A splattering of joy erupted inside Millie. The child would have a good life with Nadine. “Yes, he is.”
“Because of you.”
She shook her head.
“Yes, Millie,” the woman said firmly. “You. When Louis began negotiating with Rosemary, she threw around her threats like always, and the only one that scared us was the fact that her husband, Major Parker, could return and discover her condition. Louis was aware of the major’s plan to visit Washington, and the furthest he could get it postponed was mid-October, due to winter traveling. We were afraid how the major might react to Rosemary’s condition, and needed to make sure he didn’t arrive before the baby did. We thought you and your sweet disposition might be able to convince him to postpone the trip a bit longer.” Nadine squeezed Millie’s hand firmly. “And you did. We are so thankful for that. And Millie, we’re so sorry to have involved you in all this.”
Trying to grasp it all, she asked, “You wanted me to go to Fort Sill?”
“Rosemary said you’d refuse, but eventually she agreed to convince you to do it. To visit your brother-in-law, and have him escort you home after the baby was born.”
“My brother-in-law.” It had been so long since Millie thought of him in those terms, it didn’t seem as if she was thinking of Seth.
“Rosemary said she was divorcing him, couldn’t stay married to him after this. Maybe her conscience finally kicked in, or maybe it was the amount of money we offered her. Either way, it worked. We all got what we wanted.”
Millie nodded, but inside she was screaming. Everyone else may have gotten what they wanted, but what about her and Seth?
“I didn’t know you’d returned until I saw you at the dock today. I’d assumed so, though, because Louis left last week, right after the baby arrived, to attend the Indian negotiations. You see, I’d left town a few months ago. Told everyone I was expecting, and went to stay with my aunt so I’d have complete rest. I was just over in Browns Corner, so when Louis wired that the baby was arriving, I rushed home to present everyone our newborn son.”
All the time she thought she was being selfish, she was being used. As was Seth.
She glanced up, and her heart somersaulted as Nadine waved for Lola to step closer, holding out a tiny bundle.
“Meet your nephew. Louis William McPhalen III.”
Millie’s hands shook as she took the infant in her arms and folded back the corner of the blanket covering his little face. The blue eyes gazing up at her brought tears to her own eyes. Maybe because they were as dark as Seth’s, or maybe because she was falling in love with this little blue-eyed man as quickly as she had the other one she knew. “Hello, there,” she whispered. “I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time.”
Nadine rested a palm on the baby’s head. “I can’t promise that I’ll tell him I’m not his birth mother someday,” she said. “I honestly don’t know if I’ll have it in me. But I can promise to tell him about his aunt Millie, and how she traveled all the way to Indian Territory just for him.”
A tear ran down Millie’s cheek, and she had to sniffle and blink to keep others from following.
“He’ll always know what you did for him, Millie. So will Louis and I. Our entire family owes you so much that my thank-you seems a pittance.”
Glancing toward the woman, seeing the tears trickling down her face, Millie shook her head. “Holding him is more than I ever dreamed. More than I hoped. Thank you for this,” she said, cradling the baby to her cheek. “Thank you for giving my nephew the home he deserves.”
* * *
One good thing came out of the mess Seth’s life was in. The anger burning inside him couldn’t be contained, and that made Congress listen, not just McPhalen.
After Seth’s return from Richmond, it took only one day and his demands were met, including several other stipulations he’d added to the list of benefits the Indians would receive. The meeting gave a way for his anger to escape—somewhat—but the void left in his chest was then larger than ever.
Ironically, a telegram had caught up with him that evening, one that told him it was still unknown where the St. Clair sisters were. He’d burned the note and then, since there were still a few days before his scheduled return trip west, he took a train up to Boston, hoping that seeing his family would help him know if he was capable of feeling again.
His mother was shocked to see him, and happy. As was he, since it had been years. His stepsiblings were almost grown, but other than that, everything felt as if he’d left just yesterday. In Boston, that was. Inside, he felt as if he’d aged fifty years the past week.