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New Bedford, Massachusetts 1856


In the evening, when the western skies held just a hint of sunlight, Julia would sometimes stand on the balcony above the grand entranceway and listen to the sounds of her house. She could stand there in the shadows, unobserved, undisturbed and allow herself some peace. She would place her hands on the smooth, polished rail and stand, quite still, so that she might miss nothing—not the muffled sounds of seagulls coming from the harbor, not the clatter of pans being washed in the kitchen, nor the endless ticking of the hall clock.

It was that clock, she realized long ago, that drew her to this spot more than anything. In her younger years, it was a reminder of time, a quiet marking of the years of having her husband blessedly at sea, the pendulum swinging its joyous reminder: a million times will you hear this sound before he returns.

Now, it was a reminder that her son would soon be home. West’s ship had arrived earlier that day and she knew he would come home as soon as he could get away from his duties as captain. She’d kept his arrival a secret from the other members of the household, holding it close to her heart, waiting with the anticipation of a child at Christmas for the moment her son would walk through the door. She wanted to be here, at her spot on the balcony, when he strode through the door, when he took his first look around his childhood home. The house once filled with gloom was now a place of happiness. She smiled at the sound of Gardner’s chuckle and the answering music of Sara’s laughter coming from the parlor below and prayed West would return home before the two of them went off together.

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