, me and my brothers and my sister. German was easy, of course, because we already used Yiddish around the house, and they're pretty close. But he made us learn French, too."

"So what does he do in New York City?" Sam asked. "How come you aren't too rich to think about joining the Navy?"

"How come?" Hirskowitz snorted. "I'll tell you how come, sir. Pop had a storing and hauling business. But he liked horses better than trucks, and so that went under. He's smart, but he's a stubborn bastard, my old man is. And since his business went under, he hasn't done much of anything. He sponges off the rest of my relatives, that's all. You listen to him talk, he's too smart to work."

"Oh. One of those." Carsten nodded; he'd met the type. "Too bad. Any which way, though, I expect I'll stick with you when we get shore leave. Always handy to have somebody along who knows the lingo."

"Sir, you're an officer, remember? You got to find one of your own who speaks French. You can't go drinking with a no-account gunner's mate."

Sam cursed under his breath. Hirskowitz was right, no doubt about it. The trouble was, Carsten didn't like drinking with officers. That was the bad news about being a mustang. He'd spent close to twenty years as an able seaman and petty officer himself. His rank had changed, but his taste in companions hadn't. Officers still struck him as a snooty lot. But he would hear about it, and in great detail, if he fraternized-that was the word they'd use-with men of lower rank.

Up to the wharf came the O'Brien. The skipper handled that himself, disdaining the help of the tugboats hovering in the harbor. If he made a hash of it, he'd have nobody but himself to blame. But he didn't. With all the Frenchmen watching-and, no doubt, with some Germans keeping an eye on the destroyer, too-he came alongside as smoothly as if parking a car.

A French naval officer whose uniform, save for his kepi, didn't look a whole lot different from American styles, came aboard the O'Brien. "Welcome to la belle France," he said in accented English. "We have been allies before, your country and mine. We are not enemies now. It could be, one day, we shall ally again."

He didn't say against whom he had in mind. He didn't say-and he didn't need to say. The O'Brien 's executive officer said something in French. Sam didn't want to go drinking with the exec. The Frenchman saluted. The executive officer returned the salute. He said, "We come to France on a peaceful visit, and hope that peace will last forever."

With a very Gallic shrug, the French officer replied, "What lasts forever? Nothing in this world, monsieur. I need to say one thing to you, a word of- comment dit-on? — a word of warning, yes. Your men are welcome to go ashore, but they should use a certain… a certain caution, oui?"

Since the Frenchman plainly wanted the O'Brien 's crew to hear that, the exec carried on in English: "What sort of caution, sir?"

"Political caution," the local said. "The Action Francaise has no small power here in Brest. You know the Action Francaise?"

"Mais un petit peu," the executive officer said, and then, "Only a little."

"Even a little is too much," the Frenchman told him. "They are royalist, they are Catholic-very, very Catholic, in a political way-and (forgive me) they oppose those who were the allies of the United States during the… the unpleasantness not so long past."

They hate the Germans' guts, Carsten thought. That's what he means, but he's too polite to say so. The O'Brien 's executive officer nodded and said, "Thanks for the warning. We will be careful."

"I have done my duty," the French officer answered. I wash my hands of the lot of you, he might have said. With another salute, he went back over the gangplank, up onto the pier, and into Brest.

Carsten wondered if the skipper would keep his crew aboard the ship after a greeting like that, but he didn't. He did warn the men who got liberty to stick together and not to cause trouble. Sam hoped they would listen, but sailors in port weren't always inclined to.

He went ashore himself, as much from simple curiosity as from any great desire to paint the town red. Brest wasn't the sort of place to which tourists thronged. It was, first and foremost, a navy town. That didn't faze Sam. The steep, slippery streets were another matter. Brest sat on a ridge above the Penfeld River, and seemed more suited to mountain goats than to men.

Mountain goats, though, didn't go into bars. Carsten did, the first chance he got. "Whiskey," he told the bartender, figuring that word didn't change much from one language to another.

But the fellow surprised him by speaking English: "The apple brandy is better." Seeing Sam's look of surprise, he explained, "Many times during the Great War-and since-sailors from Angleterre come here."

"All right. Thanks. I'll try the stuff." When Sam did, he found he liked it-Calvados was the name on the bottle. He drank some more. Warmth spread through him. A navy town had to have friendly women somewhere not too far from the sea. After I drink some more, I'll find out about that, he thought.

Before he could, though, three or four French officers came in. One of them noticed his unfamiliar uniform. "You are-American?" he asked in halting English. "You are from the contre-torpilleur new in the harbor?"

"Yes, from the destroyer," Sam agreed.

"And what think you of Brest?" the fellow asked.

"Nice town," Carsten said; his mother had raised him to be polite. "And this Calvados stuff-this is the cat's meow." The Frenchman looked puzzled. Sam simplified: "It's good. I like it."

"Ah. 'The cat's meow.' " The French officer-a tough-looking fellow in his forties, a few years older than Sam-filed away the phrase. "Would it please you, monsieur, to see more of Brest?"

"Thank you, friend. I wouldn't mind that at all," Sam answered, thinking, among other things, that an officer ought to know where the officers' brothels were, and which of them had the liveliest girls. But the Frenchman-his name turned out to be Henri Dimier-took him to the maritime museum housed in a chateau down by the harbor, and then to the cathedral of St. Louis closer to the center of town. Maybe he was an innocent, maybe he thought Sam was, or maybe he was subtly trying to annoy him. If so, he failed; Carsten found both buildings interesting, even if neither was exactly what he'd had in mind.

When they came out of the cathedral, a whole company of blue-uniformed policemen rushed up the street past them. "What's going on there?" Sam asked.

"I think it is the Action Francaise," Dimier answered, his face hard and grim. "They are to have a-how do you say? — a meeting in the Place de la Liberte. It is not far. Would you care to see?"

"Well… all right." It wasn't what Sam had had in mind. It wouldn't be much fun. But it might be useful, and that counted, too. I suppose that counts, too, he thought mournfully.

The Place de la Liberte wasn't far from the cathedral: only two or three blocks. Even before Carsten and Henri Dimier got there, the sound of singing filled the air. A forest of flags sprouted inside the park. Some were the familiar French tricolor, others covered with fleurs-de-lys. Pointing, Sam asked, "What are those?"

"That is the old flag, the royal flag, of France," Dimier replied. "They want to, ah, return to his throne the king."

"Oh." Carsten wasn't sure what to make of that. The mere idea struck him as pretty strange. He tried another question: "What are they singing?"

"I translate for you." The French officer cocked his head to one side, listening. "Here. Like this:

"The German who has taken all,

Who has robbed Paris of all she owns,

Now says to France:

'You belong to us alone:

Obey! Down on your knees, all of you!'

"And here is the-the refrain-is that the word?

"No, no, France is astir,

Her eyes flash fire,

No, no,

Enough of treason now.

"Would you hear more, monsieur?"

"Uh-yeah. If you don't mind." I do need to know this. We all need to know it.

Dimier picked up the song again:

"Insolent German, hold your tongue,

Behold our king approaches,

And our race

Runs ahead of him.

Back to where you belong, German,

Our king will lead us!"

And the refrain:

"One, two, France is astir,

Her eyes flash fire,

One, two,

The French are at home."

And once more:

"Tomorrow, on our graves,

The wheat will be more beautiful,

Let us close our ranks!

This summer we shall have

Wine from the grapevines

With royalty.

"Do you understand, being an American, what all this means?"

"I doubt it," Sam answered. "Do you?"

Before Henri Dimier could answer, the men of the Action Francaise charged the police who were trying to hold them in the square. For a moment, clubs flailing, the police did hold. But then the ralliers-the rioters, now-broke through. With shouts of triumph, they swarmed into the streets of Brest. Sam had a devil of a time getting back to the O'Brien. After that, though, he understood, or thought he understood, a good deal that he hadn't before.

Clarence Potter was a meticulous man. If he hadn't been, he couldn't very well have had a successful career in intelligence work during the war. That habit of precision was one reason why he had no use for the Freedom Party. To his way of thinking, Jake Featherston and his followers only wanted to smash things up, with no idea what would replace them.

He stood in Marion Square in Charleston, listening to a Freedom Party Congressional candidate. The fellow's name was Ezra Hutchinson. He was a rotund man who put Potter in mind of a hand grenade in a white summer suit. He exploded like a hand grenade, too. Unlike a hand grenade, though, he kept doing it over and over.

"Now hear me, friends!" he thundered, pumping a fist in the air atop the portable platform on which he stood. "Hear me! We've turned the other cheek to the USA for too long! It's high time we took our place in the sun again our own selves. We're a great country. We ought to start acting like it, by God!"

Some of the people in the little crowd in front of the platform clapped their hands. Ezra Hutchinson didn't stand up there alone. A dozen Freedom Party hardnoses in white shirts and butternut trousers backed him. They all applauded like machines. Whenever he paused a little longer than usual, they barked out, "Freedom!" in sharp unison.

"Freedom!" echoed several voices from the crowd.

"We're a great country!" Hutchinson repeated. "But who remembers that, here in the CSA? The Radical Liberals? Hell, no-they'd rather be Yankees. The Whigs? Oh, they say they do, but they'd rather suck up to the Yankees. I tell you the truth, friends: the only party that remembers when the Confederate States had men in them is the Freedom Party."

That gave Clarence Potter the opening he'd been waiting for. He shouted, "The only party that shoots presidents is the Freedom Party!"

People stirred and muttered. Wade Hampton V was only a couple of years dead, but a lot of folks didn't seem to want to remember how he'd died. The Freedom Party sure as hell didn't want people to remember how he'd died. It was doing its best to act respectable. As far as Potter was concerned, its best could never be good enough.

Some of the goons on the platform turned their heads his way. More goons were sprinkled through the crowd, some in the Party's near-uniform, others wearing their ordinary clothes. But Ezra Hutchinson only smiled. "Where were you during the war, pal?" he asked; Freedom Party men often believed they were the only ones who'd done any fighting.

"I was in the Army of Northern Virginia," Potter answered, loudly and distinctly. "Where were you, you fat tub of goo?"

Hutchinson's smile disappeared. He'd been a railroad scheduler during the Great War, and never come within a hundred miles of a fighting front. But then he stuck out his chins and tried to make the best of it: "I served my country! Nobody can say I didn't serve my country."

He waited for Potter to make some other gibe so he could give a sharper comeback. But Potter said nothing more. He just let the candidate's words hang in the air. When Hutchinson did try to go back to his speech, he seemed flat, uninspired.

Several Freedom Party men started working their way back through the crowd toward Potter. He was there by himself. He carried a pistol-he always carried a pistol-but he didn't want to use it unless he had to. He slipped away and around the corner before any of the goons got a good look at him. He'd done what he'd set out to do.

But, in a way, the Freedom Party men had done what they'd set out to do, too: they'd made him retreat. And they would make it hard for other candidates to speak; they weren't shy about attacking their rivals' gatherings. Jake Featherston, damn him, had turned Confederate politics into war.

Who knows where Featherston would be now if that Grady Calkins hadn't gone and shot President Hampton? Potter thought. But snipers were part of war, too: a part that had upped and bit the Freedom Party.

Potter discovered the real problem at a Whig meeting a few days later. Everything there was stable, orderly, democratic. Speaker yielded politely to speaker. No one raised his voice. No one got excited. And, Potter was convinced, no one could possibly have hoped to influence the voters or make them give a damn about keeping the Whigs in power in Richmond.

He threw his hand in the air and was, in due course, recognized. "I have a simple question for you, Mr. Chairman," he said. "Where are our hooligans, to break up Freedom Party rallies the way Featherston's bastards work so hard to break up ours?"

People started buzzing. You didn't often hear such questions at a gathering like this. The chairman's gavel came down, once, twice, three times. Robert E. Washburn was a veteran of the Second Mexican War. He wore a big, bushy white mustache, and both looked and acted as if the nineteenth century had yet to give way to the twentieth. "You are out of order, Mr. Potter," he said now. "I regret to state that I have had to point this out to you at previous gatherings as well."

Heads bobbed up and down in polite agreement with Washburn's ruling. Too many of those heads were gray or balding. The Whigs had dominated Confederate politics for a long time, as the Democrats had in the USA. The Democrats had got themselves a rude awakening. Potter feared the Freedom Party would give the CSA a worse shock than the Socialists had given the United States.

He said, "I am not out of order, Mr. Chairman, and it's a legitimate question. When the damnyankees started using gas during the war, we had to do the same, or else leave the advantage with them. If we don't fight Featherston's fire with fire, what becomes of us now?"

Down came the gavel again. "You are out of order, Mr. Potter," Washburn repeated. "Your zeal for the cause has outrun your respect for the institutions of the Confederate States of America."

He seemed to think that was plenty to quell Potter, if not to make him hang his head in shame. But Clarence Potter remained unquelled. "Featherston's got no respect for our institutions," he pointed out. "If we keep too much, we're liable not to have any institutions left to respect after a while."

Now heads went back and forth. People didn't agree with him. He'd run into that before. It drove him wild. He'd seen a plain truth, and he couldn't get anyone else to see it. Jake Featherston had come much too close to smashing his way to a victory in 1921, and he would be even more dangerous now if that Calkins maniac hadn't shown up the Freedom Party for what it was. Potter felt like knocking these placidly disagreeing heads together. That brought him up short. I'm not so different from Featherston after all, am I?

Robert E. Washburn said, "We rely upon the power of the police to protect us against any further, uh, unfortunate outbursts."

That was an answer of sorts, but only of sorts. "And how many coppers start yelling, 'Freedom!' the minute they take off their gray suits?" Potter asked. "How well do you think they'll do their job?"

He did make the buzz in the room change tone. A great many policemen favored the Freedom Party. That was too notorious a truth to need retelling. It had caused problems in 1921 and again in 1923, though the Freedom Party men had been on their best behavior then. How could anybody think it wouldn't cause problems in the upcoming Congressional election?

The local chairman was evidently of that opinion. "Thank you for expressing your views with your usual vigor, Mr. Potter," Washburn said. "If we may now proceed to further items of business…?"

And that was that. They didn't want to listen to him. And what the Whigs didn't want to do, they didn't have to do. More than sixty years of Confederate independence had taught them as much, and confirmed the lesson again and again. What would teach them otherwise? he wondered. The answer to that seemed obvious enough: losing to the Freedom Party.

As the Charleston Whigs droned on, Potter got to his feet and slipped out of their meeting. Nobody tried to call him back. Everybody seemed glad he was going. They didn't want to hear their grip on things was endangered. They deserve to lose, by God, he thought as he went out into the heat and humidity of a Charleston summer. But then, remembering Jake Featherston's burning eyes as he'd seen them again and again during the Great War, Potter shook his head. They almost deserve to lose. No one deserves what those "Freedom!" — shouting yahoos would give us if they won.

Pigeons strutted along the street, cooing gently. They were slow and stupid and ever so confident nobody would bother them. Why not? They'd proved right again and again and again. This one stranger in their midst wouldn't prove any different… would he?

Clarence Potter laughed. He threw his arms wide. Some of the pigeons scurried back from him. One or two even spread their wings and fluttered away a few feet. Most? Most kept right on strutting and pecking, and paid him no attention whatsoever. "You goddamn dumb sons of bitches," he told them, laughing though it wasn't really funny. "You might as well be Whigs." The birds went right on ignoring him, which proved his point.

He wondered whether the Radical Liberals would take him seriously. Odds were, they would. The Freedom Party, after all, was replacing them as the Whigs' principal opposition. But then he wondered if it mattered whether the Rad Libs took him seriously. It probably didn't. No one except a few dreamers had ever thought the Radical Liberals could govern the CSA. They gave the states of the West and Southwest a safety valve through which they could blow off steam when Richmond ignored them, as it usually did. Closer to the heart of the CSA, the Radical Liberals let people pretend the country really was a democratic republic-without the risks and complications a real change of power would have entailed.

Why do I bother? Potter wondered as he strode past the pigeons that, fat and happy and brainless, went on pretending he wasn't there-or, if he was, that he couldn't possibly be dangerous. Easier just to sit back and let nature take its course.

But he knew the answer to that. It was simple enough: he knew Jake Featherston. Ten years now since I walked into the First Richmond Howitzers' encampment. Ten years since he told me Jeb Stuart III's body servant might be a Red, and since Jeb Stuart III, being III of an important family, made sure nothing would happen to the nigger. Jeb Stuart III was dead, of course. He'd looked for death when he realized he'd made a bad mistake. He'd had plenty of old-fashioned Confederate courage and honor. But he'd taken however many Yankee bullets he took without having the faintest conception of just how bad a mistake he'd made.

"The whole Confederacy is still finding out just how bad a mistake you made, Captain Stuart," Clarence Potter muttered. A young woman coming the other way-a young woman in a shockingly short skirt, one that reached so high, it let him see the bottom of her kneecap-gave him a curious glance as she went by.

Potter was by now used to garnering curious glances. He wasn't nearly so used to women showing that much leg. He looked back over his shoulder at her. For a little while, at least, he forgot all about the Freedom Party.

W hen the steam whistle announcing shift change blew, Chester Martin let out a sigh of relief. It had been a good day on the steel-mill floor. Everything had gone the way it was supposed to. Nobody'd got hurt. You couldn't ask for more than that, not in this business.

Instead of heading straight home, he stopped at the Socialist Party hall not far from the mill. A good many men from his mill and others nearby sat and stood there, talking steel and talking politics and winding down from the long, hard weeks they'd just put in. "How's it going, Chester?" somebody called. Martin mimed falling over in exhaustion, which got a laugh.

Somebody else said, "They don't work us as hard as they worked our fathers."

"Only goes to show what you know, Albert," Chester retorted. "My old man's got one of those soft foreman's jobs. He hardly even has calluses on his hands any more, except from pushing a pencil. They work me a hell of a lot harder than they work him."

"Sold out to the people who own the means of production, has he?" Albert Bauer said-he was and always had been a Socialist of the old school.

Before Chester could answer that, someone else did it for him: "Oh, put a sock in it, for Christ's sake. We're starting to own the means of production. At least, I've bought some shares of stock, and I'll bet you have, too. Go on, tell me I'm a liar."

Bauer said not a word. In fact, so many people said not a word that something close to silence fell for a moment. Have that many of us bought stocks? Chester wondered. He had a few shares himself, and knew his father had more than a few: Stephen Douglas Martin had been picking up a share here, a share there, ever since he started making good money when he wasn't conscripted into the Great War.

"Funny," Martin said. "The Party talks about government owning the means of production, but it never says much about the proletariat buying 'em up one piece at a time."

"Marx never figured anything like that would happen," someone said. "Neither did Lincoln. Back when they lived, you couldn't make enough money to have any left over to invest."

"As long as Wall Street keeps going up and up, though, you'd have to be a damn fool not to throw your money that way," somebody else said. "It's like stealing, only it's legal. And buying on margin makes it even easier."

Nobody argued with him. Even now, most of the men who left their jobs at the steel mills left only because they were too old or too physically worn or too badly hurt to do them any more. Those were the people for whom the Socialists were trying to push their old-age insurance policy through Congress. But if you could quit your work at sixty-five, or even sixty, and be sure you had enough left to live on for the rest of your days thanks to what you'd done for yourself while you were working… If you could manage that, the whole country would start looking different in twenty or thirty years.

I'll turn sixty-five in 1957, Martin thought. It didn't seem so impossibly far away-but then, he had just put in that long, long day at the mill.

He rode the trolley home, ate supper with his parents and his sister, and went to bed. When the wind-up alarm clock next to his head clattered the next morning, he just turned it off. He didn't have a moment's sleepy panic, thinking it was some infernal device falling on his trench. I've been home from the Great War for a while now, he thought as he put on a clean work shirt and overalls. But he would take a couple of puckered scars on his left arm to the grave. As it had on so many, the war had left its mark on him.

When he went into the kitchen, his father was already there, smoking his first cigar of the day. His mother fried eggs and potatoes in lard. She used a wood-handled iron spatula to flip some onto a plate for him. "Here's your breakfast, dear," she said. "Do you want some coffee?"

"Please," he said, and she poured him a cup.

His father said, "Saturday today-only a half day."

Chester nodded as he doctored the coffee with cream and sugar. "That's right. You know I won't be home very long, though-I'm going out with Rita."

Stephen Douglas Martin nodded. "You already told us, yeah."

His mother gave him an approving smile. "Have a good time, son."

"I think I will." Chester dug into the hash browns and eggs so he wouldn't have to show his amusement. His folks had decided they approved of Rita Habicht, or at least of his seeing her. They must have started to wonder if he would ever see anybody seriously. But he wasn't the only Great War veteran in no hurry to get on with that particular part of his life. Plenty of men he knew who'd been through the mill (and, as a steelworker, he understood exactly what that phrase meant) were still single, even though they'd climbed into their thirties. It was as if they'd given so much in the trenches, they had little left for the rest of their lives.

He took the trolley past the half-scale statue of Remembrance-who would have looked fiercer without half a dozen pigeons perched on her sword arm-to the mill, where he put in his four hours. Then he hurried back home, washed up, shaved, and changed from overalls, work shirt, and cloth cap to trousers, white shirt, and straw hat. "I'm off," he told his mother.

"You look very nice," Louisa Martin said. He would have been happier if she hadn't said that every time he went anywhere, but still-you took what you could get.

He rode the trolley again, this time to the block of flats where Rita lived. She had one of her own. She'd got married just before the war started. Her husband had stopped a bullet or a shell in one of the endless battles on the Roanoke front. Martin had fought there, too, till he got wounded. He'd never met Joe Habicht, but that proved exactly nothing. Rita had had a baby, too, and lost it to diphtheria the day after its second birthday. Women fought their own battles, even if not with guns. Through everything, though, she'd managed to hang on to the apartment.

She didn't keep Chester waiting when he knocked on the door. His heart beat faster as she opened it. "Hi," he said, a big, silly grin on his face. "How are you?"

"Fine, thanks." She patted at her dark blond hair. It was a little damp; she must have washed after getting back from her Saturday half day, too. "It's good to see you."

"It's good to be here," he said, and leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek. "You look real pretty."

Rita smiled. "You always tell me that."

"I always mean it, too." But Martin started to laugh. When she asked him what was funny, he wouldn't tell her. I'll be damned if I want to admit I sound just like my mother, he thought. Instead, he said, "Shall we go on over to the Orpheum?"

"Sure," she said. "Who's playing there today?"

"Those four crazy brothers from New York are heading the bill," he answered.

"Oh, good. They are funny," Rita said. "I was in stitches the last time they came through Toledo." That had been a couple of years before; she and Chester hadn't known each other then. He wondered with whom she'd seen the comics. That she had a past independent of him occasionally bothered him, though he'd never stopped to wonder if his independent past bothered her. But neither of them had seen anybody else for several months now. That suited Chester fine, and seemed to suit Rita pretty well, too.

They held hands at the trolley stop. An old lady clucked disapprovingly, but they paid no attention to her. Things were looser now than they had been when she was a young woman. As far as Chester Martin was concerned, that was all to the good, too. He was sorry when the trolley car came clanging up so soon.

He slid a silver dollar to the ticket-taker at the Orpheum, and got back a half dollar and two yellow tickets. He and Rita went up to the first balcony and found some seats. He took her hand there, too. She leaned her head on his shoulder. When the house lights went down, he gave her a quick kiss.

A girl singer and a magician led off the show. As far as Martin was concerned, the magician couldn't have disappeared fast enough. A trained-dog act ended abruptly when the dog, which could jump and fetch and even climb ladders to ring a bell at the top, proved not to be trained in a much more basic way. He got an enormous laugh, but not one of a sort the fellow in black tie who worked with him had in mind. The dancer who came on next got another laugh by soft-shoeing out holding his nose.

"I wouldn't have done that," Rita said, even though she'd laughed, too. "Now he'll squabble with the man with the dog all the way to the end of the tour." Chester wouldn't have thought of that for himself. Once she said it, he realized she was bound to be right.

At last, after a couple of other acts Martin knew he wouldn't remember ten minutes after he left the Orpheum, the Engels Brothers came out, along with the tall, skinny, dreadfully dignified woman who served as their comic foil. They were all young men, not far from Chester's age, but got their name from the enormous, fuzzy beards they wore. One of the beards was dyed red, one yellow, one blue, and the fourth left black. From the balcony, Martin couldn't tell if the beards were real or fakes. For the comics' sake, he hoped they were phony.

The Brother with the undyed beard talked enough for any three men. The one with the yellow beard didn't talk at all, but was so limber, he seemed to have no bones. The one with the blue beard tried to slap everybody else into line. The one with the red beard spent all his time chasing the tall, skinny woman, who seemed more bewildered than flattered by his attentions.

At one point, they all started pelting one another with oranges. It might have been trench warfare up there-by the way the Engels Brothers dodged around the prop furniture, they'd been in the trenches-except that the woman kept standing up and getting nailed. By the time they'd finished, the stage was a worse mess, much worse, than it had been after the dog act. But this was a lot funnier, too.

The Engels Brother with the black beard proved the sole survivor. He looked out at the audience and said, "Orange you glad you aren't up here?" The curtain came down.

"That was… I don't know exactly what that was, but I don't know when I've laughed so hard, either," Rita said as she got up and made her way toward the exit. Since Chester Martin was rubbing at his streaming eyes with his handkerchief, he couldn't very well argue with her.

They had supper at a diner across the street from the Orpheum, then took the trolley back to Rita's block of flats. "I had a wonderful time," she said as she fumbled in her handbag for the key.

"I always have a terrific time with you, Rita." Chester hesitated, then asked, "Can I come in for a minute, please?"

She hesitated, too. She was careful of her reputation. He'd seen that from the first time he took her out. He liked it. She said, "You're not going to be-you know-difficult, are you?"

He would have liked nothing better than to be difficult, but he solemnly shook his head. "Cross my heart," he answered, and did.

"All right." Rita opened the door and flipped on a light. "The place is a mess." It was, to Martin's eye, perfectly neat. Rita sat down on the overstuffed sofa. She patted the upholstery next to her, asking, "What have you got in mind?"

Instead of sitting there, Chester awkwardly went to one knee in front of her. Her eyes got very big. Tongue stumbling, heart pounding, he repeated, "I always have a terrific time with you. I don't think I'd ever want to be with anybody else. Will you-will you marry me, Rita?" He took a velvet jewelry box from his pocket and flipped it open to show her a ring set with a tiny chip of diamond.

She stared at him. "I wondered if you were going to ask me that tonight," she whispered, and then, "The ring is beautiful."

"You're beautiful," he said. "Will you?"

"Of course I will," she answered.

Afterwards, he wasn't quite sure who kissed whom first. When he came up for air, he gasped, "You never kissed me like that before."

"Well, you never asked me to marry you before, either," Rita answered.

He laughed. They kissed again. Heart pounding, he asked, "What else don't I know?"

"You'll find out," she said. "After the wedding."

S cipio paid five cents for a copy of the Augusta Constitutionalist. In one way, that struck him as a lot of money to shell out for a newspaper. In another, considering that he would have paid millions if not billions of dollars when the currency went crazy a couple of years before, it wasn't so bad.

"Thanks, uncle," said the white man who took his money. He didn't answer. He just opened up the paper and read it as he hurried towards Erasmus' fish market and restaurant.

Had he answered, what would he have said? Angry at himself for even wondering, he shook his head as he walked along. White men never called black men mister, not in the Confederate States of America they didn't. If he held his breath till they started to, he'd end up mighty, mighty blue. The fellow with the pile of papers at his feet would just have called him an uppity nigger, or maybe a crazy nigger, if he'd complained.

Maybe the worst of it was, the white man had been trying to be polite. I can't win, Scipio thought. Why do I bother imagining I could?

Even more to the point, he wondered why he'd wasted any money on the paper. The headline screamed about a lurid love triangle that had ended in an axe murder. It would have been made to seem a lot more lurid had the parties involved been colored. Or, on the other hand, it might not have made the paper at all in that case. A lot of whites expected Negroes to act that way, and took it for granted when they did.

Much smaller stories talked about Congressional candidates' latest promises. Scipio wondered why he bothered even glancing at those. It wasn't as if he could vote. But the remarks of Eldridge P. Dinwiddie, the Freedom Party candidate in Augusta, did make his eyes widen as if he'd just poured down a couple of cups of Erasmus' strong, chicory-laced coffee.

"Too many Red rebels are still hiding in plain sight," Dinwiddie was quoted as saying. "The Whigs have forgotten all about them. Going after them would remind people of how badly the party that's in power bungled the war effort. But if you elect me, I'll make sure they aren't forgotten and are brought to justice. I aim to see all those nigger traitors hang."

Mr. Dinwiddie, wrote the reporter who'd listened to him, received prolonged and vociferous support for his suggestion.

"Hell wid Mistuh Dinwiddie," Scipio muttered under his breath. Being one of those fugitive Reds himself, he didn't care for the notion of getting hunted down and hanged. Here and there, faded posters still offered a reward for his capture.

But that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead. Every so often, a phrase from the education Anne Colleton had made him acquire floated up out of his memory. This one fit. South Carolina might have been another country. The name on his passbook here in Georgia was Xerxes. Everyone here, even his wife, knew him by that name and no other.

Anne Colleton, though, wasn't dead. If she ever saw him, he would be, and in short order. Like most late summer days in Augusta, this one was hot and muggy. Scipio shivered even so.

Foreign news got shoved onto page three. There'd been another battle in the endless Mexican civil war. Imperial forces claimed victory. The rebels weren't calling them liars too loudly, so maybe they'd actually won. Venezuela and Colombia were talking about going to war with each other. The paper said the United States had sent the Kaiser a note warning him against arming or encouraging the Venezuelans, and that he'd denied doing any such thing-and warned the USA against encouraging or arming the Colombians. A party called French Action had caused riots in Paris at the same time as the French government claimed it was two years ahead of schedule in paying reparations in Germany. Japanese aeroplanes had bombed a town somewhere in China.

He was so engrossed in the article about allowing the forward pass in football-some people condemned it as a damnyankee innovation, while others claimed it added excitement to the game-he almost walked past Erasmus' place. "Mornin', Xerxes," his boss said when he came in.

"Mornin'," Scipio answered. "How you is?"

"Tolerable," Erasmus said. "Little better'n tolerable, mebbe. How's your ownself?"

Scipio shrugged. "Not bad. I's gettin' by."

"Can't ask much more'n that, not till Judgment Day, anyways." Erasmus raised a salt-and-pepper eyebrow. "You saved, Xerxes?"

How do I answer that? Scipio wondered. His education had weakened his faith. And, he discovered, so had his time with the Red rebels, all of whom had been as passionate in their disbelief as a lot of Christians were in their belief. He hadn't thought the Marxist ideology had rubbed off on him, but it seemed to have after all. After a moment's thought, he said, "Hope so."

"Should ought to be able to say better'n that," Erasmus said, but then, to Scipio's relief, he let it go. Pointing to the Constitutionalist, he asked, "You done with that?"

"Done wid it now, yeah," Scipio answered: the only thing he could have said. Erasmus didn't put up with reading on the job. That wasn't because he couldn't read a newspaper himself, though he couldn't. It was because, when you worked for Erasmus, you worked for Erasmus.

"Throw it on the fish-wrappin' pile, then," Erasmus said.

As Scipio did, he asked, "What you think 'bout de for'ard pass, boss?"

"Bunch o' damn foolishness, you ask me," Erasmus answered. "Anybody got the time to git all hot and bothered about it gots too goddamn much time, an' dat's the Lord's truth. Devil fill up your time just fine, you bet. Forward pass?" He rolled his eyes. "Might as well worry over that other damnfool damnyankee game-what the hell they call it? Baseball, dat's the name."

Scipio had never seen a baseball game, or even a baseball, in his life. Because he was-or rather, had been-widely read, he knew the sport was played in the northeastern part of the United States. But it had never caught on all across the USA, the way football had. And it certainly hadn't caught on in the Confederate States.

Erasmus eyed him. "You got any more ways o' wastin' time 'fore you starts earnin' what I pays you?"

"Only one," Scipio said with a grin. He grabbed a mug and poured it full of coffee from the big pot on the stove, then added cream and sugar. But he didn't sit down to drink it. He carried it with him as he started sweeping and tidying up. Erasmus had a steaming mug at his side, too. As long as Scipio worked hard, the older man didn't mind coffee or things like that.

The first breakfast customer came in a couple of minutes later. "Mornin', Aristotle," Scipio said. "How you is?" By now, he knew dozens of regulars by name and preferences. "You wants de usual?"

"Sure enough do," Aristotle answered. Scipio turned to Erasmus, who was already doing up a plate of ham and eggs and grits. Erasmus knew his customers even better than Scipio did. They were his, after all.

After the breakfast rush petered out, Scipio washed a young mountain of dishes and silverware, then dried them and stacked them neatly to get ready for lunch, which would be even more hectic. Once he'd done that, he helped Erasmus clean catfish and crappie. The proprietor would fry a lot of them during lunch, and even more during dinner. Erasmus was a wizard with a knife. Every cut he made was perfect, and he moved as fast as any slicing machine. Scipio…

"You makes me 'shamed," Scipio said, for Erasmus could clean three fish to his one, and do a neater, better job on them to boot. "Watchin' you makes me 'shamed."

"Shouldn't ought to," Erasmus answered. "You is doin' the best you kin. Good Lord don't want no more'n dat from nobody. I been cuttin' up fish for a livin' since I was ten years old. Maybe you went fishin' couple-three times a year, gutted what you cotched. It make a difference, it surely do."

"Mebbe." Scipio would have thought Erasmus was humoring him, but Erasmus had no sense of humor when it came to work, none at all.

And now his boss said, "You's better'n you was, too, an' dat's a good thing. You didn't get no better, don't reckon I'd let you mess around with knives no more."

Scipio looked at his hands. He had a couple of cuts, along with several scars he'd picked up earlier. Seeing what he was doing, Erasmus held out his own hands. He had more scars than Scipio could count, a maze, a spiderweb, of scars, new, old, short, long, and in between. "Do Jesus!" Scipio said softly.

Erasmus only shrugged. "Ain't nobody perfect, Xerxes. Ain't nobody even close to perfect. Yeah, I's pretty damn good. But I been doin' this goin' on fifty years now. Every so often, the knife is gonna slip."

"Uh-huh." Scipio couldn't take his eyes off those battered hands. He'd noticed them, but he hadn't really studied them. They repaid study. Like so many who did something supremely well, Erasmus had suffered for his art. Scipio kept looking at them till a fat woman came in and asked Erasmus for three pounds of crawdads.

What have I got that shows what I've done with my life? Scipio wondered. Only one thing occurred to him: the way he talked, or could talk if doing so wouldn't put him in mortal danger. He felt smarter when he talked like an educated white man than he did using the thick Congaree River Negro dialect that was his only other way of putting his thoughts out for the world to know. He didn't suppose he actually was smarter, but the illusion was powerful, and it lingered.

Erasmus wrapped the crawdads in the Augusta Constitutionalist Scipio had been reading that morning. The woman paid him, said, "Thank you kindly," and left.

"I been tellin' you and tellin' you," Erasmus said, "you ought to save your money and git yourself your own place. You end up doin' a lot better working for your ownself than you do when you works for me."

"Don't like tellin' folks what they gots to do," Scipio answered, not for the first time. "Reckon I kin"-if he'd run Marshlands for Anne Colleton, he could surely manage a little cafe for himself-"but I don't like it none."

"You gots to have some fire in your belly to do a proper job," Erasmus agreed. "But you gots to have some fire in your belly to git ahead any which way."

He eyed Scipio speculatively. Scipio concentrated on cleaning a catfish. He was better at doing what others told him than at telling others what to do. Back at Marshlands, he'd had Anne's potent authority behind him. If he started his own business, he'd be the authority. No, he didn't care for that. Still feeling Erasmus' eye on him, he said, "I gits by."

He sounded defensive, and he knew it. Erasmus said, "Any damn fool can get by. You could do better, an' you should ought to."

Scipio didn't answer. Before too long, the first dinner customers started coming in. He hurried back and forth from the stove to the tables out front. The sizzle and crackle of fish going into hot oil filled the place. He served and took money and made change and then did endless dishes, getting ready for the next morning. When he finally left, Erasmus stayed behind, still busy.

And when he got back to his flat, Bathsheba was waiting at the door to give him a kiss. Her eyes glowed. Scipio hoped he knew what she had in mind, and hoped that, after a long, hard day, he could perform. He turned out to be wrong-or, at least, not exactly right. She took his hand and set it just above her navel. "We gonna have us a young 'un," she said.

All of a sudden, Scipio discovered he might have fire in his belly after all.

H ipolito Rodriguez knew he should have counted himself a lucky man. For one thing, he'd come through the Great War without a scratch. If that by itself wasn't enough to make him light candles in the church in the little mining town of Baroyeca, he couldn't imagine what would be.

And, for another, Baroyeca lay in the Confederate state of Sonora, not in the Empire of Mexico farther south. It was close enough to the border to hear the echoes of the civil war that convulsed the country of which Sonora had once been a part, but not close enough to have let any of the fighting come near.

Nothing bothered Baroyeca very much. A couple of men hadn't come home from the war in the north. A few others had come home, but maimed. Mostly, though, days went on as they always had. Rodriguez's farm outside of town yielded no better crops than it ever had, but he managed to keep his wife, three sons, and two daughters fed.

And, every so often, he had enough money left in his pocket to go into town and spend some time at La Culebra Verde — the Green Snake-the cantina across the street from the church where he lit candles to thank God for his salvation. Having been preserved alive, didn't he have the right to enjoy himself every once in a while?

"Why not?" Carlos Ruiz said when he posed the question out loud one day. Carlos was his age, and had fought in Tennessee, where things had been, by all accounts, much worse than his own experience in Texas. Ruiz asked his counterquestion in English, not Spanish.

" Si, why not?" Rodriguez agreed, the last two words also in English. He dropped back into Spanish to continue, "My children speak as much of the new language as of the old. Ten million devils from hell take me if I know whether to be glad or sorry."

"If you want them to stay here and be farmers or marry farmers, Spanish is good enough," Ruiz said-in Spanish. "If you hope they try to make money, English is better."

He was a farmer himself, and wore the ribbon for a Purple Heart on his baggy cotton shirt. Had he been a rich man, or a townsman, or even someone who hadn't also fought in the north, Hipolito Rodriguez might have got angry, especially since he'd been drinking for a while. As things were, he only shrugged and said, "How much good will English do people who look like us, Carlos?" Like Ruiz, like almost everybody in Baroyeca, he was short, with red-brown skin and hair blacker than moonless midnight. "Even with English, what are we but a couple of damn greasers?" The last five words were in the official language of the Confederacy.

"We may be greasers," Ruiz said, also in English, "but we ain't no niggers. Mallates, " he added in Spanish, in case Rodriguez didn't understand him. Then back to English: "In the law, we're the same as anybody else."

That was true. The people of Sonora and Chihuahua were Confederate citizens, not merely residents of the CSA. They could vote. They could run for office. They could-if they were rich enough, which some few were-marry whites from the other states in the Confederacy. They could. And yet… Rodriguez sighed and took another pull at the beer in front of him. "The law, it means only so much."

That was also true. If it weren't for Negroes, Sonorans and Chihuahuans would have been at the bottom of the pile. Most Confederates who called themselves white looked down their noses at them. Rodriguez had seen as much during the war, the first time he'd ever had much to do with ordinary whites.

"When the election comes, who will you vote for?" Ruiz asked.

Rodriguez shrugged. "My patron is a Radical Liberal." Ever since Sonora and Chihuahua came into the CSA, small farmers like him had voted as the great landowners in the area wanted them to vote. But, like so many things, that wasn't quite as it had been before the Great War. Rodriguez didn't want to say as much out loud, though. What he didn't say couldn't get back to anyone. He lifted his cup, emptied it, and asked the same question of Carlos Ruiz.

Ruiz gave back the same shrug. "Don Joaquin is a Radical Liberal, too." Hipolito Rodriguez nodded. The Radical Liberals had been strong in the Confederate Southwest for years. Voting for them had always been a way to show Richmond the people here weren't happy with the neglect the Whigs gave them.

