Despite claims to the contrary - some, I fear,
voiced by members of my own family - I pride myself
on being an honest woman. As a matter of principle,
I hold dissimulation of any kind in contempt.
That said, I probably should add that I also subscribe
to the old adage, "God helps those who help themselves",
even if this self-help sometimes entails being
economical with the truth.
If this last statement
seems contradictory, I apologize. What I'm trying
to explain is how I found myself poised on the
brink of the most extraordinary adventure of my,
to date, twenty-seven years. Despite being essentially
an ethical person, you see, I had told a lie.
More to the point, I had deliberately misled a
group of narrow-minded men into assuming something
I knew to be untrue. Furthermore, I do not regret
my actions. Faced with the same circumstances,
I would not hesitate to resort to this ruse again.
who continue to hold - in this year of our Lord
1880 - that females belong in the home and should
be denied educational opportunities beyond those
required to secure a good marriage, will undoubtedly
blame my dear father for such 'unwomanly moral
turpitude' (their words, not mine). While I take
full responsibility for my actions, I have to
admit that this criticism is not without a grain
of truth. Were it not for Papa - the Honorable
Horace T. Woolson, Superior Court Judge for the
County of San Francisco - I doubt I would have
been standing on the corner of Clay and Kearny
Streets, staring up at the law offices occupied
by Shepard, Shepard, McNaughton and Hall.
The morning fog
which had billowed in that morning through San
Francisco's Golden Gate had begun to dissipate,
taking with it the heavy, moisture-laden air which,
even in late summer, can seep through one's clothing.
While I'm not particularly affected by the cold,
I did consider the emergence of the sun to be
a good omen. Or perhaps I was looking for any
sign, no matter how fanciful, to bolster my resolve.
I realize I am considered by many - including
the before-mentioned members of my family - to
be willful and outspoken, unfeminine and certainly
foolhardy in my determination to follow my own
path in this world. What would these self-same
critics say, I thought in some irony, if they
could see the unladylike beads of perspiration
forming on my brow, or the cowardly pounding of
my heart as I studied those unwelcoming windows?
But I was prevaricating,
putting off the mission I had worked so long and
so hard to achieve. Straightening my dress - I
had chosen a two-piece pewter-gray suit with as
little bustle as I could get away with since the
re-emergence of the over-stuffed derrière - I
checked the lapel watch pinned to my shirt waist.
Five minutes to the hour. Time to put my plan
to the test!
crossed Kearny Street and entered the building.
A directory in the lobby revealed that Shepard,
Shepard, McNaughton and Hall held offices on the
sixth floor, a level which I speedily, if somewhat
jerkily, reached by means of one of Elisha Otis'
new hydraulic elevators, or 'rising rooms' as
they were popularly called. The office I sought
was guarded by a solid oak door upon which the
firm's name had been discreetly embossed.
I entered a room
furnished with half a dozen desks, behind which
sat as many clerks. The one seated nearest the
door rose and, adjusting his spectacles, inquired
of my business.
"My name is Sarah
Woolson," I said with what I hoped was a confidant
smile. "I have an appointment to see Mr. Shepard."
I'm tall for a
woman - a full five feet eight inches in my stocking
feet - and I towered over the clerk, forcing him
to look up at me at an angle which, I've noticed,
makes some men uneasy.
I don't seem to recall-" He checked an appointment
book. "Ah, yes, I see we were expecting Mr. Samuel
Woolson." He looked at me hopefully. "Your husband,
"Samuel is my brother,"
I said, forcing another smile. "I believe you
were expecting S. L. Woolson. That is me."
The clerk's bony
brow creased with uncertainty. "Oh, dear. Well,
ah, yes. Perhaps I had better fetch Mr. Shepard."
"Thank you," I
said, forbearing to remind him that was what I'd
requested in the first place. The clerk scurried
down a hallway and as I waited for his return
I took stock of my surroundings.
