Chapter 1 1968 His name was Donald Wolfe, Donald J., for James, and he was twenty-five years old when he joined the stream of eager youth that from every corner of the country, every year, pours into the churning human sea called New York. If it is ever possible, or even makes any sense to say that someone's geographic origin can be visible on his person, then it made sense to say that Donald looked like just the man to have come from healthy small-town or farming people in some cold place like North Dakota--which is exactly where he had come from. He was tall, brown-haired, and large-boned; his brown eyes were thoughtful and calm. On the streets of New York during those first months, he walked with slow deliberation through the impatient crowd, taking his time to estimate the height of a building or pausing to wonder at the heaped-up splendors in the shop windows. Untempted, he merely wandered. Once only was he tempted. In a bookstore's window lay the Writings of Thomas Jefferson, bound in dark red leather. It was expensive, yet the price did not faze him too much, for he hoped to build a library and he also felt that he owed himself one treat, so he bought it. Never in his life had he had so much money at his command. Having graduated second in his class at law school, he had been hired as an associate in the New York office of an international law firm. Although others in the firm complained that the city, with its high rents, expensive restaurants and entertainments, left them beggared, he, because he did not go to expensive restaurants and always bought standing room or the cheapest seats at theaters, felt rich. His clean, two-room apartment on the fifth floor of a nineteenth century walk-up building, with an interesting view of the lively street, was satisfying to him. Sometimes in window glass he would catch a reflection of himself on his way to work, wearing his correct dark suit with his briefcase at his side. "I can't believe what's happened to me," he would cry out to himself, and then be amused at his own simplemindedness. Who do you think you are, anyway, Donald Wolfe? Why, there are dozens of young men just like you in any one of these towering buildings along the avenue. Yet they were not all quite like him. Senior partners were surely known to be sparing of praise; still, before the year had passed, he had already received a good deal of it. One of the seniors, a punctilious, middle-aged man whom a few of the younger people in the office had secretly labeled "typically white shoe," took a liking to him. But even if Augustus Pratt had not taken that liking, Donald never would have scoffed at "white shoe"; to begin with, he was not exactly sure what it meant, but if it did mean what he thought--a certain old-fashioned, formal courtesy--he would have found no fault with that. One evening at the conclusion of Aida, Donald came upon Mr. Pratt in the lobby of the opera house. He was accompanied by a woman, obviously his wife, with their three half-grown children. "Why hello, Donald. I never knew you cared about opera." "I do, although I still don't know much about it." "It's never too late and seldom too early to learn. If I'd known you were here," he said as they walked out together, "we could have had some refreshments. Where were you sitting?" "On top. As high as you can go." "Oh. It was worth it, I'm sure, in spite of the seat." "Yes, sir, it was." "Well, see you in the morning. Good night, Donald." More than once when in a later time he reflected on the chain of events that had moved him through the years, Donald wondered how differently things might have turned out if he had not met Augustus Pratt that night at the opera. Was it the fact that I shared his tastes thaPlain, Belva is the author of 'Her Father's House' with ISBN 9780385334723 and ISBN 0385334729.