"I'd better go home," Rodriguez said, setting his mug on the table in front of him. "If I go now, Magdalena won't yell at me… so much." He got to his feet. The room swayed slightly, but only slightly. I'm not drunk, he thought. Of course I'm not drunk.

"Hasta luego, amigo," Ruiz said. By the way he sat, he wasn't going anywhere for quite a while.

"Luego," Rodriguez answered. He walked to the door-steadily enough, all things considered-and left La Culebra Verde. The cantina had thick adobe walls that kept out the worst of the heat. When he went out into the street, it smote full force. His broad-brimmed straw hat helped some, but only some. He sighed as he drew in a lungful of bake-oven air. He'd known it would be like this. It always was.

Baroyeca looked a lot like any other little Sonoran town. The main street was unpaved. Dust hung in the air. Horses and a few motorcars stood in front of shops. Like the cantina, most of the rest of the buildings were of adobe. Some had roofs of half-round red tiles, some of thatch, a few of corrugated tin.

A roadrunner trotted down the street as if it owned it. The bird held a still-wriggling lizard in its beak. When a stray dog came towards it, it flapped up into the branches of a cottonwood tree and gulped the lizard down. The dog sent a reproachful stare after it, as if to say, That's not fair.

"Life's not fair," Rodriguez muttered. Both dog and roadrunner ignored him.

Advertising slogans were painted on the whitewashed fronts of the shops. Here and there, signs and posters added to the urge to sell. Rodriguez remembered his father saying there hadn't been so many of those when he was young.

Posters-well printed in both Spanish and English-extolled the virtues of Horacio Castillo, who was seeking a fourth term in the Confederate Congress. Castillo, his pictures showed, was a plump man with a neat, thin mustache. FOR PROGRESS AND SECURITY, VOTE RADICAL LIBERAL, his posters said.

A few posters also touted the Whig candidate. Vicente Valenzuela wouldn't win, but he'd put up a respectable showing.

And then there were the scrawls on the walls, again in both Spanish and English.?LIBERTAD! some said, while others shouted, FREEDOM! Rodriguez eyed them thoughtfully. The Freedom Party had never been strong in Sonora up till this election. It probably wouldn't win now, either. But it was making itself known in ways it hadn't before.

Most of what Rodriguez knew about the Freedom Party was that it wanted another go at the USA and wanted to keep black men in their place. He didn't like the USA, either. And if black men weren't on the bottom in the CSA, he would be, so he wanted them kept down.

But a Freedom Party man had murdered the president of the Confederacy. Rodriguez scowled. That was no way to behave. He sighed. It was too bad. If people could only forget that…

He sighed again, and headed for his farm. A horse-drawn wagon coming into town kicked up more dust, a yellow-gray cloud of it. A couple of men with rifles rode atop the wagon. They gave Rodriguez a hard, watchful stare as it rattled past. He sighed yet again. He was no bandido. And, even if he were a bandido, it wasn't as if the silver mines in the hills outside of Baroyeca yielded enough precious metal to be worth stealing. Fewer than half as many miners as before the war went down into those dark shafts. If the mine ever failed altogether, what would become of Baroyeca? He didn't like to think about that, either.

High up in the sky, several vultures wheeled, riding the columns of hot air that rose from the baking ground. If Baroyeca dried up and blew away, even the vultures might not find enough to eat in this valley.

After not quite half an hour, Rodriguez got back to his farm. He raised corn and beans and squashes and chickens and pigs. A sturdy mule, one of the best for miles around, did the plowing and hauling. He raised almost all his own food. But if Baroyeca fails, what will I do for salt and nails and cotton cloth and coffee and all the other things I can't make for myself? He clicked his tongue between his teeth. He had no idea.

A scrawny dog ran toward him, growling and baring its teeth. " Callate, Maximiliano!" Rodriguez shouted. The dog skidded to a stop about ten feet away. It whined and wagged its tail, as if to say, Well, you might have been someone dangerous, and I was on the job. Rodriguez wasn't fooled. He'd had Maximiliano for three years now, and had never seen a stupider dog. He'd known exactly what he was doing when he named the beast for the Emperor of Mexico.

On the other side of the border, naming a dog for the Emperor might have got him stood up against a wall and shot for a rebel. All things considered, he was just as glad to be where he was.

His older daughter, Guadalupe, carried a hen by the feet toward the chopping block by the house. Spit flooded into Rodriguez's mouth at the thought of chicken stew or any of the other interesting things Magdalena, his wife, could do with the bird. He waved to Guadalupe. She was eleven now; she'd been born just before he got conscripted. It wouldn't be more than another year or two before she started having a real shape, before boys began sniffing around, and before life began wheeling through a new cycle. The thought made him feel old, though he'd just passed thirty.

In the house, Miguel and Jorge were wrestling. They were less than a year apart, seven and six, and Jorge, the younger, was big for his age, so the match was pretty even. Susana, who was five, watched them with her thumb in her mouth, probably glad they weren't picking on her. Rodriguez didn't see Pedro, the youngest; he was probably taking a nap.

"Hola," Rodriguez said to Magdalena, who sat patting tortillas into shape. His mouth watered again. As far as he was concerned, she made the best tortillas in the whole valley.

"Hola," she answered, cocking her head to one side to study him. "Como estas?"

He recognized that gesture, and straightened up in indignation. "I'm not drunk," he declared.

Magdalena didn't answer right away. After she'd finished studying him, though, she nodded. "No, you're not," she admitted. "Good. And what's new in town?"

"It's still there," he said, which, given the state of the silver mine, wasn't altogether a joke. He added, "A wagon came into town from the mine while I was walking home."

"Yes, I saw it go by," Magdalena said. "Who was at the cantina? What's the gossip?"

"I was mostly talking with Carlos," he answered. "We were going on about how you hear more and more English these days." He spoke in Spanish; Magdalena was far more comfortable in it than in the other language.

She nodded even so. "The way the older children bring it back from school, I wonder if their children will know any Spanish at all."

"It's good they go to school, in English or Spanish," Rodriguez said. "Maybe then they won't have to break their backs and break their hearts every day, the way a farmer does."

Magdalena raised an eyebrow. Rodriguez felt heat under his swarthy skin. He hadn't broken his back today. He spread his hands, as if to say, You want too much if you expect me to work hard every day. His wife didn't say anything. She didn't have to. The eyebrow had already done the job.

Rodriguez said, "And we talked politics."

"Ah." Magdalena perked up. "What will you do?" Here in Sonora, women's suffrage was a distant glow on the horizon, if that. She couldn't vote herself. But that didn't keep her from being interested.

"I don't know yet," Rodriguez answered. "I don't know, but I think I may just vote for the Freedom Party."

B rakes squeaking a little, the Birmingham pulled up in front of the Freedom Party offices in Richmond. Jake Featherston's guards fanned out and formed a perimeter on the sidewalk. They were well armed and alert; they might have been about to clear the damnyankees out of a stretch of trench. Featherston's enemies inside the CSA weren't so obvious as U.S. soldiers in green-gray, but they probably hated him even more than the Yankees had hated their Confederate foes. Soldiering, sometimes, was just a job. Jake had also discovered politics was a serious business.

One of the guards nodded and gestured. As Jake came forward from the building, another guard opened the curbside door for him. "Freedom!" the man said as he got into the motorcar.

"Freedom, Henry," Featherston echoed. He settled himself on the padded seat. This beat the hell out of life as an artillery sergeant, any way you looked at it.

"Freedom!" the driver said, putting the Birmingham in gear.

"Freedom, Virgil," Featherston answered. "Everything ready at the other end?"

"Far as I know, Sarge." Virgil Joyner made that sound as if he were addressing a general, not a noncom. Yes, this was a pretty good life, all right.

They went only a few blocks. When the driver pulled to a stop, Featherston scowled. "What the hell?" he said angrily. A squad of Freedom Party guards were arguing with some Richmond policemen in old-fashioned gray uniforms. Several reporters scribbled in notebooks. A photographer's flash immortalized the moment. Featherston got out of the motorcar in a hurry. "What's going on here?" he demanded.

"This is a polling place," one of the cops said. "No electioneering allowed within a hundred feet. Far as I'm concerned, they sure as hell count as electioneering." He pointed to the armed guards.

"We're just here to protect Mr. Featherston," one of the men in not-quite-Confederate uniform insisted. He sounded ready for business. The policemen looked nervous. Well they might-the Freedom Party guards outgunned them, and had proved to the CSA they weren't shy about mixing it up with the police, or with anyone else they didn't like.

Here, though, Jake judged it a good time to walk soft. "It's all right, boys," he said, as genially as he could. "Don't reckon anybody'll take a shot at me while I go and vote." He walked past the policemen and toward the doorway above which the Stars and Bars fluttered.

The guards didn't look happy. Like watchdogs, they wanted to stay with their master all the time. But, once he'd decided, they didn't argue. The cops didn't bother hiding their relief.

"Who you gonna vote for, Mr. Featherston?" a reporter shouted.

"Freedom-the straight ticket," Jake answered with a wave and a grin.

Despite that cocky grin, he remained alert as he went to the polling place. If anybody wanted to take a shot at him, this was a hell of a good place to do it. If a rifle muzzle came out of that building, where would he jump? Or from that one? Or that one? He hadn't fought in the trenches-the First Richmond Howitzers had been in back of them-but he'd had plenty of bullets whip past his head. He knew everything that needed knowing about diving for cover.

No shots rang out. He strode into the polling place with grin intact. A man coming out of a curtained booth recognized him, did a double take, and grinned a grin of his own, a big, delighted one. "Freedom!" the fellow blurted.

"Freedom," Featherston said.

Somber, disapproving coughs from the officials at the polling place, four or five graybeards who might have fought in the Second Mexican War or maybe even the War of Secession, but surely not in the Great War. One of them said, "No electioneering, gentlemen, if you please."

"Right," Jake said; he was doing this by the rules. He scrawled his name and address in their registry book, and went into the booth the fellow who'd recognized him had vacated. As he'd told the reporter he would, he put an X by the name of the Freedom candidates for Congress, for the Virginia Assembly and State Senate, and for the Richmond City Council. The last race was nominally nonpartisan, but everybody knew better. With the Whigs and Radical Liberals pretty evenly split in the district, he thought the Freedom Party man had a decent chance of sneaking home a winner, too.

After finishing the ballot, he went out and presented it to the election officials. One of them folded it and put it into the ballot box. "Jacob Featherston has voted," he intoned solemnly.

"Jacob Featherston is a murdering son of a bitch," said a man who'd come out of his voting booth a moment after Jake emerged from his.

More coughs from the old men. "None of that here," one of them said. Another took the ballot. "Oscar Herbert has voted," he declared.

A few years earlier, when the Freedom Party was just getting off the ground, Jake Featherston would have mixed it up with Herbert right outside the polling place, or maybe here inside it. He was no less angry now, but he was shrewder than he had been. Some day soon, pal, somebody's gonna pay you a little visit, he thought. Your name's Oscar Herbert and you live in this precinct. We'll find you. You bet we will.

Herbert went one way, Featherston the other. He walked through the cops and out to his guards. With audible sighs of relief, they closed in around him. Photographers took more flash pictures. He waved to them.

"How many seats do you expect to lose this time?" a reporter called.

"What's that?" Jake cupped a hand behind his ear as he got into the Birmingham. "Spent too long in the artillery, and my ears aren't what they ought to be." He slammed the car door before the reporter could finish the question again. He had lost some hearing during the war, but not so much as that. Still, artilleryman's ear came in handy for avoiding questions he didn't want to answer.

"Back to headquarters, Sarge?" the driver asked.

"You bet," Featherston answered. The car pulled away from the curb.

On the short ride over to Party headquarters, Jake contemplated the question he'd pretended not to hear. He liked none of the answers he came up with. His best guess was that Freedom would lose seats in the House of Representatives. He hoped the Party would hold its own, but he didn't believe it. And if he lost seats-he took everything personally, as he always had-how long would people keep finding him a force to be reckoned with?

"We were so close," he muttered. "So goddamn close."

"What's that?" Virgil Joyner said.

"Nothin'. Not a thing." Jake lied without hesitation.

When he got back to Freedom Party headquarters, he wished he hadn't gone and voted so soon. He had nothing to do but sit around and wait and stare at the banks of telegraph clickers and phones and wireless sets that would bring in the election results when there were election results to bring in. That wouldn't be for a while yet. Polls in Virginia didn't close till seven P.M., and those farther west would stay open a couple of hours longer than that. Meanwhile…

Meanwhile, he did some more scribbling in Over Open Sights. He'd fiddled with the-maybe journal was the right name for it-now and again in the days since the Great War, but he'd never quite managed to recapture the heat he'd known while writing it in the odd moments when he wasn't throwing three-inch shells at the damnyankees.

One of these days, he told himself. One of these days, I'll be ready to put it out, and people will be ready to read it. I'll know when. I'm sure I'll know when. But the time isn't ripe yet. He fiddled with the pile of Gray Eagle scratchpads in lieu of twiddling his thumbs, and accomplished about as much as he would have twiddling them. He changed a word here, took out a couple of words there, added a phrase somewhere else. It all added up to nothing, and he knew that, too.

His secretary stuck her head into the office. "Can I get you something to eat, Mr. Featherston?" she asked, as if she were his mother.

He wouldn't have taken that from anyone else-certainly not from his real mother, were she still alive. But he nodded now. "Thank you kindly, Lulu," he said. "Some fried chicken'd go down mighty nice about now."

"I'll take care of it," she promised, and hurried away. Take care of it she did, as she always did. Jake ate like a wolf. No matter how much he ate, his gaunt form never added an ounce. He ate as much from duty as from hunger. His stomach would pain him no matter what when he watched the returns coming in, but it would pain him less with food in there.

A little before seven, Freedom Party leaders and telegraph operators gathered at the headquarters. Featherston made himself greet them, made himself shake hands and smile and slap backs, the way he'd made himself eat. It needed doing, so he did it. But it was a distraction he could have done without.

"Polls are closing," said somebody-somebody with a gift for the obvious-as church bells all through Richmond chimed seven times. A minute or so later, the very first returns began coming over the wire. They meant as little as the changes Jake had made in Over Open Sights earlier in the day, but everybody exclaimed over them even so. Featherston did a little exclaiming himself when a Freedom Party candidate jumped into an early lead in a Virginia district he'd been sure was safely Whig.

"Maybe the people are wising up," he said. "I hope they are, God damn it."

In the first days of the Great War, he'd thought the Confederate Army would drive everything before it, too. He'd taken unholy glee in shelling Washington, and he'd delighted in swarming up into Pennsylvania and toward Philadelphia. If the de facto capital of the USA had fallen along with the de jure one… But Philadelphia had held, and, inch by painful inch, the C.S. Army had been driven back through Pennsylvania and Maryland and into Virginia itself.

If the niggers hadn't risen up and stabbed us in the back… But he knew they had, however much white men nowadays tried to pretend otherwise.

On one of the competing wireless sets, an announcer said, "If this trend holds up, it looks like the third district in South Carolina will be coming back to the Whigs in the next Congress after staying in Freedom Party hands these past two terms."

Curses ran through the headquarters, Featherston's loud among them. The Party had held that seat in the debacle of 1923; he'd counted on holding it again. Maybe the people weren't wising up after all. Maybe they were an even bigger pack of damned idiots than he'd thought.

A colored waiter, hired for the occasion, brought around a tray of drinks. Featherston took a whiskey. The Negro nodded respectfully as he did. Jake tossed back the drink. His mouth tightened. Where were you in the uprising, you sorry black son of a bitch? You didn't have a penguin suit on then, I bet. Probably just another goddamn Red. If we'd shot a few thousand bastards like you before you got out of line, we wouldn't have had any trouble like we did. He had some sharp things to say about that in Over Open Sights.

Another Freedom Party seat, this one from Arkansas, went down the drain. Amid more curses, somebody said, "Well, we didn't elect any Senators till 1921, so we don't have to worry about them for another couple o' years."

That was exactly the wrong attitude to take, as far as Jake was concerned. "We're playing this game to win, dammit," he snarled. "We don't play not to lose. We don't play safe. We're playing to win, and we're gonna win. Remember it, damn you all!"

Nobody argued with him, not out loud. But nobody seemed anything close to convinced, either. That meant he got to crow extra loud when, out of a clear blue sky, the Freedom candidate won a tight three-way race for governor of Texas, and then, in the wee small hours of the morning, when a new Freedom Congressman came in from, of all places, southern Sonora.

"See, boys?" Featherston said around a yawn. "We ain't dead yet. Not even close." I hope not even close, anyhow.


During the Great War, Nellie Jacobs had heard more aeroplane motors above Washington, D.C., than she'd ever wanted to. Aeroplane motors, back in those days, had always meant trouble. Either observers were over the city taking photographs to guide bombers and artillery, or else the bombers themselves paid calls, raining destruction and death down on the Confederate occupiers. Later, Confederate bombers had tried to slaughter U.S. soldiers in Washington. Neither side cared much about civilians. Nellie had needed years after the war to stop wanting to duck whenever motors droned overhead.

Now, though, she and her husband stood in the street on the bright, crisp New Year's Day of 1926, staring into the blue sky, pointing, and exclaiming in excitement like a couple of children. "Look! There it is!" Hal Jacobs said, pointing again.

"I see it!" Nellie answered. "Looks like a big old fat cigar up there in the sky, doesn't it?"

"It certainly does," Hal said. "That is just what it looks like, I think."

Clara tugged at Nellie's skirt. "Ma, I have to go potty," she said.

"Well, go on in and go," Nellie said impatiently. "Your dad and me, we're going to stay right here and watch the zeppelin a while longer." Clara made the beginnings of a whimper. "Go on," Nellie told her. "Go on, or I'll warm your fanny for you. You're going to be six this year. You don't need me to hold your hand any more when you go tinkle."

Her daughter ducked into the coffeehouse. Nellie kept staring up at the Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm as it neared the mooring station that had been set up at the top of the newly refinished Washington Monument. "Can you believe it?" Hal said. "It flew all the way across the Atlantic. All the way across the ocean, without stopping once. What an age we live in!"

"Paper says the crown prince himself is in there." Nellie tried to point to the little passenger gondola hanging beneath the great cigar-shaped gas bag. "On a state visit to President Sinclair."

As Clara came back, Hal nodded. His voice was troubled. "We fought side by side with Kaiser Bill all through the Great War. Sad we should squabble with Germany now. I hope Friedrich Wilhelm can patch things up."

"That'd be good," Nellie agreed. "Don't want to worry about little Armstrong going off to war one of these days." She doted on her grandson, not least because her daughter Edna had to take care of him most of the time. Edna's half sister Clara, on the other hand, had been a not altogether welcome surprise and was an ungodly amount of work for a woman well into middle age. She would, thank God, be going back to kindergarten in a few more days.

Suddenly, the zeppelin's engines stopped buzzing. "They've got it," Hal said, as if he personally had been the one to moor the Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm to the white stone tower. He sounded delighted to repeat himself: "What an age we live in! When my father was born, there was no telegraph and hardly any railroads. And now we have these wireless sets and-this." He pointed toward the Washington Monument again.

"It's something, all right," Nellie agreed. But then, perhaps incautiously, she went on, "I don't know that it's all to the good."

"Not all to the good?" Her husband looked indignant. "What do you mean? What could be grander than-that?"

"Oh, it's-swell, the young people say now." Nellie brought out the slang self-consciously; like anyone of her generation, she was much more used to bully. "But when your pa was born, Hal, this here was all one country, too, you know. We've spilled an awful lot o' blood since on account of it ain't any more."

"Well, yes, of course," he said. The two of them, in conquered and reconquered Washington, had seen more spilled blood than most civilians. He sighed and breathed out a big, puffy cloud of steam. "I can't imagine how things could have been any different, though. You might as well talk about us losing the Revolution and still belonging to England."

"I suppose you're right." Nellie sighed. Hal was the sensible one in the family. He was, as far as she was concerned, sometimes sensible to a fault. Clara came back out. Nellie absentmindedly ruffled her hair. Then she decided to be sensible, too, and said, "Now we've seen it. Let's go inside. It's cold out here."

"Oh, Ma!" Nobody had ever accused Clara of being sensible.

But Hal said, "Your mother is right. If you stay out here too long, you could catch pneumonia, and then where would you be?"

"I'd be out here, having a good time," Clara answered. Pneumonia was just a word to her, not one of the many diseases that could so easily kill children.

"Come on in," Nellie said. She knew what pneumonia was, all right. "Edna and Uncle Merle and Cousin Armstrong are coming over in a little while."

That did get Clara back inside, at the price of continual questions-"When will they come? Why aren't they here yet?" — till her half sister, Edna's husband, and their son arrived half an hour later. Armstrong pulled Clara's hair. She squalled like a cat that had had its tail stepped on, then stamped on his foot hard enough to make him wail even louder.

He got little sympathy from his mother. "Serves you right," Edna said. "I saw what you did to Clara."

"Happy New Year," Merle Grimes said above the wails of the two irate children. Behind his gold-rimmed spectacles, irony glinted in his eyes.

"Well, I do hope the rest of it'll be happier than this godawful racket," Nellie said. "Maybe the crown prince will bury the hatchet once and for all."

"He'd like to bury it in our backs, I think," Grimes said. "One of these days, we really will have to worry about Germany. The Germans are worrying about us right this minute, and you can bet your bottom dollar on that."

Hal handed him a whiskey. After they clinked glasses and toasted 1926, Nellie's husband said, "We'll have a hard time worrying about Germany when we don't even worry about the CSA."

"I know," Grimes said. "Well, good old Kaiser Bill's got other worries besides us, too, and that's not bad."

Nellie raised her glass for a toast of her own. "Here's to no more war anywhere," she said once she'd caught everybody's eye. "Haven't we had enough?"

"Amen!" her husband said, and drank.

"I know I've had enough, enough and then some," her son-in-law said. He drank, too. "Wasn't for those… miserable Confederates"-he didn't swear around women, but he'd come close there-"I wouldn't limp for the rest of my days."

Edna also drank. "I hope they never, ever come anywhere near Washington again," she said. Nellie eyed her daughter. Edna looked back defiantly, but couldn't help turning red. She'd nearly married a Confederate officer. In fact, she would have married him if a U.S. shell hadn't killed him on his way to the altar. Almost ten years ago now, Nellie thought, amazed, wondering where the time had gone. As far as she knew, Merle Grimes had no idea Nicholas H. Kincaid had ever existed.

That was Edna's worry, not her own. She had secrets in her past, too, secrets she wanted to stay buried till they shoveled dirt over her. Her husband reminded her of those secrets by pouring everyone's glass full and proposing a toast of his own: "Here's to our missing friends, gone but not forgotten."

"Oh, God, yes!" Merle said, and gulped that drink down. His mouth tightened; harsh lines sprang out at its corners. "Too many good fellows dead for no reason: Ernie and Clancy and Bob and Otis and-" Behind his spectacles, tears glinted.

"And Bill Reach, too." Hal Jacobs sounded as maudlin as his step-daughter's husband. "He was worth a division, maybe more, in getting the Confederates out of Washington. I wish he'd lived to see this day, with an American empire stretching north to south, east to west…" He sighed. "He should have, too. Just bad luck."

Now Edna eyed Nellie. Now Nellie flushed and had trouble meeting her daughter's eye. She didn't reckon Bill Reach a missing friend. Reach had mortified her during the war, drunkenly taking her for the strumpet she'd been a long time before. She'd never been able to tell Edna anything since, not hoping to be taken seriously.

But not even Edna knew how Bill Reach had died. No one but Nellie knew that, which was just how she wanted things. She'd been foraging for supplies when he tried to rape her, counting on a broken bottle to intimidate her into cooperating. But she'd carried a butcher knife, and she'd been sober. Bill Reach's body was one of God knew how many hundreds or thousands from the time of the U.S. bombardment, the time before the Confederate Army finally and sullenly pulled out of the U.S. capital. So far as she knew, nobody'd ever found it.

I hope nobody ever does, either, she thought savagely. I hope he rots in the ground and burns in hell forever. It'd serve him right, by God.

Her husband had said something to her, but she had no idea what. "I'm sorry, Hal," she said. "I must've been woolgathering."

"It's all right, sweetheart," Hal said with a tender smile. He did love her. She knew that. She was absently fond of him, too, not least because, being a long way from young, he didn't try to make love to her very often. She'd had more than enough of that. Now he went on, "I said, I know you feel the same way about poor Bill as I do. He always praised the information you got to the skies. He did like the bottle a bit too much, but he was a fine man, a first-class patriot."

Nellie managed a nod and a glassy smile. They sufficed. Edna made a small noise that might have been the start of a snicker, but did stop at Nellie's glower. And then they all got distracted, for Clara came in shouting, "Ma! Ma! Armstrong went and put somethin' down the potty and then he flushed it, and now there's water all over everything! Come quick!"

"Oh, for God's sake!" Nellie sprang to her feet, as did the other grownups.

Getting out the pair of long johns and mopping up the water didn't take long. For Merle Grimes to wallop Armstrong's backside with a hairbrush didn't take long, either. Armstrong's howls needed some little while to subside. So did Nellie's temper. "He's only a little boy, sweetheart," Hal said.

"Boys!" Nellie snorted, in the tone she usually reserved for, Men! "You'd never see a little girl doing something like that."

"You tell 'em, Ma," Edna said. She and Nellie argued whenever they got a chance, but she would back her mother in a quarrel against the other half of the human race.

Except there was no quarrel. Hal Jacobs and Merle Grimes looked at each other, as if wondering who would bell the cat. At last, Hal said, "Well, Nellie, you may be right. If the world held nothing but women, we probably wouldn't have fought the Great War."

Merle chuckled. "Oh, I don't know if I'd go that far. They wouldn't have fought it over Serbia, though-I am sure of that. More likely over which was better, Macy's or Gimbel's."

He laughed. So did Hal. And so did Edna, betraying her sex after all. Nellie glared at her-yes, they would squabble over anything. Defensively, Edna said, "Oh, come on, Ma-it was funny."

"Well, maybe," Nellie said with the air of one making an enormous concession. She was so obvious about it, her husband and son-in-law started laughing again.

"Peace," Merle Grimes said when he could speak at last. "Peace. It's 1926, and we've already drunk to peace. Let's keep it for as long as we can." Not even Nellie could find anything to argue with there.

J onathan Moss got to his feet in the courtroom. "May it please your Honor," he said wearily, "but I must object to the prosecution's speaking of my client as 'the guilty party.' The purpose of a trial is to find out whether or not he is guilty."

His Honor was a U.S. Army colonel named Augustus Thorgood. Down came the gavel. "Overruled." He nodded to the prosecutor, a U.S. Army major named Sam Lopat. "You may proceed."

"Thank you, your Honor," Lopat replied. "As I was saying, Stubbs there is plainly guilty of insurrection against the military government of the United States in the former province of

Ontario, as defined in Occupation Administrative Code, section 521, subsection 17."

Horace Stubbs, Moss' client, leaned toward him and whispered, "Thanks for trying."

"We're not out of it yet," Moss whispered back. But he was whistling in the dark, and he knew it.

Major Lopat went on, "Before witnesses, the defendant said the United States deserved to be booted out of Canada on their backside. His very words, your Honor!" His voice trembled with indignation.

"Objection." Moss got to his feet again. "No witnesses have been produced before the court to show my client said any such thing."

"We have the testimony," Lopat said smugly.

"But no witnesses," Moss persisted. "Testimony can come from a man with a personal grudge, or from one out for a profit. How do we know unless we can cross-examine a witness?"

"This is not an ordinary criminal proceeding, Mr. Moss, as you know perfectly well," Colonel Thorgood said. "Testimony from certified informants may be admitted without their being liable to appear in open court, for fear of reprisal against them from the unreconciled."

"How can you possibly hope for justice under such conditions?" Moss asked.

"We aim to stamp out rebellion," the military judge said. "We will, too."

"Yes, your Honor. No doubt, your Honor." Moss turned Thorgood's title of respect into one of reproach. "But, sooner or later, ignoring the needs of justice and caring only for the needs of expedience will come back to haunt you. As Ben Franklin said, your Honor, 'They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.' "

He'd pulled that quotation out of his Bartlett's, hoping he wouldn't have to use it. If he did, his client would be in trouble. Well, Stubbs was in trouble, and Moss, like any lawyer worth his pay, used whatever weapons came to hand. And this one struck home. Colonel Thorgood turned red. Major Lopat jumped to his feet. "Now I object, your Honor! Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial."

"Sustained." Thorgood thumped the gavel. "The record will be stricken."

"Exception!" Moss said. "If you're going to railroad an innocent man, at least be honest about what you're doing."

Bang! The gavel came down again. "This inflammatory speech will also be stricken," Colonel Thorgood declared. He nodded to Lopat. "Carry on, Major."

Carry on Lopat did, with soldierly precision. The case against Horace Stubbs was strong-was, in fact, airtight-as long as one believed what informants said about him. Moss was convinced the informants were lying through their teeth. But he doubted whether Colonel Thorgood cared one way or the other. Thorgood's job was to keep Canada quiet. If he had to shoot every Canuck in sight to do that job, he would, and go to dinner with a hearty appetite five minutes later.

When Major Lopat finished, the military judge nodded to Moss. "Now, Counselor, you may have your say."

"Thank you, your Honor." Moss fought to keep sarcasm from his voice. He thought he still had some small chance, not of getting his client off-that was plainly hopeless-but of earning him a reduced sentence. Further affronting Colonel Thorgood wouldn't help there. He set forth the evidence as best he could, finishing, "May it please your Honor, the only people who claim Mr. Stubbs was in any way involved with recent unfortunate events in Ontario are those whose testimony is inherently unreliable and who have a vested interest in giving him the appearance of guilt regardless of whether that appearance is in any way justified." He sat down.

From the prosecution's table, Major Lopat muttered something about a "damn Canuck-lover." Moss sent him a hard look. The military prosecutor gave back a stare colder than any Canadian winter. Had he worked in the CSA rather than the USA, he would surely have muttered about a "damn nigger-lover" instead.

But, to Moss' surprise, Colonel Thorgood's gavel came down again. "That will be quite enough of that, Major," the judge said.

"I beg your pardon, your Honor," Lopat said politely. He didn't beg Moss' pardon, though.

"Very well, Major. Do keep your remarks to the business at hand. Having said as much to Mr. Moss, I can hardly fail to say the same to you." Thorgood looked down at the notes on his desk. He picked up a pen and scribbled something, then said, "Horace Stubbs, rise to hear the verdict of this court."

With a sigh, Stubbs got to his feet. He could see the writing on the wall as plainly as could Moss. He was a small, thin, middle-aged man. On looks alone, he made an unlikely insurrectionist.

"Horace Stubbs," Colonel Thorgood said, "I find you guilty of the crime of participating in rebellion against the U.S. occupying authorities in the former province of Ontario." Stubbs' shoulders slumped. The military judge scribbled something else. He continued, "Due to the unusual nature of this case, I sentence you to six months' imprisonment and to a fine of $250: failure to pay the latter will result in a further six months' imprisonment." Bang! went the gavel. "This court is adjourned."

A couple of husky U.S. noncoms strode forward to take Horace Stubbs off to jail. "Just a minute," he told them. "Just one damn minute." He grabbed Jonathan Moss' hand, hard enough to hurt. "Thank you, sir," he said. "Everything they told me about you, it was all true, and then some. God bless you."

"You're welcome," Moss said in slightly dazed tones as the noncoms took charge of his client and led him away. He'd hoped Colonel Thorgood would go easy on Stubbs. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined Thorgood would go this easy. Six months and $250? From a military court? That was hardly even a slap on the wrist.

Major Lopat must have felt the same way. As he put papers back into his military-issue briefcase, he sent Moss a sour stare. "Well, Clarence Darrow, you pulled a rabbit out of the hat this time," he said.

"Oh, come on," Moss said-he was damned if he'd admit surprise to the other side. "You didn't have a case, and you know it."

Lopat didn't even bother arguing with him. All the military prosecutor said was, "Yeah? So what? Look where we are."

"Canadians deserve justice, too," Moss said.

"Oh, yeah? Since when? Says who?" Having fired three cliches like an artillery barrage, Major Lopat added, "And a whole fat lot you'd care, too, if you weren't sleeping with a Canuck gal."

That might even have been true. Even so, to Moss it had only one possible answer, and he used it: "Screw you, Sam." He packed his own papers in his briefcase and left the courtroom, grabbing his overcoat as he went. The calendar said spring had started three days earlier, but Berlin, Ontario, paid little attention to the calendar. Snow whitened streets and sidewalks, with more falling even as Moss walked along the street.

He paused thoughtfully in front of a sign that said, EMPIRE GROCERIES. Below the words, a large, American-looking eagle was painted. Maybe the storekeeper meant the American empire, the one that stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of California, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But maybe, too, it was meant to call to mind the name Berlin had briefly borne during the Great War, when its citizens decided living in a town named for an enemy capital was unpatriotic.

Moss chuckled. Laura Secord still refused to call the town anything but Empire. As far as she was concerned, the occupying authorities had no right to change back the name. There were no Canadian patriots more fiery than Laura.

And yet she'd warned him the uprising was imminent. He still didn't fully understand that, and she refused to talk about it now. His best guess was that she hadn't thought the revolt had any chance to succeed, and so she wasn't committing treason by talking about it. But that was only a guess, and he knew it.

He stopped at a diner a few doors down from Empire Groceries. A waiter brought him a menu. The man walked with a limp; he'd taken a bullet in the leg trying to hold back the U.S. Army. He knew Moss had flown aeroplanes for the USA, but didn't hold it against him-much. "Case over?" he asked as Moss sat down at an empty table.

"That's right," Moss answered. "Let me have the corned beef on wheat, and coffee to go with it."

As the waiter scribbled on a pad, he asked another question: "They going to let Horace live?"

"Six months in jail and $250," Moss said exultantly.

The waiter dropped his pencil. "Be damned," he said, grunting in pain as he bent to pick it up. He called back to the cook, who was also the owner. "Hey, Eddie! This fast-talking Yank got Horace off easy!"

"What's 'easy'?" Eddie called back. "Twenty years? Ten?"

"Six months," the waiter answered, sounding as excited as Moss. "And $250."

"Be damned," Eddie said, as the waiter had. That impressed him enough to make him come out front. He had on a cloth cap in lieu of the toque a cook at a fancier place might have worn. He tipped it to Moss. "Lunch on the house, pal."

"Thanks," Moss told him.

"You did it," Eddie said. "Seems like our own barristers haven't had much luck in Yankee courts. Maybe it takes one to know one."

That wasn't exactly praise, though the cook no doubt meant it as such. It also wasn't so, or not necessarily. With a sigh, Moss said, "That fellow they said was a bomber, they threw the book at him no matter what I did."

"Enoch Dupree, you mean?" the waiter said.

Moss nodded. "That's right."

The waiter and Eddie looked at each other. After a long pause, Eddie said, "Hate to tell you, but Enoch, he was a bomber. I happen to know it for a fact, on account of his brother-in-law's married to my cousin. I-"

"I don't want to hear about it." Moss held up a hand to show he really meant it. "My job is to give people the best defense they can get, regardless of whether they're guilty or not."

"Don't know I much fancy that," the waiter said. "Shouldn't be guilty people running around loose just 'cause they've got smart lawyers."

"Well, your other choice is to send innocent people to jail," Moss answered. "How do you like that?"

"I don't, much," the Canadian answered. "But I thought it was what you Yanks call justice. Sure has looked like that since you came."

"You shouldn't blame him," Eddie said. "He's done everything he could for us, ever since he hung out his shingle here."

"That's so," the waiter admitted, and Moss felt good till the fellow added, "Sure as hell wish he could do a lot more, though."

Lucien Galtier sighed as he and Marie and Georges and Jeanne-the last two children left at home-got into his Chevrolet for the Sunday trip to Riviere-du-Loup. "I'd sooner go to Mass in St.-Antonin or St.-Modeste," he said, "but sometimes there's no help for it."

"Doing this is wise," his wife said. "As long as we come to church every so often and let Bishop Pascal see us, everything should be fine."

"We don't want to give him any reason to complain about us to the Americans, no," Lucien agreed.

"But the Republic of Quebec is free and independent," Georges said. "And if you don't believe me, just ask the first American soldier you see."

Georges always liked to sound as if he were joking. Sometimes he was. Sometimes… Lucien had learned an English expression: kidding on the square. That summed things up better than anything in Quebecois French.

"You're getting pretty good at this driving business," Georges went on as they rolled up the paved road past the hospital and toward the town on the southern bank of the St. Lawrence. "Anyone would think you'd been doing it all your life." He chuckled. "They'd hardly even invented horses when you were a boy, eh, Papa, let alone motorcars?"

"They hadn't invented such smart alecks, I'll tell you that," Lucien said. His younger son preened, as if at praise.

The Eglise Saint-Patrice in Riviere-du-Loup was called a cathedral these days, though it was the same building it had always been. Quite a few motorcars parked nearby. Times were… Lucien wouldn't say they were good, but he thought it now and again.

As people filed into the church (being the stubborn Quebecois farmer he was, Galtier refused to think of it as a cathedral, no matter what Bishop Pascal declared), some of them talked about the stocks they'd bought, and about how much money they'd made from them. Lucien felt Marie's eyes on him. Ever so slightly, he shook his head. He'd stayed away from the bourse, and intended to go right on staying away from it. It struck him as being much more like gambling than any legitimate way to make money. Gambling, now, gambling was all very well-so long as you knew you could lose as easily as you could win.

He was almost to the door when he heard the word scandal for the first time. Now he and his wife looked at each other. He shrugged. Marie did the same. A moment later, he heard the word again. Something juicy had happened. And I've been on the farm minding my own business, and so I haven't the faintest idea what it is, he thought regretfully.

"Tabernac," he muttered. The look Marie sent him this time was definitely reproachful. He pretended not to notice. It wasn't-quite-as if he'd cursed on holy ground. The other side of the door, it would have been a different business.

No sooner had he gone inside than someone else-a woman-said scandal, and immediately started giggling. "What's going on, mon pere?" Georges asked. Scandal-especially scandal that might be funny-drew him the way maple syrup drew ants.

A young priest named Father Guillaume stood by the altar in Bishop Pascal's place. As Lucien took his seat in the pews, he asked the fellow next to him, a townsman, "Where's the bishop?"

"Why, with the children, of course," the man answered, and started to laugh. Lucien fumed. He didn't want to admit he didn't know what was going on. That would make him look like a farmer who came to town only to sell things and to hear Mass. Of course, he was a farmer who came to town only to sell things and to hear Mass, but he didn't want to remind the world of it.

His eldest daughter, Nicole; her husband, the American doctor named Leonard O'Doull; and their son, Lucien, sat down behind his family. He started to lean back and ask them what was so delicious, but Father Guillaume began speaking in Latin just then, so he had to compose himself in patience.

He dared hope the priest's sermon would enlighten him, but it only left him more tantalized and titillated than ever. Father Guillaume talked about those without sin casting the first stone. He praised Pascal, and wished him good fortune in whatever he chose to do with the rest of his life.

Lucien wiggled like a man with a dreadful and embarrassing itch. What ever the scandal was, it must have got Bishop Pascal! He'd never cared for Pascal; the man was too pink, too clever, too… too expedient, to suit him. But Pascal had always come up smelling like a rose-till now. And I don't even know what he did! Galtier thought in an agony of frustration.

He went up and took communion from Father Guillaume. He swallowed the wafer as fast as he could; he didn't want to speak of scandal with the Body of Christ still on his tongue. But then he made a beeline for his son-in-law.

"What? You don't know? Oh, for heaven's sake?" Dr. O'Doull exclaimed. He'd come to Quebec during the war, speaking tolerably good Parisian French. After ten years here, his accent remained noticeable, but only a little. He sounded more as if he'd been born in la belle province-la belle republique, now-every day.

"No, I don't know," Galtier ground out. "Since you are such a font of knowledge, suppose you enlighten me."

"Mais certainement, mon beau-pere," O'Doull said, grinning. "Bishop Pascal's lady friend just had twins."

"Twins!" Lucien said. "Le bon Dieu!"