The room was larger
than I had originally thought; the wood paneling,
as well as the crowded way the clerks' desks were
wedged in one upon another, made it appear dim
and cramped. Against the back wall were four doors,
the top half of each paned with glass. Inside
these cubicles - for they were hardly bigger than
large closets - sat what I presumed to be legal
associates. At that moment one of them looked
up and our eyes met. He seemed surprised, then
annoyed, as if my chance glance had invaded his
privacy. He glowered at me rudely, then with a
scowl returned to his papers.
I won't attempt
to deceive you. For a moment I forgot my manners
and stared openly at the man. He was a remarkable
looking creature: long, clean-shaven, craggy face,
topped by a thatch of unruly red hair, skin burned
to a golden bronze, tie askew beneath a slightly
rumpled white shirt. Even seated I could tell
that he was very tall, and his shoulders were
broad, as if he were no stranger to manual labor.
Indeed, my overriding impression was one of amazement
that such a man was inside an office at all, especially
one of such limited dimensions.
As if sensing my
eyes upon him the man looked up at me again, this
time with a glare so fierce I was taken aback.
With a withering look of my own, I turned away
in time to see the clerk returning, followed by
a portly gentleman in his sixties. I recognized
the man as Joseph Shepard Sr., founder and senior
partner of the firm. He had occasionally visited
our home during my childhood, and I had always
been fascinated by his thick shock of white hair
and by the trumpeting sound he made at the back
of his nose whenever he was annoyed, or when someone
took exception to his views. It was obvious from
the senior partner's distracted stare that he
could not as easily place me.
"My clerk informs
me there has been a misunderstanding, Miss Woolson."
He placed his pince-nez atop a bulbous nose and
subjected me to a squinting appraisal. "Mr. Samuel
Woolson, whom my clerk informs me is your brother,
has applied to our firm for the position of associate
attorney. Naturally, I assumed I would be meeting
with him this morning."
"I regret the confusion,
Mr. Shepard, but it was I who applied for the
position. The qualifications listed are mine,
as are the initials, S. L., which stand for Sarah
"They are also
your brother's initials," he stated in annoyance.
"It's common knowledge that Judge Woolson's youngest
son has been preparing for a career in law. What
were we to think when we received your letter?"
"I hoped you would
think that S. L. Woolson was eminently qualified
to be taken on as an associate attorney in your
"But you're a woman!"
"As is Clara Shortridge
Foltz," I replied, determined not to be intimidated.
"And that good lady has been practicing California
law for four years. In this very city."
"I meant, Miss
Woolson, that such a situation is impossible in
this firm. Everyone knows that the sphere of women,
vitally important as that is, belongs in the home."
This feeble, but
popularly held argument, never failed to raise
my hackles. "I know that is where men have placed
us and where they would prefer us to remain. However,
I see no reason why misguided reasoning should
interfere with rational behavior."
There was a shocked
stillness in the room. Mr. Shepard's face suffused
with blood and for a moment I was afraid he might
be suffering some sort of seizure. Then he started
that dreadful sound at the back of his nose and
I realized my rash, if honest, words had brought
on a fit of pique. Since there was little I could
do to retract them now -- even if I'd been so
inclined -- I decided to press on with my qualifications.
"As I stated in
my letter, I passed my bar examinations last year
and continue to read law with my father, Judge
Horace Woolson, whom I believe you know and respect.
At the risk of appearing immodest, I am confident
I possess the intelligence and character necessary
to practice law in your firm."
During most of
this recitation the senior partner had sputtered
incoherently. "That is patently ridiculous!" he
exclaimed when I had finished. "It is a well founded
fact that women lack the nerve or strength of
body for such a rigorous profession."
so ludicrous I couldn't stop myself from blurting,
"I find it strange that practicing law in a comfortable,
well-heated office is considered too demanding
an occupation for women, yet laboring from dawn's
first light in crowded, drafty, ill-lit sweatshops
seemed incapable of speech. Belatedly, he realized
that everyone in the room was watching us. Out
of the corner of my eye I saw the red-haired man
standing outside his cubicle, his mouth pulled
into an ironic smile. I felt my face flush and
turned away, aware that I would require all my
wits to penetrate the formidable barrier of Mr.
said the attorney, his several chins quivering
with suppressed anger. "Out of deference to your
father, I will ignore the underhanded means by
which you gained entry into this office. However,
the feminine hysterics you just displayed proves
why women will never be able to practice law.
