If Amy Trevelyne is honest with herself (and she tries to be), she is not entirely surprised that Jacky Faber leaves a fair bit of Boston burning when she rides out of town just ahead of Constable Wiggins. She is certain that Jacky caused the fire although she is equally sure that it was an accident—Jacky never intends to be a harbringer of chaos, but chaos happens all the same. She still regrets that she had not thought to warn Jacky of Clarissa’s talent for mixing mint juleps before the start of the ball.
Despite Mistress Pimm’s protests, classes are put on hold until the school is rebuilt of less flammable material. It is also thought, but not said, that Mistress could use a rest herself. Everybody saw her with the needlework when the school was on fire. The students return to their homes and Amy is left with her thoughts.
“Jacky hates me,” she says out loud, when in the privacy of her bedroom. She winces at the sound. For all that she scolds Jacky for having no restraint, this time it is Amy who lost her temper. The words cut deep and now she has to pay the price: Jacky is gone off to sea, for land never could contain her, and Amy has lost her sister forever.
If things were starting to be tense at school after news of the ball’s events spread (not that Clarissa had time for much gossip before the Lawson Peabody went up like a stack of overdry kindling), they are only slightly less awkward at home. Although officially in residence at Dovecote, Mother and Father are occupied with repairing their social standing in the aftermath of the party and are frequently out. She thinks this might be easier than her parents suppose: most of the attendants enjoyed themselves, even if they would rather be lashed by Constable Wiggins than admit it. Certainly the members of the British navy will have tales to tell when they return, if Jacky’s descriptions of gossiping sailors are at all accurate. Randall has slipped into a bottle and shows no sign of climbing out. She takes some cold consolation in the fact that if he must be a sodden rake, at least he is a quiet one and unlikely to cause more trouble in the immediate future. She is not in the mood to deal with any of his typical messes. And Father’s gambling is finished. She must remember to be grateful for that.
The one bright spot in Amy’s darkness is the end of Randall’s engagement. Miss Clarissa Worthington Howe of the Virginia Howes departed in a huff the morning after the ball, and is not likely to be missed or to return to Dovecote. At one point when Amy is wrecked with slightly less guilt, she snorts. Let Virginia have the spoiled brat. At least she will never have to call Clarissa “sister” or watch her enemy reign over Dovecote, prouder than any queen.
Amy knows in her heart that Jacky did not use her to get even with Clarissa but it seemed such a natural conclusion at the time. She also finds Clarissa appalling but she understands the other girl well enough to know that Clarissa would never accept being second to anybody. Clarissa might accept mistresses but none of importance. And after the party, where Jacky was the star entertainment and Randall fought to defend her despite his own rakish behavior in the past, Clarissa would most definitely be second. If Jacky should ever forgive Amy and return, Amy will have to find a way to thank her.
These thoughts don’t take up long and soon she’s left with few distractions. It is easier to “borrow” Randall’s university books when he is drunk and even less likely than usual to miss them, but they are unable to occupy her mind. She is briefly tempted to take one of his wine bottles as well. Either he would not notice it all, or would think that he had finished it already. Yet she has watched enough men in their cups to know that is not the remedy for her. She seeks to change things, not to forget them.
When Amy can bear thinking no longer, she turns to writing. The motion of setting ink to paper has always been soothing and she very much needs soothing now. She finds herself taking up the pages she had written of Jacky’s story. Even though she still feels guilt over her behavior (“Why do you Puritans always have to be so dreary?” she imagines Jacky saying to Amy’s constant dark mood), reading through the manuscript helps. Before the race and ball she had just gotten to the part where Jacky was marooned on her island. By the time the next morning arrives, Jacky is leaving the H.M.S. Dolphin. Amy is still barely able to eat but at least now she can sleep. And sleep she does, without even cleaning the ink stains off of her hands.
It will be published, of course. She had never intended any other goal. Before, she had desired to be an author so that she could claim to have accomplished something other than that accursed embroidery. Now she has a second reason. If she publishes the novel, Jacky might see it. If Jacky sees it, she might return to Dovecote and forgive Amy, and Amy would have her sister once again.
She is partway through her revision of the manuscript when a letter addressed to Jacky arrives. Amy pauses only a moment before slicing the envelope open. It is from the famous James Emerson Fletcher and was written mere days before the ball that ruined everything. Had it not taken so long to arrive, maybe Jacky would have remained. She reads it again and again until her fingers have smeared the ink. It is obvious how much Jaimy loves Jacky. Amy thinks about writing to him but unlike Jacky’s book, the letter does not flow from her inkwell. She starts to write multiple times but never gets any farther than the salutation before burning her attempts. It is only pride but she does not want her first contact with Jaimy to be a letter stating that Jacky has run away. Amy shakes her head and returns to her work.
Amy examines her work when the revision is complete. She has added a few of her own touches but the story is intact. Certainly none of the adventures have been left out. Perhaps she should take a pseudonym. The reasons for it are many: a woman writer might not be published at all; Mistress Pimm would without a doubt be displeased when she learned what one of her girls had done; and it would not help Mother and Father rebuild their social reputations.
No. She will write as Amy Trevelyne or not write at all. If Jacky’s name is to be put to the events, it would be dishonorable not to use her own for the telling. For the first time, she feels the thrill of doing something to make herself known besides being an ornament of the Trevelyne family. That was being. Now she will act.
It is growing late and her bed looks softer than ever. Amy sets the parcel wrapped in brown paper on her desk. Tomorrow, she will leave for Boston.