"God was indeed good to Bishop Pascal, wouldn't you agree?" his son-in-law said, and laughed out loud. "I should say, to former Bishop Pascal, for he has resigned his see in light of this… interesting development. Father Guillaume will serve the spiritual needs of Riviere-du-Loup until the see has a new bishop."

"Twins," Galtier repeated, as if he'd never heard the word before. "Yes, I can see how he would have to resign after that."

No one was surprised when priests had lady friends. They were men of the cloth, yes, but they were also men. A lot of women, down through the years, had sighed over Father, later Bishop, Pascal. Lucien didn't understand it, but he'd never been a woman, either. And few people were astonished if the lady friends of priests sometimes presented them with offspring. That, too, was just one of those things. Life went on, people looked the other way, and the little bastards were often very well brought up.

"But twins!" Lucien said. "You can't look the other way at twins. By the nature of things, a bishop's twins are a scandal."

"Exactly so, mon beau-pere," Leonard O'Doull said. "And that is why Bishop Pascal is Bishop Pascal no more, but plain old Pascal Talon."

"Pascal Talon!" Galtier exclaimed. "That's right-that is his family. I hadn't thought of his family name in years, though. No one has, I'm sure."

"Of course not, not when he belonged to the Church for all those years," Dr. O'Doull said. "That's what belonging to the Church means. That's what it does. It takes you away from your family and puts you in God's family." He laughed again. "But, now that he's gone and made God's family bigger…"

Galtier laughed, too. He asked, "Since you are in town and hear all these things the moment they happen-and since you don't bother telling your poor country cousins about them-could you tell me what M. Pascal Talon plans to do now that he is Bishop Pascal no more?" Whatever it was, he had the nasty feeling the man would make a great success of it.

And, sure enough, his son-in-law said, "I understand he's decided Riviere-du-Loup is too small a place for a man of his many talents. He will be moving to Quebec City, they say, where he can be appreciated for everything he is."

A snake, a sneak, a worm, a collaborator, a philanderer-yes, in the capital of the Republic he should do well for himself, Galtier thought. He found some more questions: "And what of the twins? Are they boys or girls, by the way? And what of their mother? Is Pascal now a married man?"

"They're a boy and a girl. Very pretty babies-I've seen them," O'Doull replied. Being a doctor, he'd seen a lot of babies. If he said they were pretty, Lucien was prepared to believe him. He went on, "I am given to understand that Suzette is now Mme. Talon, yes, but I don't think she'll be going to Quebec City with her new husband."

Marie heard that and let out a loud sniff. "He made himself a member of God's family. If he cheated on his vows to the Lord, how can anyone think he won't cheat on his vows to a woman? Poor Suzette."

"Yes, very likely Pascal will cheat on her, but she must have known he cheated when she first started her games with him," Lucien said.

"Why do you always blame the woman?" his wife demanded.

"Why do you always blame the man?" he returned, also heatedly.

"Excuse me." Dr. O'Doull made as if to duck. "I'm going somewhere safer-the trenches during the war were probably safer."

"It will be all right," Galtier said. "We've been married this long. We can probably last a little longer."

Marie didn't argue, but her expression was mutinously eloquent. And, as a matter of fact, Galtier wondered why he did take the former Bishop Pascal's side. It wasn't as if he liked the man. He never had. He'd never trusted him, either. Pascal had always been too smooth, too rosy, to be reliable. That was what Lucien had thought, at any rate. Plainly, a lot of people had had a different opinion.

But was Suzette, the new Mme. Talon, such a bargain? Galtier also had his doubts about that. After all, if she'd let Pascal into her bed, what did that say about her taste? Nothing good, certainly.

"Let's go home," he said.

"All right," Marie answered. Her voice had no, We'll come back to this later, in it, so he supposed this wouldn't be a fight that clouded things between them for days at a time. They'd had a few of those, but only a few: one reason they still got on so well after thirty years and a bit more besides.

"Why do you dislike Bishop Pascal so much?" Jeanne asked on the way back to the farm.

"Well, just for starters, because he tried to get us to collaborate with the Americans during the war. And when we wouldn't do it, he got them to take away our land and build the hospital on it," Galtier replied. "You were just a little girl then, so you wouldn't remember very well, but he alienated our patrimony."

"But…" His youngest daughter seemed to have trouble putting her thoughts into words. At last, she said, "But my sister married an American. We're paid rent, and a good one, for the land the hospital sits on."

Georges laughed. "How do you answer that one, Papa?"

That was a good question. Galtier did the best he could, saying, "At the time, what Father Pascal did seemed wrong. It worked out for the best. I can't quarrel with that. But just because it worked out for the best doesn't mean Pascal did what he did for good reasons. He did what he did to grab with both hands."

"Suppose the Americans had lost the war," Marie added. "What would have happened to Pascal then?"

"He would have come out ahead of the game, and convinced everyone everything was somebody else's fault," Georges replied at once.

He was probably right, even if that wasn't the answer his mother had been looking for. Lucien sighed. The farmhouse wasn't far now. "Quebec City had better watch out," he said, and drove on.

S ylvia Enos stood in the kitchen of her flat, glaring at her only son. She had to look up to glare at him. When had George, Jr., become taller than she? Some time when she wasn't watching, surely. He looked unhappy now, twisting his cloth cap in his hands. "But, Ma," he said, "it's the best chance I'll ever have!"

"Nonsense," Sylvia told him. "The best chance you'll ever have is to stay in school and get as much learning as you can."

His face-achingly like his dead father's, though he couldn't raise a mustache and they were falling out of style anyhow-went closed and hard, suddenly a man's face, and a stubborn man's at that, not a boy's. "I don't care anything about school. I hate it. And I'm no.. good in it anyhow." He wouldn't say damn, not in front of his mother. Sylvia had done her best to raise him right.

"You don't want to go to sea at sixteen," Sylvia said.

"Oh, yes, I do," he said. "There's nothing I want more."

Till you meet a girl. Then you'll find something you want more. But Sylvia didn't say that. It wouldn't have helped. What she did say was, "If you go to sea at sixteen, you'll be doing it the rest of your life."

"What's wrong with that?" he asked. "What else am I going to be doing the rest of my life?"

"That's why you go to school," Sylvia said. "To find out what else you could be doing."

"But I don't want to do anything else," George, Jr., said, exactly as his father might have. "I just want to go down to T Wharf and out to sea, the way Pop did."

All the reasons he wanted to go to sea were all the reasons Sylvia wanted him to stay home. "Look what going to sea got your father in the end," she said, fighting to hold back tears.

"That was the Navy, Ma." Now George, Jr., just sounded impatient. "I'm not going into the Navy. I just want to catch fish."

"Do you think nothing can go wrong when you're out there in a fishing boat? If you do, you'd better think again, son. Plenty of boats go out from T Wharf and then don't come home again. Storms, fog, who knows why? But they don't. Even if they do come home, they don't always bring back everybody who set out. If you're tending a line or hauling in a net and a big wave comes by… Do you really want the crabs and the lobsters and the flatfish fighting over who gets a taste of you?"

Most fishermen had a horror of a watery death, and of the creatures they caught catching them. But her son only shrugged and answered, "If I'm dead, what difference does it make?" He was sixteen. He didn't really think he could die. So many sailors had, but he wouldn't. Just listening to him, Sylvia could tell he was sure of it.

With a sigh, she asked, "Well, what is this big chance you're talking about, son?"

"I ran into Fred Butcher the other day, Ma," George, Jr., said.

"He's got fat the last few years, hasn't he?" Sylvia said.

George Jr., grinned. "He sure has. But he's got rich the last few years, too. He doesn't put to sea any more, you know. He hires the men who do."

"I know that." Sylvia nodded. "He's one of the lucky ones. There aren't very many, you know." Butcher wasn't just lucky. He'd always driven himself like a dray horse, and he had a head for figures. Sylvia wished she could have said the same about her son. But, as he'd said himself, he didn't like school, and he'd never been an outstanding scholar.

"I don't care. I want to go to sea," he said now. "And Mr. Butcher, he said he'd take me on for the Cuttlefish. She's one of the new ones, Ma, one of the good ones. Diesel engine, electricity on board, a wireless set. A fishing run on a boat like that, it's almost like staying ashore, it's so comfy."

Sylvia laughed in his face. He looked very offended. She didn't care. "You tell me that after you've put to sea, and I'll take you seriously. Till then…" She shook her head and laughed some more.

But she'd yielded ground, and her son took advantage of it. "Let me find out, then. I'll tell you everything once I get back. Mr. Butcher, he says he'll pay me like a regular sailor, not a first-timer, on account of he was friends with Pop."

That was generous. Sylvia couldn't deny it. She wished she could have, for she would. Tears came to her eyes again. She was losing her little boy, and saw no way to escape it. There before her stood someone who wanted to be a man, and who was ever so close to getting what he wanted. She sighed. "All right, George. If that's what you care to do, I don't suppose I can stop you."

His jaw dropped. Enough boy lingered in him to make him take his mother's word very seriously. "Thank you! Oh, thank you!" he exclaimed, and gave Sylvia a hug that made her feel tiny and short. "I'll work as hard as Pop did, I promise, and save my money, and… everything." He ran out of promises and imagination at the same time.

"I hope it works out, George. I pray it works out." When a tear slid down Sylvia's face, her son looked alarmed. She waved him away. "You're not going to get me not to worry, so don't even try. I worried about your father every day he was at sea, and I'll worry about you, too."

"Everything will be fine, Ma." George, Jr., spoke with the certainty inherent in sixteen. Sylvia remembered how she'd been when she was that age. And it was worse with boys. They thought they were stallions, and had to paw the ground with their hooves and neigh and rear and show the world how tough they were.

The world didn't care. Most of them needed years to figure that out. Some never did figure it out. The world rolled over them either way: it ground them down and made them fit into their slots. If they wouldn't grind down and wouldn't fit, it broke them. Sylvia didn't think it intended to. But what it intended and what happened were two different beasts.

It had rammed her into a slot, all right. Here she was, coming up on middle age, living from day to day, wondering how she'd get by, worrying because her only son was quitting school and taking up a dangerous trade. If there weren't ten thousand others just like her in Boston, she'd have been astonished.

But then savage anger and pride shot through her. I killed the son of a bitch who sank the Ericsson. I shot him dead, and I'm walking around free. How many others can say the like? Not a one.

She'd take that to the grave with her. Most of the time, it wouldn't do her one damn bit of good, not when it came to things like catching a streetcar or dealing with the Coal Board or going to the dentist. But it was hers. Nobody could rob her of it. For one brief moment in her life, she'd stepped out of the ordinary.

George, Jr., brought her back into it, saying, "I'll go right on giving you one dollar out of every three I make, too, Ma. I promise. It'll be the same with this as it's always been with the odd jobs I've been doing. I'll pay my way, honest."

"All right, George," she said. He was a good boy. (She didn't think of him as a man. She wondered if she ever would, down deep where it counted. She had her doubts.)

He asked, "What do you think Pop would say about what I'm doing?"

That was a good question. After some thought, Sylvia answered, "Well, he always did like going to sea." God only knew, that was the truth. Whenever the Ripple went out, she'd felt as if she were giving him up to the arms of another woman-the Atlantic had that kind of hold on him. She went on, "I think he'd have wanted you to stay in school, too. But if you got this kind of chance, I don't think he'd have stood in your way."

His face lit up. "Thanks!" Almost as fast as it had appeared, that light faded. "I wish I would have known him better. I wish I could have known him longer."

"I know, sweetheart. I wish you could have, too. And I wish I could have." On the whole, Sylvia meant that. She'd never quite forgiven her husband for having been about to go to a Tennessee brothel with a colored whore, even if he hadn't slept with the woman and even if being about to had saved his life. If he hadn't been on his way to the whorehouse, if he'd gone back aboard his river monitor instead, he would have been on it when Confederate artillery blew it out of the water. But if he'd come home from the war, if he'd been around every day-or half the time, as fishermen usually were-and if he'd kept his nose clean, she supposed she would have.

George, Jr., started for the door. "I'd better go find Mr. Butcher and tell him. I don't know how long he'll hold the job for me."

"Go on, then, dear," Sylvia said, half of her hoping Fred Butcher wouldn't hold the job. The door opened. It closed. Her son's footsteps receded in the hallway. Then they were gone.

Sylvia sighed. She muttered something she never would have let anyone else hear. That helped, but not enough. She pulled a whiskey bottle out of a kitchen cabinet. A fair number of states had made alcohol illegal, but Massachusetts wasn't one of them. She poured some whiskey into a glass, then added water and took a drink. Whiskey had always tasted like medicine to her. She didn't care, not now. She was using it for medicine.

She'd medicated herself quite thoroughly when the front door to the flat opened. She hoped it would be George, Jr., coming back all crestfallen to tell her Fred Butcher had given someone else the berth. But it wasn't her son; it was Mary Jane, back from helping her teacher grade younger students' papers. Sylvia's daughter even got paid a little for doing it. She made a better scholar than her brother. That would have been funny if it hadn't been sad. A boy could do so many more things with an education than a girl could, but Mary Jane seemed to want to learn, while George, Jr., couldn't have cared less.

"Hello, Ma," Mary Jane said now, and then, as she got a better look at Sylvia's face, "Ma, what's wrong?"

"Your brother's going to sea, that's what." Without the whiskey in her, Sylvia might not have been so blunt, but that was the long and short of it.

Mary Jane's eyes got wide. "But that's good news, not bad. It's what he's always wanted to do."

"If he'd always wanted to jump off a cliff, would it be good news that he'd finally gone and done it?" Sylvia asked.

"But it's not like that, Ma," Mary Jane protested. She didn't understand, any more than George, Jr., did. "He needs a job, and that's a good one."

"A good job is a shore job, a job where you don't have to worry about getting drowned," Sylvia said. "If he'd gotten one of those, I'd stand up and cheer. This-" She shook her head. The kitchen spun slightly when she did. Yes, she was medicated, all right.

"He'll be fine." Mary Jane was fourteen. She also thought she was immortal, and everybody else, too. She hardly remembered her own father, and certainly didn't care to remember he'd died at sea. She went on, "Things are a lot safer than they used to be. The boats are better, the engines are better, and they just about all have wireless nowadays in case they run into trouble."

Every word of that was true. None of it did anything to reassure Sylvia, who'd seen too many misfortunes down by T Wharf. She said, "I want him to have a job where he doesn't need to worry about running into trouble."

"Where's he going to find one?" Mary Jane asked. "If he goes into building, somebody could drop a brick on his head. If he drives a truck, somebody could run into him. You want him to be a clerk in an insurance office, or something like that. But he'd be lousy at clerking, and he'd hate it, too."

Every word of that was true, too. Sylvia wished it weren't. Mary Jane was right. She did want George, Jr., in a white-collar job. But Mary Jane was also right that he wouldn't be good at one, and wouldn't like it. That didn't stop Sylvia from wishing he had one. She knew the sea too well ever to trust it.

W hen Jefferson Pinkard went down to the Empire of Mexico, he never dreamt he'd stay so long. He never dreamt the civil war would drag on so long. That, he realized now that he understood things here a little better, had been naive on his part. The Mexican civil war had started up not long after the Great War ended. The USA fed the rebels money and guns. The CSA sent money and guns and-unofficially, of course-combat veterans to prop up the imperialists.

Off in the distance, artillery rumbled. Jeff took a sip of strong, black coffee. The coffee had been improved- corrected, they said hereabouts-with a shot of strong rum. Alabama was officially dry. The Mexicans laughed at the very idea of prohibition. Some ways, they were pretty damn smart.

He finished the coffee as the artillery barrage went on. The front line ran quite a ways west of San Luis Potosi these days. Mexican-built barrels had driven back the rebels, and the damnyankees didn't seem to be helping their pet Mexicans build armored vehicles. Maybe they would one of these days, or maybe they'd just import some from the USA. If they did, a lot more greasers would end up dead, the front line would stabilize or start going back, and the civil war might last forever.

A Mexican soldier in the yellowish shade of butternut they wore down here politely knocked on Pinkard's open door. "Yeah?" Pinkard said, and then, " Si, Mateo?"

"Todo esta listo," Mateo said, and then, in English as rudimentary as Pinkard's Spanish, "Everyt'ing ready, Sergeant Jeff."

"All right, then." Pinkard heaved himself to his feet. He towered over Mateo, as he towered over almost everybody down here. Lieutenant Guitierrez-no, he was Captain Guitierrez these days-was an exception, but Jeff could have broken him over his knee like a stick.

He left the little wooden shack that served him as an office and strode out into sunlight bright and fierce enough to make what he'd got in Birmingham seem as nothing by comparison. Summer down here was really a son of a bitch. It was bad enough to make him understand just how the spirit of manana had been born.

Standing out there in the broiling sun were several hundred rebel prisoners, drawn up in neat rows and columns. They all stiffened to attention when Pinkard came into sight. He nodded, and they relaxed-a little. Some of them wore uniforms of a darker shade than those of Maximilian III's soldiers. More, though, looked like peasants who'd chanced to end up in a place where they didn't want to be-which was exactly what they were.

Pinkard inspected them as if they were men he would have to send into battle, not enemies of whom he was in charge. While they stood out in the open, he strode through their barracks, making sure everything was shipshape and nobody was trying to tunnel out of the camp.

He wished he had a proper fence, not just barbed wire strung on poles, but he made the best of what there was. Guards on rickety towers at each corner of the square manned machine guns. Jeff waved to each of them in turn. "Everything good?" he asked, and then, in what passed for Spanish, "Todo bueno?"

He got answering grins and waves and nods. As far as the guards were concerned, everything was fine. They had easy duty, duty unlikely to get them shot, and they got paid for it-as often as anybody except Confederate mercenaries got paid. The Mexicans didn't stiff the men from the CSA the way they did their own people.

For a while, Jeff had wondered why the devil any Mexican would fight for Maximilian III. Then, from interrogating prisoners, he'd found out the rebels cheated their soldiers every bit as badly as the imperialists cheated theirs. Nobody down here had clean hands. Nobody even came close.

He went back up in front of the prisoners. "Dismissed!" he shouted. Mateo told them the same thing in Spanish. They all saluted. He thought they meant it, too. As long as they did what he told them to, he treated them fairly. Nobody'd ever treated a lot of them fairly before, and they responded to it even from the fellow in charge of a prison camp. If they got out of line, they were liable to earn a kick in the nuts. As far as Pinkard was concerned, that was fair, too.

As the prisoners went back to the barracks to get out of the ferocious sun, Mateo asked, "Sergeant Jeff, how you know so much about-this?" His-orderly, Pinkard supposed the word was-waved around at the camp. "In Confederate States, you policia — policeman?"

Jeff laughed like hell. "Me? A cop? Jesus God, no. I was a steelworker, a damn good steelworker, before I came down here."

Getting across what a steelworker was took a little while. When Mateo finally did figure it out, he gave Pinkard a peculiar look. "You do work like that, mucho dinero, eh? Why you leave?"

"On account of I couldn't stand it any more," Jeff answered. That plainly made no sense to the Mexican. Pinkard tried again: "On account of woman troubles." That wasn't the whole story, but it sure was a big part. If Emily hadn't decided she wasn't going to wait for him to come back from the war… Well, he didn't know how things would have been, but he sure knew they would have been different.

"Ah." Mateo got that one right away. What man wouldn't have? "Si. Mujeres." He rattled off something in Spanish, then made a stab at translating it: "No can live with, no can live without, neither."

"By God, buddy, you got that one right!" Pinkard burst out. Even now, when he thought about Emily… He did his best not to think about Emily, but sometimes his best wasn't good enough.

"You no policia, how you know what to do with-?" Mateo waved again as he came back to what he really wanted to know.

Pinkard answered him with a shrug. "Just another job, God damn it. Somebody had to do it. Remember when we took all those prisoners after the barrels came up from Tampico?" He'd lost his orderly, and backtracked in clumsy, halting Spanish to let the other man catch up. When Mateo nodded, Jeff went on, "Like I say, somebody had to do it. Otherwise they probably all would've died. So I took charge of the poor sorry bastards-and I've been in charge of prisoners ever since."

He wasn't altogether sorry-far from it. The distant mutter of artillery reminded him why he wasn't sorry. If he weren't doing this, he'd have been up there at the front, and then some of those shells might have landed on him. He'd seen enough combat in the Great War to be glad he was part of an army, but not part in any immediate danger.

Mateo said, "You do good. Nobody never hear of nothing like how you do with prisoners. Everybody now try do like you. Even rebels now, they try do like you."

There was praise, if you liked. When the enemy imitated you, you had to be doing something right.

A couple of days later, Pinkard decided to do something right for himself. He grabbed a ride on a supply truck and went north to the village of Ahualulco, where Maximilian III's army had a supply dump that kept the prisoners eating. Ahualulco wasn't anything much. It wouldn't have been anything at all if two roads-well, two dirt tracks-hadn't crossed there.

Red-white-and-green flags fluttered everywhere. Both sides in the civil war flew those colors, which got as confusing as the Stars and Bars and the Stars and Stripes had during the Great War. For Maximilian's side, they were also the colors of Austria-Hungary, from which his ancestors had come. Pinkard was damned if he knew why the rebels also flew those colors, but he'd never been curious enough to find out.

The fighting was the biggest thing that had happened to Ahualulco since… maybe since forever. A couple of new cantinas had opened, and a whorehouse, and a field hospital. Jeff went into one of the cantinas-which had a picture of the Mexican emperor, cut from some magazine, tacked to the front door-and ordered a beer. Mexican beer was surprisingly good, even if they didn't believe in keeping it cold. He lit a cigarette, found a table, and settled down to enjoy himself.

He'd just started his second beer when the door flew open. In came a couple of big men talking English. One of them looked his way, waved, and called, "Freedom!"

"Freedom!" Jeff echoed. "Who the hell are you boys? Where y'all from?"

One of them, a blond, was named Pete Frazee. The other, who sported a fiery red mustache, called himself Charlie MacCaffrey. They sat down by him. Frazee got a beer. MacCaffrey ordered tequila. "How do you drink that stuff?" Pinkard asked him. "Tastes like cigar butts, you ask me."

"Yeah, but it'll get me drunk faster'n that horse piss you and Pete got," MacCaffrey answered. He knocked it back and waved for more.

He was from Jackson, Mississippi; Frazee from the country not far outside of Louisville. The Kentuckian said, "They told me I could've gone back after the war, but I was damned if I wanted to live in the United States. I spent three years tryin' to kill those damnyankees. Screw me if I wanted to be one myself."

"Oh, hell, yes," Pinkard said. "How'd you find out about the Party?"

"Heard one of their people talkin' on a street corner in Chattanooga, where I was at," Frazee answered with a reminiscent smile. "Soon as I did, I decided that was for me. Haven't looked back since." He nudged the fellow who'd come in with him. "How about you, Charlie?"

"I like bustin' heads," MacCaffrey said frankly. "Plenty of heads need bustin' in Mississippi, too. We got as many niggers as white folks, and some o' them bastards even got the vote after they went into the Army. I don't cotton to that-no way, nohow. Whigs and Rad Libs let 'em do it. Soon as I found me a party that didn't like it, I reckoned that was for me."

"How'd you come down here?" Jeff asked.

MacCaffrey made a face. "Ever since that stupid bastard plugged Wade Hampton V, we pulled in our horns like a goddamn snail. Wasn't hardly any fun any more. I still got more ass-kickin' in me than that. How about you?"

Jeff shrugged. "Didn't like what I was doin'. Didn't have nothin' holdin' me in Birmingham. I thought, Why the hell not? — and here I am."

"You're the fellow with the prisoners of war, ain't you?" Pete Frazee said suddenly. Pinkard nodded. So did Frazee, in a thoughtful way. He went on, "Heard about you. From what everybody says, you're doing a hell of a job."

"Thank you. Thank you kindly," Pinkard answered. He paused till the barmaid got him another beer, then chuckled and said, "Wasn't what I came down here to do, but it hasn't worked out too bad."

He spent most of the afternoon drinking with the other Party men and enjoying the chance to speak his own language. Then, despite a certain stagger, he made his way to the brothel and laid down enough silver for a quiet room and the company of a girl named Maria (not that half the women down here weren't named Maria), far and away the prettiest one in the place.

He'd drunk enough to have some trouble rising to the occasion. He'd paid enough to have her slide down the bed and start to help him with her mouth. He enjoyed it for perhaps half a minute. Then he remembered Emily's mouth on him after he'd found her with Bedford Cunningham, who had been his best friend. "No, goddammit," he growled, and pulled away.

"What?" Maria had no idea what the trouble was.

"No, I said." He scrambled onto her. She'd got him hard enough so he could manage. He did, and then got back into his clothes and left in a hurry.

Maria shook her head. "Loco," she muttered, and tapped a finger against her temple.

C larence Potter said, "My trouble is, I want to see the Freedom Party dead and buried, not just weak." He sipped at his whiskey in the Charleston saloon. "That makes me as much a fanatic as Jake Featherston, I suppose."

The Freedom Party was weak nowadays, and weaker in South Carolina than it had been before the previous year's Congressional election. Even so, in most saloons a comment like that would have been good for starting a fight. Not in the Crow's Nest, though, not on a Tuesday night. The Whig Party faithful met at the Odd Fellows' hall across the street, and then a lot of them were in the habit of coming over and hashing things out with the help of the lubricants the saloon provided.

Braxton Donovan was a prominent Charleston lawyer. He was also, at the moment, slightly-but only slightly-drunk. He said, "Only thing that'd put those know-nothing peckerheads into power is a calahamity-a calahamity, I tell you."

"A calamity, you mean?" Potter asked.

"That's what I said, isn't it?" Several of the chins beneath Donovan's neat gray goatee wobbled.

"As a matter of fact, no," Potter answered. Relentless precision had brought him into Confederate Army Intelligence, and later into investigative work.

"Well, it's what I meant-a calahamity is." The lawyer held up his glass. The colored bartender hastened to refill it. Braxton Donovan nodded regally. "Thank you kindly, Ptolemy."

"You're welcome, suh," Ptolemy said, professionally polite, professionally subservient.

"Tell me, Ptolemy," Donovan asked in his rolling baritone, "what is your view of the Freedom Party?" He might have been encouraging a friendly witness on the stand.

"Don't like 'em for hell, suh," Ptolemy said at once. "Somebody should ought to do somethin' about 'em, you wants to know what I thinks." He polished the top of the bar with a spotless white towel.

"This country is in a bad way when some not so small fraction of the electorate can't see what's obvious to a nigger bartender," Braxton Donovan said. He took a pull at his freshened drink. "Still and all, better a not so small fraction than a large fraction, as was so a few years back."

"Yes," Potter agreed. "And I believe Ptolemy here really does have no use for the Freedom Party-it's in his interest not to, after all, when you think about what Featherston has to say about blacks. But even so… Jeb Stuart III had a colored servant whose name, if I remember right, was also Ptolemy. Jake Featherston suspected the fellow was a Red-he was serving under Stuart in the First Richmond Howitzers. He told me about this servant not so long before the uprisings began."

"And so?" Donovan asked. "Your point is?"

"Jeb Stuart III pulled wires with his father to make sure that Ptolemy didn't have any trouble." Clarence Potter finished his whiskey at a gulp. "And he was a Red, dammit, as became abundantly clear when the pot boiled over. Young Stuart died in combat-let himself be killed, they say, so he wouldn't have to face the music. His father's revenge was to make sure Featherston never rose above the rank of sergeant. Petty, I suppose, but understandable."

"Why are you telling me this?" the lawyer asked.

"A couple of reasons," Potter answered. "For one, we can trace the rise of the Freedom Party to such small things. And, for another, a white man's a fool if he takes a Negro's word at face value. Look what happened to Jeb Stuart III." He swung around on the stool so that he faced the bartender. "Ptolemy!"

"Yes, suh? 'Nother drink, suh?" the black man asked.

"In a minute," Potter said. "First, tell me something-what were you doing when the rebellion came in 1915?"

"Me, suh?" For all they showed, Ptolemy's eyes might have been cut from stone. "Nothin', suh. Stayin' home mindin' my business."

"Uh- huh." Potter knew what that meant. It meant the bartender was lying through his teeth. Every Negro in the CSA claimed to have stayed at home minding his own business during the Red rebellion. If all the blacks who said they had actually had stayed at home, there would have been no rebellion in the first place.

Ptolemy said, "Suh, it was a long time ago nowadays, an' it's all over an' done with. Ain't no way to change what happened. Onliest thing we can do is pick up the pieces an' go on."

"He's right," Braxton Donovan said. Potter found himself nodding. The Confederate States, and everybody in them, did have to do that. Saying it, though, was easier than doing it. Donovan took a half dollar out of his pocket and slid it across the bar to Ptolemy. "Here you are. Buy yourself a drink." A few hundred years before, kings had tossed out largess to peasants with that same sort of offhanded generosity.

"Thank you, suh." Ptolemy made the coin disappear. He did fix a drink for himself. By its pale amber color, it held a lot more water than whiskey. And the bartender nursed it, raising it to his lips every now and then but not doing much in the way of real drinking. Potter had known very few men who worked behind a bar and did much in the way of pouring down what they served. Too easy, he supposed, for a man who worked around whiskey all the time to come to like it too well.

Having been generous to one beneath him-or so he plainly felt-Braxton Donovan swung his attention back to Potter. "I have a question for you, sir," he said, "speaking of the Freedom Party."

"Ask it, then," Potter answered.

"I've heard you knew Roger Kimball while he was still alive," the lawyer said.

Clarence Potter nodded. "And so I did. That's the best time to get to know a man-while he's still alive, I mean."

"Indeed. And in fact." Donovan nodded grandly. "Now, sir, the question: while he was still alive, did Kimball ever hint to you that he'd torpedoed the USS Ericsson after we'd yielded to the damnyankees?"

"Never once, never in the slightest way," Potter replied at once. "We were acquaintances, you understand, not friends-he liked Jake Featherston as much as I loathe the man. But I would say he didn't tell his friends, either. He was, in my opinion, a first-class son of a bitch, but he knew how to keep a secret-by keeping it, at all times and everywhere. If his exec hadn't spilled the beans, I don't think anyone would ever have known."

"Poetic justice, what he got," Donovan said.

"Yes, I think so, too," Potter agreed. "If he hadn't come to a sudden demise, he would have been a sore spot between us and the USA, and we can't afford to give them excuses to kick us around. They're too liable to do it even without excuses, though Sinclair has taken a milder line than Teddy Roosevelt did."

"I quite agree," Donovan said. "I despise the Socialists and all they stand for-they set a bad example for our people, at the very least-but their foreign policy is… well, as you said, gentler than Roosevelt's."

"Now I have a question for you," Potter said. Braxton Donovan looked cautious, but could hardly do anything but nod. Potter asked, "Why are you so interested in the late, unlamented Roger Kimball?"

"Idle curiosity," Donovan answered.

"Shit," Potter said crisply. All of a sudden, his metal-framed spectacles didn't make him seem mild and ineffectual any more. When he went on, "I deserve a straight answer," the implication was that he'd do something unpleasant if he didn't get one.

Braxton Donovan could have bought and sold him. Donovan owned enough property that the disastrous postwar inflation hadn't wiped him out. They both knew it. Most of the time, in the class-conscious Confederate States, it would have mattered a great deal. Now, somehow, it didn't. The lawyer flinched, muttered something under his breath, and gulped his drink. "Fill it up," he told the bartender.

"Yes, suh." Ptolemy did. Ice clinked as he built Donovan a fresh one.

The lawyer sipped from the new whiskey. Clarence Potter waited, patient and implacable as a father waiting up for a son out too late. At last, Donovan said, "You know Anne Colleton?"

"Personally? No," Potter said. "But I know of her. Who doesn't, in this state? What's she got to do with anything?"

"She and Kimball were… friends during the war, and for a while afterwards," Braxton Donovan answered, suggesting by the pause that they'd been more than friends. "Any dirt I can get on him will stick to her."

"Wait a minute." Potter held up a hand. "Wait just a minute. Didn't she help get the Yankee woman who punched Kimball's ticker for him out of jail and back to the USA?"

"Oh, yes." Donovan's silver pompadour was so securely in place, it didn't stir a hair as he nodded. "They broke up unpleasantly. I think it was over politics-he stayed in the Freedom Party, and she was one of the rats who left the sinking ship." His lip curled.

"Why tar her, then?" Potter asked. "If she's back to being a Whig, don't you want her to keep on being one? If you drive her into Featherston's arms again, aren't you just asking for trouble? She's a high-powered woman, no two ways about it."

"That's the point," Donovan said. "She's talking like a Whig again, yes, but she's trying to pull us to the right till you can't tell us from the yahoos in white shirts and butternut pants who run around yelling, 'Freedom!' She wants to have another go at the United States-wants it so bad, she can taste it."

Potter pondered that. "We'd have to be damn lucky to win it. They beat us and they hurt us. And even if we do lick them, that just sets up another war ten, twenty, thirty years further down the line. I wish I could say something else-I fought those bastards from the very first day to the very last, and I'd've kept on fighting if we hadn't folded up. But come on, Donovan. A good big man won't always lick a good little one, but sure as hell that's the way to bet. And I don't think we can afford to lose again."

"I don't want to fight them again, either," Donovan said. "I fought plenty in the last war, too, and I am plumb satisfied. And I don't want her voice in the Whig Party."

"There may be something to that," Potter allowed. "On the other hand, there may not. You want to think twice about going after her. Maybe you want to think three times."

"I know what I'm doing." Braxton Donovan certainly sounded confident. Potter wondered if that was the whiskey talking. He also wondered how Donovan not only didn't fall over but kept on sounding coherent. The man had to have a sponge in place of a liver. Donovan went on, "She's not quite the force she used to be, anyhow, on account of she's ten years older than she used to be, same as the rest of us. But it hurts women more." He finished the latest drink. "One more of the same, Ptolemy."

"Comin' right up, suh," the Negro said. As he made the next whiskey, Potter studied him and, covertly, Donovan. He wondered if the lawyer really knew as much as he thought he did. Not too many people came away happy after they bumped up against Anne Colleton.

Which meant… Potter finished his own drink. He didn't ask for a fresh one, not right away. Instead, he did some quiet thinking. He came closer to agreeing with Donovan than with Anne Colleton. Nothing was stupider, though, than backing a loser, which he judged Donovan likely to be. How much of a deal can I cut? he wondered. And should I?


As far as Cincinnatus Driver was concerned, the worst part of prison was getting used to it. After a while, Luther Bliss stopped interrogating him, which meant he didn't get beat up very much any more. Hardly anything happened to him any more, in fact. He sat in his cell with nothing to do, except for the one hour a week when he was led out to exercise, as a beast might have been.

Outside the gray stone walls of the prison, time was passing. What did Elizabeth think, back in Des Moines? What did Achilles think? How big was the boy these days? Cincinnatus struggled to remember his face. Did Amanda remember him at all? He was starting to doubt it.

Only the weather told him the season of the year. He never saw a newspaper, or anything else with print on it. He began to wonder if he still remembered how to read and write. That thought provoked him to bitter laughter. Read and write? Hell, I'm startin' to wonder if I still recollect how to talk. Days at a time would go by when he never said a word to anyone.

The guards did not encourage conversation, which would do for an understatement till a bigger one came along. When they gave orders, it was always, "Come here, nigger," "Go there, boy," or "Stand aside, nigger." They didn't want to hear Cincinnatus say, "Yes, suh." They just wanted him to do as he was told. He did it. He'd tried not doing it a couple of times. The results of that had proved more painful than they were worth.

He'd also tried protesting that he was a citizen of the United States, and nobody, not even Luther Bliss and the Kentucky State Police, had any business holding him like this. The results of that had proved even more painful than those of the other.

If I wasn't colored, they wouldn't be able to get away with it, no matter what they think I done. That had run through his mind more times than he could count. He did his best not to dwell on it. Its truth was all too obvious. He'd thought things would be better in the USA than they had been when Kentucky was part of the CSA. Maybe not.

But, in spite of all this, maybe. In the Confederate States, Negroes who made trouble often just stopped living. However much Luther Bliss wanted Cincinnatus on ice, he hadn't dug a hole and put his body in it. Sometimes Cincinnatus wondered why not.

On a hot, muggy afternoon in what he reckoned was the middle of summer, three guards came to his cell door. Two of them drew pistols and pointed them at him, while the third turned a key in the lock and opened the cell. Then that fellow jumped back and yanked his pistol from its holster, too. "Come along with us," one of the guards said.

"Where?" Cincinnatus' voice creaked with disuse, and with fear. This wasn't exercise time or mealtime. Maybe that hole in the ground waited for him after all.

"Don't give us no back talk, boy, or you'll be sorry for it," the guard snapped. "Get moving."

Cincinnatus did, thinking, They can kill me here as easy as anywhere else, and then take my body wherever they need to. He wanted to run. His legs had that light-as-a-feather feel panic could bring. He was sure he could outrun these three big-bellied white men. But he was also sure it would do him no good. Nobody outran a bullet.

They took him not to the room where they'd questioned him before but to an office in one of the prison's corner towers. He supposed it was the warden's office, but the man behind the desk was, inevitably, Luther Bliss. Bliss had light brown eyes, like a hound dog's. At the moment, those eyes were as sad as a hound dog's, too.

When Cincinnatus came in, the chief of the Kentucky State Police turned to the other man in the room, an older fellow who sat in a chair off to one side. "See, Mr. Darrow? Here he is, sound as a dollar."

"Whose dollars are you talking about, Bliss?" the old man-Darrow? — demanded. "The Confederates', after the war?"

Oh, sweet Jesus, Cincinnatus thought. Bliss is going to lock him up and throw away the key. But Bliss didn't do anything except drum his fingers on the desktop. If he was angry, he didn't show it past that-which made Cincinnatus take another long look at the man named Darrow.

He had to be close to seventy. His skin was grandfather-pink. His jowls sagged. He combed thinning iron-gray hair over the top of his head to make it cover as much ground as it could. But his gray-blue eyes were some of the sharpest-and some of the nastiest-Cincinnatus had ever seen.

After coughing a couple of times, he pulled his wallet from a vest pocket. He looked down at a photograph in it, then over to Cincinnatus. "You are Cincinnatus Driver," he said, sounding surprised. "I wouldn't've put it past this sneaky son of a bitch"-he pointed to Luther Bliss-"to try to sneak a ringer by me, but I guess he figured I'd spot it."

Again, the world didn't end. All Bliss said was, "I resent that, Mr. Darrow."

"Go right ahead," the other white man said cheerfully. "I intended that you should."

Plaintively, Cincinnatus said, "Will somebody please tell me what's going on?"

"My pleasure," said the old man with the ferocious eyes. "I'm Clarence Darrow. I'm a lawyer. I've got a writ of habeas corpus with your name on it. That means you get out of jail. If you've got any brains, it also means you get the hell out of Kentucky."

"My God." Cincinnatus understood the words, but he wasn't sure he believed them. He wasn't sure he dared believe them. He said, "I didn't think nobody could get me out of here."

"Sonny, there's something you have to understand: I'm a good lawyer." Darrow spoke with a calm certainty that compelled belief. "I'm a damn good lawyer, matter of fact. This petty tyrant here"-he pointed at Luther Bliss again, and again Bliss didn't rise to it-"kept thinking I wasn't, but he's not so smart as he thinks he is."

"I know who's my country's friend and who ain't," Bliss said. "What do I need to know besides that?"

"How to live by the rules you say you're protecting," Clarence Darrow answered. The head of the Kentucky State Police snapped his fingers to show how little he cared about them. Darrow had been blustery before. Now he got angry, really angry. "What's the point of having a country with laws if you get around 'em any time you happen not to care for 'em, eh? Answer me that."

But Luther Bliss was not an easy man to quell. "This here's Kentucky, Mr. Darrow. If we played by the rules all the time, the bastards who don't would get the jump on us pretty damn quick, and you can bet on that. Half the people in this state are Confederate diehards, and the other half are Reds."

He exaggerated. From what Cincinnatus remembered of the days before he'd moved north, he didn't exaggerate by much. Darrow said, "If nobody in this godforsaken place wants to live in the USA, why not give it back to the Confederates?"