I advise you to return home and--"
Whatever I was
supposed to return home and do was lost as the
door opened and a woman, perhaps a year or two
younger than myself and fashionably attired in
widow's black, stepped in. She had fair hair and
a porcelain complexion, which contrasted starkly
with her dark gown and hat. Normally, her azure
eyes must have been her best feature. Today, they
were red-rimmed and accentuated by dark circles,
causing me to wonder who she had lost to cause
Mr. Shepard's face
instantly brightened and he hurried over to take
the woman's hand. "Mrs. Hanaford," he gushed.
"If you had sent word I would have called upon
you at your home."
"My business couldn't
wait, Mr. Shepard," she said, her voice soft but
determined. "Mr. Wylde seems incapable of grasping
the severity of my situation."
"My dear," replied
the solicitor in soothing tones, "Mr. Wylde is
doing everything possible to expedite this unfortunate
affair. As I've endeavored to explain, your late
husband's will must be admitted to probate. These
things take time."
"But I have expenses
to meet," she protested.
the lawyer told her, although it seemed clear
from his patronizing tone that he understood very
little. "I wish I could help you, my dear, but
I'm afraid Mr. Wylde must approve any advances
on the estate. In the meantime, I'm sure a few
simple economies will see you through." He gave
her hand a perfunctory pat, then pulled out his
pocket watch. "Oh, dear. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid
I have a pressing appointment."
The stricken look
on the young widow's face was more than I could
bear. The desire to do whatever I could to ensure
that the scales of justice weighed evenly for
women as well as for men had, after all, been
one of the reasons I'd chosen to become an attorney.
True, I knew little about the case, but I felt
compelled to at least make an effort to ease her
misery. In light of subsequent events, I assure
you this was my sole motive for approaching Mrs.
Hanaford and boldly introducing myself.
"My name is Sarah
Woolson and I am also an attorney. Perhaps if
I understood your problem I might be of some assistance."
The woman's expression
went from surprise to guarded hope. "Oh, Miss
Woolson, if you only could!"
registered shock at my temerity, but before he
could erupt in another fit of pique, I boldly
took Mrs. Hanaford's arm and led her toward the
nearest office. It wasn't until we were inside
that I realized it was the cubicle belonging to
the red-haired giant. Sure enough, its outraged
owner came charging after us as I attempted to
close the door.
"What do you think
you're doing?" the man demanded, his voice flavored
with a strong Scottish burr. Intense, blue-green
eyes bore into mine. "This is my office."
"We require privacy,"
I said, as calmly as possible under the circumstances.
Shepard had finally marshaled his indignation
and was following like Old Ironsides in our wake.
As I again tried to close the door, the man held
it open with arms the size of small tree trunks.
"Please, sir, let go! I must confer with my client."
The senior partner had reached the door, but the
oversized junior attorney blocked his way. "Come
out of there at once!" he ordered from behind
I thought I saw
a muscle twitch in the younger man's face, and
unexpectedly the door slammed shut in my face.
I hastily gathered my wits and threw the lock
before we could be ejected.
Turning my back
to the door - and studiously ignoring the senior
partner's howls of rage - I gave Mrs. Hanaford
what I hoped was a professional smile and motioned
her into the room's only chair. She hesitated,
then took the seat.
"I take it you
are recently widowed," I began. "And that there
is a delay in settling your late husband's estate."
The woman lowered
her eyes, perhaps to collect her thoughts, perhaps
to avoid looking at Joseph Shepard who was now
railing at the owner of the pirated cubicle.
