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  • ISBN-13: 9780440202714
  • ISBN: 044020271X
  • Publication Date: 1989
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group


Plain, Belva


Chapter One In the spring of the year 1920, Paul Werner sat in a private hospital on New York's Upper East Side, waiting for the birth of his first child. He was thirty-two years old, and after surviving the worst of the war in the trenches of France, had come home in good health. He was an attractive man, with a strong narrow frame and an aquiline face; when he was animated he looked younger than his years. Chiefly, though, his expression was thoughtful, courteous and listening; when his vivid blue eyes, so unusual in combination with olive skin, turned their full attention to anything or anyone, the effect was startling. His future lay clearly marked before him; it always had been. Second in authority at the investment banking house founded by his late grandfather, he knew he was only a step away from the first position. Soon his father would retire, and Paul would be moving into the faintly shabby, spacious front room that looked out onto Wall Street. The family had deliberately maintained an atmosphere of quiet, unassuming prosperity. The elder Werner liked to compare their narrow little building, now wedged among skyscrapers, to a counting house in a Dickens novel. Its comfortable atmosphere suited Paul very well. An office was a place of business: one did not flaunt luxuries there; indeed, one did not flaunt them anywhere. It would seem that Paul had everything. His wife, four years younger than he, was a gentle patrician girl whom he had known from childhood. Marian, affectionately called "Mimi," belonged to one of those families who, not necessarily related by blood, were a part of the tight, unbroken German-Jewish circle that had been prospering in the city since the Civil War. They went to the same schools, belonged to the same clubs, and summered at the same places in the Adirondacks or at the Jersey Shore. Paul's family and Mimi's had been especially close: Mimi and Paul had sat across a table from each other at birthdays and on holidays since they were old enough to eat with the adults. He had taken her to her first dance. Now, after seven years of childless marriage, of numerous medical tests and monthly disappointments, at last she lay upstairs on the maternity floor. All his hopes lay with her. He wonderedfor he was much given, perhaps too much given, to self-analysiswhy his need to have children should be so consuming. Had it perhaps become so urgent because he had been marked by the terrible waste and slaughter of the war? But whatever the reason, it didn't matter. Simply, his need was there. He sat now trying to concentrate on a magazine and, not succeeding, gazed out into the blank air at the center of the room. His long, slender feet were crossed at the ankles; he hadn't moved for half an hour. On the settee beside him lay his velvet-collared overcoat, his black leather briefcase and silver-knobbed umbrella. His agitation was concealed. Composure was a part of his nature and his training. One didn't allow whatever might be raging inside to reveal itself to the whole world. Only his eyes, alternately soft and sharply penetrating, could betray any message to those who knew him very well. There were not many who knew him very well. When he glanced out of the window, he was surprised to see that the streetlamps had come on. The day had ebbed away; he had been here for hours, ever since they had summoned him to say that Mimi had gone to the hospital. The rain, which had been pouring before, had dwindled to a fine mist and the quiet street was deserted. There was hardly a sound indoors, either; in small private hospitals like this one there was no bustle. Now the quiet seemed eerie, and Paul shivered. A first delivery could take an awfully long time. Everyone knew that. He had been prepared for it, and he told himself that he had also been prepared for it, and he told himself that he had also been prepared to seePlain, Belva is the author of 'Tapestry', published 1989 under ISBN 9780440202714 and ISBN 044020271X.

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