Cincinnatus gaped-he'd never heard anyone except a diehard say such a thing. Mildly, Bliss replied, "You know, Mr. Darrow, advocating return to the CSA is against the law here."

"Wouldn't be surprised," Darrow said. "Wouldn't be one bit surprised. The law it's against is unconstitutional, of course, not that you care about the Constitution of the United States."

"Here's your nigger, Mr. Darrow." Bliss' air of calm frayed at last. "Take him and get the hell out of here. Or don't you think I could fix up a cell with your name on it right next to his?"

"I'm sure you could," Darrow said. "And I'm sure you could make it very unpleasant for me. But I'm sure of something else, too-I'm sure I could make it even more unpleasant for you if you did."

By the sour look on Luther Bliss' face, he was sure of the same thing. It didn't make him very happy. "Get out," he repeated.

"Come along, Mr. Driver," Clarence Darrow said. "Let's get you back to civilization, or what passes for it in the United States these days." He grunted with effort as he heaved himself to his feet. Cincinnatus needed a heartbeat to remember the surname belonged to him. He hadn't grown up with it, and people didn't use it very often. And nobody'd called him by it since he'd landed here. Dazedly, he followed the white lawyer.

Not till they got into the motorcar that had brought Darrow to the prison and the driver was taking them away did Cincinnatus turn to the lawyer and say, "God bless you, suh, for what you done there."

"I don't believe in God, any more than I believe in Mother Goose," Darrow said. "Foolish notion. But I do believe in justice, and you deserve that. Everyone deserves that."

Cincinnatus had known some Reds who said they didn't believe in God. With them, he'd always thought that was a pose, or that they substituted Marx for God. With Clarence Darrow, it was different. The man spoke as if he needed no substitute for the Deity. Cincinnatus sensed that, but couldn't fully fathom it. He said, "Well, God believes in you, whether you believe in Him or not."

Darrow gave him an odd look. "You've got grit, son, if you can joke after you get out of that place."

"I wasn't jokin', suh," Cincinnatus said. They eyed each other in perfect mutual incomprehension. Cincinnatus asked, "How'd you even know I was stuck there, suh, to come and get me out?"

"Your wife finally raised a stink that was big enough for me to notice it," Darrow answered. "It took her a while, because people in the USA don't want to notice a colored woman even when she's screaming her head off. But she kept at it. Remarkable woman. Stubborn as a Missouri mule."

"Yes, suh," Cincinnatus said happily. "God bless Elizabeth, too." Clarence Darrow let out a long, rasping sigh. Cincinnatus took no notice of it. He went on, "But even if you knew I was in trouble, how'd you get Luther Bliss to turn loose o' me? That's one ornery man."

"That's one first-class son of a bitch, is what that is," Darrow said. "Even after I got the court order, he kept denying he'd ever heard of you. But I managed to persuade a judge otherwise-and here you are."

"Here I am," Cincinnatus agreed. Seeing farms and woods out the window, not stone and concrete and barbed wire, made him feel like a new man. But the new man had old problems. "What do I owe you, suh?" Lawyers didn't come cheap; he knew that. Even so… "Whatever it is, I pays it. May take me a while, you understand, but I pays it."

Darrow's grin displayed crooked, tobacco-stained teeth. "Your wife told me you'd say that. You don't owe me a dime-I did your case pro bono publico." He saw the Latin meant nothing to Cincinnatus, and added, "For the public good."

"That's mighty kind of you, suh, but it ain't right," Cincinnatus said. "I want to pay you back. I owe you."

"Your wife said you'd say that, too," Clarence Darrow told him. "But there's no need-I'll make more from publicity than you could pay. If you must, pay the favor forward-do something good for someone else. Bargain?"

"Yes, suh-so help me God," Cincinnatus said.

"More of that claptrap." Darrow sighed. "Well, never mind. I hope you know better than to stick your nose back into Kentucky again?"

"Long as my folks ain't poorly for true, sure," Cincinnatus answered. "That's what got me here before. I be more careful 'bout the message nowadays, but if I reckon it's so, what choice have I got but to come?"

Clarence Darrow gave him a long, measuring stare. The lawyer delivered his verdict in one word: "Fool."

C oal smoke pouring out the stack, the train hurried toward the Salt Lake City station. Sparks flew as the brakes ground its iron wheels against the iron rails that carried it. Colonel Abner Dowling would rather have been somewhere, anywhere, else than on the platform waiting for that train to pull in. By the expression on his mustachioed face, General Pershing felt the same way.

"No help for it, though," Dowling murmured, more than half to himself.

He hadn't been quiet enough. But Pershing only nodded and said, "He has earned the right to do as he pleases."

"I know that, sir," Dowling answered. "I just wish he would have pleased to do something-anything-else."

"Yes." Pershing nodded again. "There is that, isn't there?"

The train stopped right at the platform. Dowling had irrationally hoped against hope that it wouldn't, but would keep right on going. The leader of the military band gathered on the platform caught Pershing's eye. Pershing looked as if he wished the fellow hadn't. At last, reluctantly, he nodded. The band leader either didn't notice the reluctance or thought it wise to pretend he didn't. With a proud flourish, he began to wave his baton. The band struck up "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

No sooner had the vaunting music begun to blare forth than the door to one of the Pullman cars opened. Out came a bent ancient whose mustache and what Dowling could see of his hair-he always wore a hat, to keep the world from knowing he was bald-were a peroxided gold, defying time. A woman of about the same years followed him onto the platform.

"Well, Autie," she sniffed, "they are giving you a proper welcome, anyhow."

"What's that, Libbie?" The old man cupped a hand behind his ear.

"I said, they're giving you a proper welcome," she repeated, louder this time.

"Can't hear a thing over that music. At least they're giving me a proper welcome."

Colonel Dowling and General Pershing both stepped forward. They both saluted. They chorused, "Welcome to Utah, General Custer." Dowling was lying in his teeth. He would have bet Pershing was doing the same.

"Thank you. Thank you both," Custer said. He stiffly returned the salute, even though, having at last retired from the U.S. Army after more than sixty years of service, he wore a somber black suit and homburg. Three years before, he'd been as vigorous as a man in his eighties could be. Now… Dowling found himself surprised, dismayed, and surprised at being dismayed. He'd always thought-sometimes despairingly-that George Armstrong Custer was the one unchanging man on the face of the earth.

Here at last, he saw it wasn't so. The retired general was visibly slower, visibly more feeble. Some spark had gone out of him since his retirement, and he seemed to know it.

Libbie Custer, by contrast, remained as she always had. "Hello, Colonel Dowling," she said with a smile that showed white false teeth. "It's good to see you again. Now that Autie and I are civilians, may I call you Abner?"

"Of course," Dowling answered, though he'd always hated his Christian name.

Meanwhile, General Pershing was shaking hands with Custer and exchanging polite and, no doubt, insincere compliments. During the Great War, Pershing's command had been just to the east of Custer's. Pershing's Second Army had captured Louisville and generally pushed south faster than Custer's First-till Custer decided he knew more about barrels than anyone in the War Department… and, against all odds, turned out to be right. From things Pershing had said since Abner Dowling came to Utah, he still couldn't figure out how Custer had pulled that off.

At the time, Dowling had been sure Custer's lies to Philadelphia would get the general-and, not so incidentally, himself-court-martialed and sent to Leavenworth to do hard labor for the rest of their lives. Instead, his superior had ended up the USA's greatest military hero since George Washington, and Dowling, by reflected glory, had ended up a minor hero himself.

Custer said, "Are you keeping the Mormons here on a tight rein, General? I hope to heaven you are, because they will cause trouble if they get half a chance."

"Things have been tolerably quiet, anyway," Pershing answered. "They don't shoot at our men any more. Taking hostages worked pretty well for the Germans in Belgium, and for us in Canada and the CSA, and it works here, too. The Mormons may want us dead, but they don't want their friends and neighbors and sweethearts going up against a wall with a blindfold."

"And a cigarette," Custer added automatically, but he shook his head before anyone could correct him. "No, the Mormons don't even have that to console themselves. Poor devils. Nothing wrong with tobacco."

Libbie sniffed. Custer had been smoking and drinking and cursing ever since the disappointments of the Second Mexican War, and she still hated all three.

"It does work, cigarette or no," Pershing said. "We even quelled trouble with polygamists down in Teasdale by taking several hundred hostages and making it ever so clear we'd do what we had to do if trouble broke out."

Dowling wanted to wipe his forehead with the back of his hand and go, Whew! because of that. He didn't, but he wanted to. Instead, he said, "General, Mrs. Custer, your limousine is waiting just outside the station. If you'd be kind enough to come with me…"

They came. They didn't remark upon-perhaps they didn't notice-the sharpshooters on the roof of the station. More riflemen were posted in the buildings across the street. Custer had served as General Pope's right arm in the U.S. occupation of restive Utah during the Second Mexican War. Mormons had long memories, as everyone had found out in their uprising during the Great War. Someone might still want to take a potshot or two at Custer for what he'd done more than forty years before, no matter how many hostages' lives it cost his people.

The limousine carried more armor than an armored car. Even the windows were of glass allegedly bulletproof. That was one more thing Dowling didn't want to have to put to the test.

As they drove along the southern perimeter of Temple Square, Custer pointed to the ruins there and said, "That's a bully sight-their temples to their false gods pulled down around their ears. May they never rise again."

"Er, yes," Dowling answered, wondering when he'd last heard anyone-anyone but Custer, that is-say bully. Hardly at all since the Great War ended; he was sure of that. The old slang was dying out with the people who'd used it. Custer still lingered. Now, though, Dowling could see he wouldn't go on forever after all.

As old men will, Custer still dwelt on the past. "Do you know what my greatest regret is?" he asked.

"No, sir," Dowling said, as General Pershing shook his head.

"My greatest regret is that we didn't hang Abe Lincoln alongside the Mormon traitors he was consorting with," Custer said. "He deserved it just as much as they did, and if we'd stretched his skinny neck the Socialists never would have got off the ground-I'm sure of that."

"I suppose we'd have Republicans instead," Pershing said. "They'd be just about as bad, or I miss my guess." He was twenty years younger than Custer, which meant he'd been a young man the last time the Republican Party had amounted to anything much. It was a sad shadow of its former self, and had been ever since Abraham Lincoln took a large part of its membership left into the Socialist camp at the end of the Second Mexican War.

Custer sniffed and coughed and rolled his eyes. Plainly, he disagreed with General Pershing. For a wonder, though, he didn't come right out and say so. Abner Dowling scratched his head in bemusement. Had Custer learned tact, or some semblance of it, at the age of eighty-six? There might have been less likely things, but Dowling couldn't think of any offhand.

Odds were that Libbie had poked him in the ribs with her elbow when Dowling didn't notice. As the great man's longtime adjutant, Dowling had long since concluded Libbie Custer was the brains of the outfit. George put on a better show-Libbie, in public, was self-effacing as could be-but she was the one who thought straight.

Outside General Pershing's headquarters, guards meticulously checked the limousine, front to back, top to bottom. At last, one of them told the driver, "You're all right. Go on through."

"Thanks, Jonesy," the driver said, and put the motorcar back into gear.

"Still as bad as that?" Custer asked. "Will they blow us to kingdom come if we give them half a chance?"

"We hope not," Pershing said. "Still and all, we'd rather not find out."

"They don't love us, and that's a fact," Dowling added.

"Good," Custer said. "If they loved us, that would mean we were soft on them, and we'd better not be soft. If we let them up for even a minute, the Mormons will start conspiring with the limeys or the Rebs, same as they did in the last war and same as they did forty-odd years ago, too."

There was another obsolete word. Only men of Custer's generation still called the Confederates Rebels, and men of Custer's generation, these days, were thin on the ground. The armored limousine stopped once more, this time inside the secure compound. A company stood at stiff attention, awaiting Custer's inspection.

The retired general didn't notice them till a soldier held the door for him and he got out of the automobile. When he did, he tried to straighten up as he made his slow way over to them. He reminded Dowling of a fire horse put out to pasture that heard the alarm bell once more and wanted to pull the engine again. Around soldiers, he came alive.

Most of the men there in the courtyard were conscripts, too young to have served in the Great War. They still responded to Custer, though, grinning at his bad jokes and telling him their home towns when he asked.

In a low voice, General Pershing said, "He looks like he wishes he were still in uniform."

"I'm sure he does, sir," Dowling answered, also quietly. "The Socialists practically had to drag him out of it." He clicked his tongue between his teeth, remembering. "That was an ugly scene."

"Those people…" Pershing shook his head. "It's not for us to meddle in politics, and I know that's a good rule, but there are times when I'm tempted to say exactly what's on my mind."

"Yes, sir," Dowling said.

At the banquet that evening, Custer ate with good appetite and drank perhaps two glasses of white wine too many. Afterwards, Libbie told him, "Time to get to bed, Autie." She might have been talking to a child that had stayed up too late.

"In a moment, my dear," Custer answered. Before struggling to his feet once more, he turned to Dowling and said, "Do you know, Major, there are times since they took the uniform off me when I simply feel adrift on the seas of fate. Once upon a time, I mastered the helm. But no more, Major, no more. This is what the years have done."

Dowling couldn't blame Custer for forgetting his present rank and using the one he'd had when they served together during the war. "Yes, sir," he said, and then, "I'm sorry, sir." To his amazement, tears stung his eyes. Custer had lived too long, and knew it. Could any man suffer a worse fate? Dowling shook his head. He doubted it.

"God bless you, Major," Custer said. He let his wife, still competent as always, lead him out of the dining hall. One of those tears slid down Dowling's cheek. He would have been more embarrassed-he would have been mortified-if he hadn't seen that General Pershing's face was wet, too.

In a way, sitting in the Socialist Party offices in New York's Fourteenth Ward took Flora Blackford back to the days when she'd been Flora Hamburger. Waiting for the latest batch of election returns made her remember how nervous she'd been when her name first appeared on the ballot ten years before.

In another way, though, coming back reminded her how much things had changed. She didn't get back from Philadelphia all that often, even though the two cities were only a couple of hours apart by train. She didn't hear Yiddish spoken all that often any more, either; she had to stop and think and listen to understand. What had been her first language was now on the way to becoming foreign to her.

A telephone rang. Herman Bruck picked it up. He'd been sweet on Flora while she still lived in New York City, and maybe his smile had a wistful quality to it when he looked at her now. On the other hand, maybe it didn't. He had a four-year-old of his own, and a two-year-old, and a six-month-old besides. That was bound to be more than enough to keep anybody busy.

He scribbled something on a pad on his battered old desk. "Latest returns in our district-Hamburger, uh, Blackford, 9,791; Cantorowicz, 6,114." Cheers filled the office. The Democrat, Abraham Cantorowicz, wasn't quite a token candidate, but he hadn't had any great chance of winning, either. The Congressional district whose borders roughly corresponded to those of the Fourteenth Ward had been solidly Socialist since before the turn of the century.

On Flora's lap, Joshua Blackford began to fuss. He was sleepy. At not quite one, he was up well past his bedtime, and in a strange place besides. She was surprised he hadn't started making a racket before this.

The telephone rang again. Again, Herman Bruck picked it up. Then he laid his palm against the mouthpiece and said, "Flora, it's for you. It's Cantorowicz."

More cheers-everyone knew what that had to mean. Flora passed her son to her husband. "Here-mind him for a few minutes, please," she said.

Hosea Blackford took the toddler. "This is what the vice president is for," he said with a laugh. "He takes over so somebody else can go do something important."

That got two waves of laughter-one from those who followed it in English and another after it got translated into Yiddish. Flora made her way to the telephone. "This is Congresswoman Blackford," she said.

"And you'll have two more years of being a Congresswoman," Abraham Cantorowicz told her. "I don't see how I can catch you, and what's the point in waiting to make this call after the handwriting goes up on the walls? Another election, another Democrat calling to concede. Congratulations."

"Thank you very much. That's gracious of you," Flora said. "You ran a strong campaign." He'd run as well as a Democrat in this district could.

"Someone had to be the sacrificial lamb-we weren't about to let you run unopposed," Cantorowicz answered. "We will keep fighting for this district, and we'll win one of these days."

"Not soon, I don't think," Flora answered.

"Maybe sooner than you think," her defeated opponent answered. "Will you run for reelection when your husband runs for president?"

Flora sent Hosea Blackford a look half startled, half thoughtful. She knew perfectly well he was thinking of running in 1928. Upton Sinclair almost certainly wouldn't seek a third term. The only president who'd ever run a third time was Theodore Roosevelt. He'd won the Great War, made himself twice a national hero-and lost anyhow. The United States weren't ready for one man ruling on and on.

"You aren't saying anything," Cantorowicz remarked.

"No, I'm not," Flora told him. "We still have a couple of years to worry about that."

"Maybe you should run anyway," the Democratic candidate said. "If he loses and you win, you'd still be able to support your family."

"I don't think we'd have to worry there," Flora answered coolly. She wasn't kidding. Hosea Blackford was a talented lawyer with years of government connections. He would have no trouble making his way even if-God forbid! — he lost the election. Flora wasn't sure she liked that in the abstract; whom a man knew shouldn't have mattered so much as what he knew. But that didn't change reality one bit.

When I first went into Congress, I would have tried to change reality. I did try to change reality, and I even had some luck, she thought. She took pride in being called the conscience of the House. But ten years there had taught her some things were unlikely to change in her lifetime, or her son's, or his son's, either, if he had a son.

Cantorowicz said, "Well, I hope you have to worry about it. But you don't want to listen to that right now. You want to celebrate, and you've earned the right. Good night."

"Good night," Flora told him. The line went dead. Silence had fallen in the Socialist Party office. Everyone was looking at her. She put the phone back on the hook and nodded. "He's conceded," she said.

Cheers and whoops shattered the silence. People came up and shook Flora's hand and thumped her on the back, as if she were a man. The racket woke up Joshua, who'd fallen asleep in Hosea's lap. The little boy started to cry. Hosea comforted him. Before long, he fell asleep again, his thumb in his mouth.

Someone knocked on the door. Eventually, one of the men in the office heard the noise and opened it. There stood Sheldon Fleischmann, who ran the butcher's shop downstairs. He looked a lot like his father, Max. The elder Fleischmann had quietly fallen over behind his counter one day, and never got up again. Like his father, Sheldon was a Democrat. Flora doubted he'd voted for her. Even so, he was carrying a tray of cold cuts, as Max had done more than once on election nights.

"You don't need to do that," Flora scolded him. "You're not even a Socialist."

"I try to be a good neighbor, though," Fleischmann answered. "That's more important than politics."

"If everyone thought that way, we'd hardly need politics," Hosea Blackford said.

His flat Great Plains accent stood out among the sharp, often Yiddish-flavored, New York voices in the office. Sheldon Fleischmann's gaze swung to him in momentary surprise. Then the butcher realized who he had to be. "You're right, Mr. Vice President," he said, giving Blackford a respectful nod. "But too many people don't."

"No, they don't," Blackford agreed. "I did say if."

"Yes, you did," Fleischmann allowed. " Mazeltov, Congresswoman." He chuckled. "I've been saying that so long, it starts to sound natural."

"And why shouldn't it?" Challenge rang from Flora's voice.

Had the butcher said something about women having no place in Congress, Flora would have exploded. She was ready to do it even now. But his answer was mild: "Only because there are a lot of men in Congress, ma'am, and just a couple of women. You do say what you're used to."

Flora couldn't very well argue there, however much she might have wanted to. She nodded. "All right," she said. "I suppose I'll let you get away with that."

By the relief on Sheldon Fleischmann's face, he felt as if he had got away with it. " Mazeltov again," he said, and went downstairs once more.

In the office, Herman Bruck was talking with Maria Tresca. Maria was one of the few Italians in the overwhelmingly Jewish Fourteenth Ward. She'd also been a thoroughgoing radical even before her sister was killed in the Remembrance Day riots of 1915. For as long as Flora could remember, Maria had stood foursquare for the proletariat and against the power of big capitalists. Now, though, she listened attentively as Bruck said, "Amalgamated Mills is a very solid firm. They make fine-quality goods, and I think their stock is going to go straight through the roof. I got fifteen shares when it was at thirty-two last month, and it's already gone up five and a half points."

When it came to cloth, he knew what he was talking about. He was a master tailor from a family of tailors, and always dressed as if he made five times as much as he really did. Flora wasn't much surprised when Maria Tresca gave back a serious nod. But she was surprised when strongly Socialist Maria offered a stock tip of her own: "I just bought five shares of Central Powers Steel in Toledo. They landed that new contract for the Great Lakes fleet, and they may split two for one soon."

"Central Powers Steel, eh?" Herman Bruck's round face grew alert. "I'll have to look into that."

"You're both buying shares in the stock market?" Flora knew she sounded amazed. She managed to keep from calling it speculating, though that was what it was.

Bruck looked faintly embarrassed, but he said, "I've made a lot of money the last year and a half-that's how long I've been in. And you only need to put up ten percent of the money when you buy on margin, so it's a lot cheaper than it seems."

"It's a lot cheaper as long as the market goes up," Flora said. "If it comes down, you need to pay more money or lose your shares."

"It's gone up for a long time now," Bruck replied. "I don't see why it should do anything else all of a sudden."

Flora wasn't sure how to answer that, or even if it had an answer. She turned to Maria Tresca. " You're putting money into Wall Street? You, of all people?"

"Yes, some," Maria answered defiantly. "If capitalism can make a secretary rich, let's see it happen. I hope it can. And if it can't"-she shrugged-"I'm not putting in more than I can afford to lose."

"Well, that's good," Flora said. "I can think of a lot of people who aren't being so careful, though."

"What we need is more regulation of the market, to keep cheats and swindlers from having their way with people," Maria Tresca said. "I don't know too much about what goes on in the stock market, but that looks pretty clear to me. Some of those people will yank the shirt off your back and then sell it to you."

Sadly, Flora answered, "I think you're right, but getting the legislation through Congress is a different story. The Democrats are against it, and so are the Republicans. And more than a few Socialists have made so much money in the market, they think it's the goose that lays golden eggs, too."

She looked over at her husband. He held their sleeping son, all his attention, for the time being, resting on the little boy. But Flora knew Hosea also had money invested in Wall Street. She didn't know exactly how much; he'd never talked much with her about that. Socialism in Dakota was altogether a milder thing, a more natively American thing, than it was here in New York City. What was shocking from Herman and Maria would have been nothing out of the ordinary for Hosea Blackford, though he and they belonged to the same party. He'd never cared to rub Flora's nose in the ideological differences between them.

But if even thoroughgoing Socialists were buying and selling stocks, where had those differences gone? Would you use your own money to try to make a killing in the market? Flora asked herself. She didn't think so, even now, but she admitted to herself that she wasn't sure.

Are you a capitalist? Do you want to be a capitalist? It was like asking herself if she wanted to become a Christian. Very much like that, she realized-Socialism was about as much an article of faith with her as was Judaism. And yet… If I can provide for my family, why not? But that was the question: could she? One thing she'd learned in school still seemed true-what went up had to come down. Herman Bruck didn't seem to believe that any more. For his sake, and the sake of many more like him, Flora hoped the rules had changed since she'd got out of Public School Number 130.

R ain pattered down on Hipolito Rodriguez's farm outside of Baroyeca. Here in the south of Sonora, winter rains were less common than those that came off the Gulf of California in the summertime. Rain at any season came seldom; were it not for the streams and ditches bringing water down from the mountains into the valley near whose edge Baroyeca sat, the town, the farms around it, and the silver mine close by couldn't have survived.

Chickens hopped in surprise when raindrops hit them. They pecked at the puffs of dust the raindrops kicked up. Maybe they thought those puffs were bugs. Rodriguez wasn't sure what, if anything, went through their minds. He could think along with the rest of the livestock; the mule, though a powerful animal, was as evil as any beast ever born. But trying to think like a hen was more trouble than it was worth. The pigs seemed brilliant next to hens.

Dark gray clouds rolled down from the northwest. The day was chilly, as chilly as it ever got near Baroyeca. Rodriguez was glad to stand close by the fire in the kitchen. His wife patted cornmeal into tortillas. Looking up from her work, Magdalena said, "Do you know what we need, Hipolito?"

"No. What?" Rodriguez answered.

"We need a stove," his wife said. Most of their conversation was in Spanish, but the key word came out in English. She went on, "A good iron stove would cook better than I can with an open fire. It would pay for itself, too, because it would save fuel. It would even keep the kitchen warm on days like this, because less heat would go up the chimney. And I think we can afford one."

"A stove?" Rodriguez also said it in English. He scratched his head. Magdalena had always cooked over an open fire. So had his mother. So had everyone, he supposed, for as long as his ancestors had lived in Baroyeca. But times weren't what they had been back in the old days. He knew that. Cautiously, he asked, "How much would a stove cost?"

"Twenty-seven dollars and sixty cents," Magdalena said without a moment's hesitation. "I saw just the one I want in the Henderson and Fisk catalogue." Henderson and Fisk was a leading Confederate mail-order house, and had been since before the Great War. Only after the currency stabilized again, though, had its catalogues started coming to places as remote from the concerns of most of the CSA as Baroyeca. Magdalena went on, "It's called the Southern Sunshine cook stove, and it will do everything I need." Again, the name of the stove came out in English.

"A stove," Rodriguez said musingly. "I'd bet a lot of women in Baroyeca itself don't cook on stoves." Changes filtered down to southern Sonora more slowly than almost anywhere else in the CSA, and the Confederate States had been founded on the principle that change was a bad idea.

"I'm sure you're right," his wife agreed. "But I don't care. We have the money. We even have the money for the stovepipe to take the smoke outside-another eighty-five cents."

If she said they had it, they had it. She kept track of finances with an eye that watched every penny. Even when the money went mad after the Great War, when a billion dollars had been nothing much, Magdalena had stretched things as far as they would go. The patron had never had cause to complain about the Rodriguezes. The patron… "Does Don Gustavo's wife cook on a stove?" Rodriguez asked.

Magdalena let out a dismissive snort. "Dona Elena doesn't cook at all. They have a cook of their own, as you know perfectly well." But it was a serious question. If the patron didn't have an iron stove in his house, what would he think of a peasant family's getting one? Seeing the worry on Hipolito Rodriguez's face, Magdalena said, "Don't worry. I found out. Dona Elena's cook does use a stove."

"All right. Good. Very good." Rodriguez didn't try to hide his relief. Things weren't so rigid in the CSA as they were down in the Empire of Mexico, and they weren't so rigid now as they had been in his father's day, but he didn't want to offend Don Gustavo even so. Better safe than sorry, he told himself. To his wife, he said, "Next time I go to town, I'll send the order to Henderson and Fisk."

"Good, yes." Magdalena nodded. "And then the railroad will bring the crate, and then we will have a stove."

A hamlet like Baroyeca would never have had a railroad connection if not for the mine close by. In plenty of places in Sonora and Chihuahua, the last leg of the journey from merchandiser to customer would have been by rattling wagon (or possibly, these days, by rattling truck). But not here. The trains that took out precious metal could bring in a stove from Birmingham.

The mine also meant Baroyeca boasted a post office, a few doors down from La Culebra Verde. The Stars and Bars floated above the whitewashed adobe building. When Rodriguez went in, Jose Cordero, the postmaster, put aside the newspaper he'd been reading. He was a plump man with a small mustache and with his hair parted on the right and greased immovably into place. "And what can I do for you today?" he inquired. "Postage stamps?"

"No, senor. I have some," Rodriguez replied politely; by virtue of his office, the postmaster was a person of consequence. "I wish to purchase a postal money order, and to send the money to Henderson and Fisk." He spoke with a certain amount of pride. Not every farmer could scrape together the cash for such a purchase.

Cordero's answering nod was grave, for he recognized as much. He made a small ceremony of taking out the book of money orders. "What is the amount?"

"Thirty-one dollars and seventy-six cents," Rodriguez said; that included the stove, the stovepipe, and third-class freight. He set banknotes and coins on the counter till he had exactly the right amount.

The postmaster counted the money, then nodded again. "Yes, that is correct for the order itself," he said. He filled out the money order, then added, "You must also know, of course, there is a fee of thirty-two cents for the use of the order."

Rodriguez winced. He hadn't sent a money order in so long, he'd forgotten that one-percent fee. He fished in his pockets. He had some change lurking there; he'd intended to visit La Culebra Verde after sending away for the stove. He found a quarter and a dime. Jose Cordero solemnly gave him back three cents. He sighed. He couldn't buy a beer for that. Then he found another dime. He brightened. He could go to the cantina after all.

"How long will the stove take to come?" he asked.

"Ah, is that what you're getting? Good for you," the postmaster said. "How long?" He looked up at the ceiling as he made mental calculations. "My best guess would be three weeks or a month. You should light a candle for every day sooner than three weeks."

"Gracias, senor," Rodriguez said. That was about what he'd thought. Now he could use Cordero's authority when he told Magdalena.

"El gusto es mio," Cordero replied. Rodriguez didn't think the pleasure really was his, but he always spoke politely. He went on, "I hope your wife gets much use and much enjoyment from it. My own Ana has had a stove now for several years, and she would never go back to cooking over an open fire. The stove is much cleaner, too."

"I had not thought of that, but I'm sure it would be." Rodriguez hid a smile. He'd done a little bragging, and the postmaster had responded with some of his own. That was the way life worked.

"It is," Cordero said positively. "You've spent a lot of money, but you won't be sorry for it." He sounded as if he were giving a personal guarantee.

"Without doubt, you have reason." Rodriguez inked a pen, scrawled the name of the mail-order form on the envelope, put in the order form and the money order, and handed Cordero the envelope.

The postmaster looked embarrassed. "Personally, I would gladly send it for nothing. You understand, though, I cannot be my own man in this matter: I am but a servant of the Confederate government. I must ask you for five cents more for the stamp that shows you have paid me postage."

With a sigh, Rodriguez realized he hadn't brought a stamp of his own along. He passed Cordero the dime he'd found, but eight cents wouldn't let him go into the cantina. Before the war, beer had been five cents, but it was a dime nowadays. No help for it, though. He watched the postmaster put the envelope in the bin of mail that would leave Baroyeca. Once it was there, he left the post office.

Standing on the board sidewalk, he sighed again. No point in going into La Culebra Verde when he had no money to buy. He thought little of men who sat around in there hoping to cadge drinks from their more prosperous friends and neighbors. He didn't want to be one of those freeloaders himself. But he didn't want to turn around and head straight back to the farm, either. What point to that? He didn't escape from it often enough to care to go home as fast as he could.

What to do, then? He looked up and down Baroyeca's main street- Calle de los Estados Confederados — wondering which shops he could visit without drawing sneers from the proprietors. A man with eight cents in his pocket couldn't buy much. He jingled the coins. Because of the pennies, they did sound like more.

His eyes snapped back to a building at the far end of the street. It had stood empty since the weekly newspaper folded in the middle of the great inflation. Now, he saw, it was empty no more. A couple of bright new words were painted on the front window. From his angle, he couldn't make out what they were. He ambled toward the building, still jingling his few paltry coins.

Before long, he could read the words. He stopped in surprise and pleasure, a grin spreading over his face. FREEDOM! the window shouted, and below that, in slightly smaller letters,?LIBERTAD! As he got closer still, he could make out the much smaller words under the big ones: Freedom Party Headquarters, Baroyeca, Sonora. Everyone Welcome.

Everyone welcome? Hipolito Rodriguez's grin got wider. He stopped fooling with the coins and went in.

Inside, a blond man with his hair cut short like a soldier's clattered away at a typewriter. Rodriguez didn't scowl, but he felt like it. From what he'd seen in the Army, a lot of white Confederates looked down on Sonorans and Chihuahuans almost as much as they did on Negroes-unless the Sonorans and Chihuahuans had money, of course. He laughed a sour laugh. The eight cents in his pocket didn't qualify.

But this fellow startled him. "Buenos dias. Como esta Usted?" he said in pretty good Spanish. It plainly wasn't his first language, but he managed more than well enough. " Me llamo Robert Quinn," he went on, "Represento el Partido de Libertad en Baroyeca. En que puedo servirle?"

"Hello, Mr. Quinn," Rodriguez said in English to the man who represented the Freedom Party in Baroyeca. "I do not know what you can do for me. I came in because I saw you were here and I wanted to find out why."

"Bueno. Excelente," Quinn continued in Spanish. "Como se llama, senor?"

Rodriguez gave his name. He added, "Why does the Freedom Party have an office here?" He couldn't imagine the Radical Liberals or the Whigs opening a headquarters in Baroyeca. The town simply wasn't big enough.

But Quinn said, "Para ganar elecciones."

"Having an office here will help you win elections?" Rodriguez returned to Spanish, since the Freedom Party man seemed comfortable in it. "How?"

"We did well here in 1925-we elected a Congressman from this district," Robert Quinn replied in the same language. "We intend to do better still this year. After all, in 1927 we will elect a president. With God's help-and some from the voters-it will be Jake Featherston."

"I have only eight cents right now," Rodriguez said, not mentioning the thirty-odd dollars he'd just sent to Birmingham. He kept quiet about that on purpose. Was this truly a party that might do a poor man some good? He'd find out. "With eight cents, how can I help you?"

Quinn didn't laugh at him or tell him to go away. Instead, seriously and soberly, he began to explain exactly what Rodriguez could do for the Freedom Party, and what the Party might do for him. He talked for about ten minutes. By the time he finished, Rodriguez was sure he would go on voting Freedom as long as he lived. That wasn't all he was sure of, either. He would go out and preach for the Party, too. He felt like one of the very first Christians in ancient days. He'd met a disciple, and now he was a disciple himself.

C olonel Irving Morrell hadn't heard the garrison in Kamloops, British Columbia, so animated, so excited, since he'd got there from Philadelphia more than a year before. He would have been happier, though, had something military sparked the excitement. But all the gossip centered on Chevrolet's proposed acquisition of the White Motor Company. White, as far as Morrell was concerned, made the best trucks in the world. No one seemed to care about that. What people were talking about was what the acquisition would do to the stock prices of the two companies.

By midafternoon, Morrell had had as much of that as he could take. "God forbid we should have to fight a war on a day when the market goes down," he said.

He was a colonel, which meant he outranked everyone who sat in the mess hall with him. At last, though, a captain named David Smith said, "Well, sir, you never can tell. It might make us meaner."

Silence fell. People waited to see how Morrell would take that. Ever since he'd come West from General Staff headquarters, he'd made a name for himself as a man no one sensible would trifle with. But Smith's line was too good to make him angry. He grinned and said, "Here's hoping, anyhow."

The mess hall relaxed. He could almost feel the soft sighs of relief that came from just about everyone. In Philadelphia, a lot of soldiers had spent a lot of time laughing at him. The officers here took him seriously. His record was too good to ignore, and a colonel's eagles carried a lot more weight in Kamloops than they had back at General Staff headquarters. That wasn't why he'd been so eager to get out of Philadelphia; he'd never cared one way or the other about being a big fish in a small pond. All he wanted were a job he liked and the chance to do it without anybody looking over his shoulder. He hadn't had those in Philadelphia. He did here.

Captain Smith decided to push it a little, adding, "Besides, sir, we'll never get rich on Army pay. If we're going to, wouldn't you rather have us playing the market than knocking over a bank?"

That went too far. Morrell got to his feet. He carried his tray of dishes toward the waiting cooks. Over his shoulder, he answered, "If you want to get rich, you don't belong in the Army in the first place. And if you're not in the Army, I don't give a damn what you're doing. No one held a gun to your head to make you put on this uniform, Captain. If you want to resign your commission, I'll be glad to help you with the paperwork."

Smith turned very red. He said, "No, sir. I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that at all."

Morrell handed the tray to a man in an apron who'd drawn kitchen duty. Everyone eyed him, wondering how he would reply. He didn't want to get any deeper into the argument, so all he said was, "Remember why you did join, then, Captain."

As he left the hall, that silence returned. His leg twinged. It hadn't for a while. He'd been wounded when the Great War was young, and that was… Lord! he thought in surprise. That's heading toward thirteen years ago now. Where's the time gone?

He took his thick wool overcoat from its hanger and wrapped it around himself. Kamloops lay where the north and south branches of the Thompson River came together, in a valley near the foot of the Canadian Rockies. Even in Philadelphia, Morrell would have been glad to have an overcoat on most February days. There were days-and more than a few of them-in Kamloops when he would have been glad to have two of them.

Cold slapped his face when he went outside. He shoved his hands into the overcoat's pockets to keep them from freezing. The rolling country around the town was in summer a near desert of tumbleweed and sagebrush. Snow painted it white at this season of the year, and white it would stay for another couple of months.

Morrell sighed. His breath smoked, as if he'd exhaled after a drag on a cigarette. The flat land would have been ideal for testing barrels. He'd said so, too, in the very first report he sent back to Philadelphia. He wondered if anybody had read that report, or even bothered to take it out of its envelope. He had his doubts. No one, certainly, had acted on the suggestion, or even acknowledged it.

So far as he knew, no one in the USA was testing barrels anywhere else, either. He kicked at the snow, which flew up from his boots. Down in the Empire of Mexico, the machines the Confederate-backed imperialists used were at least as good as the ones he'd been experimenting with back at Fort Leavenworth before budget cuts shut down the program. The rebels didn't have barrels that could match them, and the rebels, by now, had just about lost the civil war.

He kicked at the snow again. The Ottoman Turks weren't massacring Armenians these days the way they had a few years before, but American intervention had nothing to do with that. Kaiser Wilhelm-who wasn't good old Kaiser Bill any more-had ignored U.S. protests, and so had Abdul Majid, the Ottoman sultan. They'd figured the United States had more urgent things to worry about closer to home, and they'd been right.

They made us look like a bunch of chumps, is what they did, Morrell thought as he walked toward his office. A horse-drawn garbage wagon rattled up the road toward him. He nodded to the men aboard it. The Canadian white wings pretended he didn't exist. They took money from the American occupiers, but that didn't mean they wanted anything else to do with them. Yes, the U.S. Army had snuffed out the latest uprising a couple of years before, but it didn't seem to matter. The Canucks were going to stay sullen for a long, long time to come.

How do we keep them from causing more trouble, next year or five years from now or fifteen years from now or fifty years from now? Morrell wondered. He wished he could talk to some German officers, even if things between the two greatest powers left in the world weren't so friendly as they had been up till the war ended. The Kaiser's men were occupying a hostile Belgium now, and they'd been occupying a hostile Alsace and Lorraine for more than fifty years. They had lots of practice at ruling territory that didn't want to be ruled.

Seldom had Morrell had a wish so promptly granted. When he got to the office building, his aide-de-camp, a lieutenant named Ike Horwitz, said, "Sir, there's a German officer waiting to see you. Said you saw action together during the war."

"Captain Guderian, by God!" Morrell exclaimed in delight. "He was an observer with my unit when we were fighting over by Banff, just a couple of hundred miles from here."

"Yes, sir," Horwitz said. "Only he's a lieutenant colonel now, if I remember German rank markings straight. Oh-and he's got an orderly with him, a sergeant."

Something in Horwitz's voice changed. Morrell needed a second to realize what it was. "You don't like the orderly?"

"No, sir," Horwitz said with more of that same stiffness.

"Why not?" Morrell asked curiously.

"He figured out I was a Jew," Horwitz answered. It probably hadn't taken much figuring; Morrell's aide-de-camp looked very Jewish indeed, with a nose of impressive proportions. "He didn't think I spoke any German-and I don't, not really, but Yiddish is close enough to let me understand it when I hear it."

"Oh," Morrell said. "Well, to hell with him. Guderian's not like that, I can tell you for a fact. He doesn't care one way or the other."

Lieutenant Horwitz nodded. "He told his orderly to keep quiet and mind his own business. I just sat here and minded mine."

"Good for you, Ike."

"I wanted to punch the bastard right in the nose."

"Don't blame you a bit. But you didn't, and that makes you a good soldier."

Horwitz's snort said he would sooner have been a bad soldier. Morrell went into his office. Heinz Guderian bounded up from a chair to shake his hand. Sure enough, the energetic German had a single gold pip on each fancy shoulder strap-a lieutenant colonel's insignia. His orderly sprang to his feet, too, and gave Morrell a crisp salute. The fellow wore an Iron Cross, First Class. That gave Morrell pause; it hadn't been easy for a noncom to win that medal. Second Class, yes-First, no. The man might be a son of a bitch, but he'd done something special during the war.