"My name is Annjenett
Hanaford," she said in a voice hardly above a
whisper. "My husband, Cornelius, died three weeks
ago. He-" She looked up at me, her blue eyes huge.
"He was murdered."
my surprise I forgot dignity and sank onto the
corner of the desk, causing several books to tumble
onto the floor. Neither of us took any notice.
"How did it happen?"
"He was stabbed.
In his study. I was there when it happened. Not
in the room, of course, but upstairs in my boudoir."
"Have the police
A shadow crossed
her lovely face. "Several items were stolen. They
- the police seem certain it must have been an
intruder. As yet no one has been arrested."
I studied the woman.
Something was troubling her and I suspected it
was more than the natural grief and shock one
would expect after losing a spouse. She seemed
frightened. But of what? Behind me, Shepard's
pounding on the door became louder. Tempted as
I was to probe further into her story, I decided
to press on while there was still time.
"How long were
you married, Mrs. Hanaford?"
"Seven years. I
was nineteen when I - agreed to Mr. Hanaford's
"Did you bring
any property or moneys into the marriage?"
She looked up,
startled by my question. "Why, yes, I did. My
father provided a generous dowry. Later, when
my mother passed on, I received a substantial
inheritance. Naturally, my husband managed these
funds in my behalf."
agreed dryly. This was neither the time nor the
place to express my opinions concerning women's
coverture, or civil death, upon marriage, whereby
the law merged the identity of wife and husband
and severely limited her rights to inherit or
to own property. "The reason I ask is that the
married women's property act entitles a wife to
the separate property she brought to the marriage.
I don't suppose you obtained your husband's ante-nuptial
consent to retain control of your separate property?"
This notion was
obviously foreign to her. Then she seemed to remember
something. "Just before Cornelius commenced construction
on our home he had me sign something. As I recall
it listed my dowry, as well as my mother's bequest."
I felt a rush of
excitement. To the best of my knowledge, the plan
I contemplated was unprecedented in legal annals,
at least those established on the West Coast.
But I needed documentation.
"Do you have copies
of these papers?" I asked intently.
"I don't know.
My husband has a safe at home, of course, but
I believe he kept most of his documents at the
"Then that's an
excellent place to begin." I rose from my perch
on the desk in time to see Mr. Shepard insert
a key in the lock. Our time alone was clearly
at an end. "If it's agreeable, I will accompany
you to your husband's bank to look for the papers."
She nodded hopefully
as the door flew open and a red-faced Joseph Shepard
burst in, sputtering charges of unethical behavior.
Deciding that a rapid departure would not be amiss,
I took Mrs. Hanaford's arm and swept past the
The last face I
saw before leaving the room was that of the muscular
Scot. This time there was no mistaking the laughter
in his eyes and I felt heat suffuse my face. The
idea that this odious man found humor in the situation
infuriated me far more than Joseph Shepard's tirade.
Fixing him with the most disdainful look I could
muster, I turned and pulled the heavy oak door
shut behind us.
Since I had arrived that morning by horsecar,
and Annjenett Hanaford's open-topped little Victoria
was waiting on the Square, we agreed the most
sensible plan would be to travel to the bank in
her carriage. After assisting us inside, the liveried
coachman took his place in the elevated front
seat and clicked the handsome bay into a steady
stream of traffic.
San Francisco Savings and Trust, was a three-story
brick building located on California Street. Inside,
I followed the widow past half a dozen teller
cages until she stopped in front of a glass partition
and tapped on the window. She said a few words
to the man seated there, and he instantly rose
and hurried toward a door to the rear of the room.
the manager, Eban Potter," she explained. "Actually,
Mr. Potter is an old friend and one of the kindest
men I know. He and my husband went to school together.
Fortunately, he's familiar with Cornelius' business
affairs. I don't know what I would have done without
him these past few weeks."
Just then a pencil-thin
man in his late forties strode in our direction.