He spoke in German: "Excuse me, sir, but I know no English."

"It's all right," Morrell replied in the same language. "I can get along in German." His voice hardened a little. "And so can my aide-de-camp."

Lieutenant Colonel Guderian grimaced. His orderly was unabashed. "So he knows what I think of his kind, does he? Well, too bad. The world would be a better place if we got rid of the lot of them."

"Nonsense," Morrell said sharply. He thought, Damn fool sounds like Jake Featherston, except he's riding a different hobby horse.

The sergeant might have replied, but Guderian held up a hand and said, "Enough." His orderly had discipline; he fumed, but he subsided. Then Guderian switched to English: "This is not why I came to talk to you, Colonel Morrell."

"Well, what can I do for you, then?" Morrell asked.

"I was wondering if you could arrange for me a tour of occupied western Canada," the German officer said. "We are interested in the methods you Americans use to control the lands you have won… What is so funny, Colonel?"

"I'll tell you what's funny," Morrell answered when he got done laughing. "What's funny is, I was just wondering how you Germans held on to Belgium and Alsace-Lorraine. What we've been doing here hasn't worked out so well as we'd have liked. The Canadians still hate our guts. We smashed their last uprising, but they're liable to rebel again any old time. If you know a trick for keeping people quiet, I wouldn't mind learning it."

"What does he say, sir?" Guderian's orderly asked. With the air of a man humoring a subordinate who didn't really deserve it, Guderian translated. The sergeant made an almost operatic gesture of contempt. "It's simple," he declared. "Kill enough and you'll frighten the rest into giving in."

Guderian sighed. "Spater, spater," he said, and turned back to Morrell. "That's the only answer he knows-kill everything in sight."

"You don't get any arguments that way, anyhow," Morrell observed.

"No, nor any chance to put things right later," the German said. "So you Americans have no sure answers for this, either, then?"

"I'm afraid not. I'll be glad to set up your tour for you, but I don't think you'll see anything very exciting," Morrell answered. I'll make damn sure you don't see anything too very exciting, as a matter of fact, he thought. If you're looking for ideas from us, that means you need 'em badly. And if you don't get 'em, you'll have more trouble holding down your subjects if you ever wind up in a scrap with us.

"Thank you. I should perhaps let you know certain American officers are in Belgium now, trying to learn from us." Guderian smiled and shrugged. "Between us, your country and mine share the problems of the strong, nicht wahr?"

"Yes," Morrell said. And I bet our boys don't learn one damn thing from you, either, except where the officers' brothels are. He wagged a finger at the German. "Nobody's looking at what you're doing in the east, in Poland and the Ukraine?"

Heinz Guderian shook his head. "No, Colonel, no one looks there-and it is as well that no one does, too." His eyes swung toward his tough-talking orderly. "In the east, his methods prevail. Poland pretends to be a kingdom. The Ukraine…" He shook his head. "After all, they're only Slavs." He might have been a Confederate saying, After all, they're only niggers. Morrell smiled with half his mouth. Either way, God help the poor bastards on the receiving end.

At seventeen, Mary McGregor had got used to being taller than her mother. Her father, after all, had been a big man. She remembered that very well, though these days she had trouble calling up the memory of just what his voice had sounded like.

She also remembered when her mother's hair had been the color of a bright new penny. Now she couldn't help noticing how much gray streaked that once-bright hair. She hadn't noticed it as it spread; one day, it seemed, that gray had simply appeared, as if by magic.

But magic is supposed to be good, Mary thought, looking out across the fields she and her mother and her sister and whatever hired man they got for the spring would be planting soon. Soon, but not yet: snow, a deeper blanket than usual, still covered those fields. Winter had been hard, even for Manitoba.

Mary clenched her fists so that her nails dug into her palms. This far north, the growing season was short enough anyhow. A late spring could make harvest touch-and-go before frosts came again in early fall. If they didn't get a good crop…

Well, so what? Mary thought, and went out to tend the horse and the cow and the rest of the livestock in the barn. What if we've got no money and they throw us off the farm? She knew the family had relatives back in Ontario; her father had come west to Manitoba when he was a boy. But the McGregors weren't close to any of those kin. Mary'd never met a one of them. Would they take us in? Times were supposed to be even harder back there than they were here-not only had Ontario been fought over harder than Manitoba, the rebellion there had been worse.

We're on our own. Nobody cares whether we live or die. Mary shook her head. That wasn't true. The Americans hoped the McGregors died. They'd killed her brother, Alexander. They'd killed her father, too. Oh, yes, his own bomb, meant for General Custer, had been the actual means of his death, but he never would have become a bomber in the first place if the stinking Yanks hadn't decided Alexander was plotting against them and stood him against a wall.

Some of those dark thoughts faded away when Mary went into the barn. It was warmer in there, with the walls holding out the wind and holding in the animals' body warmth. Somebody from the city might have wrinkled his nose at the odor. Mary took it for granted; she'd smelled it all her life. And the work distracted her. She gave the horse and cow and sheep hay and put down corn for the chickens. Then she mucked out the stalls. The manure would go on the garden and on as much of the fields as it would cover.

She handled pitchfork and shovel with matter-of-fact skill. Her hands had thick bands of callus across the palms. Her nails were short and blunt and dirty. A dozen scars seamed her fingers and the backs of her hands-anyone who did a lot of work with sharp tools had accidents now and then. Every once in a while, she thought wistfully of a manicure, but how much good would it do? A day after she got it, she'd be back in the barn and out in the fields once more.

Hens squawked and tried to peck as she lifted them off their nests so she could gather eggs. One of them did more than try; the bird's beak drew blood. She gave it a baleful stare. "Chicken and dumplings," she whispered. "Fried chicken. Chicken soup." The bird looked back out of beady little eyes. It was too stupid to be afraid. It was only indignant at having its nest robbed-and, being a hen, would forget about that in short order.

Instead of taking the basket of eggs straight back to the house, Mary sat down for a moment to rest. She leaned back against an old wagon wheel that had been sitting in the barn ever since she was a little girl. The iron tire on the wheel showed red streaks of rust. The wheel had a couple of broken spokes. Not for the first time, she wondered why her father had left it there instead of either repairing it or getting what use he could from the wood and the iron. Letting things lie idle wasn't like him.

She shrugged. She'd never get the chance to ask him now. If she ever needed anything that wheel could provide, she wouldn't hesitate to take it. Or, if she had to, she thought she could fix it. She hadn't tried her hand at carpentry till her father died. As with so much else, she'd had to learn the hard way-several of the scars on her hands came from slips. But she could do things nowadays that would have amazed her a few years before.

With a sigh, she climbed to her feet again, picked up the basket, and headed back to the farmhouse. She blinked in surprise when she saw a buggy by the house. People didn't visit the McGregors very often. She walked faster, curious to see who'd broken the unwritten rule.

A couple of Fords sped past on the road that led to Rosenfeld. One was painted green-gray, which meant it belonged to the U.S. Army. The other was the more usual black. All the same, odds were it had a Yank inside. Even now, almost ten years after the war ended, not many Canadians could afford a motorcar. And most of the ones who can are a bunch of damned collaborators, Mary thought.

She opened the kitchen door. Her mother sat at a table drinking tea with another woman of about her own age, who was saying, "I tell you, Maude, it's a disgrace. I'm sure she and that Yank-" She broke off and smiled. "Hello, Mary. How are you?"

"I'm fine, Mrs. Marble, thank you." Mary laughed at herself, thinking she should have recognized the buggy.

"Tell me more, Beth," her mother said. "You can be sure Mary won't let it get to the wrong ears."

"Well, I didn't expect she would," Beth Marble answered, sipping her tea. She was a couple of inches shorter than Mary's mother, with shoulder-length brown hair, blue eyes, rather flat features, and a habitual expression of good humor. After picking up a shortbread wafer from the plate on the table, she did go on with her story: one more tale of a Canadian girl who'd lost her virtue to a fast-talking American with a fancy motorcar and with money in his pocket.

Mary listened with only half an ear. She hardly knew this girl, who lived even farther from the McGregors than did the Marbles, and she'd been hearing such stories ever since the days of the Great War. Only the details varied. The American conquest of Canada continued on many different levels. Soldiers occupied the land. American men seduced Canadian women. Newspapers printed only what the conquerors wanted the conquered to read. Films pounded home the same messages, as she'd seen at the Bijou. So did the wireless, not that she'd ever heard it. Canadian schools taught the U.S. view of history-a pack of lies, as far as Mary was concerned. Her parents had pulled her and Julia out of school when the Yanks changed the curriculum. Most children, though, had kept on going, and the Americans had been in charge of such things for quite a while now. How long till a whole generation forgot what being Canadian meant?

Mary put the eggs she'd gathered on the counter. She went over to the table. "May I have a wafer, Mother?" she asked, and took one when Maude McGregor nodded.

"Such lovely manners," Beth Marble said, and beamed at Mary's mother. "Both your daughters are so sweet and charming, Maude."

Do you know me at all? Mary wondered as she nibbled at the shortbread. I don't think so. In her own mind, she was as much a fighter against the American occupation as her father had been, more of a fighter than her brother had been-even if the Yanks had murdered him for his opposition to their rule. Sweet? Charming? She felt like pouring a cup of tea and then spilling it on their visitor, even if Mrs. Marble had meant well, as she surely had.

As much to make a point as because she really wanted it, Mary took another shortbread wafer, this time without asking permission. Mrs. Marble, engrossed in another bit of gossip-she did like to talk-failed to notice. Mary's mother did, and wagged a finger at her. From behind Beth Marble's back, Mary stuck out her tongue.

Her mother raised her teacup to her mouth to hide a smile, but her eyes danced above it. Carrying that second piece of shortbread away as booty, Mary went into the parlor.

Two steps in were more than enough to show her she'd made a mistake. Her older sister sat on the rocking chair in there, and Beth Marble's son Kenneth on the sofa close by. More plainly than words, Julia's look said the two of them didn't want any company.

Face heating, Mary mumbled, "I… I guess I'll go upstairs now. Hello, Kenneth."

"Hello, Mary," Kenneth Marble answered politely, but he kept his eyes on Julia as he spoke. He'd been coming to call for most of a year now, sometimes with his mother, sometimes without. He was the first young man who'd come to call on Julia since Ted Culligan broke off their engagement after her father's death. There were times over the past few months when Julia had got all dreamy and absentminded. Mary didn't take that for a good sign.

Up the stairs she went, fast as her legs would carry her. When she turned around and looked back, Julia and Kenneth were leaning towards each other. She sighed. She didn't know what Julia saw in him. He was only an inch or two taller than she, and, to Mary's eyes, nothing much to look at. Some actress had got a reputation as the girl with it. In Julia's eyes, plainly, Kenneth Marble had it. Mary still found it more bewildering than exciting.

She flopped down on her bed and started reading a copy of The Ladies' Home Journal she'd got the last time she went into Rosenfeld. The magazine showed her a whole different world, and not just because it came from the USA. Skinny girls in short dresses strode city streets, rode in motorcars, listened to the wireless, lived in apartments, used electric lights and telephones, and did all sorts of other things Mary thought herself unlikely ever to do. Even more than what they did, that they took it so completely for granted was daunting.

If it weren't for the recipes and patterns the Journal included, Mary's mother probably wouldn't have let it come into the farmhouse. Nothing could have been better calculated to make someone on a farm discontented with her life. This issue even had a story about flying to California for a holiday. Flying! For pleasure! The only aeroplanes Mary had even seen were the fighting scouts and bombers that had buzzed above the farm during the Great War. She couldn't imagine wanting to get into one of those.

The Journal also had an article about a journey on an ocean liner. Mary couldn't decide whether she found stranger the idea of a liner or that of the ocean itself. She'd never seen it, and didn't expect she ever would. Before she could read much of the article, a commotion broke out downstairs: Julia and their mother and Beth Marble sounded even more excited than the hens had when Mary rifled their nests.

She flipped the magazine closed and hurried down to see what had happened. She found her older sister in tears, with their mother and Mrs. Marble both embracing her. Kenneth Marble stood off to one side, a sickly grin on his face. Mary stared at him. Had he tried to…? With his own mother, and Julia's, in the next room? He couldn't have been that stupid. Could he?

Then Mary noticed both her mother and Beth Marble were crying and smiling at the same time. Maude McGregor said, "Kenneth just asked Julia to marry him, and she said yes."

"Oh." Mary couldn't have said anything more if she tried; she felt as if she'd been punched in the pit of the stomach. Even breathing was hard. The first thought that went through her mind was, How will we do the work if Julia moves away? Even with all three of them working flat out, it barely got done.

Despite her mother's smile, Maude McGregor looked worried, too. Mrs. Marble seemed oblivious to the glance that went between Mary and her mother. It wasn't her trouble, after all.

"This is the happiest day of my life," Julia said. Beth Marble burst into tears again. Mary congratulated her sister. What a liar I am, she thought.


To Anne Colleton's ears, J.B.H. Norris' drawl sounded harsh and ignorant. But the Texas oil man had proved a sharp operator in spite of that backwoods accent. "Hope you'll see fit to invest in our operation here, ma'am," he said, tipping his hat to her. The Stetson, with its high crown and wide brim, also told her she wasn't in South Carolina any more.

She was near the banks of the Brazos River, northwest of Fort Worth. And she had questions that went beyond profit and loss. She pointed west. "That new Yankee state of Houston isn't very far away. What happens if there's another war? How are you going to keep U.S. soldiers and aeroplanes from wrecking everything you've got?"

"Ma'am, you'd do better asking Richmond about that than me," Norris answered. "If they hadn't given up so much last time, we wouldn't need to fret about it now."

"Yes, but they did, and so we do." Anne slapped at something. The mosquitoes were coming out early this afternoon. It wasn't quite so muggy as it would have been back home, but it would do.

J.B.H. Norris said, "Don't quite know what to tell you about that, except I don't think a war's coming any time soon."

"No," Anne said bleakly. "I don't, either. We're too weak."

"That's about the size of it," Norris agreed. "At least President Mitchel has the sense to see it. That Featherston maniac would get us into a fight we can't hope to win."

"I used to like him better than I do now, but he hasn't got any real chance of getting elected, anyway," Anne said. "So I'm a Whig again. Some people don't much like that, but I've never much cared for what people like or don't like." She changed the subject, but only a little: "What do you think of the Supreme Court ruling that lets Mitchel run again?"

"Well, the Constitution says a president serves the six-year term he's elected for, and then he's done." Norris shrugged. "President Mitchel didn't run for the job-he got it when that Calkins bastard-pardon me, ma'am-killed President Hampton. So I suppose it's only fair to let him try and win it again on his own. And Calkins was one of those Freedom Party fools, so I'm not surprised the Supreme Court gave it to Featherston right between the eyes."

"Yes, that occurred to me, too. Featherston frightened people-powerful people-a few years ago. Now they're going to make him pay for it." Anne Colleton's smile had a certain predatory quality, enough so that J.B.H. Norris flinched when she turned it on him rather than the world at large. She went on, "I do thank you for showing me around. You've given me a lot to think about-more than I expected when I came out to Texas, in fact. I may well put some of my money here once I get home."

Norris beamed. "That'd be wonderful. We can use the capital, and I'm not lyin' when I tell you so." He scratched his cheek with his left hand. Only then did Anne notice his ring finger was just a stump. A war wound? Probably. A lot of men had such small mutilations. He added, "If you're heading back East, you'd better not waste a lot of time. From what the papers say, the flood in the Mississippi Valley just keeps gettin' worse and worse."

"I know." Anne had been reading the papers, too. Anger roiled her voice: "And it's hurt us so much worse than it hit the damnyankees. If they hadn't stolen Kentucky and that piece of Arkansas from us, it wouldn't have hurt them much at all. Cairo, Illinois, got flooded." She rolled her eyes. "Cairo, Illinois, never was any sort of a place to begin with. But we've had Memphis and Little Rock just drowned, and the levees in New Orleans were holding by this much"-she held thumb and forefinger close together-"when I went through Louisiana on my way here."

"May not be so easy gettin' back," Norris warned.

"Why not?" Anne said. "Most of the bridges over the Mississippi are still standing."

"Yes, ma'am." The oil man nodded again. "The bridges over the Mississippi are still good. They're the big, strong ones, and they were built to take whatever the river could throw at 'em. But what about the bridges on the way to the Mississippi? An awful lot of them'll go down, I bet. I may be wrong, but that's sure enough how it looks to me."

Anne muttered something under her breath. It wasn't quite far enough under, for J.B.H. Norris' gingery eyebrows leapt upwards. He'll never think of me as a lady again, Anne thought, and did her best not to giggle. Well, fair enough, because I'm damn well not. Worry wiped out the temptation to laugh. "You're dead right, Mr. Norris, and I wish I'd thought of that myself. Please take me back to my hotel. I can't afford to waste much time, can I?"

"No, I don't reckon you can," Norris said. "Wish I could see more of you, but I know how things are. Car's right over there." He pointed to a middle-aged Birmingham outside the shack that did duty for an office.

How does he mean that? Anne wondered. Spend more time with me, or see me with my clothes off? Ten years, even five years, before, she would have had no doubt. But she wasn't so young as she had been. I'm just as picky as I ever was, though, maybe pickier. That's likely why I haven't got a husband yet. Nobody suits me. Maybe Tom was right. I've been on my own too long.

The ride back to Fort Worth took close to three hours. A blowout halfway there didn't help. J.B.H. Norris fixed it with the aplomb of one who'd done it many times before-and what driver hadn't? — but it still cost a half hour Anne wished she could have got back. She checked out of the Dandridge as soon as Norris stopped the motorcar in front of the hotel. Then she hurled her luggage into a cab and made for the train station across town.

Before the war, she would have had a colored servant, or more than one, taking care of her. No more. And she didn't miss them, either. She'd discovered she was more efficient than anyone whose main aim was to do as little as possible. That had proved oddly liberating, where she would have expected losing servants to do just the opposite.

But the time lost to the blowout rose up to haunt her at the station. "Sorry, ma'am, but the eastbound express pulled out of here about twenty minutes ago," the clerk in the ticket window said. "Next one doesn't leave till ten tonight."

"Damnation," Anne said. "Can I take a local and connect with another express east of here sooner than that? I do want to beat the flood if I can; I have to get back to South Carolina."

"I understand, ma'am. Let's see what I can do." The clerk flipped through schedules so complex, God would have had trouble understanding them. People in line behind Anne surely fumed at the delay. She would have, had she been back there and not at the front. At last, with an unhappy half smile, he shook his head. "Sorry, ma'am, but no. And I've got to tell you, there's no Pullman berths left on the ten o'clock train. You'll have to take an ordinary seat. I'll refund the difference, of course."

"Damnation," Anne said again, this time with more feeling. She'd be a frazzled wreck by the time she finally got back to St. Matthews. But if she didn't leave as soon as she could, heaven only knew when she would get back. "Give me whatever you can, then."

"Sure will." The clerk handed her a ticket and several brown Confederate banknotes. "Your train will be leaving from Platform W. It's over that way." He pointed. "Follow the signs-they'll take you straight to it. Hope everything turns out all right for you."

"Thanks." Anne waved for a porter to handle her suitcases. The colored man put them on a wheeled cart and followed her to Platform W. She bought food there, and a cheap novel to while away the time till the train got in.

It was late. By then, Anne had stopped expecting anything else. It didn't arrive till half past one. She'd put the novel aside an hour earlier, and was trying without much luck to doze in a chair. The car to which she was assigned didn't even have compartments, only row after row of seats bolted to the floor. The man who sat down next to her was so fat, he encroached on her without meaning to. He hadn't had a bath any time recently. She gritted her teeth. Nothing she could do about it, though. As soon as the train pulled out of Fort Worth, the fat man threw back his head, fell asleep, and began snoring like a thunderstorm. That added insult to injury. Anne felt like jabbing him with a pin.

Unable to sleep herself, she stared glumly out the window at the night. Only blackness met her eye, blackness and an occasional handful of lights burning in the small towns at which the express didn't stop. She almost resented the lights, which put her in mind of fireflies. Blackness suited her mood much better.

The express did stop at Dallas. Anne understood the need, but hated the delay. The fat man beside her scarcely stirred. He didn't wake up. After what seemed forever but was by her watch forty-five minutes, the train rumbled east again. Presently, Anne had to use the toilet. She took more than a little pleasure in waking her seatmate to get by, though she sounded polite. By the time she returned, he was snoring again. She woke him once more. It did no good to speak of. He fell back to sleep, while she stayed awake.

Marshall was the next stop, near the Louisiana border. By the time the train left, the sky ahead was getting light. Morning had come by the time the express got into Shreveport, on the Red River. The Red was flooding, too, but not enough to delay the train any worse.

Monroe, Louisiana, on the Ouachita, was the next scheduled stop-by then, Anne had the schedule all but memorized. But the express didn't make it to Monroe. First, Anne saw tent cities on high ground, where people who'd escaped the floodwaters were staying till someone did something more for them. Then, as the ground got lower, mud and water covered more and more of it. The air was thick and humid and full of the stink of decay. At last, the train had to stop, for the simple reason that going forward would have meant going underwater. The tracks were laid on an embankment that raised them above the surrounding countryside, but that finally stopped helping.

"What do we do now?" Anne asked the conductor.

"Don't rightly know, ma'am," he answered. "I reckon we'll back up and try and find a way around-if there is one. Don't rightly know about that, either. Only other thing we can do is wait for the water to go down, and Lord only knows how long that'd take."

Trying to hold in her anger, she snapped, "Why didn't you find out in Shreveport that the way would be flooded?"

"On account of it wasn't when we left Shreveport," the conductor said. "Ma'am, this here is a… heck of a bad flood, worst anybody's seen since Hector was a pup. An' it just keeps gettin' worser an' worser."

He'd fought not to swear in her presence. Now she fought not to swear in his. After what seemed a very long time, the train shuddered into motion-backwards. It crawled that way till at last it came to a cross track. Anne felt like cheering when it started moving ahead once more.

But it didn't go far. Before long, the encroaching floodwaters blocked its path again. This time, Anne did curse, and didn't care who sent her shocked looks. By the time the train had made three or four false starts, everyone in the car was swearing. It didn't help.

Yet another tent city sprouted like a forest of giant toadstools outside the whistlestop hamlet of Anabell, Louisiana, where the express was balked again. "How are those people going to eat?" someone asked. "If trains have trouble getting through…"

It was a good question. It got an answer even as Anne watched. An aeroplane landed in a field only a couple of hundred yards from the train. The pilot started throwing out sacks of flour and flitches of bacon. A great light blazed in Anne's mind. "Let me off the train!" she told the conductor. "This instant, do you hear me?"

"What about your luggage?" he asked, blinking.

"To hell with my luggage," she said. The conductor tapped the side of his head with his index finger, but did as she asked. She ran over to the aeroplane, waving and calling, "Can you fly me over the Mississippi and past the floods to where I can catch another train east?"

"Maybe I can, lady," the pilot answered, shifting a plug of tobacco in his cheek. "Why the devil should I?"

"I'll pay you three hundred dollars," she said. "Half now, half when we land."

That wad of tobacco shifted again. She wondered if he'd swallow it, but he didn't. "Lemme finish unloading," he said around it. "Then you got yourself a deal." Half an hour later, the biplane bumped across the soggy field and threw itself into the air. Anne Colleton whooped with delight. She'd never flown before, and wondered why not. Three hundred dollars was a small price to pay for this kind of fun-and for the money she hoped to make when she got home.

F loodlights glared into Jake Featherston's face, so that he couldn't see the crowd in the New Orleans auditorium. He didn't care; he'd made enough speeches so that he didn't need to see the people out there to know what they were thinking. "Good to be back here," he said. "This is the town where I was nominated six years ago. We did pretty good then, we did. And we'll do better this time, you just wait and see if we don't!"

"Freedom!" The roar came from over a thousand throats. Featherston grinned fiercely. That sound hit him harder than a big slug of hooch. Its absence was the one thing he hated most about making speeches on the wireless-it felt as if he were shouting at a bunch of deaf men, and he couldn't tell if he was getting through or not. This speech was going out over the wireless, too, and it would go complete with shouts of approval and excitement from the crowd.

This is the way it ought to be, he thought, and resumed: "People say we're gonna have trouble electing me. People say that, but they don't always know what the devil they're talking about. And you tell me, friends-haven't the Confederate States got themselves enough trouble already?"

"Yes!" people shouted, and, "Hell, yes!" and, "You bet!" One woman cried, "Oh, Jake!" as if they were in bed together and he'd just given her the best time she'd ever had in her life.

His grin got wider. Maybe he'd have a flunky look for her after the speech was done. And maybe he wouldn't, too; he couldn't afford to get too much of a reputation as a tomcatting man, not when so many people who went to church every Sunday were likely to vote Freedom. He hated compromise, but that was one he'd had to make.

"Haven't we got ourselves enough trouble?" he said again. "Folks, I tell you, the Whigs have been carrying the ball too long. They've been carrying it too long, and now they've gone and dropped it." He slammed his fist down on the podium.

More applause from the crowd. Cries of, "Tell 'em, Jake!" and, "Give 'em hell!" rang out over the general din. They might have been listening to a preacher on the revival circuit, not an ordinary politician. Jake Featherston wasn't an ordinary politician, which was both his greatest weakness and his greatest strength.

"They've gone and dropped it," he repeated-again, as a preacher might have. "What else would you call it when here in the middle of July, a good month after the flood finally started going down, the Confederate States of America have still got more than half a million people-half a million, I tell you, and I'm not lying; it's what the Confederate Red Cross says-living in tents? If that's not a shame and a disgrace, you tell me what it is."

A lot of those people, maybe a majority, were colored cotton pickers who worked for white plantation owners in what differed from slavery in little more than name. More often than not, Jake would have gloated at their suffering. But if he could use them as a club with which to beat the present administration, he would.

He went on, "Up in the USA, there's not a soul still stuck in a tent. Oh, I know they didn't get hurt as bad as we did, but it makes a point. When the Yankees need to get things done, they up and do 'em. When we need to get things done, what happens?" He threw his arms wide in extravagant disgust. "Not a damn thing, that's what! I tell you, folks, you're just lucky New Orleans didn't go out to sea, on account of the government in Richmond wouldn't've done a thing-not a single, solitary thing-to stop it if it had."

That drew more applause: baying, angry applause. They know I'm telling the truth, he thought. Being a Whig meant doing as little as you could to get by.

The line wasn't in the text of his speech, but he used it, adding, "Folks say that works all right. Maybe it did, once upon a time. But this here ain't no fairy tale, and we haven't got no happy ending. People, we need a government in Richmond that'll stand up on its hind legs and do things.

"Who stumbled into the war? The Whigs! Who let the niggers stab us in the back without even knowing they were going to? The Whigs! Who went and lost the war? The Whigs!" Now the crowd shouted out the name of the CSA's longtime ruling party with him. He rolled on: "Who let the damnyankees steal Kentucky? The Whigs! Who let 'em steal Sequoyah? The Whigs! Who let 'em cut Texas in half? The Whigs! Who let 'em take northern Virginia away from us? The Whigs! I fought in the Army of Northern Virginia, and I'm proud of it, but the Yankees have taken the place away from us. And who let the Yankees tell us what we could do with our Army and Navy? Who left us too weak to fight back when those bastards started throwing their weight around? The Whigs again!"

He slammed his fist down on the podium. The crowd in the hall roared. They might have been so many coon dogs taking a scent. Featherston took a scent from them, too. If he didn't make a crowd hot and sweaty, he wasn't doing his job. His nose told him he was tonight.

"They've done everything they could to tear this country down," he went on. "Now they had their day once. I give 'em that. Jeff Davis was a great president. Nobody can say different. So was Lee. So was Longstreet. But that was a long time ago. We had friends back then. Where are our friends now? The Frenchmen have the Kaiser on their back. England's trying to keep from starving every year. We're on our own, and the Whigs are too damn dumb to know it. God helps the people who help themselves. And as long as the Whigs hang on in Richmond, God better help us, 'cause we'll need it bad!"

That got him a laugh. He'd known it would. He understood that it should. But it wasn't funny to him. The contempt and hatred he felt for the Whigs-for all the Confederate elite, including the second- and third-generation officers who'd done so much to lose the Great War-were big as the world. They hadn't given him a chance to show what he could do, no matter how right he'd been. In fact, they'd scorned him all the more because he'd been right.

Just see what I do if I win this election, you sons of bitches, he thought. Just you see then.

Meanwhile, he had this speech to finish: "If you want to go on the way the Confederate States have been going, you vote Whig," he thundered. "If you want your country to go straight down the toilet, that's the way to vote." He got another laugh there, an enormous one. He continued, "The Supreme Court says you can keep on having just what you've had-and aren't you lucky?" Their day would come, too. He'd promised himself that. "But if you want change, if you want strength, if you want pride-if you want to be able to look at yourselves in the mirror and look the USA straight in the eye, y'all vote…"


The shout from the crowd, more than a thousand voices speaking as one, made his ears ring. He threw up his hands. "That's right, folks. Thank you. And remember-no matter what else you do, fight hard! "

More applause shook the hall as he stepped away from the podium. The house lights came up, so he could see the people he'd been haranguing. He waved to them again. "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!" they chanted, over and over again. The rhythmic cry rolled through him, rolled under him, and swept him along on its crest. He'd read somewhere that in the Sandwich Islands the natives rode waves lying or even standing up on flat boards. He supposed that was true. If it weren't true, who could make it up? He felt something like that now, buoyed up by the crowd's enthusiasm.

As he went offstage, the bodyguards and other men who'd come west from Virginia with him pumped his hand and told him what a great speech he'd given. "Thanks, boys," he said, and then, "For Christ's sake, somebody get me a drink!"

Louisiana had never surrendered to the siren song of prohibition. He could drink his whiskey here without shame or hypocrisy. It seared his throat and sent warmth exploding out from his middle. As soon as he emptied the glass, somebody got him a fresh one.

He sipped the second drink more slowly. Got to keep my wits about me, he thought. Not everybody was going to like the speech as well as his flunkies had.

No sooner had that thought crossed his mind than a tall, blond, handsome man in a suit that must have cost plenty came up and shook hands with him. "You gave 'em hell out there tonight, Jake," he said, a Texas twang in his voice.

"I thank you kindly, Willy," Featherston answered. Willy Knight had headed up the Redemption League, an outfit with goals much like those of the Freedom Party, till the bigger Party enfolded it. He wasn't the best number-two man around, mostly because he still had thoughts of being number one.

"Damn good speech," agreed Amos Mizell. He led the Tin Hats, the biggest Confederate veterans' organization. The Tin Hats weren't formally aligned with the Freedom Party, but they shared many of the same ideas.

"Thank you, too," Jake Featherston said. Mizell wore the ribbon for a Purple Heart on his shirt. "You were out there, same as me. You know how the Whigs sold us down the river. You know how they've been selling us down the river ever since."

"Sure do." Mizell nodded. "What Willy and I aren't so sure of, though, is whether you're the fellow who's going to kick 'em out on the street where they belong."

"No, huh?" Featherston looked from one of them to the other. "You boys felt like that, how come you didn't try and keep me from getting the nomination last month?" He wanted his enemies out there in the open where he could see them and smash them, not lurking in dead leaves like a couple of rattlesnakes.

"Wouldn't've been much point to that, on account of we'd've lost," Willy Knight said. "We'll see how you do come November, and we'll go from there. You really think you're going to win?"

Featherston made an impatient, scornful gesture. "That's to keep the troops happy, and you know it as well as I do. I'm hoping I finish ahead of the damn Rad Libs, and that we hold our ground in Congress. I think we can do that." He hoped the Freedom Party could do that. Before the great flood, he wouldn't even have bet on so much. But the flood had shown that the Whigs weren't so slick as they thought they were, and that they didn't respond well in emergencies. Some voters, at least, would see the light.

Knight and Mizell looked at each other. "All right, Jake," Knight said at last. "That sounds fair. If the Party does that well come fall, we'll keep on backing your play. But if we take another hammering, the way we did in the last couple of Congressional elections, everybody's gonna have to do a lot of thinking."

"I carried the Freedom Party on my back, God damn it," Jake growled.

"Nobody says you didn't, so keep your shirt on." Willy Knight was a bigger man than Featherston, but Jake, in a fury, was a match for anybody. Knight knew it, too. Still speaking placatingly, he went on, "Moses took the Hebrews out of Egypt, but he wasn't the one who got 'em into the Promised Land."

Amos Mizell nodded. "If the Party's vote slips again, the Tin Hats will have to think about getting what we want some other way."

Featherston had thought he wanted enemies openly declared. Now he had them, and wished he didn't. "And I suppose the two of you will try and screw me over so we don't get what I said we would."

They almost fell over themselves denying it. "As long as we do what you said we'd do, we're still in business," Knight said. "If we fall down now, who knows if there'll be any pieces worth picking up later on? We're still with you."

"You'd better be," Jake said. "Let's see what happens in November, then, and afterwards." Knight and Mizell both nodded. Featherston shook hands with each of them in turn. And if you bastards think I'll let go without a fight even if things do go wrong, you're a hell of a lot dumber than I think you are.

In the Terry, the colored district of Augusta, Georgia, Election Day meant next to nothing. Only a handful of Negro veterans of the Great War were registered to vote. To most people, it was just another Tuesday.

As usual, Erasmus was in his fish store and restaurant when Scipio walked in. Scipio got himself a cup of coffee to drink while sweeping up the place. His boss was setting newly bought fish on ice in the counter. Scipio said, "What you think? De Whigs gwine win again?"

"Dunno," Erasmus said with a shrug. "Them or the Rad Libs, don't matter one way or t'other. Long as it ain't that goddamn crazy man." He threw a crappie into place with more force than he usually used while handling fish. That Election Day meant next to nothing didn't mean it meant nothing at all.

"Dat Featherston buckra, he ain't gwine do nothin' much," Scipio said.

"Better not," Erasmus answered, and slammed down a gutted catfish. "That son of a bitch win, everything's even tougher for us niggers. And things is tough enough as they is."

Voice sly, Scipio said. "You ain't got it so bad. You owns your house free an' clear-"

"I ain't stupid," Erasmus said, and Scipio nodded. His boss had been damn smart there. He'd paid off his mortgage just when inflation was starting to ravage the CSA, when he'd had a pretty easy time accumulating the money he needed but before Confederate dollars became nothing but a joke. The bankers had taken the money, even if they'd been unhappy about it. A few weeks later and they would have refused him. "I ain't stupid," he repeated. "I'm smart enough to know I ain't got it easy long as I's a nigger in the CSA."

He was right about that. Scipio didn't need to be a genius to understand as much. He said, "No, you ain't got it easy-I takes it back. But you has it worse-all us niggers has it worse-if dat Featherston, he win." Working for Anne Colleton had given him a feel for the way Confederate politics worked. Again, though, he didn't need to be a genius to find the truth in what he'd just said.

"Not so many parades with them goddamn white men in the white shirts an' the butternut pants yellin', 'Freedom!' this year," Erasmus observed. "They ain't been tryin' to bust up the other parties' meetin's, neither, like they done before. They walkin' sof' again."

"Don' want to remind nobody what that one buckra done," Scipio said. "But too many folks, dey recollects any which way."

"Hell, yes," Erasmus said. "Thing of it is, Freedom Party, they needs the white folks to be stupid, or else to act stupid on account of they scared. Now, Lord knows the white folks is stupid-"

"Do Jesus, yes!" Scipio said, as if responding to a preacher's sermon.

"But they ain't that stupid, not unless they's scared bad," Erasmus went on, as if he hadn't spoken. "Things ain't too bad for 'em right now-money's still worth somethin', most of 'em's got jobs-so they ain't gwine vote for no Jake Featherston, not this year they ain't. That's how I sees it, anyways."

"Way I sees it, you should oughta write fo' de newspapers," Scipio said, not intending it as any sort of flattery. On the contrary-he'd read plenty of editorials about what was likely to happen that didn't sum things up anywhere near so neatly as his illiterate but ever so shrewd boss had managed in a couple of sentences.

Erasmus lit a cigarette. He blew out a cloud of smoke, then said, "You bangin' your gums on all this politics so as you kin git out o' workin'-ain't that right, Xerxes?"

"Oh, yassuh, Marse Erasmus, suh." Scipio laid on his Low Country accent even thicker than usual. "Ah ain't nevah done one lick o' work, not since de day you hire me. Ah jus' eats yo' food an' drinks yo' coffee an' steals yo' smokes." He held out his hand, pale palm up, for a cigarette.

Laughing, Erasmus gave him one, then leaned close so Scipio could get a light from the one he already had in his mouth. He'd just taken his first drag of the morning and coughed a couple of times when the first customer of the day came in, calling for coffee and ham and eggs and, instead of grits, hash browns. Erasmus got busy at the stove. Scipio got busier doing everything else. They stayed busy all day long. When Scipio finally went home, Erasmus was still busy. Scipio sometimes wondered whether his boss ever went to bed.

And when Scipio got back to his roominghouse, he heard splashes and squeals from the bathroom at the end of the hall. He also heard Bathsheba's voice, rising in ever-growing exasperation and wrath. He smiled to himself. Antoinette was going on two years old now, and an ever-growing handful to bathe.

A few minutes later, Bathsheba carried the baby into the room. Antoinette, swaddled in a towel, saw Scipio and said, "Dada!" in delight. Scipio's wife looked wetter than the baby did. She also looked a lot less happy.

"What de matter, sweetheart?" Scipio asked. "Givin' 'Toinette a bath ain't dat hard. I even done it my ownself a time or two." He spoke as if that were some enormous accomplishment. In his mind, it was. He hadn't heard many fathers talk about giving their children even that much in the way of care.

But Bathsheba's baleful stare made him stop with his mouth half open. "The baby shit in the damn tub," she said bleakly.

"Oh," Scipio said. "Aw… golly." The first expression of sympathy that came to mind wouldn't have been to Bathsheba's liking, not just then.

Instead of saying anything, Scipio went to a cupboard and pulled out a bottle of moonshine. Georgia was officially dry, but contraband liquor wasn't hard to come by. He poured his wife a stiff drink, and a smaller one for himself. Holding out the glass to Bathsheba, he said, "Here you is. Reckon you done earned dis here."

"Reckon I did." She poured down half of it. Then she puffed out her cheeks and exhaled violently. "Whew! Dat's nasty stuff." Scipio was inclined to agree. He'd always preferred rum even to good whiskey, and the murky yellowish fluid in his glass bore a closer relationship to paint thinner than it did to good whiskey.

Antoinette saw her parents drinking something, and naturally wanted some, too. Bathsheba fixed her a bottle. Then she started making supper. Since the room had only a hot plate for cooking, everything took a while. Scipio was glad for the chance to sit down and play with his little girl and talk with his wife and drink the moonshine and let it relax him.

"Buckra ladies I was cleanin' for, they all talkin' 'bout the election today," Bathsheba said. "Dunno why. They can't vote any more'n us black folks kin."

Bills allowing women's suffrage showed up in the Georgia Legislature almost every session. They got tabled or voted down with monotonous regularity. Even so, Scipio asked, "Who dey say dey husbands vote fo'?"

"Whigs, mostly." Bathsheba knew why he was worried, and added, "That Featherston fella, don't reckon he gwine go nowhere much."

"Do Jesus, hope you right," Scipio answered.

Bathsheba took lamb chops out of the pan and started frying potatoes in the grease they'd left behind. "Got me somethin' more important to tell you, anyways."

"What dat?" Scipio asked as he stuck a little bite of lamb in Antoinette's mouth. The baby made a face, but ate the morsel. Scipio gave her another one.

Bathsheba pointed at her. "Reckon she gwine have herself a little brother or sister come summertime."

"I was wonderin' about dat my ownself," Scipio said as he got up to give her a hug. "Didn't t'ink you monthlies, dey come." Her breasts had been tender lately, too, and she'd started falling asleep early in the evening.

As if to prove he was right, Bathsheba yawned. She laughed a moment later. "Better sleep now. When the new young 'un come, ain't never gwine sleep again."

"We gots to find a bigger place, too," Scipio said. The room they had was intended for one. It was tolerable for two, provided they got on well-which Scipio and Bathsheba certainly did. With three in it, there wasn't room to swing a cat. With four… Scipio thought about that. With four people in this room, there wouldn't have been room to bring in a cat, let alone swing it.

"What you reckon Antoinette make o' the new baby?" Bathsheba asked.

"She ain't gwine like it," Scipio answered. "Young chillun, dey don' never like no new baby in de fambly. But she git over it. She have to. Dey allus does. Jus' sometimes take longer, is all."

Bathsheba nodded. "Reckon you's right." She yawned again. "I gots to get to sleep. Come here, 'Toinette. Time we both go to bed."

The baby didn't want to. She was convinced she'd miss something. Some evenings she was right, others wrong. Tonight, she fussed and fumed-and then got up the following morning not just ready but eager to play. Scipio was the one who, yawning, went out to face the day.

He paid his five cents for a copy of the Constitutionalist on his way to Erasmus' place. Newsboys shouted of Burton Mitchel's victory as president of the Confederate States. "President Mitchel reelected!" they yelled. A Confederate president wasn't supposed to get reelected, but the Supreme Court said this didn't count. No matter what the Supreme Court said, the newsboys knew what was what.

The Whigs had won easily this time, nothing like their razor-thin victory in 1921. The Freedom Party took Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas, the Radical Liberals Arkansas and Chihuahua. Sonora still looked too close to call. Everywhere else, the people had voted Whig.

Scipio read that with more relief than he'd felt for a long time. Life in the CSA was hard enough for a black man any time. He imagined going to bed one morning and waking up to discover Jake Featherston was president. The mere idea chilled him worse than the cool November morning.

He methodically worked his way through the election stories below the headlines. The Freedom Party hadn't taken quite so many lumps as he would have liked to see. It had lost one Senator, but gained a pair of Congressmen-maybe three, because one of the races in Texas remained very tight.

"I may not be going to the Gray House next March," the Constitutionalist quoted Featherston as saying, "but we'll make ourselves heard in Congress, and in state houses all over the country. We aren't about to go away, no matter how much the Whigs wish we would. We're just reloading for the next round of the fight."

He'd lost. He hadn't come close to winning. But he still sounded confident right was on his side, and that he'd win one of these days. He reminded Scipio of nothing so much as Cassius and the other colored Reds who'd formed the ill-fated government of the Congaree Socialist Republic and dragged him into it. Their faith in the dialectic had kept them going through thick and thin. Jake Featherston sounded like a man with the same kind of faith.

He'd kill me if I could tell him so, Scipio thought. The Reds would kill me, too-if they weren't already dead themselves. No, neither side here would see its resemblance to the other. That didn't mean the resemblance wasn't there.

The Reds had proved wrong-dead wrong-about the dialectic. With any luck, the Freedom Party would prove just as wrong. That thought heartened Scipio. He tossed the Constitutionalist into a trash can and hurried to work. Erasmus would skin him if he was late.

T he first time Sam Carsten had seen the Remembrance — going on ten years ago now, which struck him as very strange-he'd thought her the ugliest, funniest-looking ship in the U.S. Navy, or, for that matter, in anyone else's. She'd started out life intending to be a battle cruiser, but had had her design drastically revised while she was a-building. Back in those distant days not long after the Great War, nobody had seen a ship with a flight deck so she could launch and land aeroplanes.

Now, as Sam returned to the Remembrance, she still looked strange. He shook his head as the boat neared the carrier. No, that wasn't right. She looked strange all over again, but for different reasons this time. By now, the Navy had three aeroplane carriers that had been built for the purpose from the keel up. They were a lot more capable than the Remembrance, which looked like the hybrid she was.

She may not be pretty, but she gets the job done, he thought. The boat from the O'Brien came alongside. Sailors up on the Remembrance lowered a rope ladder. Carsten shouldered his duffel bag.

"Good luck, sir," one of the sailors said. "You're going from a little fish to a big one."

"Thanks, Fritz," Carsten answered. He grabbed the ladder and swarmed up it, as if boarding with intent to take the ship rather than to serve in her. He knew a lot of eyes were watching him. If he acted like a gouty old man on the way up from the boat, they'd treat him with less respect than if he did his best impression of a pirate.

As he scrambled up onto the Remembrance 's broad, flat deck, a sailor leaped forward and grabbed the canvas duffel bag. "Let me take that for you, sir," the fellow said. By his tone, Carsten had passed his first test.

A lieutenant commander strolled up at a more leisurely pace. Sam stiffened to attention and saluted. "Permission to come aboard, sir?" he said formally.

"Granted." The other officer returned his salute. Then he smiled. "My name is Watkins, Ensign. Michael Watkins. Do I understand this is your second tour aboard the Remembrance?"

"Pleased to meet you, sir. Yes, sir, I've spent some time on her before," Carsten answered. "But that was a while ago-I was just thinking about how long it seems-and I was only a petty officer in those days."

"Oh, really? I didn't know that." Watkins' voice gave no clue as to what he thought about it, either. "So you're a mustang, eh? Up through the hawse hole?"

Sam nodded. "That's me." Not a whole lot of men jumped from rating to officer. He supposed he should have been proud of himself. Hell, he was proud of himself, when he had time to think about it.

"I'm going to ask you one question, Carsten, and I hope you won't take it the wrong way," Lieutenant Commander Watkins said. Sam nodded. He had a pretty good idea what the question would be. And, sure enough, Watkins asked, "You do remember you are an officer now, I hope?"

Carsten nodded again. "I do my best, sir." He'd seen a couple of other mustangs-both of them men fifteen or twenty years older than he was-who'd been promoted during the war for bravery too conspicuous to ignore. Both of them acted as if they were still CPOs. He understood that-they'd got set in their ways long before their promotions-but he didn't try to imitate it.

He seemed to have satisfied Watkins. "Fair enough, Ensign," the Remembrance 's officer said. "I'll take you to your quarters. Dougherty, follow us."

"Aye aye, sir," said the sailor who had Sam's duffel bag. He was redheaded and freckled and very fair.

"Pharmacist's mate still carry plenty of zinc-oxide ointment and such?" Sam asked him.

Dougherty gauged his pale blond hair, blue eyes, and pink, pink skin. "Well, yes, sir," he answered. "Don't know how much you'll need it, though, in January off Baltimore." He jerked his chin toward the gray, cloudy sky.

"You never can tell. I'll burn damn near anywhere," Carsten said. The sailor smiled, Sam thought in sympathy. Dougherty certainly looked as if he too would burn under any light brighter than a kerosene lantern's.

Lieutenant Commander Watkins opened a steel door. "Here you are, Ensign," he said, flipping on a switch to turn on the lamp inside the cabin. As he stepped back to let Sam see in, he apologetically spread his hands and added, "Sorry it's so small, but it's what we've got."

"That's all right, sir," Sam said. "It's a lot more room than I had my last tour aboard her. They still triple-deck the bunks, don't they?" He waited for Watkins to nod, then went on, "And I served in one of the five-inch gun sponsons, so I didn't have any room there, either."

"Ah." Watkins started to nod and let that go, but then his gaze sharpened. "Were you aboard Remembrance when she took fire off Belfast?"

"I sure as hell was, sir," Carsten answered. "A shell killed two men in my crew. Only dumb luck none of the fragments got me."

"Well, well," Lieutenant Commander Watkins said. "I wonder if we have any men still aboard who served with you."

"Been five years, sir. I haven't seen any yet, not that that proves anything," Sam said. "I'd like to say hello if I do, but I don't suppose I could do much more than that, could I?"

"I wouldn't think so, Ensign," Watkins told him. "This is part of what I meant when I asked if you remembered you were an officer." Sam nodded; he'd figured that out for himself. Watkins stepped back. "I won't keep you any more-you'll want to get settled in, I'm sure. I hope to see you and talk with you more later on."

"Thank you, sir." Carsten saluted.

"My pleasure." Watkins returned the salute. "Come along, Dougherty," he said, and walked on down the corridor.

Sam closed and dogged the door to his cabin. He'd been telling the truth when he said it was spacious compared to his previous accommodations on the Remembrance. That didn't mean he had much room. If he stood with arms outstretched, he could touch the gray-painted metal walls with his fingertips. The cabin held a bunk, a steel chest of drawers bolted to the opposite wall, a steel desk, a chair, and a tiny washbasin with a steel mirror above it. All that left him just about enough room to put his feet down, provided he was careful doing it.

Stowing his worldly goods, such as they were, didn't take long. Then he went out on deck once more. The O'Brien, having delivered him, steamed away, smoke pouring from her four stacks. The Remembrance pushed south through heavy seas. The rolling and pitching didn't bother Sam. He'd always had good sea legs and a calm stomach; his Achilles' heel was his pale skin.

Back toward the stern, a couple of mechanics worked on an aeroplane. The machine looked sleeker and more powerful than the modified Great War-vintage aeroplanes that had flown off the Remembrance during Carsten's last tour aboard her. I'd better bone up on what the differences are, he thought.

He didn't get to stand around watching for very long. A respectful petty officer soon came up to him and whisked him over to the office of a gray-haired commander named van der Waal. "What do you know about minimizing damage from torpedo hits?" the other officer demanded.

"Sir, I was aboard the Dakota when the Japs put a fish into her off the Sandwich Islands, but I didn't have anything to do with damage control there," Sam answered.

"All right, that's a little something, anyhow," van der Waal said. "You've experienced the problem firsthand, which is good. That's more than a lot of people can say. Does it interest you?"

"No, sir. Not a whole lot," Carsten said honestly. "I served a gun before I was an officer, and I'm interested in aeronautics, too. That's how I came aboard the Remembrance during my first tour here."

"Naval aeronautics is important. I'd have a hard time telling you anything different, wouldn't I, here on an aeroplane carrier?" Commander van der Waal's craggy face creased in unaccustomed places when he smiled. But he quickly turned serious again. "But so is damage control. The Japs aren't the only ones who've got submersibles, you know." He looked south and west, in the direction of the CSA.

"The Confederates aren't supposed to have 'em!" Sam blurted.

"I know that. And I know we send inspectors up and down their coast to make sure they don't," van der Waal told him. "But I'd bet they've got a few anyhow-and we haven't been inspecting as hard as we might have the past few years. The budget keeps going down, and President Sinclair wants to get along with everybody. And the British still have some boats, and the French might, and we know perfectly well that the Japanese do. And so does the German High Seas Fleet. And so, Ensign…"

"I see your point, sir," Sam said, knowing he couldn't very well say anything else. "If that's what you want me to do, I'll do it." He couldn't very well say anything but that, either. Then he dredged up a childhood expression: "But if I had my druthers, it's not what I'd do."

Van der Waal chuckled. "Haven't heard that one in a while. You gave up your druthers, you know, when you put on the uniform."

"Really, sir? I never would have noticed." Some men would have wound up in trouble after talking back to a superior officer that way. Carsten did have a knack for not getting people angry at him.

Commander van der Waal said, "Well, we'll see what happens. You'll start out in my shop, because I do need a man to back me up. If another opportunity comes along and you want to take it, I don't suppose I'd stand in your way. Fair enough?"

"More than fair enough, sir. It's damn white of you, matter of fact." Sam saluted. Most officers would have grabbed him and held on to him, and that would have been that. "Thank you very much!"

"I don't want a badly disaffected man serving under me. It's not good for me, it wouldn't be good for the officer in question, and it's not good for the ship." Van der Waal nodded briskly. "For now, you're dismissed."

Sam saluted again and went out on deck. He spied a knot of sailors at the starboard bow. They were all pointing in the direction van der Waal had-toward the Confederate States. Carsten looked that way himself. He had no trouble spotting the Confederate coast-defense ship steaming along between the Remembrance and the shore.

Like one of the U.S. Navy's so-called Great Lakes battleships, the Confederate warship was only about half the size of a real battlewagon. She'd carry a battleship's guns, but only half as many of them as, say, the Dakota. She wouldn't have the armor or the speed to take on a first-class battleship, either. And she and her three sisters were the biggest warships the C.S. Navy was allowed to have.

What does her skipper think, looking at the Remembrance? Carsten wondered. He could sink her if they fought gun to gun; the aeroplane carrier had nothing bigger than five-inchers aboard. But they wouldn't fight gun to gun, not unless something went horribly wrong. And how would that Confederate captain like to try shooting down aeroplanes that could drop bombs on his head or put torpedoes in the water running straight at his ship?

He wouldn't like it for hell, Sam thought. His grin stretched wide as the Atlantic. He liked the idea just fine himself.

N ellie Jacobs was keeping one eye on the coffeehouse and the other on Clara's arithmetic homework when Clara's half sister, Edna Grimes, burst into the place. That Clara was going on eight years old, and so old enough to have homework, surprised Nellie. That Edna should come bursting in astonished her.

Then Nellie got a look at her older daughter's face, and astonishment turned to alarm. "Good heavens, Edna! What's wrong?" she asked. "Are you all right? Are Merle and Armstrong?"

"Armstrong is a brat," Clara declared. Anything might have distracted her from the problems in her workbook. The mention of her nephew-who was only a couple of years younger than she was-more than sufficed.

Only a couple of customers were working on coffee and, in one case, a sandwich. Business would pick up after government offices closed in another forty-five minutes. Nellie hoped it would, anyhow. It had been a slow day-whenever snow fell in Washington, it tied the city in knots.

Nellie expected Edna to go into one of the back rooms before saying whatever was on her mind. That way, the men wouldn't be able to eavesdrop. But her daughter said, "Oh, Ma, I don't know what to do! Merle's found out about Nick Kincaid!"

"Oh," Nellie said, and then, "Oh, Lordy."

"Who's Nick Kincaid, Edna?" Clara asked.

"He was a… a fellow I used to know, a soldier," Edna answered. "I was going to marry him, maybe, but he got killed in the war."

That told Clara enough to satisfy her. It didn't say everything there was to say on the subject, not by a long chalk. Edna had certainly been about to marry Lieutenant Nicholas H. Kincaid; she'd been walking down the aisle with him when U.S. artillery fire tore off his head. The other thing she'd neglected to tell her half sister was that Kincaid had been a soldier, all right, but one who fought for the Confederate States.

"Well, dear," Nellie said, as coolly as she could, "you knew this was liable to happen one of these days." She was, if anything, amazed it hadn't happened sooner.

Edna said, "When it didn't happen for so long, I reckoned it never would. And you know how Merle is, how he always put me on a pedestal."

Most men, Nellie was convinced, put women on pedestals so they could look up their skirts. But she found herself nodding. Merle Grimes was different-or had been different. He'd lost his first wife during the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Since meeting Edna and falling in love with her, he'd made as good a husband as any woman could want-better than Edna deserved, Nellie often thought.

Edna never would have gone up on that pedestal if Merle (who had a Purple Heart-a U.S. Purple Heart) had known everything-or even most things-about Nick Kincaid. What he would have thought had he known Kincaid had got Edna into bed… Nellie shied away from that. Sometimes the quiet ones were the worst when they did lose their tempers. Even finding out Edna's former fiance had worn butternut and not green-gray was liable to be enough.

"What am I gonna do, Ma?" Edna wailed.

"How'd he find out?" Nellie asked.

"This fellow from the CSA came into his office for some kind of business or other." Now Edna had the sense to keep her voice down; one of the men drinking coffee had leaned forward to snoop a little too obviously. She went on, "They both wore Purple Heart ribbons, dammit-you know how the Confederates give 'em, too. And they got to talking soldier talk: where'd you fight, how'd you get hurt, that kind of thing."

"And?" Nellie asked.

"And one thing led to another, and they got to liking each other," Edna said. "And Merle said how he'd married a Washington gal, and that was the closest thing you could get to marrying a gal from the Confederate States. And the other fellow said that was funny, on account of his cousin had almost married this Washington gal who worked in a coffeehouse when he was here on occupation duty during the war."

"Uh-oh," Nellie said.

Edna nodded bitterly. " Uh-oh is right. Merle said his wife-me, I mean-was working in a coffeehouse when he met her, too. And they went and talked a little more, and they figured out they were both talking about the same gal. And I got this phone call from Merle, and I didn't like the way he sounded, not for beans I didn't, and so I left Armstrong with Mrs. Parker next door-he was playing with her boy Eddie anyways-and I came over here."

"All right, dear," Nellie said. "I may not be much, but I'm what you've always got, and that's for sure." Edna nodded, biting her lip and blinking back tears. There had been times when Nellie hoped she would never see her daughter again, not a few of them when Edna was fooling around with the late Confederate Lieutenant Kincaid. But Edna was what Nellie had, too, and always would be. It wasn't that she didn't love Clara, but her younger daughter often felt more like an afterthought or an accident than flesh of Nellie's flesh. Of course, Edna had been an accident, too, but that was a long time ago now.

"What am I gonna do, Ma?" Edna asked again.

"Just remember, sweetie, your husband ain't the only one in the family who's got himself a medal," Nellie said. "He starts going on about you selling out your country, you hit him over the head with the Order of Remembrance. For heaven's sakes, Teddy Roosevelt put it on you his very own self."

"That's true." Edna brightened a little. "That is true." But then she turned pale. She pointed out through the big glass window in front. "Oh, Jesus, Ma, there he is."

"Nothing bad's going to happen," Nellie said, though she knew she couldn't be sure of any such thing. Edna's husband was a quiet fellow, yes, but…

The bell above the door chimed cheerily as Merle Grimes walked into the coffeehouse. The rubber tip on his cane tapped against the linoleum floor. Behind the lenses of his spectacles, his eyes had a blind, stricken look, as if he'd had too much to drink, but Nellie didn't think he was drunk.

He nodded jerkily to her before swinging his gaze towards Edna. "When you weren't home, I figured I'd find you here," he said. She nodded, too. Grimes gestured with his cane. By the way he aimed it at Edna, Nellie thanked God it wasn't a Springfield. What came out of his mouth, though, was only one more word: "Why?"

Before Edna could say anything, Nellie told Clara, "Go upstairs. Go right now. This is grownup stuff." Clara didn't argue. Nellie's tone got through. Her younger daughter took her homework and all but fled.

"On account of if I told you I was… friendly with a Confederate soldier back in them days I thought I'd lose you, and I didn't want to lose you," Edna answered. "I didn't want to lose you on account of I love you. I always have. I always will."

It was, Nellie thought, about the best answer her daughter could have given. But when her son-in-law said, "You lied to me," Nellie knew it was liable not to be good enough. "You lied to me," Merle Grimes repeated. It might have been the very worst thing he could think of to say. "I thought I knew you, and everything I thought I knew… I didn't know."

One of the customers got up and left. A moment later, more reluctantly, so did the other one. Nellie went to the door behind him. She closed it in the face of a woman who started to come in. "Sorry-we're closed," she told the startled woman. She flipped the sign in the window to CLOSED, too. That was going to cost her money, but it couldn't be helped.

When she walked back behind the counter, Edna was saying, "-so sorry. But that was before I knew you, Merle, remember. I've never done nothing to make you sorry since, so help me God I haven't."

"I'd have believed you yesterday, because I'd've been sure you were telling me the truth," her husband said. "Now… How do I know it's not just another lie?"

"Edna wouldn't do nothing like that, Merle," Nellie said. "You think about that, you'll know it's true." She liked Merle Grimes enough to want to do everything she could to keep him in the family. Even if she had her problems with Edna, her son-in-law was the kind of man who tempted her to forget her low opinion of half the human race.

She didn't mollify him, though. The look he gave her was colder than the weather outside. "You must have known about this Kincaid fellow, Mother Jacobs-you couldn't very well not have. And you never said a word about him to me. So why should I believe you, either?"

"We said Edna had a fiance during the war, and that he got killed," Nellie said. "Is that the truth or isn't it?"

"It's less than half the truth," Merle Grimes said stubbornly. "That's the best way I know how to lie-tell the part of the truth that goes your way, and leave out everything else."

He was right, of course. That was the best way Nellie knew how to lie, too. She said, "The man's dead, Merle. He's more than ten years dead now. You can just forget about him. Everybody else has."

Grimes shook his head. "That's not the point. What's more, you know it's not the point, Mother Jacobs. The point is that he was a.. darned Confederate, and that Edna never told me about that. I've tried to take care of her and Armstrong. I've saved money. I've bought stocks. If she had told me, I don't know what I'd've done. Washington was occupied, after all. Those things happened. But trying to sweep 'em under the rug afterwards…" He shook his head again. "No."

Nellie didn't like the grim finality in his voice. Tears trickled down Edna's face. Sweet Jesus, she really thinks she's going to lose him right here and now, Nellie thought, fighting against panic of her own. She may be right, too.

Before she or Edna could say anything, the bell over the door chimed again. In came Hal Jacobs. "I saw you put out the CLOSED sign from across the street," Nellie's husband said. "Why so early?"

"We're having a-a family discussion, that's why," Nellie answered.

"I've found out about Nicholas Kincaid, Father Jacobs," Merle Grimes said, sounding even harder than he had before. "I've found out all about him."

"Have you?" Hal whuffled out air through his gray mustache-almost entirely white now, in fact. "I doubt that. Yes, sir, I doubt it very much."

"What do you mean?" Grimes demanded. "I know he was a Confederate officer. I know he was going to marry Edna till he got killed. And I know she never told me what he was. What else do I need to know?"

As far as Nellie could see, that was plenty. But Hal Jacobs said, "The other thing you need to know is what Teddy Roosevelt knew, God rest his soul-Edna and Nellie were both spies during the war, working with me and Bill Reach, God rest his soul, too, for I'm sure he's dead." Nellie was even surer, but her secrets, unlike Edna's, were unlikely to come out. Her husband went on, "Whatever Edna told you-and whatever she didn't, too-she asked me about first, because of what we were doing. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Behind his spectacles, Grimes' eyes widened. "I… think I may, sir," he answered. Unconsciously, he straightened towards, if not quite to, attention. But then his gaze swung back to Edna. "Don't you think almost marrying a Confederate went too far?"

Oh, she went further than that, Nellie thought. Wild horses wouldn't have dragged the words from her, though. And Edna did a splendid job of picking up the cue Hal had given her. "I didn't almost marry him on account of I was a spy," she replied. "But Washington was occupied, like you said yourself. And Hal asked me not to talk about anything that went on that had to do with the coffeehouse and spying even a little bit, just to be on the safe side. So I didn't."

Hal had never asked her to do any such thing. He knew that, and so did Nellie, and so did Edna herself. But Merle Grimes didn't know it, and he was the one who counted here. "All right," he said after a long, long pause. "We'll let it go, then. God knows I do love you, Edna, and I want to be able to love you and trust you the rest of my days."

Edna did the smartest thing she could have: instead of saying even a word, she threw herself into Merle's arms. As the two of them embraced, Nellie caught Hal's eye. Thank you, she mouthed silently. Her husband gave a tiny nod and an even tinier shrug, as if to say it wasn't worth getting excited about. They'd been married for almost ten years. Till that moment, Nellie had never been sure she loved him. She was now.

H ad Lucien Galtier not cut himself, he might not have found out for some little while that his life was about to change. It wasn't a bad wound, like the time when he'd laid his leg open with an axe. But he was sharpening a stake that would support some green beans when spring came, and the knife slipped, and he gashed himself between thumb and forefinger.

" 'Osti," he hissed. "Calisse de tabernac." He put down the knife and the stake, pinched the lips of the wound shut, and went to the house to get a clean bandage. He hoped that would do the job, and that he wouldn't need stitches. If he did, though, he was reasonably sure he could get them for nothing. There were advantages to having a doctor for a son-in-law, even if Leonard O'Doull would tease him for being a clumsy old fool even as he sewed him up. Lucien hurried up the stairs, quietly wiped his boots on the thick, soft mat in front of the kitchen door, and went inside.

Marie was sitting at the kitchen table, one hand on her belly, tears running down her face.

"Marie?" Galtier whispered, his own cut forgotten. His right hand dropped to his side. Blood started dripping on the floor. "Qu'est-ce que tu as?"

"It's nothing," she said, springing to her feet with as much dismay and guilt as if he'd caught her in the arms of another man. "Nothing, I tell you. What have you done to yourself? You're bleeding!"

He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his left hand. "This is truly nothing," he said. "A slip of the knife, that's all. But you.. "

Marie might pause during her day's work for a cup of tea. Never, in all the years he'd known her, had she paused because she was in pain. That was literally true; she'd gone on working till ridiculously short stretches of time before she bore her children, and she'd got back to work after each birth much sooner than the midwife said she should. For her to hold herself like that and weep was… The end of the world was the first thing that occurred to him.

An instant later, he wished he'd thought of a different comparison.

"I think it could be that we both should see our beau-fils," he said.

Marie shook her head. "It's nothing," she insisted. "I'm just.. tired, that's all."

Hearing her say that frightened him as badly as seeing her sit there crying. He knew she must have been tired at times through their close to thirty-five years of marriage. She was a farm wife, and she'd raised six children. But she'd never admitted it, not in all the time he'd known her, not till now.

"Here." He went to the closet and got her a coat. "Put this on, my dear. We are going into town, to talk with Leonard O'Doull."

"I don't need to see the doctor," Marie insisted. "And how can you drive the motorcar with your poor hand hurt?"

To keep her from going on about the hand, he let her bandage it, which she did with her usual quick competence. As long as she was taking care of him, she seemed fine. But, once she'd done the job, she argued less than he'd expected when he draped the coat over her shoulders. "Come on," he said. "Our son-in-law will tell you why you are tired, and he will give you some pills to make you feel like a new woman."

"It could be that you are the one who feels like a new woman," his wife retorted. But, that gibe aside, she kept quiet. She let him lead her out to the Chevrolet and head for town. Her acquiescence worried him, too.

Leonard O'Doull's office was on Rue Frontenac, not far from the Eglise Saint-Patrice on Rue Lafontaine-the church over which Bishop Pascal no longer presided. Dr. O'Doull's office assistant exclaimed when she saw the bloody bandage on Lucien's hand. "He's vaccinating a little boy right now, Monsieur Galtier," she said. "As soon as he's done, he'll see you."

But Lucien shook his head again. "It's not me he needs to see. It's Marie."

That made the office assistant start to exclaim again. Just in time, she thought better of it. "Sit down, then," she said. "He'll see you both soon."

A howl from the part of the office out of sight of the waiting room told Galtier exactly when the vaccination was completed. A couple of minutes later, a city woman in a fashionably-even shockingly-short dress came out with her wailing toddler in tow. Normally, Lucien would have eyed her legs while she paid the assistant. That Marie was sitting beside him wouldn't have stopped him. That Marie was sitting beside him not feeling well did.

Their son-in-law stuck his head out into the waiting room as soon as the city woman and her son left. Like his assistant, he saw Lucien's bandage and wagged a finger. "What have you gone and done to yourself now?" he asked with mock severity. "Don't you think I get tired of patching you?"

Again, Galtier said, "I didn't come to see you on account of this scratch. Marie is not well."

"No?" Dr. O'Doull became very serious very fast. He almost bowed to his mother-in-law. "Come in, please, and tell me about it." As Marie rose, O'Doull nodded, ever so slightly, to Lucien. "Why don't you wait here?"

"All right," Galtier said. He knew what that meant. His son-in-law would have to look at, perhaps even have to touch, parts of Marie only Lucien would normally look at and touch. He could do that much more freely if Lucien weren't in the room with the two of them. Galtier understood the necessity without liking it.

He buried his nose in a magazine from Montreal. All the articles seemed to talk about ways in which the Republic of Quebec could become more like the United States. Galtier was far from sure he wanted Quebec to become more like the USA. The people writing the magazine articles had no doubt that was what Quebec should do.

Every so often, he noticed he was reading the same sentence over and over. It wasn't because the sentences sounded so much alike, though they did. But he couldn't stop worrying about what was going on on the far side of that door.

After the longest half hour in Galtier's life, Marie came out again. Dr. O'Doull came out with her, saying, "Please sit here for a moment, if you would." She nodded and sat down beside Lucien. O'Doull continued, "Mon beau-pere, I would speak with you for a few minutes. Come in, please."

"Very well." Galtier didn't want to get up. He wanted to stay there beside Marie. But he saw he had no choice. "Is everything as it should be?" he asked his son-in-law.

"Well, that is what I want to talk to you about," O'Doull answered.

Numbly, Galtier walked to the door. Dr. O'Doull stood aside to let him go through. Galtier had thought he was afraid before. Now his heart threatened to burst from his chest at every beat. O'Doull waved him into his own personal office. Lucien sat in the chair in front of the desk.

His son-in-law opened a desk drawer. To Galtier's surprise, he pulled out a pint bottle of whiskey. "Medicinal," O'Doull remarked as he yanked out the cork and took a swig. He held out the bottle to Galtier. "Here. Have some."

"Merci." Lucien drank, too. It wasn't very good whiskey, but it was plenty strong. He coughed once or twice as he set the bottle on the desk. O'Doull corked it. With a smile that might have come straight from the gallows, Galtier asked, "And now, mon beau-fils, have you a bullet for me to bite on?" He'd forgotten all about his cut hand.

And so had Leonard O'Doull, which was an even worse sign. "If I did, I'd give it to you," he said. "Your wife has a… a mass right here, in her belly." He put his hand on his own belly, on the spot that corresponded to the one Marie had been holding when Galtier had walked into their kitchen, a little more than an hour before.

"A mass," Galtier echoed. Dr. O'Doull nodded. He had surely used the mildest word he could find to give Lucien the news. Though Galtier hadn't had much schooling, he needed only a moment to figure out what the younger man was talking about. "A tumor, do you mean?"

"I'm afraid I do," his son-in-law answered, as gently as he could. "She should have an X ray. It is possible she should have a surgical operation."

"Possible? Only possible?" Lucien said. "What does this mean?"

"It depends on what the X ray shows," O'Doull answered. "She told me she first began feeling this pain a year and a half or two years ago, though it was less then. That means it could be-God forbid, but it could be-that there has been some… some spread of the mass. If the X ray shows there has… In that case, there would be less point to an operation."

In that case, an operation would do no good, because she would die anyway. Again, Lucien didn't need his son-in-law to explain that to him. He forced his mind away from it. "She had this pain for two years?"

"So she told me," Dr. O'Doull replied.

"And she said nothing? She did nothing? In the name of God, why?"

O'Doull sighed, uncorked the whiskey bottle once more, and took another drink. "I've seen this before among you Quebecois. Why? Maybe because you hope the pain will go away by itself and you won't need to go to the doctor. Maybe because you simply refuse to let pain get the better of you. And maybe because you're just too busy to get out of the house and into town to do what needs to be done."

Slowly, Galtier nodded. Any or all of those reasons could have fit Marie. He didn't think he had the nerve to ask her. Even if he did, he doubted he would get a straight answer. "Is it that you can take this X-ray picture?" he asked.

"No. I have no X-ray machine here," O'Doull answered. "She will have to go to Quebec City, to the capital. If she has the operation, she will have to have it there, too."

"All right. We will do that, then." Lucien didn't hesitate, even for a moment. He wondered how much the required treatment would cost. He wished he hadn't bought the Chevrolet. If he had to, though, he could sell it. Marie mattered more than money, and that was all there was to it. He did ask, "This operation, it will cure her?"

His son-in-law's shrug was more weary and worried than Gallic. "Without knowing what the X ray will show, without knowing what the surgeon will find, how can I answer that? Be fair to me, please."

"I'm sorry." Lucien bent his head and rubbed his eyes. "Let me ask you a different question, then. You have been a doctor for a good many years now. From what you see, from what you know, what do you think the chances are?"

Leonard O'Doull's lips skinned back from his teeth in what wasn't a smile. "I wish you hadn't asked me that, because now I have to answer it. From what I have seen, from what I know… I wish things were better, mon beau-pere. That's all I can say. I wish things were better." He made a fist and brought it down on the desk.

"I will pray," Galtier said. Here lately he'd been thinking he'd got ahead of life. His laugh held only bitterness. No one ever got ahead of life, not for long, and life had just reminded him of it. Why wasn't it me? he wondered. Dear God, why didn't You take me instead? That question had no answer. It never would.


Jonathan Moss nodded to the military judge in front of him. "Sir, no matter what the occupation codes say about collusion and incitement, my client is not guilty. The prosecutor hasn't introduced a single shred of evidence that Mr. Haynes either conspired against the United States, urged others to conspire or act against them, or, for that matter, acted against them himself in any way, shape, or form."

The judge, a grim-faced major named Daniel Royce, said, "Didn't you spend three years fighting against the Canucks?"

"Yes, sir, I did," Moss answered. "Right around here, as a matter of fact."

"I thought as much," Major Royce rumbled. "Why the devil are you defending them now, in that case?"

"To make sure they get a fair shake, sir," Moss said. "Plenty of people just want to jump on them with both feet now that they're down. This conspiracy charge against my client is a case in point. It's utterly groundless, as you can see."

"It is not!" yelped the military prosecutor, a captain surely too young to have fought in the Great War.

"Look at the evidence, sir, not the allegations, and you'll see for yourself," Moss told Major Royce. He hadn't lied to the judge. He did dislike seeing Americans swarming up into Ontario and ravaging the conquered province like so many locusts. But his reply hadn't been the whole truth, either. What would Royce have said had he answered, Because I fell in love with a Canadian woman while my squadron's aerodrome was up by Arthur? The major looked to have been a formidable football player in his younger days. He would have drop-kicked Moss clean out of his courtroom.

Scowling still, the military judge shuffled through the papers in front of him. He picked up one sheet and carefully read through it. Even from the back, Moss recognized it. It was a statement he'd got from his client's neighbors, saying they'd never seen anyone visit Haynes' house at a time when the prosecutor claimed he was shaping a plot there against the USA. His hopes leaped.

Bang! went Royce's gavel. Everyone in the courtroom who'd seen combat started; the sudden noise was too much like a gunshot for comfort. "I'm sorry, Captain, but I find myself agreeing with the defense attorney here," the military judge said. "I see no evidence of an offense against occupation regulations. Greed by people bringing the charges may be another matter. This case is dismissed. Keep your nose clean, Mr. Haynes, as you have been doing. You're a free man." The gavel banged again.

"Thank you very much, your Lordship." Paul Haynes sounded astonished that he wasn't heading for prison.

"I'm not a Lordship. You call me 'your Honor,' " Judge Royce said. "No more Lordships here, and a good thing, too, if you want to know what I think."

"Thank you, your Honor, then," Haynes said, not contradicting the military judge but not offering his own opinion, either. He turned to Jonathan Moss and stuck out his hand. "And thank you very much. I didn't think you could bring it off."

"You're not the only Canadian client I've had who's told me the same thing," Moss answered. "I'll tell you what I've told a lot of them-our courts will try you fairly if you give them half a chance."

"I wouldn't have believed it," Haynes said. "I thought they'd lock me up and throw away the key when they brought those treason charges against me."

In a low voice, Moss said, "You'd be smart to follow the judge's advice and not give them any excuse to charge you again. If you come before the court a second time, they're liable to think that where there's smoke, there's fire, even if they did let you off the hook once before." Listening to himself, he wondered how many cliches he could string together all at once.

"Wasn't any excuse to charge me this time," Paul Haynes grumbled. But then he nodded. "All right, Mr. Moss. I understand what you're telling me."

"Good," Moss said.

They left the courtroom together. Spring had been on the calendar for more than a month. Now, as April gave way to May, it was finally visible in Berlin, Ontario, too. The sky was blue, with only a few puffy white clouds drifting across it. The sun was, if not warm, at least tepid. It got up early and went to bed late. Trees were coming into new leaf. A robin chirped in one of them.

"You're a good fellow," Haynes said. He didn't even add for a Yank, as so many Canadians might have done. "I'll send you the rest of my fee soon as I can scrape the money together. You don't need to worry about that."

"I wasn't worried," Moss said, which was true. His Canadian clients reliably paid what they said they would when they said they'd do it. He wished the Americans he represented up here were as reliable.

Reporters were seldom allowed in military courts. Censorship still lay heavily on occupied Canada. Moss understood that without necessarily approving of it. Here in the street, a couple of newspapermen pounced on Paul Haynes. Moss slipped away before they could start grilling him, too. If they wanted him badly enough, they could run him down at his office. Meanwhile…

Meanwhile, he aimed to celebrate his victory in his own way. He got into his Bucephalus and pressed the starter button. The engine roared to life. A Bucephalus was a big, powerful motorcar. Owning one went a long way toward saying you were a big, powerful man. Owning a new one went a long way toward saying that, anyhow. Moss had owned this one when it was new. Here in the spring of 1928, it was anything but. One reason the engine roared was that it needed work he hadn't given it. The automobile's paint job and upholstery had seen better years. He had put new tires on it recently, but only because he'd got sick of patching the old ones when they blew out.

He put the car in gear and drove west out of Berlin. Roads were better than they had been when he first hung out his shingle in Ontario. The war, by now, had been over for ten and a half years. The roads the grinding conflict had cratered and pocked with shell holes were smooth once more-smoother than ever, in fact. Paving stretched for miles where only dirt had gone before.

About an hour after leaving Berlin, he drove through the much smaller town of Arthur, thirty miles to the west. Arthur hadn't bounced back from the war the way Berlin had. It lay off the beaten track. Few-hardly any-Americans came here with their money and their energy and their connections with the powers that be in the USA. But for a few more motorcars on the streets than would have been visible in 1914, time might have passed Arthur by.

A couple of people pointed to the Bucephalus as it rolled through town. Jonathan Moss saw one of them nod. They'd seen the motorcar before, many times. They had to know who he was. If a diehard wanted to take a shot at him… He shrugged. It hadn't happened yet. He wasn't going to start worrying about it now.

When he got to Laura Secord's farm, he found her where he'd expected to: out in the fields, plowing behind a horse about the size of a half-grown elephant. She must have seen his automobile pull in beside the farmhouse, but she didn't come in right away. The work came first. She'd stubbornly got a crop from the farm every year since the end of the war, and she didn't look like intending 1928 to be an exception.

Only after she'd done what she thought needed doing did she unhitch the enormous horse and lead him back toward the house and the barn. Moss got out of the Bucephalus and waved to her. She nodded back, sober as usual, but her gray eyes danced. "You got Paul Haynes off, didn't you?" she said.

"Sure did. Not just a reduced sentence, either: full acquittal," Moss said proudly. "Don't win one of those every day, not from Major Royce."

"That's… swell," she said. The hesitation probably meant she'd almost said bully instead; the old slang died hard, especially in out-of-the-way places like this. She led the immense horse into the barn. When she came out, she asked, "And how do you have in mind celebrating, eh, Yank?"

"I expect we'll think of something," he answered.

"What I'm thinking of first is a bath," she said.

Moss nodded. "Sure, sweetheart. I'll scrub your back, if you want me to."

"I'm sure you will," she told him. And, as a matter of fact, he did. One thing pleasantly led to another. After a while, they lay naked, side by side, on her bed. Lazy and sated, Moss lit a cigarette. He offered her the pack. She shook her head. That made other things jiggle, too. He watched with interested admiration. Though he didn't care to remember it, he was a little closer to forty than thirty these days; a second round wasn't so automatic as it had been a few years before. He thought he could rise to the occasion today, though. Laura Secord watched him watching her. "Did you enjoy your celebration?" she asked.

Had she smiled, that would have been different. As things were, her voice had an edge to it. "What's the matter, darling?" he asked, and reached out to toy with her left nipple.

She twisted away. "Why should anything be the matter?" she asked. "You come up here when it suits you, you… celebrate, and then you drive back down to Empire." She stubbornly kept using the name the Canadians had tried to hang on Berlin during the war, before the USA took it.

Although Jonathan Moss didn't have experience with a great many women, he knew trouble when he heard it. "Dammit, Laura, you'd better know by now that I don't come up here just to have a good time," he said.

"I know you didn't used to," she answered. "But things have been going on for a while now, and I do start to wonder. Can you blame me? Will you still drive up here every couple of weeks in 1935, or will you have found someone younger and prettier and closer to Empire by then?"

"I'm not looking for anybody else," Moss said. "I love you, in case you hadn't noticed."