He wore a conservative frock coat and dark trousers.
His brown hair was receding and his face was pale
with a deep groove etched between his eyes, as
if he carried the weight of the world on his narrow
shoulders. The moment he saw my companion, however,
his expression lightened and he smiled.
what an unexpected pleasure." His voice was high
and reed-thin as the man himself. From the way
he took her hand, it was easy to see he held the
young widow in fond regard.
"Mr. Potter - Eban
- this is my attorney, Miss Sarah Woolson."
Potter was so taken aback by this announcement
he stared openly at me. "But I thought Mr. Wylde-"
Mrs. Hanaford in a private matter," I broke in.
"We're hoping to find some personal papers belonging
to her late husband. We believe he may have kept
them here at the bank."
manager recalled his manners. "I apologize, Miss
Woolson. Naturally, I would like to help, but
I believe Mr. Hanaford kept few personal possessions
in his office."
we would like to see for our-"
The widow and I
turned to find a tall man approaching us. He was
impeccably dressed in a navy blue, single-breasted
frock coat and crisp gray trousers. His hair was
very dark and worn longer than was the style.
But it was his eyes that held me; wide-set and
nearly black, they bore straight into mine, giving
the disconcerting impression they could read my
most secret thoughts. From Mrs. Hanaford's flushed
cheeks, I realized she was similarly affected
by the man's penetrating gaze.
"Mr. Wylde, I didn't
think - that is, I did not expect to find you
here," she said, as he brushed the back of her
hand with his lips.
"Nor did I expect
to find you here, my dear," he said with no discernable
trace of a welcoming smile.
His voice was well
modulated and precise, as if he expected, no demanded,
that attention be paid to his every word. I must
admit that my first impression of the attorney
was not favorable. His manner was too arrogant,
too much in control, for my tastes. In a commanding,
self-important way, he wasn't unattractive, although
his features were too unique and angular to be
termed conventionally handsome. Here was a man,
I decided, who might inspire confidence, but never
said Annjenett in a thin voice, "I would like
to introduce Mr. Benjamin Wylde, executor of my
husband's estate. Mr. Wylde, this is Miss Sarah
Woolson - an attorney. Miss Woolson has kindly
offered to represent my interests."
Other than a slight
narrowing of his eyes, Wylde showed no reaction
to what must have been a startling piece of news.
"My pleasure, Miss
Woolson," he said, reaching out a hand.
I proffered my
own hand and was annoyed at the presumptuous way
his eyes raked slowly over my suit, all the way
down to my boots.
"How do you do,
Mr. Wylde," I said, making little effort to hide
my disapproval of such rudeness.
For the first time,
the hint of a smile played at the corners of that
hard-etched mouth and I instantly regretted allowing
my irritation to show. The sooner we attended
to our business and took our leave of the bank,
I decided, the better.
"I'm sure we're
keeping Mr. Potter from his work," I told Annjenett.
"Perhaps we should see to our errand."
"And what errand
is that?" The attorney addressed this remark to
me, and this time there was no mistaking the mocking
I started to reply
that it was none of his business, then thought
better of it. Tempting as it was to put this arrogant
man in his place, making an enemy of the executor
of my client's estate might not be in her best
"We're trying to
locate some personal papers belonging to Mr. Hanaford,"
I told him, keeping my face, and my voice, civil.
The lawyer's eyes
narrowed. "Miss Woolson, I'm sure you must be
aware of Mrs. Hanaford's recent bereavement. It
is both callous and insensitive to enlist her
on this fool's errand. Her affairs are being competently
"I don't doubt
that for a moment, Mr. Wylde," I said, biting
back another stinging retort. "However, as I said
our business is of a personal nature. There is
no need to take up more of your valuable time."
I heard his slight intake of breath as I turned
back to the manager. "Mr. Potter, shall we proceed?"