"Do you?" Laura Secord asked.

"Of course I do!" he said. She looked at him. She didn't say what she was obviously thinking: in that case, what are you going to do about it? The question was, if anything, more effective left hanging in the air. Jonathan Moss took a deep breath. His response looked pretty obvious, too. "Will you marry me?" he asked. "Will you sell this farm and come over to Berlin-you can even call it Empire if you want-and live with me for the rest of our lives?"

Her nod said that that was the right question, sure enough. But it wasn't a nod of acceptance. She asked a question of her own: "Why didn't you ask me that a long time ago, Jonathan?"

"Why? Because I know I'm nothing but a lousy American, and I figured you'd tell me no for sure. I'd sooner have gone on the way things were than have that happen. Hearing no to a question like that hurts worse than anything else I can think of."

"What if I said yes?" she asked quietly.

"I'd throw you into my motorcar, and we'd get back to Berlin in time to find a justice of the peace. If you think I'd let you have the chance to change your mind, you're nuts."

Laura Secord gave him the ghost of a smile. "It couldn't be quite that fast, I'm afraid. I'd have to make arrangements to sell the livestock or to have it taken care of before I leave the farm."

" Are you telling me yes?" Moss demanded. She nodded again. This time, she meant it the way he'd hoped she would. He let out a whoop that probably scared some of her feral farm cats out of a year's growth. Moss didn't care. And he did rise again, and they found the best way to inaugurate their engagement.

Afterwards, she said, "I was afraid you didn't want to buy a cow as long as milk was cheap."

"Moo, me?" he answered, and startled her again, this time into laughter. If that wasn't a good omen, he didn't know what would be.

G eorge Enos, Jr., set cash on the kitchen table-more of it than Sylvia Enos had expected. "Here you go, Ma," her son said, his voice breaking with excitement. "We had us a he… heck of a run. Cod like you couldn't believe." He looked down at his hands, which had acquired the beginnings of the scabs and scars that always marked fishermen's fingers and palms. "I did more gutting than anybody could think of. And with the offal over the side, the birds that came, and the sharks-I never imagined anything like it."

"Your father used to talk the same way," Sylvia answered. She remembered him sitting up over a mug of coffee in the days when they were first married, telling her about what he'd done and what he'd seen and what it had felt like.

But this wasn't quite the same, after all. George Enos had done enough fishing by the time he married her that it had become routine, and wearying routine at that. George, Jr., didn't seem tired at all. Maybe that was because everything still seemed bright and new to him. Or maybe it was just because, at seventeen, he never got tired at all. His father certainly had, though, and he'd been only a few years older.

"How much is it, Ma?" Mary Jane asked, looking up from the onions she was chopping. She paused to rub her streaming eyes, then let out a yelp-she must have had onion juice on her fingers, and made things worse instead of better.

"Quite a bit," answered Sylvia, who'd been trained from childhood not to talk about money in any detail. "It will help a lot."

"That's good," Mary Jane said. "I'm going to look for a shopgirl job again tomorrow. I bet I find something, too. That one I had last summer was swell, but then you went and made me go back to school." She sent Sylvia as severe a look as a fifteen-year-old girl could give her mother.

Sylvia had no trouble withstanding it; she'd known far worse. "Summer work is one thing," she said. "School is something else. You need your schooling."

George, Jr., glanced at his sister. They both almost-but not quite; no, not quite-invisibly shook their heads. These days, they were old enough to team up on Sylvia, instead of fighting each other as they'd done for so long. Sylvia knew why George, Jr., sneered at school. He was making good money without it.

And Sylvia had a pretty good idea why Mary Jane didn't want to keep going. She was bound to be thinking something like, Who cares whether I can divide fractions and diagram sentences? What difference will it make? I'm going to get married and have babies, and my husband will make money for me.

"You never can tell," Sylvia said, half to herself, half to her daughter. "I thought George, Jr.'s, father was going to take care of things forever. But then the war came, and the Confederates captured him, and after that he joined the Navy, and he… he didn't come home. And I've had to run like crazy ever since, just trying to make ends meet. If I knew more about spelling and typing and arithmetic, I'd've had better jobs and made more money, and we'd've done better for ourselves. And if you think things like that can't happen to you and the people you love, Mary Jane, you're wrong. I wish you weren't, but you are. Because you never can tell."

By something surely not far from a miracle, she got through to her daughter. Instead of giving her a snippy answer, Mary Jane nodded and said, "I wish I could've known Pa better."

George, Jr., got up and set a hand on his younger sister's shoulder. "I wish I could have, too." His voice roughened. "But at least Ma paid back the stinking son of a bitch"-had he been out on the trawler instead of in his kitchen, he undoubtedly would have said something much hotter than that-"who sank the Ericsson. Everybody I sail with knows Ma's a hero."

Sylvia brushed that aside. "It won't get me any supper," she said, and stood up herself so she could start cooking. She hadn't felt heroic when she'd pumped a revolverful of bullets into Roger Kimball. She had trouble remembering now exactly how she had felt. Frightened and resigned was about as close as she could come to it. She hadn't thought she would ever see her children or Boston again.

But here she was, with all the same problems, all the same worries, she'd had before getting on the train for Charleston. Being a hero, she'd rapidly discovered, paid few bills. When she'd come home, she had got back the job she'd left so she could go to the Confederate States. She'd made a few speeches that brought in a little money. By now, though, she was old news. Even in this presidential election year, no one asked her to come out. Joe Kennedy, for instance, had used her and forgotten about her. Every once in a while, she wondered how many women he'd really, rather than metaphorically, seduced and abandoned. More than a few, or she missed her guess.

While washing dishes later that evening, Mary Jane asked, "Who are you going to vote for come November, Ma?"

Women's suffrage had finally come to Massachusetts-and to the rest of the holdout states in the USA-with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. These days, all the men who'd opposed it were busy explaining how they'd never really done any such thing, how they'd always looked out for the country's best interests, and as many other lies as they could find.

Most of those men were Democrats. Even so, Sylvia answered, "I'm going to vote for Governor Coolidge for president, because he's a Democrat and he'd be harder on the Confederates than Vice President Blackford. Coolidge fought in the war, too; he didn't stay back of the lines."

"Do you think Coolidge will win?" Mary Jane asked.

"I don't know," Sylvia said. "That's why they have the election-to find out who wins, I mean. Hardly anybody thought President Sinclair would beat Teddy Roosevelt in 1920, but he did."

"I was still little then," Mary Jane said thoughtfully, scrubbing at a frying pan with steel wool.

To Sylvia, Mary Jane was still little now, and would be the rest of her life. But she put that aside, and went back to the question her daughter had asked a little while before: "I do wish Governor Coolidge would be a little more… lively. People don't seem to get very excited about him, and that worries me. Blackford and his wife can really whip up the crowds. It matters a lot."

The following Sunday, someone knocked at the door to her flat. There stood her neighbor, Brigid Coneval. The Irishwoman said, "Blackford his own self will be after speaking on the Common today at half past two. Now that we can vote and all, I'm for hearing what he has to say for himself. Will you come with me, now?"

Sylvia found herself nodding. "I sure will," she said. "You're right-we ought to find out all we can about them."

"Indeed and we should," Brigid Coneval agreed. A war widow like Sylvia, she hadn't had an easy time of it since her husband was shot. She made ends meet by taking care of other people's children-though her own boys, by now, were also old enough to get jobs of their own and bring in a little money to help. Through everything, she'd kept an infectious grin. "And besides, it'll be fun. We can ride the subway over to the Common; there's a station close by there."

"Why not?" Sylvia didn't often do things on impulse, but this would be out of the ordinary, and it wouldn't cost anything except subway fare.

She didn't like the subway. It was even more crowded than trolley cars, and noisier, too. Between stations, the tunnel was black as coal. She kept wondering things like, What would happen if this train broke down? She knew she shouldn't. She knew that wasn't likely. But she couldn't help it.

The subway train got to the Common without incident. Sylvia and Brigid Coneval emerged from the bowels of the earth into bright sunshine. It glowed off the gilded dome of the State House, in front of which Vice President Blackford would speak. "Let's get under one of the trees," Sylvia said, pointing. "We're early. There's still room under there. We can stay in the shade. It'll be cooler."

"Well, aren't you the clever one, now?" her friend said. They staked out their spot with no trouble at all.

They were early. The crowd hadn't really begun to fill the Boston Common. Most of the people there so soon were either Blackford's Socialist backers or the Democratic activists who would heckle the vice president when he spoke. The two groups jockeyed for position and traded insults, mostly good-natured. They'd squared off against each other many times before, and knew they'd often meet again after this afternoon.

One of the men carrying an 8 YEARS IS ENOUGH! sign was Joe Kennedy. Seeing him, Sylvia shrank back farther under the tree. She didn't want him to see her, even though she had every right to be here. But he did-she got the feeling he missed very little. He saw her, recognized her, and turned his back. She wanted to call out, I'm going to vote for Coolidge! She didn't. She could tell it would do no good.

A big black car pulled up by the platform. A tall, gray-haired man and a short woman, much younger than he, got out and went to the platform. "That's himself's wife," Brigid Coneval said. "A Congresswoman from New York City, she is, and a Christ-killing sheeny besides."

Sylvia didn't care much about Jews one way or the other. She said, "By all they say, she's done a good job in Congress. And look at her! She's been there since the war, and she doesn't look any older than we are."

"Foosh!" said Brigid, who seemed determined to stay unimpressed. "And what's her husband, then? Sure and he's a dirty old man, for I'd not care to hang since he's seen the sweet side of forty."

Flora Blackford stepped up to the microphone. The Democrats in the crowd immediately started to jeer. She made as if to urge them on, and then said, "Listen to them, comrades. They won't tell the truth themselves, and they don't want to let anyone else tell it, either. Is that fair? Is that honest? Is that what you want in the Powel House for the next four years?"

"No!" people shouted.

The Congresswoman from New York City made a short, strong speech, giving the Socialists credit for everything that had gone right the past eight years: the booming stock market, laws allowing strikes for higher wages, and on and on.

"What about the revolt in Canada? What about cutting off Confederate reparations?" the Democrats yelled. "What about the bank troubles in Europe?"

"Well, what about them?" Flora retorted, meeting the hecklers head on. "The Canadians lost. And we're at peace with the Confederate States, and getting along with them well enough. Isn't it about time this country was at peace with its neighbors? As for the banks in Europe, well, what can we do about them here?"

Most people cheered. The Democrats went right on heckling. Vice President Blackford himself stepped up to the microphone. "We've had eight good years!" he said. "Let's have four more. We've got prosperity. We've got peace. Give us a few more Socialists in the Senate and we'll have old-age insurance, too. If you want to go back to gearing up for a war every generation, vote for Governor Coolidge. He'll give you one. If you want to make sure your sons and husbands and brothers live to grow old, vote for me. It's that simple."

But it wasn't, not as far as Sylvia was concerned. She wanted the Confederate States punished for what they'd done to the Ericsson, not forgiven their reparations. Hosea Blackford might not want a war, but wouldn't the Confederates if they ever got strong again? "I'm glad we came," she told Brigid Coneval on their way back to the subway station. "Now I'm surer than ever I'll vote for Coolidge."

"Sure and you can't mean it!" Brigid exclaimed, and argued with her all the way home even though she'd mocked both Hosea Blackford and his wife. She didn't change Sylvia's mind, or even come close.

Over the supper table, Chester Martin grinned at his wife. "Election Day coming up," he said with a sly smile.

"And so?" Rita answered. But she smiled, too. "Plenty of worse ways to meet than at a polling place."

"I should say." Martin had met women at worse places-and that didn't even count the soldiers' brothels behind the front during the war, when you'd stand in line outside in the rain for a couple of minutes of what was much more catharsis than rapture. At least I never got a dose of the clap, he thought.

"Do you think Blackford can do it?" Rita asked.

"Hope so," Martin said. "I don't see why not. Everybody's making good money. Why should we change when things are going the way they're supposed to?" He spread his hands. "I still don't much like the Socialists' foreign policy-I'd take a stronger line than they do-but that's not enough reason to vote for the Great Stone Face."

Rita laughed at the nickname. "Coolidge doesn't have much to say for himself, does he?"

"I think there's a reason for that, too," Chester replied. "He's never done anything worth talking about."

"Massachusetts is prosperous," Rita said. "He takes credit for that."

After sarcastically clapping his hands a couple of times, Martin said, "He may take it, but who says he deserves it? The whole country's prosperous, and the Socialists deserve credit for that." He'd come late to the Socialists, but had what amounted to a convert's zeal. "Look where we were in 1920, before President Sinclair won, and look where we are now."

"You're preaching to the choir, you know," his wife told him with a smile. "I'm going to vote for Blackford, too."

"I know, but look." Chester felt expansive. He wanted to tell the whole world how well his party had run the country over the past eight years. Since the whole world wasn't sitting across the kitchen table from him and Rita was, she got to listen to him. He went on, "Look how high the stock market's risen. Who would have thought the proletariat could start owning the means of production by buying shares in the big companies? With buying on margin, though, it's awfully easy to do." He laughed. "If we can afford to do it, it must be easy to do."

Rita pointed to the newspaper, which lay on a chair. "The Wireless Corporation is splitting its stock again."

Martin nodded. "I saw that. I'm glad I got into Wireless somewhere close to the ground floor. I think it's going to be the big thing for years and years, and those four shares I managed to buy last summer are sixteen shares now. It's swell. Everything keeps going up and up and up. It's like coining money."

"Did you see that Congresswoman Blackford is coming to town Saturday?" Rita asked.

"No, I missed that," he answered. "Do you want to go see her?"

"Sure? Why not? It'll be fun," Rita said. "And besides, she shows what a woman can do when she puts her mind to it."

Although Chester wasn't sure he liked the sound of that, he said, "All right," anyhow, finding agreement the better part of valor. Then he added, "Did I ever tell you that I-"

"Met Flora Blackford when she was still Flora Hamburger?" Rita cut in. "Had her brother in your company during the war?" She shook her head. Her bobbed dark blond hair flipped back and forth. "No. You never, ever told me that. I've never heard it, not even once. Can't you tell?"

"I can tell you're giving me a hard time," he answered. She grinned. So did he.

Flora Blackford chose to speak near the Toledo city hall, in the shadow of the smaller copy of the great statue of Remembrance that stood on Bedloe Island in New York harbor. Chester found that interesting, even challenging. For more than a generation, remembrance had been the loudest drum the Democrats beat. For a nation twice defeated, twice humiliated, by the CSA and the Confederates' European allies, it was a drumbeat that had struck deep chords.

But now the Great War was eleven years past. The United States had won it. People still held Remembrance Day parades, but they didn't march with flags upside down any more. Having won, the United States were no longer in distress. And, ever since the Great War ended, the Democrats hadn't been able to find any other theme that resonated with the voters as remembrance had.

And now, here stood Flora Blackford under that great statue with the gleaming sword. By the way she stood there, she said Remembrance-and the Democrats-spoke to yesterday's worries, yesterday's needs. I'm going to talk about what you need to hear today-and tomorrow, she said without words, merely by standing there.

"We've come a long way the past eight years," she said, "but we've still got a long way to go. When President Sinclair was elected, you risked losing your job if you went out on strike. Some of you had lost your jobs. That can't happen any more, thanks to the laws we've passed."

Chester Martin pounded his palms together. He'd fought company goons, and he'd fought the police who served as the big capitalists' watchdogs and hunting hounds. Next to what he'd been through in the trenches, those brawls hadn't been anything much. And if you weren't willing to fight for what you wanted, did you really deserve to get it? He believed in the class struggle. He believed in it all the way down to his toes.

When the applause died down a little, Vice President Blackford's wife went on, "You know the Democrats never would have passed a bill like that, or like the one that gives workers the right to take leave without pay if there's a baby in the family or someone takes sick and then get their jobs back. They were in power from 1884 to 1920, and they still behave as though it's 1884."

That drew not only applause but whoops of laughter. It also fit in very well with what Chester had been thinking not long before. Flora Blackford continued, "And we tried to give you old-age insurance, too. We tried hard. But we couldn't quite manage that, because the Democrats had enough men in the Senate to tie up the bill with a filibuster. We've got to elect more Socialists. Friends, comrades, the presidency is important, but it's not enough, not by itself. We have to fight the forces of reaction wherever we find them. That's what the class struggle is all about."

It wasn't how Martin imagined the class struggle. He took the phrase literally. He'd broken enough heads in his time to have reason to take it literally. He'd taken his lumps, too; the real problem with the class struggle was that the capitalists and their lackeys fought back hard. But the idea of carrying the struggle even to the halls of Congress held a powerful appeal for him.

"We don't need the enormous Army and Navy we had before the Great War, the Army and Navy that ate up so much money and so much of our industry," Flora said. "We've won the war. Now we can enjoy what we won. Factories can make goods for people, not for killing. We can spend our wealth on what we need, not on battleships and machine guns and barrels. We've fought our neighbors too many times. We can work toward living at peace with them now."

That drew more loud cheers. Chester joined in them, but more than a little halfheartedly. This was the part of the Socialist platform that still graveled him. Still, Flora Blackford expressed it well. Maybe the 1920s were so prosperous because less money was going into weapons and fortifications and more into people's pockets. Maybe.

"Hosea Blackford will take us on toward the middle of the twentieth century," Flora declared. "Calvin Coolidge will drag us back into the nineteenth century. Which way do you want to go? The choice is yours-it's in the people's hands. I ask you not to turn your back on the future! I ask you to vote Socialist, to vote for Hosea Blackford for president and Hiram Johnson for vice president. Let Dakota and California show the rest of the country the way! Thank you!"

More applause-thunderous applause. Rita said, "I can't wait for November."

"Neither can I," Chester agreed. That was how a good stump speech was supposed to work. It made the faithful eager. Men and women pushed forward, trying to get a word with Flora Blackford now that she'd come down off the platform. "Come on," Martin told his wife, and did some pushing himself, wondering if the vice president's wife would remember him.

He didn't really expect her to, and she didn't, not when she looked at him. But when he shouted his name at her, she nodded. "You were David's sergeant," she said.

"That's right, ma'am." Chester grinned and nodded. "And this is my wife, Rita."

"Pleased to meet you." Flora clasped Rita's hand. "Will you vote for my husband on Election Day?"

"I sure will," Rita answered. "I was going to even before I heard you talk. But even if I'd been thinking about voting for the Democrats before, you would have made me change my mind."

"Thank you very much," Flora Blackford said. "He needs all the votes he can get, believe me. We can't take anything for granted. If we do, we're liable to lose."

"We'd better not," Chester Martin said. Before Vice President Blackford's wife could answer, a fresh surge of people from behind pushed Rita and him away from her. Again, that was no surprise; he felt lucky to have talked with her at all. Turning to Rita, he asked, "What do you think?"

"She's honest," Rita said at once. "If she is, it's a good bet her husband is, too. And she knew who you were as soon as you told her your name. That was something." She proudly took his arm. "You know important people."

He laughed. "Stick with me, kiddo, and I'll take you to the top."

Rita laughed, too, but only for a moment. Then she sobered. "You really do know important people, Chester. That might turn out to be important one of these days. You never can tell."

"Maybe." But Chester didn't believe it, not down deep. "I don't think Flora Blackford's the sort of person you can use to pull strings. She was in Congress, remember, when her brother got conscripted, and she didn't pull any for him. He could have had some soft, safe job behind the lines-typist or driver or something like that. He could have, but he didn't. He went into the fighting, and he got shot. If she didn't help David Hamburger, she's not likely to help me."

"That depends on what you'd need to ask her," Rita answered. "Like I said a minute ago, you never can tell."

Somebody stepped on Chester's foot, hard. "Ow!" he said. In the crowd, he couldn't even tell who'd done it. He pointed toward the trolley stop. "Let's get out of here and go home before we get trampled."

"Suits me," his wife said. "I'm glad we came, though. She made a good speech-and I found out what a special fellow I married."

Martin started to tell her he was just an ordinary guy. He started to, but he didn't. If Rita wanted to think he was a special fellow, he didn't mind a bit.

F lora Blackford had waited out six elections to the House of Representatives. She'd been nervous every single time, though her New York City district was solidly Socialist and she'd had easy races after the first one. Now, for the first time since 1914, she wasn't running for Congress-but she was more nervous than ever.

Worrying about her husband's race proved more wearing than worrying about her own ever had. She hadn't been this anxious in 1924; she was sure of that. In 1924, Hosea Blackford hadn't headed the ticket. It probably hadn't won or lost because of anything he did.

Things were different now. If they went as she hoped, her husband would become president of the United States next March. If they didn't

… No, she wouldn't think about that.

Telegraph sets clicked in their apartments. Phones jangled. Off in one corner, an announcer on a wireless set spewed out results. Flora and Hosea got any news that came in as fast as they would have at Socialist Party headquarters in Philadelphia. But the same longstanding tradition that kept a presidential nominee away from the convention till he'd been declared the candidate bound a presidential hopeful to find out whether he'd won or lost away from the people who'd done the most to help him.

When Flora complained about that, her husband only shrugged. "It's one of the rules of the game," he said.

"One of the rules of the game used to be that the Democrats won every four years," Flora answered. "We've changed that. Why not the other?"

Hosea Blackford looked surprised. "I just hadn't thought about it. I did this in 1920. The two of us did it in '24. Maybe we will change things… four years from now."

She gave him a kiss. "I like that. You're already starting to think about your second term, are you?"

"I'd better worry about the first one, don't you think?" he said.

The wireless announcer said, "In Massachusetts, Governor Coolidge continues to pull away. He also leads comfortably in Vermont and Tennessee, and early returns from Kentucky show him with a strong lead there."

"Oy!" Flora said in dismay.

Her husband took the news much more in stride than she did. "Massachusetts is Coolidge's home state," he said. "We've never done well anywhere in New England. And Kentucky is full of reactionaries. How could it be anything else, when it belonged to the Confederate States till the middle of the war? Wait till we start getting returns from the places where working people live, where they make things."

She nodded. She knew that as well as he did. Even so… "I don't like losing anywhere," she said.

Hosea Blackford smiled. "That's one of the reasons I'm so glad you're on my side."

A man at one of the telephones called out, "Your lead in New York City just went up another twenty thousand votes, Mr. Vice President!" Flora smiled too-then. She finally had something to smile about.

"Vice President Blackford's large lead in New York City looks likely to carry the state for him, in spite of Governor Coolidge's popularity in the upstate regions," the commentator on the wireless declared. "Pennsylvania will probably be a closer race. The Socialists are strong in Pittsburgh, but Philadelphia is still a Democratic bastion."

"We have to have New York," Flora murmured. "We have to." The state had the biggest bloc of electoral votes in the USA: one out of every seven. Pennsylvania came next, but far behind. The Democrats could count as well as the Socialists. They'd campaigned hard in New York. Let them fall short. In Flora's mind, it was more than half a prayer.

"New returns from Ohio," a telegrapher said. "You're up in Toledo, up in Cleveland, holding your own in Columbus, not doing so well in Cincinnati."

"About what we expected," Blackford said. "What do the overall figures in the state look like?"

"You're up by… let me see… seventeen thousand," the man answered after some quick work with pencil and paper.

"Not bad for this early in the night," Flora said.

"No, not bad," Hosea Blackford agreed. "Can't say much more than that without knowing just where all those votes are coming from. But I'd rather be ahead than behind." Flora nodded.

Little by little, returns began trickling in from farther west. Indiana had long been a Socialist stronghold; Senator Debs had twice lost to Teddy Roosevelt as the Socialist Party's standard-bearer. Hosea Blackford was well ahead there. Republicans remained strong in Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa-those three-cornered races wouldn't be settled till the wee small hours. Like Indiana, Wisconsin was solidly in the Socialist camp.

"We're doing fine," Flora said, and tried to make herself believe it.

"Maybe I'm glad I'm here after all," her husband said. "Looks like it's going to be a long night. This way, I can just go back into the bedroom and sleep whenever I feel like it. And there aren't any reporters yelling at me, either. I wouldn't be able to hear myself think over at Party headquarters."

"I wish it didn't look like a long night," Flora said. "I wish we were sweeping the country, and we could declare victory as soon as the polls closed."

"Well, I wouldn't mind that myself." Hosea laughed. "The Democrats did it for one election after another. Maybe we will, too, somewhere down the line But we haven't got there yet. This one's going to be close."

Flora's fists tightened till her nails bit into the palms of her hands. It wasn't just that she wanted the Socialists to win Powel House and as many seats in the House and Senate as they could, though she did. She'd always wanted that, ever since becoming a Party activist before the Great War. But it felt secondary now. With her husband in the race, she wanted his triumph with an intensity that amazed her. A win tonight would cap a lifetime of service to the Socialist cause and to the country. Losing…

Again, she refused to think about losing.

Hosea Blackford didn't. "If I win, we stay in Philadelphia," he said. "If I lose, we go home. How would you like living way out West for a while?"

"It's beautiful country," Flora answered, and then said the best thing she could for it: "Joshua would like growing up there." Having said that, she went on, "It seems so… empty, though, to somebody who's used to New York City or Philadelphia."

She'd enjoyed spending holidays in Dakota with her husband. The wide open spaces awed her, for a while. But towns and trains and civilization in general seemed a distinct afterthought there. She didn't like that, not at all. To someone who'd grown up on the preposterously overcrowded Lower East Side, so many empty miles of prairie, relieved-if at all-only by a long line of telegraph poles shrinking toward an unbelievably distant horizon, felt more alarming than inspiring.

Someone slammed down a telephone and let out a string of curses that ignored her presence in the room. "Kansas is going for Coolidge, God damn it," he said.

That made Flora want to curse, too. Hosea Blackford took it in stride. "Confederate raiders hit Kansas hard during the war," he said. "They don't love Socialists there; they've been Democrats since the Second Mexican War."

"Well, they can geh kak afen yam," Flora said.

Her husband chuckled; he knew what that Yiddish unpleasantry meant. "There's no yam anywhere close to Kansas for them to geh kak afen," he pointed out.

"I don't care," Flora said. "They can do it anyway."

The new state of Houston, carved from the conquered piece of Texas, went for Calvin Coolidge. So did Montana, which had been a Democratic stronghold ever since Theodore Roosevelt made a hero of himself there during the Second Mexican War. Flora began to worry in earnest. But a little past midnight, Pennsylvania, which had teetered for a long time, fell into her husband's camp-and Pennsylvania's electoral votes made up for a swarm of Montanas. New Jersey had also stayed close till then, and also ended up going Socialist.

"We may make it," Hosea Blackford said. "We just may."

By then, returns from the West were coming in. Colorado had a strong union tradition, and looked like going Socialist again. Idaho fell to Coolidge, and so did Nevada, but Blackford swept the West Coast, including populous California: Hiram Johnson had delivered his state.

Flora was yawning when one of the telephones rang a little past three in the morning. "Mr. Vice President," called the man who answered it, and then, in a different, awed, tone of voice, "Mr. President-elect, it's Governor Coolidge, calling from Massachusetts."

That woke Flora better than a big cup of black coffee could have done. She kissed her husband before he could go to the telephone. "Hello, Governor," he said when he picked up the instrument. "Thank you very much, sir… That's very generous… Yes, you did give me quite a scare, and I'm not ashamed to admit it… What's that?" He had been smiling and cordial, but now his expression hardened. "I certainly hope you're wrong, Governor. I think you are… Yes, time will tell. Thank you again. Good night." He hung up, perhaps more forcefully than he had to.

"What did he say that made you angry?" Flora asked.

"He said maybe he was lucky not to win," Hosea Blackford answered. "He said bull markets don't last forever, and this one's gone on so long and risen so high, the crash will be all the worse when it comes back to earth."

"God forbid!" Flora exclaimed.

"I think we've given God some help," Hosea said. "The business cycle's been rising steadily all through both of President Sinclair's terms. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't do the same for me. The Democrats may have enjoyed boom-and-bust capitalism before the war, but we've put that behind us now. We're prosperous, and we'll stay prosperous."

"Alevai, omayn!" Whenever Flora fell back into Yiddish these days, she spoke from heart and belly.

Hosea Blackford smiled. He understood that. "I really do think it'll be all right, Flora," he said gently. "Oh, there's more farm debt than I care to see out in the West, and the factories almost seem to be making things faster than people can buy them, but all that's just a drop in the bucket. We'll do fine."

"I'm not going to argue with you, not now-Mr. President." Flora kissed him again. The telegraphers and men at the phones all cheered.

"Not for another five months," Hosea reminded her. "Say that to me in front of President Sinclair and he'll arrest you for treason."

"Phooey," Flora said, which wasn't English or Yiddish, but was exactly what she meant.

Another telephone rang. "Mr. President-elect, it's the president."

This time, Flora didn't try to delay her husband when he went to the telephone. "Hello, Upton," he said. "Thank you so very much… Yes, Cal threw in the towel a little while ago. He gave me some sour grapes, too, babbling about a crash… Yes, of course it's idiocy. When in all the history of the country have things gone so well? And we have you to thank for it. I'll do my best to follow your footsteps.

… Thanks again. Good-bye."

Flora went in and woke up Joshua. "Your father's going to be president," she told him.

"I want to go back to sleep," he said irritably-he wasn't quite three, and didn't care whether his father was president or a garbageman. Flora wanted to go to sleep, too. Now I won't have to live in Dakota, she thought. And if that wasn't reason enough, all by itself, to be glad Hosea had won, she couldn't imagine what would be.

The year had turned eight days before. Lucien Galtier didn't want to be standing out in the open, not with the weather down around zero and a raw wind blowing out of the northwest. Under his overcoat, his tight collar and black cravat felt as if they were choking him.

Charles and Georges stood beside him in the graveyard. His sons' faces were blank and bitter with grief. So, he suspected, was his own. His daughters-Nicole, Denise, Susanne, and Jeanne-could show their grief more openly, though that wind threatened to freeze the tears on their faces.

It also whipped at Father Guillaume's wool cassock. "Is everyone here?" he asked. Galtier nodded. Himself, his children, their spouses, his two grandchildren-and Charles' wife big with child, due almost any day-Marie's brother and sister and their spouses and children and grandchildren, some cousins, some friends. The priest raised his voice a little: "Let us pray."

Lucien bowed his head as Father Guillaume offered up sonorous Latin to the Lord. Absurdly, Galtier chose that moment to remember how strange the American priest who'd married Nicole and Leonard O'Doull had sounded while speaking Latin-he'd pronounced it differently from the way Quebecois clergymen did. But even they'd assured him it wasn't wrong, merely not the same.

After the Latin was done, Father Guillaume dropped back into French: "Marie Galtier no longer gives us the boon of her company on this earth. But she is at the right hand of the Father even as I speak these words, as she died in our true and holy Catholic faith. And she will live forever, for she was a good woman, as you show by coming here today to honor and commemorate her passing."

Nicole began to sob. Leonard O'Doull put his arm around her. Lucien wished someone would do the same for him. But he was a man. He had to bear this as a man did, as stoically as he could. His eyes slid to the black-draped coffin. He'd thought burying his parents was hard. And it had been. This, though, this felt ten times worse. That was his life going into the hole the gravediggers had hacked from the frozen ground. How can I go on without Marie? he wondered. He couldn't imagine finding an answer.

"In a real way, too, Marie Galtier does still live here among us," the priest said. Lucien almost called him a liar and a fool, there in front of everyone. Before he could say the words, Father Guillaume went on, "She lives in our hearts, in our memories. Whenever we recall her kindness and her love, she lives again. And because she gave us so many reasons to do just that, she will live on for a very long time indeed, even if her years among us were fewer than we would have wished. Think of her often, and she will live for you again."

He turned toward the coffin, making the sign of the cross and praying once more in Latin. All the people standing there shivering as they listened to him crossed themselves, too. As Lucien did so, he felt a certain dull amazement. Father Guillaume had been right after all. Lucien could hear his wife's voice inside himself, could see her smile whenever he closed his eyes. A marvel, yes, but a painful marvel. Seeing her and hearing her that way only reminded him he wouldn't see her or hear her in the flesh any more. Helplessly, he began to cry.

"Here, Papa." Of all people, his foolish son Georges was the one who held him and gave him a handkerchief: Georges, whose always-smiling face was as twisted with sorrow as Lucien's had to be.

"Thank you, my son," Lucien whispered. He felt his eyelids trying to freeze together, and rubbed at them with the handkerchief.

Then he and his sons and Marie's brother and Dr. Leonard O'Doull lifted the coffin and set it in the grave. What struck Lucien was how little it weighed, which had little to do with six men lifting it. After Dr. O'Doull found the mass in Marie's belly, after the X ray and the operation that only confirmed the worst, the flesh had melted off her day by day, till she was little more than parchment skin wrapped around bones by the time the end finally, mercifully, came. Those were memories of his wife Galtier wished he wouldn't carry into the future with him. No matter what he wished, though, he would have them till his turn to lie in a coffin came. He made himself go over to the priest and say, " Merci, Father Guillaume."

The young priest nodded soberly. "You are welcome, and more than welcome. This is a cup I wish had passed from me, and one I wish had passed from your wife as well. I would have hoped she might enjoy many more happy years."

"Yes. I would have hoped for the same." Galtier looked up into the cloudy sky. More snow might start falling any time. "Better God should have taken me. Why did He take her and leave me all alone?" That thought had been with him since he first found out Marie was ill.

"He knows the answer to that, even if He does not give it to us to know," Father Guillaume said.

"Marie knows now, too," Lucien said. "If ever I see God face to face, I intend to ask Him about it, and His explanation had better be a good one." The priest coughed and turned red. Galtier went on, "And if I don't see Him face to face, if I meet the Devil instead, as could be, then I intend to find out from him."

Now Father Guillaume gravely shook his head. "Satan is the Father of Lies. Whatever he might tell you, you would not be able to believe it."

With Quebecois stubbornness, Lucien said, "I'll hear what he says, and then I'll make up my own mind."

Charles came up to him and asked, "Do you want me to drive you home, Papa?"

"Why would I?" Galtier asked in honest surprise.

"After this… I was not sure how you would be," his older son answered.

"I am not so very well," Galtier agreed. "But if I am not so very well after burying my wife, are you so very well after burying your mother? It could be you would make a worse menace on the road than I, n'est-ce pas?"

Charles looked surprised, but nodded. "Yes, it could be, I suppose." He turned away. "I should have known you were too stubborn to take help from anyone."

"When I need it, I take it," Lucien said. "When I don't, I don't. Don't be angry at me, son. I am not angry at you. And the two of us, we're not so very different, eh?"

He knew that was true. Charles took after him in more than looks. His older son also had a character much like his own. After a moment's thought, Charles gave him the same sort of grudging nod he would have used himself. "All right, Father. Yes, you're right-I can be a stiff-necked nuisance, too. I'll see you there, then?"

"Certainly," Galtier said. "Where else would I go, but to my own house?"

But when he got out of the Chevrolet close by the farmhouse on the land that had been in his family for almost 250 years, he wondered. He didn't want to go back into the house. Going in there had always-not literally always, but more than thirty years came close enough-meant going in to see Marie. Now she wasn't there. She never would be there, not any more. And remembering that she had been there, remembering the life together the two of them had built, the life now forever sundered, forever shattered, was like knives to Lucien. He had to gather himself before he could go inside.

Nicole and Leonard O'Doull were already there. So were Charles and his wife. One by one and in small groups, the rest of his children and his wife's relatives and his friends came in. There was plenty to drink and plenty to eat; the womenfolk in the family had been cooking since Marie died.

"Thank you all," Lucien said. "Thank you all very much for coming. Thank you for caring for Marie." His face twisted into a characteristically wry grin. "For I know you certainly would not have come for my sake."

"Certainly not, mon beau-pere, " Dr. O'Doull said. "We all hate you."

For a moment, Galtier took him seriously, being too emotionally battered to recognize irony. But then even he saw the smile on his son-in-law's face, and those on the faces of his other loved ones. He wanted to smile, too, but ended up weeping once more instead. He felt mortified all over again, and angrily turned away from Dr. O'Doull.

"It's all right," said the American who'd become part of his family. "No one thinks less of you for it. Here. Drink this." He gave Lucien a glass of applejack.

The homemade spirits went down Galtier's throat without his even noticing them. He had another glass, and another, all with scant effect. He felt too much already for applejack to make much difference. For the next half hour or so, he thanked everyone who'd come to his house to say good-bye to Marie.

"What will you do now, Papa?" Georges asked him. "Do you know yet?"

"What can I do?" Galtier answered. "I'll go on as best I can. If I don't feed the animals tomorrow, who will? If I don't take care of the farm, who will? The work doesn't do itself. You always thought it did, but it doesn't. Someone has to do it. If no one does it, it doesn't get done."

"But…" His younger son gestured. "How can you do all the farm work, and then do all the housework, too?"

"Electricity helps," Lucien said. "With electricity, everything is quicker and easier. And I was in the Army a long time ago. I know how to keep things tidy-unlike certain people I could name."

Georges didn't rise to that, which proved how solemn an occasion this was. He just asked, "And while you were in the Army, Papa, did they also teach you how to cook?"

"No, but then, who cares?" Galtier answered. "I am the only person I'll be cooking for. I won't starve to death. And if supper is particularly bad one night, I can always throw things at the clumsy fool who fixed it."

He made his son laugh at that, and thought he'd tricked Georges-maybe even tricked himself-into believing everything was, or at least soon would be, all right. A few minutes later, though, Georges sprawled in a chair, hands over his face, weeping with as much heartbreak as Lucien knew himself.

What will I do? Galtier wondered. For all his glib talk, he had no idea. At the moment, he didn't particularly want to go on living himself. Maybe that would change as time passed. He'd heard it did. He'd heard it, but didn't particularly believe it. Why not me? he wondered, as he had ever since he'd found Marie in the kitchen with tears running down her face.

He'd hoped Father Guillaume would have an answer for that, but no such luck. It would have to wait till he saw God, as Marie was seeing God now. If He doesn't have a good answer, I'll give Him a piece of my mind.

Nicole came over to him. She looked achingly like her mother, though she was a few inches taller; Marie had been a little woman, not much over five feet. "She's gone, Papa," she said wonderingly. "I can't believe it, but she's gone."

"I know," Lucien said.

"I love you," his oldest daughter said.

He hadn't heard that from her for years. He suspected it meant, I'm afraid I'll lose you, too. "And I love you, my dear," he said, as if to reply, I'm not going anywhere. But that wasn't really for him to say. He looked up to, and past, the ceiling. Don't You argue with me, he told God, and dared hope God was listening.

"A nother Inauguration Day," Nellie Jacobs said. "Dear God, where do the years go? First one I can recollect is President Blaine's, back in 1881. I was just a little girl then, of course."

"Well, I hope to heaven Hosea Blackford does a better job than James G. Blaine did," her husband answered.

"He'd better," Nellie exclaimed. "A few months after Blaine got elected, the Confederates were shelling Washington. I've been through that twice now. It had better not happen again, that's all I've got to say, because I don't think anybody could be lucky enough to live through it three times."

"I don't look for a war any time soon," Hal Jacobs said. "I don't see how we could have one. The Confederates aren't very strong, and we're prosperous. I still think the stock market is sound, even if the money trouble in Europe has set it hiccoughing."

"I'm glad it's hiccoughing," Nellie said. "It let us buy those shares of the Wireless Corporation for a lot less than they would have cost us a couple of months ago."

"Buy on the dips," Hal said wisely. "Buy on the dips, and you can't go wrong."

"That's what they say," Nellie agreed. "It's worked out pretty well for us so far. I just wish we'd been able to start out when we were a lot younger."

Hal shrugged. "For one thing, we didn't have the money. For another, the market was a lot riskier in those days-it would crash every few years. And then the war came along, and we were too busy to worry about it for quite a while."

"Too busy? Well, yes, a little bit," Nellie said. Hal pinned his Distinguished Service Medal on the breast pocket of his black jacket. With his white shirt, black cravat, and black homburg, the medal's ribbon gave his outfit the only dash of color it had. Nellie nodded approval. "You look handsome," she told him, and he did indeed look as handsome as he could.

"Thank you, my dear." He always seemed to glow a little when she paid him a compliment. And he returned the favor: "You are as lovely as always."

"Oh, foosh." Nellie had heard too many compliments from men over the years to trust them or take them seriously. Men complimented women because they wanted something from them-most often one thing in particular. She put on her Order of Remembrance, then turned her back on her husband. "Fasten the ribbon at the back of my neck, would you, Hal?"

"Of course," he said, and did. Then he kissed the back of her neck, too. She'd more than half expected him to do that, and she let him get away with it. By his relieved expression, he'd wondered if she would.

"Are you ready, Clara?" she called.

"Yes, Ma," her daughter answered from the room across the hall. "Is it time to go?"

"Just about," Nellie said. "And don't forget your coat."

"Do I have to bring it?" Clara said. "It's not cold out."

She was right. The weather was springlike, even though spring still lay two and a half weeks away. But Nellie answered, "Yes, take it. I'm bringing one, too. You never can tell what it'll do." Clara grumbled, but she couldn't complain too hard, not if Nellie was also bringing a coat. And Nellie knew she was right. She also had an umbrella, though the sun shone brightly for now. No, you never could tell.

They walked toward the Mall, for the parade of bands and companies of soldiers and-since this was another Socialist administration-gangs of workers who would precede the new President Blackford's inaugural address. They had a spot picked out-right in front of the rebuilt National Museum of Remembrance, and not far from the platform where the new president would speak. Edna and Merle and Armstrong would meet them there if they could fight their way through the crowd.

They wiggled forward till they stood in the second row in front of the museum. Nellie could see the platform, which was already filling with dignitaries. "We made good time," she said.

"Yes, we did," Hal agreed. "We'll be able to see everything, and we won't have any trouble hearing the president talk."

Clara chose that moment to announce, "Mama, I have to go."

"You always have to go," Nellie said in no small exasperation. She sighed. "I'll take you into the museum. Hold our places, Hal. Do the best you can." Her husband nodded. She took Clara's hand. "Come along with me, young lady. Why didn't you go before we left? That's what I want to know."

"I did," Clara answered with a child's self-righteousness. "I have to go again."

The line for the women's powder room at the Museum of Remembrance was as long as Nellie had feared it would be. She and Clara needed twenty minutes to work their way to the front. By then, Clara was fidgeting enough to convince Nellie she hadn't said she needed to go just to be annoying.

Many more people had come to the Mall by the time Nellie and Clara emerged from the museum once more. Nellie had to do some elbowing, and stepped on a couple of feet that didn't get out of the way fast enough to suit her. "Watch where you're going, lady," an angry man said.

"I'm so sorry," Nellie answered, and stepped on him again, not in the least by accident.

Hal Jacobs wasn't a big man. Nellie began to wonder if she'd ever find him. She was starting to worry when Merle Grimes said, "Hello, Mother Jacobs." He and Edna and Armstrong stood with Hal.

"Hello, Merle," she said. "I'd've gone right past the lot of you if you hadn't spoken up, Lord help me if I wouldn't."

"We're all together now," Hal said. "That's the way things are supposed to be."

"That's right," Edna said, a little louder than she had to. She clung to Merle's hand. They both wore their decorations, too. From what Nellie could see, things between them weren't quite the same as they had been before Merle found out about Nicholas H. Kincaid. They were tolerable, and Edna didn't seem actively discontented, but they weren't so lovey-dovey as before. Told you so, Edna, Nellie said, but only to herself.

A band began to play. Nellie stopped worrying about her daughter and son-in-law-and even about her other daughter and her grandson, who got along no better than they ever did-and watched yet another inauguration, yet another passing of the torch from one president to another.

This year, the passing was odd, as outgoing President Sinclair was about fifteen years younger than incoming President Blackford. It was as if the USA were moving backwards in time, something the country didn't do very often. Chief Justice Holmes administered the oath to Hosea Blackford.

Voice aided by a microphone, Blackford repeated the words that made him president of the United States: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

A sigh ran through the crowd. Nellie had heard that oath every four years since 1881-not counting 1916. It made official what had happened five months before. Now the country had a new president. Now we see what happens next, she thought, as if it were a new chapter in a novel. And so, in a way, it was.

The most immediate thing that happened next was Blackford's inaugural address. Nellie got a good look at him up there on the stand. Behind him, his wife, who was much younger than he, tried to keep a little boy younger than Armstrong quiet. Robbing the cradle, Mr. President? Nellie thought.

"I am pleased to tell you how well off our country is today, thanks to the inspired leadership given over the past eight years by my most distinguished predecessor, President Upton Sinclair." Hosea Blackford owned a ringing baritone. Nellie thought she remembered hearing he'd been a lawyer before going to Congress. He certainly had the voice for it. He led the applause for the president leaving office. Sinclair rose one last time from his seat behind the podium to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd.

As the new ex-president sat down again, Blackford went on, "We are at peace on our continent. We extend the hand of friendship to both the Confederate States and the Empire of Mexico. We share a common heritage with the CSA, and I am pleased to note that Confederate President Burton Mitchel, a civilized gentleman, shares this view. May we see no more war in North America, not ever again!"

Nellie clapped as loud as she could. If war came, it would surely come to Washington, would surely come down on her head. She wanted peace for her daughter, peace for her grandson. She'd seen too much of war ever to want to know it again.

"To the north, the Republic of Quebec is our staunch ally," Blackford declared. Even Nellie knew that meant the Quebecois would do as they were told. The president said, "English-speaking Canada continues to recover under our guidance." Even Nellie knew that meant the rest of the Canucks would damn well have to do as they were told. "And Utah, long turbulent, looks toward the day when it shall be a state like any other."

That drew scattered boos even from a mostly friendly crowd. Few people outside of Utah had much sympathy for the Mormons, not after two uprisings.

"Broad oceans protect us from foreign foes," President Blackford said. "The Sandwich Islands serve as a bastion against the Empire of Japan, while the Atlantic shields us against Europe's unending turmoil and danger. And let me note that I am completely confident the panics of the past ten days in Vienna, in Rome, in Paris, and in London will not affect the Empire of Germany in any important way, and that they cannot possibly cross the Atlantic and endanger our own well-being."

Everyone applauded vigorously there. So far, the Berlin and New York exchanges had avoided most of the jitters afflicting the smaller European markets, though Richmond also seemed nervous. Beside Nellie, Hal murmured, "If we can ride it out for another week, we'll be fine. The Austro-Hungarians cause so much trouble. If they hadn't called for repayment of that Russian loan…"

"Hush," Nellie told him. "I want to hear the president."

Blackford seemed to have said everything he was going to say about foreign affairs. He switched to what he hoped to accomplish within the United States: "We want no man hungry. We want no one able-bodied without work. We want no capitalists exploiting the workers of our great land. We want justice for all, and we intend to get it. We will not let the aged, who have worked hard all their lives, be discarded like so many worn-out cogs in our industrial machine."

Nellie applauded that. She'd worked hard all her life, and looked forward to the day when she wouldn't have to any more. Old-age insurance sounded good to her-better than relying on whatever charity she might get from Merle and Edna, and perhaps from Clara and whomever she ended up marrying.

If Blackford can find a way for me to have enough to live on when I'm old, I'd vote Socialist forever-if I could vote at all. Women's suffrage was here, all over the USA-but not in Washington, D.C. Men were every bit as disenfranchised in the nation's legal capital. Now more than ever, that struck Nellie as monstrously unfair. Men had complained about it for as long as she could remember. It also affected her now, so she noticed it more. Hosea Blackford said not a word about votes for Washington.


Clarence Potter had to wait to see his broker. He spent the time in Ulysses Dalby's waiting room drumming his fingers on his thigh. To the outside world, he showed only impatience. He kept the fear and rage he felt bottled up inside. No one would have known from his stolid, impassive face the way his heart pounded or how cold and damp the palms of his hands were.

At last, the broker's secretary said, "Mr. Dalby will see you now, Mr. Potter."

"Thank you, Betty." Potter strode past her without another word. She was a redhead whose generous contours could usually be counted on to distract male investors from their worries. Today, Potter was too worried to be distracted.

He closed the door behind him as he went into Ulysses Dalby's office. The broker was a few years older than he: a plump, gray-haired man with a jovial manner who wore sharp suits. He extended a well-manicured hand with a glittering pinkie ring for Potter to shake. "Good morning, sir," he said, his Low Country accent sweet and syrupy. "What can I do for you this fine day?"

"Get me out," Clarence Potter said.

Dalby raised an eyebrow. "I beg your pardon, sir?"

"Get me out," Potter repeated. "Sell every stock I have, fast as you can do it, best price you can get, but sell. Richmond and New York exchanges both. I'll be back for the cash this afternoon."

"Mr. Potter, I hesitate to carry out an order like that," Dalby said. "Are you sure you've considered carefully?"

"Maybe you'll call me a fool a month from now," Potter answered. "If I'm wrong, I can buy back in. But I'll have something to buy back in with. My opinion is that there's a fire in the woods. If I don't get out now, it will burn me out."

"Panic selling, sir, will only make the fire worse," Dalby said.

"Sitting around while the woods burn won't do me any good," Potter said. "I'll take my chances on the other. What have you done with your portfolio, Mr. Dalby?"

"I've diversified as much as possible," Dalby replied.

"That's fancy talk. It means you're already out of the markets, doesn't it?" Potter asked. When the broker didn't answer right away, Potter nodded. "I thought so. I'm getting out while the getting is at least tolerable, if not good. Place those sell orders right this minute. I want to make sure you do it. I'll be back for my money this afternoon, mind you, and I expect to have it." He didn't quite say, I know where you live, Dalby, but it hung in the air.

Only after the broker made the necessary telephone calls did Clarence Potter leave his office. When he stepped back out onto the streets of Charleston, he still felt panic in the air. A newsboy shouted, "France leaves the gold standard!" Another one called, "London market plunges again! Big selloff in Richmond!" And yet another cried, "President Mitchel calls for calm! Confederate dollar still sound, he says!"

Potter hoped Burton Mitchel was right about that last. If the currency went out the window as it had right after the war, there'd be hell to pay, but no money for the Devil. Will I have to buy gold? Potter wondered. Is there any gold to buy? I'll worry about that later. First things first. Banknotes. Nice brown banknotes. Let me get a good, fat wad of them and I can laugh at the world for a while.

When he went back to Ulysses Dalby's office that afternoon, the newspaper hawkers were talking about the beating the Richmond exchange had taken, and about the one the New York exchange had taken, too. He set his teeth and hoped the broker hadn't decamped with his money.

Betty the decorative secretary led him into Dalby's office. Just seeing Dalby made him let out a sigh of relief. He let out another one when Dalby handed him a thick sheaf of brown banknotes. What he let out after counting the money was more on the order of a grunt of pain. "This is all?" he demanded.

"That's all, Mr. Potter. I tried to warn you: you don't get top dollar in a bear market," Ulysses Dalby said. "Here are the transaction records. I'm not cheating you."

"Well, maybe you don't," Potter said after carefully checking the records. He did his best to sound philosophical. "But I would have got a lot less if I'd waited till tomorrow or the day after or next week, wouldn't I?"

Dalby nodded. "I have to say you would have. I'm also going to ask you one thing more: in what bank do you intend to put your money now that you've got it?"

"Why, the First Secession Bank and Trust," Potter answered. "I've been doing business with them since I came down here after the war. You must know that. How come?"

"Mm… It may be nothing. You're a good judge of banks-I think the First Secession is a pretty solid outfit. It may come through all this just fine."

Clarence Potter stared at him. "It may, you say?" Dalby nodded again. Potter whistled softly. "You think it's going to be as bad as that? Banks going under, the way they did in '88 and '04?"

"Yes, it may be that bad," the broker answered after a little thought. "On the other hand, it may be a good deal worse." Potter started to laugh, thinking Dalby had made a grim sort of joke. But Dalby's face was serious, even somber. "I'm not kidding, Mr. Potter," he said. "I'm not kidding at all. In the last couple of panics, our markets took a beating, and so did Wall Street up in the USA, but the rest of the world went on about its business. It's not like that this time, sir. I wish to heaven it were. This time… It won't do much to Africa, I suppose, and maybe not to China, either-the heathen Chinese are already about as bad off as they can be. But I don't believe anyplace else will get off untouched."

Potter whistled again, an even lower, even more mournful note. He might have been tolling the passing of an era. Maybe I am, he thought. "My God," he said aloud. "And I thought I was a pessimist."

"I watched the ticker tape all day, Mr. Potter. I watched it get further and further behind the sales it was supposed to be listing," Dalby said. "When I saw you this morning, I still had some hope. I'd say it died about an hour and a half ago. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong. I hope so. But I don't think so, not any more."

He looked shellshocked. That was exactly how he looked, Potter realized. He'd been through too much, like men in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war. They'd got that stunned, beaten look on their faces, too. Half the time after that, they didn't care if they lived or died. Dalby didn't seem to, not right now.

Stowing your money in your mattress was a joke that went at least as far back as money and mattresses. Potter wondered which of those had come first. Joke or not, he did just that with the banknotes he'd got from Ulysses Dalby. The next morning, he closed out his account at the First Secession Bank and Trust. The lines at the bank weren't too bad. "I assure you, sir," said the young clerk who gave him his money, "we are perfectly sound."

"I believe you, son," Potter answered. "That's why I'm doing this now. Who knows how the devil you're going to be in a couple of weeks, though?"

The clerk didn't try to tell him everything would be fine. He found himself wishing the fellow would have.

He went to the Whig Party meeting the following Tuesday more out of morbid curiosity than for any other reason. The stock exchanges hadn't got any better. They'd kept right on sinking, Richmond faster than New York. Lines outside the banks were starting to get longer-and more anxious.

The meeting went very much as Potter expected-very much as he'd feared-it would. It put him in mind of a lot of maiden ladies talking-or rather, trying not to talk-about sex. The lawyers and businessmen circled the building crash like a man circling a rattlesnake in a small room. They couldn't ignore it, but they didn't want to deal with it, either. They kept making noises about "changing conditions" and "uncertainty" and "a seeming slump in the business cycle."

Clarence Potter stuck up his hand. He needed a while to be recognized. He wasn't surprised; he'd expected they wouldn't want to notice him. He'd proved himself a gadfly, and they didn't like that. But he was, or could be, a patient gadfly. At last, the chairman had no choice but to turn his way and ask, "Yes, Mr. Potter?"

"Boys," Potter said, "the jig is up."

Bang! The chairman rapped loudly for order. "Have you anything more germane to say, Mr. Potter, or may we move on to the next order of business?"

"What is the next order of business in the middle of a crash?" Potter demanded. "Sending out for more strings so we can fiddle while the market burns?" Bang! went the gavel again. Potter ignored it. "Next Congressional elections are only a few months away," he said harshly. "If this is as bad as it looks, how do we intend to send one single solitary Whig incumbent back to Richmond for the new Congress? We'd better be thinking about that, eh, before we worry about anything else. And we'd better try to keep the country on its feet so it'll be in some sort of shape to want to vote for us. How are we supposed to go about that?"

Bang! Bang! Bang! "Mr. Potter, you are as thoroughly out of order as it is possible for one man to be," the chairman all but shouted.

"You're right," Potter agreed. "But the country is a lot further out of order than I can be, and so are the Whigs. I have one last question, gentlemen, and then I'm done: if this turns out to be as bad as it looks right now, how the hell do you propose to keep those Freedom Party yokels from trying to pick up the pieces?"

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! The gavel descended again and again, a veritable fusillade of banging. That succeeded in silencing Clarence Potter. But, he noticed, no one tried to answer his question. He'd expected nothing different, nothing better. He'd hoped for something better, but he knew too well the difference between hope and expectation. He walked out of the meeting gloomy, but he'd figured he would.

A couple of days later, after watching stocks tumble lower yet, after listening on the wireless to a speech by President Mitchel that was as full of misplaced optimism as any he'd ever heard, he decided to telephone Anne Colleton. He wasn't even sure she would remember him; a brief acquaintance in a political squabble a couple of years before didn't necessarily constitute an introduction.

But she said, "Oh, yes, Mr. Potter. I do appreciate the help you gave me against that fool of a Braxton Donovan. What's on your mind today?"

"I don't know, frankly," he answered. "The main reason I called was to see how you were doing. If anyone could land on her feet in this mess, you're the one."

"I'm not too bad," she said. "As soon as I saw which way the wind was blowing, I sold out as fast as I could. I got hurt. I didn't get wiped out. If I'd stayed in the market a little longer, I would have. How about you, Mr. Potter?"

"About the same," he told her. "I could have done better if I'd left a couple of days sooner, but I'm getting by for the time being. An awful lot of people aren't, though, and it may get worse before it gets better."

"I'm afraid you're right," Anne Colleton said. "Not many people can see that. In a way, it's good to know someone can."

"Belshazzar needed Daniel to read the writing on the wall," Potter said. "I hope someone can do the job for us."

"I wish there were no job to do," Anne answered.

"Well, so do I," he answered. "But I'm very much afraid this is only the beginning, and not just for the Confederate States. In a way, misery loves company. In another way, if everyone's in trouble, nobody can help anybody else get out of it."

Anne Colleton didn't say anything for perhaps half a minute. At last, she told him, "That makes good sense to me." Another pause. "You seem to make very good sense, Mr. Potter. Maybe we should talk some more if we get the chance."

And what am I letting myself in for if I say yes to that? Potter wondered. But the answer seemed obvious. Trouble. Only question is, how much trouble? He too paused, but not for long. "Maybe we should, Miss Colleton. Maybe we should."

W hen Chester Martin got off his shift at the Toledo steel mill, he went straight to the Socialist Party hall not far from the factory. He could have had himself a beer there, but opened a bottle of Nesbit's instead. He wanted to keep his wits about him.

Spotting Albert Bauer, he called, "What do you think of this management notion?"

"Cutting shifts from eight hours to six, you mean?" Bauer answered.

"Yeah, that's what I mean, all right, unless there's another brand-new management notion I haven't heard about yet," Chester said.

Bauer didn't look happy. "Way I see it, we've got two choices," he said. "We can say yes, and let 'em cut our pay by a quarter. Or we can so no, and have 'em fire one out of four of us." He was drinking a beer. He drained it, then added, "This is what you call being between the Devil and the deep blue sea."

"I don't trust those management bastards," Martin said. "Like as not, it's a trick to pump up their profits and hurt us at the same time. Instead of hiring goons and scabs, they play these games nowadays."

"I know." But Bauer looked mighty unhappy. "Hate to tell you, Chester, but I don't think so, not this time. I've seen the orders going through the pipeline. They've fallen right off a cliff. Nobody's buying steel, not to speak of. There's no point in making it if nobody's ordering. Less than no point, in fact-a big inventory just drives prices down when orders do start picking up. I don't think the bosses are playing games for the sake of playing games, not this time. I wish they were. I'd strike in a red-hot minute."

"Fine. Wonderful. But somebody'd better tell me how the hell I'm supposed to make ends meet on three-quarters of my proper pay."

"Well, that depends," Bauer said slowly. "Would you rather try to make ends meet on none of your proper pay? The company's trying hard not to get rid of people. I don't like the bosses, and I never will, but I have to give them credit for that."

Martin told him exactly where he'd like to give the bosses credit. Bauer laughed. Martin said, "It's not funny, dammit. If my wife didn't have work, we wouldn't make it on three-quarters of a paycheck. I'd sooner take my chances on getting the sack. If I did, I'd look for something else. And if I didn't, I'd be all right."

"So much for the solidarity of the proletariat," Bauer observed, and Martin felt himself flush. Bauer went on, "But if they didn't get you in the first round of firings, how do you know they wouldn't the next time? Because there will be a next time, Chester, sure as you're standing there."

"A next time." Martin scowled. "Hadn't thought of that. Bet you're right, though. Who would have thought a loan the Russians couldn't-or maybe wouldn't-pay back would cause all this trouble?"

"For want of a nail," Bauer said, and then sighed. "We're all going to be wanting nails before too long."

"Oh, yeah?" Chester said. "If we're all going to be wanting nails, how come they're cutting back on how much steel they're making?"

"Because whether we want them or not, we won't be able to afford them," Bauer answered.

"Of course we won't be able to afford them. They're cutting our hours."

Bauer's smile was full of anything but amusement. "Welcome to the vicious circle."

That circle was anything but welcome to Martin. He hung around the Party hall till he saw no one had any firm notion of how to respond to the bosses' proposal for cutting hours. No one could decide if it was good because it saved jobs or bad because it cut pay. Martin concluded the proposal would probably go forward. Strong opposition from the workers might have stopped it. If they couldn't decide whether it was good or bad, they would find out by experiment-on themselves.

He rode the trolley back to the flat he shared with Rita. His own mood was glum, or worse than glum. He'd told Albert Bauer the exact truth. If his hours and pay got cut to three-quarters of what he had now, the only thing that would keep him afloat was his wife's salary.

And Rita seemed anything but happy when he came through the door. After a perfunctory kiss, she said, "Orders have taken a real tumble since the market started going down. Nobody wants pipe any more-not new pipe, anyway."

It was spring, a bright spring, the weather full of new-puppy warmth and hope. Ice walked Chester Martin's back even so. He tried to remember when he'd known fear like this. The Roanoke front? He shook his head. That terror had been different, and far more immediate: fear of death and pain and mutilation. This was something else. Fear of loss, fear of hunger, fear of endless misery without escape. Fear of bills. Fear of moving back in with his mother and father-if this quiet, creeping horror didn't lay hold of them, too.

When Martin laughed, he might have been whistling while walking past a graveyard. "It was just a few weeks ago when we figured we could have any old thing we wanted," he said, and went on to tell Rita about the company's plan to cut everybody's hours.

She listened to that, her face getting longer and longer. "I know what I want," she said. "I want us to keep our jobs, that's what."

"Yeah," he said quietly. "That's about what it boils down to, isn't it?"

"It's hard times when your neighbor's out of work," Rita said. "It's the end of the world when you are."

"Maybe if the government really had seized the means of production this wouldn't have happened," Chester said, trying to make himself believe it. He couldn't. Shaking his head, he went on, "No, they couldn't've done it, I don't think. It would have meant real class war-and it might not have helped."

"What are we going to do?" Rita asked. "What can we do?"

"Hang on tight," he said. "We're still working. We're going to lose most of the stocks we bought, though. I hated answering the last margin call-felt like throwing money away. And we probably won't be able to afford to answer the next one."

"We've got each other. We're healthy." Rita sounded as if she was trying to reassure herself, and not having much luck.

"It can't get much worse," Chester said. "How could stocks go any lower than they have already? There's got to be a floor somewhere."

"Yes, but where?" Rita asked, and he had no answer. He felt less ashamed of that than he might have otherwise-for no one else in the USA-no one else in the whole world, by all the signs-had any answer to it, either. No, he wasn't ashamed, but that didn't mean he wasn't frightened.

He went to work day by day, having nothing else he could do. Before long, his shift did go from eight hours to six. His pay dropped by a quarter, too. He hated that, but he supposed he would have hated being without a paycheck even more. As long as Rita had a job, too, they got by.

The market continued to sink. Reading the papers, Martin took occasional consolation in noticing Richmond stocks had fallen even further than those on Wall Street. Did misery really love company? He didn't know about that, either. What he did know was that, every day, there seemed to be more misery to go around.

People started telling stories about brokers jumping off bridges and diving out of windows. Nobody could say whether those stories were true. People told them anyhow. One day in the middle of June, Wall Street stopped sinking. It dove. Maybe brokers didn't, but the market did. The wave of sell orders overwhelmed the ticker tape. It lagged ever further behind the tidal wave of disaster. The last few shares Chester had so proudly held on to went then, on what the papers called Swan-Dive Wednesday. By that time, he'd almost stopped caring. Not till almost four hours after the market closed did the chattering tape finally spit out the last of the day's losses.

When Thursday dawned, the market didn't open. An eerie calm prevailed at the steel mill. "Reminds me of the day after a big attack that didn't work," Martin said to Albert Bauer as they opened their lunch pails together.

Bauer had been at the front, too. He nodded. "Or maybe it did," he said, "only we were on the receiving end." He took a bite out of his cheese sandwich. He'd usually eaten bologna or pastrami before the market tumbled. So had Martin. His sandwich had cheese in it, too. Cheese was cheaper. Bauer went on, "President Blackford's got almost four years left in his term, but he's a lame duck already. Poor sorry son of a bitch."

"He's doing everything he can," Chester said. "I like what he said in the paper this morning. 'We have nowhere to go but up.' That's good. He means it, too-you can tell."

"Oh, yeah. I'm not arguing with you," Bauer answered. "But even if things do go up, what will people remember? They'll remember how far down we went, and who was in the Powel House when we did. Come 1932, he'll have Democrats lined up six deep to run against him."

Martin thought about that. It made altogether too much sense to be comfortable. "Well, the class struggle takes a step back," he said. "Or probably takes a step back. You never can tell, not for sure."

"Want to bet?" Bauer said. "I'm as good a Socialist as any man around, and I've got twenty bucks says there'll be a Democrat in Powel House after the '32 elections."

"You won't get my twenty," Martin said. "Wish I could, but Rita'd kill me-and I think I'd lose the dough. Times are tough enough without throwing it away."

"Of course, by the time '32 rolls around, I might have forgotten who I made the bet with," Bauer said.

"Fat chance," Martin answered. "It's not just that you wouldn't forget between now and then, Al. It's that you wouldn't let me forget."

"Who, me?" Bauer did his best to sound indignant. "Come on. Eat up. We've got to get back to it pretty goddamn quick."

"Right," Martin said tightly. The company was also cracking down on people who violated its rules. He didn't want to end up on the street. Six hours' pay was better than none at all.

When he got home that night, he found Rita crumpled in tears on the sofa. "Oh, Lord!" he said. "What's the matter, sweetie?" He feared he knew the answer even without the question he had to ask.

And he was right. "They fired me," his wife answered. "They told me to clean out my desk and not come back tomorrow-they can't afford to keep me any more. I've been there seven years, and they threw me out like a piece of dirt. Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? What are we going to do?"

"I don't know," Chester said dazedly. "So help me God, I don't know." In a few weeks, they'd gone from having two paychecks to having three-quarters of one. That was bad enough-was worse than bad enough. But what was worse yet, what was really terrifying, was that, compared to an awful lot of people, they were still well off.

I n the Terry, times hadn't been good since the last hectic days of the Great War. Back then, with every white man possible at the front, Augusta's Negroes had filled factory jobs galore. They'd made less money than the whites they were displacing, but even that added up to more money than they'd ever seen in their lives till that time. Then the whites, those who'd lived, came back, and the factory jobs dried up. People began living hand-to-mouth again.

Erasmus' place was a case in point. Scipio would have thought a fish market and cafe in a poor part of town immune from anything so remote as a stock-market panic. After all, the worst had happened in the Terry a dozen years earlier… hadn't it?

He would have thought that, but he would have been wrong. Erasmus' wrinkled face got longer with each passing day. His grizzled hair got grayer, too, or so it seemed to Scipio.

One morning, while Scipio washed the pile of breakfast dishes, Erasmus put his discontent into words: "They ain't comin' in."

"Ain't that bad, boss," Scipio said. "They ain't comin', where we get all these here dishes?"

"They ain't comin'," Erasmus repeated. " 'Fore all this panic happen, woulda been twice the dishes. Woulda been twice the money, too."

He was right, of course. Scipio's denial meant very little. Erasmus' place remained busy. It wasn't packed, not the way it had been before the market plunged. Scipio put the best face on things he could: "People's bein' careful wid dey money."

Erasmus shook his head. "A month ago, say, people was bein' careful with their money. Ain't like that no more. Now what it's like is, folks who come here, they ain't hardly got no money to be careful with."

"Lotta white folks outta work," Scipio admitted. "Bathsheba, she done lost fo', five cleanin' jobs las' few weeks. De buckra ain't got the money to give her."

"Here in the Terry, ain't many of us works for our ownselves," Erasmus said. "We mostly works for the buckra, almost like it was still slavery days. If the buckra outta work, we outta work, on account of they can't afford to pay us no more. How is I supposed to make money when there ain't no money to make?"

"Dunno," Scipio said. He waved. "Doin' pretty good so far."

"Ain't broke yet," Erasmus said. "Dunno why not, 'specially the way you eats." He wagged a finger at Scipio.

Had Scipio been white, he would have turned red. But taking meals at Erasmus' place was as much a part of what his boss paid him as the banknotes he got every Friday. It saved him money. The way things were going, the way Bathsheba's cleaning jobs were drying up, he needed to save all the money he could.

And Erasmus said not a word when he fixed himself a fried-egg sandwich and a big plate of grits for lunch. He'd just finished when the first lunch customer came in: a cleaning woman whose latest job had been close by the edge of the Terry. "Don't know how long I kin keep comin' here," she said as she took a bite out of a bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich. "White folks is lettin' people go. Ain't got no money their ownselves, sure ain't got none to spend on cleanin' their houses."

"I seen that, too," Scipio said. "My wife, she done los' half she people."

"World's a crazy place nowadays," the woman said. "Lady at the house I was at jus' now, her husband, he been a Whig forever, an' his daddy before him, an' his daddy before him. She say he talkin' 'bout votin' Freedom when the 'lections come round this fall. I didn't say nothin'. You don't like to tell the lady what's payin' you her husband ain't got no brains." She took another bite.

From his station in front of the stove, Erasmus said, "When the white folks see their money goin' away, some of 'em liable to do some crazy things."

"How many of 'em do dem crazy things?" Scipio wondered as he fetched the cleaning lady a cup of coffee. "We gwine have buckra in de streets yellin', 'Freedom!' again? Reckoned we was done wid dat."

"God do what He want to do, not what we wants Him to do," the cleaning woman said. "Thank you kindly, Xerxes," she added when Scipio set the coffee on the table.

"You's welcome," he answered absently.

How many whites were losing their jobs or losing money? He had no way of knowing, not for sure. More than a few, though; the stories in the Constitutionalist made that very clear. So did what was happening to the jobs of Negroes who depended on whites for work. How many of the whites who lost their jobs would start voting for Jake Featherston and his party?

Scipio had no way of knowing that, either, not for sure. But he'd just heard of one, and that was one more than he wanted to know about.

The cleaning lady gulped the coffee and got to her feet. She left money on the tabletop and hurried away. Over her shoulder, she said, "Can't be late gittin' back. Miz Hutton, I reckon she grab the first excuse she find to put me on the street. Don't aim to give her none." Out the door she went, in a hurry because her tip was small.

A man who sold secondhand furniture across the street came in for some fried catfish. As he ate, he remarked, "Had me a couple-three buckra come in the last few days. Ain't seen none in a hell of a long time 'fore that."

"Buy anything?" Scipio asked.

"Sure enough did," the furniture dealer answered. "Sold me a couple beds and a good chest o' drawers."

"Good for you, Athenaeus," Erasmus said. " 'Bout time I hear of somebody doin' good right now."

"Fellas sellin' new furniture, they's the ones wouldn't be happy if they knowed," Athenaeus said. "White folks all say they look at the new stuff first, but they can't afford it, no way, nohow. So they come to me."

"Good to hear it," Scipio echoed; as Erasmus had said, any news of success was welcome. But Athenaeus wasn't wrong. What would the white furniture dealers whose goods hadn't sold think?

And it wasn't just what they would think. What would they do? What could any man do, when he stared at bills and had no money to pay them? Would they put on white shirts and butternut trousers and start shouting, "Freedom!" at the top of their lungs? If they did, could anybody blame them?

Scipio nodded. I can blame them, he thought, hearing inside himself the precise English he no longer dared speak loud. I can blame them, for the Freedom Party will not make their troubles disappear, even if they think it will. And what the Freedom Party will do to me and mine if ever it should come to power…

That fear had spread all through the colored communities of the CSA in the early 1920s, and then receded as the Party's fortunes ebbed. Now white men were seeing the Confederate States could still know hard times. What would that discovery, that rediscovery, mean for Negroes here? Scipio didn't know. He feared finding out. Try as he would, though, he saw no escape.

"What kin we do?" he said aloud, hoping one of the other men in the place would have a better idea than he did. "Can't go nowheres."

"Ain't noplace else wants us," Erasmus said. "Not the USA."

"That's for sure," Athenaeus agreed. "They don't like the niggers they got. Ain't got very many, an' sure don't want no more."

"Stock market in de USA down de sewer, too," Scipio said. "They ain't got no money, no spirit, to help nobody else, not when they got trouble helpin' they ownselves."

"Good things they's down, too, you wants to know what I thinks," Athenaeus said. "If they was up, they be lordin' it over us. They do that, jus' git more buckra listenin' to Jake Featherston on the wireless and gittin' all hot and bothered afterwards."

For a long time before the world finally went mad in 1914, respect for each other's strength had kept the United States and Confederate States from going to war. Scipio had never imagined mutual weakness could do the same, but he couldn't deny Athenaeus had a point. It wasn't one he'd thought of, either.

"Empire of Mexico, mebbe," he said. But neither Erasmus nor Athenaeus paid much attention to that. Scipio couldn't take it seriously himself. To a Negro in eastern Georgia, the Empire of Mexico might as well have been on the dark side of the moon. Besides, what were the odds that Mexicans had any more use for Negroes than white men did?

Erasmus asked a more immediately relevant question: " 'Fore long, some black folks gwine start runnin' out o' money. What happen to 'em?"

"They git hungry," Athenaeus said.

"Church help some," Scipio said.

"Church be swamped," Erasmus said. Scipio nodded. By all the signs, that would come true, and soon. His boss went on, "Ain't no use waitin' fo' the gummint to do somethin'. Wait till Judgment Day, gummint won't do nothin' fo' no niggers."

" 'Fore long, some white folks starts runnin' out o' money and gettin' hungry, too," Athenaeus said. "Plenty po' buckra, they ain't hardly better off'n niggers. Gummint worry 'bout the buckra first, you wait an' see."

"What's a po' nigger gwine do?" Erasmus asked. "Starve?"

The word hung in the air. Scipio had known a lot of hungry people; during the war, he'd been hungry himself after the Confederates destroyed the Congaree Socialist Republic. But there was a difference between being hungry and starving. He tried to imagine thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of Negroes (and whites, too) going without because they had no money with which to buy food.

Outside, the sun shone brightly. The day was hot and muggy. It would stay hot and muggy from now all the way till fall. Even so, Scipio felt a chill. This was liable to be a disaster of Biblical proportions.

"What kin we do?" Athenaeus asked mournfully. "What kin anybody do?"

"Pray," Erasmus answered. "God done made this happen. He kin make us come through it, too, so long as He take it in His mind He want to do dat."

"Amen," Athenaeus said. Scipio made himself nod. He didn't want to seem out of place-seeming out of place was one of his greatest fears, because it was deadly dangerous. But if God had really wanted to do something about this disaster, couldn't He have stopped it in the first place?

"More we pray, more He gonna know how much we loves Him," Erasmus said. Along with being a believer, though, he was a relentlessly practical man. He went on, " 'Course, we gots to work hard, too. God ain't never gonna pay no heed to nobody who don't work hard."

Scipio would have bet he'd say that. Erasmus not only believed in the virtues of hard work, he practiced what he preached. Scipio himself was sure it couldn't hurt. What he wasn't sure of was how much it could help.

S omething was wrong in Salt Lake City. Colonel Abner Dowling shook his head. Something was always wrong in Salt Lake City. It wouldn't have been the place, or the sort of place, it was if something hadn't been wrong all the time. But something now was different. Anything different in Salt Lake City automatically roused Dowling's suspicions. As far as he could tell, different and dangerous were two sides of the same coin.

"I'll tell you what it is, sir," Captain Angelo Toricelli said.

"Go ahead, Angelo," Dowling urged. "Tell."

"Nobody's building anything, that's what," his adjutant said. "It's quieter than it ought to be."

Slowly, Dowling nodded. "You're right. I'll be damned if you're not right. It isn't on account of they've got everything rebuilt, either. Still plenty of wreckage lying around."

"Yes, sir," Captain Toricelli agreed. "But an awful lot of money that would have paid for more construction all of a sudden isn't there-it's gone."

Dowling nodded again. He gave Toricelli a sidelong glance. Fortunately, his adjutant didn't notice. The way the younger man watched every penny, he might have been a Jew, not an Italian. Dowling didn't want Toricelli to know he was thinking that. He didn't want to insult his adjutant. And everybody had to pay special attention to money these days, because it was so very thin on the ground.

With a sigh, Dowling said, "Not much we can do about it. At least we've got the Army paying our salaries."

"Yes, sir, and I'm damn glad of it, too," Toricelli answered. "I just got a letter from New York, from home. My brother-in-law's out of a job."

"What's he do?" Dowling asked.

"He reads X rays, sir-went to night school to learn the trade," Toricelli said, not without pride. "My sister and he've got five children, and another one on the way. I don't know what they'll do if he doesn't find something quick."

"I hope he does," Dowling said, on the whole sincerely. "Who would have thought the bottom could drop out of things so fast?"

"Nobody," Captain Toricelli answered. "But it has."

He was right about that, too. The Army censored Salt Lake City papers pretty hard. Pain came through their pages even so. Stories of half-done buildings abandoned, of banks going under, of people losing jobs, couldn't very well be prettied up. And the only way to leave those stories out of the newspapers would have been to have no papers at all.

Captain Toricelli touched a fat document on his desk. "Don't tell me what that is," Dowling said. "Let me guess: another normalization petition."

"Right the first time," his adjutant said.

"It's not as though I haven't seen enough of them," Dowling said. Every few months, the Mormons of Salt Lake City-and the occasional gentile, too-would circulate petitions asking that Utah finally be treated like any other state in the USA. Dowling had got a couple of dozen since coming to the state capital. With a sigh, he went on, "They still haven't figured out I'm not the one they ought to send these to, because I have no authority to grant them. They should go to General Pershing-he's supreme commander of the military district."

A thoroughly precise man, Toricelli said, "He hasn't got authority to grant them, either. Only the president and Congress can do that."

"What do you think the chances are?" Dowling asked.

"Better than decent, if the Mormons can keep their noses clean," Captain Toricelli answered. "The Socialists seem to want to do it."

"I know." Dowling packed a world of meaning into two words. "They think a zebra can change its stripes, the way the one in that Englishman's fable did. I think…" He shook his head. "What I think doesn't matter. I don't make policy. I just get stuck with carrying it out." He picked up the petition. It was a hefty one; it had to weigh a couple of pounds. "I'll take this to General Pershing's office, if you like."

"Oh, you don't need to do that, sir," Toricelli said. "It's not important. I can fetch it next time I go over there."

"I'm on my way," Dowling said. "Better Pershing's adjutant should have it on his desk than you on yours."

He caught Toricelli's eye. They shared a slightly conspiratorial chuckle. "Thank you very much, sir," the young captain said.

"You're welcome," Abner Dowling answered. "I've got to go over there and talk with the general about his scheme for mounting better guard on Temple Square. We need to do it; every broken rock from the Temple and the Tabernacle counts for a sacred relic with the more radical Mormons these days."

"Yes, sir," Toricelli said. "But there's a certain problem in shooting anybody who bends to pick up a pebble in the square, too."

"A certain problem, yes," Dowling agreed. "And that's what I've got to talk to General Pershing about. How do we keep the Mormons from getting symbols of revolt without provoking them and ruining what ever bits of goodwill we've managed to build up since the war ended?"

"I'm sure I don't know, sir," his adjutant replied. "I hope you and the commanding general can find a way."

"So do I. Can't hope for much in the way of normalization if they're still picking up broken rocks and dreaming of treason." Dowling tucked the petition under his arm and strode down the hall to his superior's office. He took no small pleasure in dropping the document on Pershing's adjutant's desk, and in watching the papers already there jump as it thudded home.

"Thank you so much, sir," Pershing's adjutant, a major named Fred Corson, said with a sickly smile. "The general is waiting for you." He sounded reluctant to admit even that much to Dowling.

"Hello, Colonel," General Pershing said when Dowling walked in. A grin spread across his bulldog features. "Was that the thump of a normalization petition I heard just then?"

"It certainly was, sir," Dowling answered.

"Well, I'll forward it to Philadelphia," the commandant said. "That's my duty. A