I had placed Eban
Potter in a difficult position. Clearly, he was
in awe of the attorney, yet to object to our request
would seem unreasonable and churlish. At his hesitation,
I sensed Annjenett wavering in her resolve and
thought it best to press on.
"I assume that's
the door leading to Mr. Hanaford's office?" Without
waiting for a reply, I started toward the rear
of the bank. Before the widow could follow, the
attorney took hold of her hand.
I have since questioned
whether the look I caught on Benjamin Wylde's
face at that moment was as malevolent as it seemed,
especially since it was so quickly gone. Certainly
his voice was calm enough as he told Annjenett,
to Sacramento this evening, but I will call on
you upon my return." I don't think I imagined
my client's relief when he released her hand and
turned to me. "Miss Woolson, I trust you will
find what you are seeking."
It was a tribute
to the power of the man that we all stood rooted
in our places while Benjamin Wylde made his way
with long strides though the anti-chamber and
out of the bank.
"Well, then," I
said, breaking the spell. "Shall we proceed?"
In the end, we
were disappointed. Mr. Hanaford kept no personal
papers in his work safe. Annjenett looked crestfallen.
"The bank was a
place to start," I told her optimistically. "Hopefully,
we'll meet with better success at your house."
was located on Taylor and California Streets,
atop Nob Hill. A block away on Mason stood the
turreted monstrosity built by Mark Hopkins, one
of the so-called Big Four associated with the
Central Pacific Railroad. Next door was the equally
ornate, barn-like mansion of Leland Stanford,
former governor of California and one of Hopkins'
railroad associates. Compared with these fortresses,
Hanaford's house could almost be deemed tasteful.
Declining the widow's
offer of refreshments, I asked to see her late
husband's safe, and without comment she led me
to his study, located to the right of the foyer.
It was a spacious, masculine room, done mostly
in browns and deep greens. The heavy drapes were
closed in mourning, but through the gloom I could
detect a number of books and a large mahogany
desk centered in front of a cloaked window. Annjenett
paused at the doorway, looking uneasy.
"Cornelius - that
is, my husband -- was murdered in this room. Stabbed
- as he sat at his desk." She indicated an imposing,
brown leather chair which backed against the drapes.
"I've left everything as it was. The police, of
course, spent some time examining the room."
"You heard nothing
that night? No one at the door, perhaps? Or your
husband crying out?"
"No, nothing. I
retired to my room directly after dinner. I wasn't
- feeling well."
It was only a slight
hesitation, but it was enough to cause me to question
this statement. The obvious anguish on her face,
however, made me reluctant to pursue it further
- at least for now.
"What time did
you go upstairs?" I asked instead.
"About a quarter
to nine." She faltered. "It was the last time
I saw my husband alive."
"What about the
servants? I'm sure they've been questioned?"
"Yes. So often
I live in fear they'll give notice. It has been
a most unsettling experience."
"I can imagine."
My sympathy was sincere, but I sensed her anxiety
was caused by more than just a problem retaining
domestic help. "You're sure your husband expected
no visitors that night?"
"If he did, he
didn't tell me. Beecher, our butler, denies letting
anyone in." Her voice took on an hysterical note.
"But someone did come in. They had to, didn't
was killed by someone already inside the house,
I thought. It was a disturbing idea, but one which
couldn't be ignored. It also occurred to me that
since the study was in such close proximity to
the front door, Hanaford might have let a visitor
in himself, without disturbing the rest of the
household. Surely the police must have considered
these possibilities. Without sharing my thoughts,
I entered the study and pulled open the drapes
so that I might better examine the murder scene.
"You said your
husband's safe is in this room?"
She blinked against
the sudden light, then crossed the room to a floor-to-ceiling
bookcase. Reaching inside a panel, she tripped
a hidden mechanism and a section of shelves slid
open, revealing a concealed wall safe.
I learn the combination, although I rarely used
it, and always under his direction." With deliberate
care she manipulated the knob and opened the door.
"The police searched the safe, but I have no idea
what they found."
I stepped forward
and peered into the compartment, which was divided
into five sections. The first cubicle contained
deeds and other business papers, two more held
letters, another a thin ledger, and the last a
small stack of cash. Pushing up my sleeve, I reached
inside and pulled out the currency which, I was
happy to note, amounted to several hundred dollars.
"If nothing else,
this should see you through the next few months,"
I said, handing the money over to the widow.
the bills with delight. "I had no idea Cornelius
kept cash in the safe. He led me to believe there
was only his will and a few personal letters."
"Yes, well let's
see what else he kept in here," I said, placing
the contents of the first compartment on the desk.
while I read through deeds for various town properties,
as well as one in Belmont where San Francisco
society had recently begun to construct country
homes. The last paper was a copy of Hanaford's
will. Although pleased to see that he'd left the
bulk of his considerable estate to his widow,
I was disappointed not to find the document I
sought. Placing the first set of papers back in
their cubicle, I took out the second set and returned
to the desk. It took only a moment to find what
I was looking for. With a triumphant cry, I waved
a paper at the widow.
"Here it is! Just
as I hoped."
to the desk. "What is it? What have you found?"
"A separate property
list. I suspected that was what your husband was
up to when he had you sign papers before starting
construction on your home."
"But what does
ago a civil code was passed enabling a wife to
hold property and assets separate from her husband.
These were to remain under her management and
could not be taken by her husband's creditors.
By listing your dowry and inheritance as separate
properties, your husband protected them from being
attached in the event he fell into debt. Of course
he secretly retained control, which I suspect
a great many men do who avail themselves of this
code. In this case, however, the ploy works to
I saw hope rise
in Annjenett's blue eyes. "Miss Woolson," she
asked intently. "How much money will be at my
"I can't be sure
until I've studied the papers, but I think it
would be safe to hazard a guess of some ten thousand
"Oh, my!" She sank
into a chair and looked alarmingly pale.
are you all right?" I began fanning her with the
papers, regretting that it wasn't my practice
to carry smelling salts in my reticule.
"Yes," she replied
in a faint voice. "Actually, I'm very well now
that you've happened into my life." She took a
deep breath and smiled. "How do you suggest we
"Tomorrow you may
inform Mr. Shepard of our discovery and request
that the properties and assets listed in this
document be turned over to you forthwith."
her hands in delight. "Miss Woolson - Sarah -
you've worked a miracle. How can I thank you?"
I felt my face
flush at this praise and endeavored to keep my
expression professional. Inside, however, I could
hardly contain my excitement. Despite being summarily
rejected by Shepard's firm, I had not only obtained
my first client, but had actually been able to
secure her financial independence. It was a heady
"It's a simple
matter that could easily have been discovered
had Mr. Wylde, or any of Mr. Shepard's attorneys,
taken the time to investigate." I told her truthfully
enough as I closed the safe door and ensured that
the lock was set. Annjenett triggered the hidden
mechanism and the bookshelf swung smoothly closed.
"Yes, but they
didn't." She looked at me, embarrassed. "I'm ashamed
to admit that prior to meeting you, Sarah, I was
prejudiced against women in the legal profession.
Now I see that it presents decided advantages.
Being a woman you were instantly able to appreciate
my predicament, something I have been quite unable
to convey to either Mr. Shepard or Mr. Wylde.
Please," she went on earnestly. "Say that you'll
go with me tomorrow."
give me more pleasure," I told her, delighted
I would be there to see Joseph Shepard's face
when he was presented with the separate property
agreement. "Shall we say ten o'clock?"
"Yes. That will
do nicely." She handed me the documents. "Here,
take these with you. Study them until you are
very certain of our position."
I agreed, but before
I could leave she took both my hands in hers.
"You'll allow my man to drive you home, Sarah.
No, I insist. It is the least I can do."
"That's kind of
you," I said, gratefully accepting her offer.
"I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning."
was still standing in the doorway as her coachman
clicked the stately bay down Taylor Street toward