Margaret moved through the darkness with her arms outstretched as if she was going to wrestle a bear. She couldn’t see the icy patches, but she knew they were there. By the time she got to the end of the block and up her own front steps her legs were shaking. When the storm door slammed behind her she pressed her head against the second door. As cold as it was, sweat gathered under her arms. She whispered three Hail Marys before passing through the second door. She stood by the newel post and listened to the clanking radiators.
Her mother rented rooms to family men whose wives and children had been sent to relatives in order to cut expenses. After tiptoeing to the dining room and checking that the table was set for tomorrow’s breakfast, she leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. She imagined a truck tire was stuck in her chest and the only way to deflate it was to keep blowing out tiny puffs of air. When cool gust brushed her face she opened her eyes and saw her brother slouched in his wheelchair, a blanket over his shoulders.
“James,” she said.
“I waited up for you.” At twenty-two, James was only eleven months younger than Margaret but looked like an old man. He’d lost the use of his legs after a fall from a scaffold, and sometimes he nodded off into space when she talked to him.
“Are you hungry, James? I could scramble some eggs.”
“No, I ate. Where’ve you been?”
“The novena. I’m storming the heavens just like Sister Mary Michael told us to do.”
“Yeah, don’t forget she was big on prayers of thanksgiving too. What are you storming for?”
“I can’t say. It’s a secret intention.”
“Aren’t you the mysterious one. Will you be storming on Wednesday?”
She shrugged. Most Wednesdays, after the store closed, she went to the sixth floor dressing room and tried on dresses while old Mr. Rothenberg watched from his perch on the love seat.
James wheeled to the kitchen. “Very mysterious.”
Margaret wished she’d told her brother what she knew about the kidnapping back in September when Hauptmann’s picture was in all the papers. But she hadn’t told James, or anyone else for that matter, because if she told what she knew she’d have to tell how she knew it, and if she told how she knew it, people would learn about her road trip with old Mr. Rothenberg. Besides – and this was the most important reason for keeping quiet – when she learned about Hauptmann’s arrest she was absolutely certain the Lindburghs’ butler would come forward and give the police the information she had. After all, the butler knew what she knew, and there was no reason on earth why he couldn’t step forward and tell the authorities about Hauptmann.
But then, right after the trial began, Margaret read that the butler had died. There it was in the newspaper – a tiny mention – not even a big story – that the Lindberghs’ former butler had died the previous year. Mr. Whatley, who’d been with the Lindberghs in their new house on the night little Charlie was kidnapped, had died from heart disease.
“A secret intention?” James was in front of the icebox holding a plate with a slice of custard pie on it. “I’m curious.” He lifted the slice in one hand while holding the plate under his chin with the other.
Margaret sank onto a kitchen chair. “Don’t be so curious. Just tell me if you heard anything new about the trial.”
“One of Lindbergh’s neighbors said Hauptmann’s car was in the area, but he didn’t know what he was talking about, and no one believed him.”
“What do you mean?”
“The papers said he didn’t sound like a reliable witness.”
“They didn’t believe him?”
“I don’t know. Mr. Flaherty was talking about something he read…about how maybe some of the evidence was trumped up.”
“Yeah. Like those boards they found in Hauptmann’s attic and how they were supposed to match the ladder left at the Lindbergh’ house – only the police didn’t find the boards right away.”
“James, they found the ransom money in Hauptmann’s garage!”
“Yeah, but the police could have planted that too. Maybe they’re railroading him.”
“Is that what you think?”
“The cops aren’t always on the up and up, Margaret.”
“Do you think he might get off?” Her voice was scratchy as steel wool.
“He could, I guess. What’s the matter, Margaret? Are you all right?”
After James wheeled himself to his cot in the back hall, Margaret crept into the small first floor room across from her mother’s. She put on a nightgown, socks, and a hat, but even with the cap low on her brow, her nose began to drip. When her head touched the pillow, the tire in her chest became a barrel and the roof of her mouth began thumping. She sat up and pulled the comforter off the bed. Her feet were sweating through her socks, and her toes were growing numb. She grabbed two mattress pads from the closet shelf and rolled them into cushions, then wedged the cushions behind her back and dropped her head against the cold wall.
Since Hauptmann’s arrest she’d been falling apart. First, it was shortness of breath, then it was sweating and a dizzy feeling when she moved fast or looked down from a height. At work her knees had buckled when she looked through an upstairs window. And yesterday, on her way to the lavatory, her legs gave out and she had to crawl to the restroom and pull herself up on the doorknob. There was another feeling too – a worse one – that happened when she was alone in a room and sensed someone else was there. When she felt the invisible person was creeping toward her, her mouth turned dry and her head began to pound.
Margaret kept telling herself there was more than enough evidence to convict Bruno Hauptmann of the kidnapping. In addition to the marked ransom money in his garage, there was the board in his attic that matched the boards in the ladder the kidnapper left in the Lindberghs’ yard. There was the hand-writing expert who said Hauptmann’s writing matched the ransom notes, and there was the phone number that was penciled onto Hauptmann’s pantry wall that tied him to the man who’d handed over the ransom money in the graveyard.
Still, it seemed that no matter what happened in the courtroom, people believed the police were going after Hauptmann because he was German. Alma Mueller, the bookkeeper at Rothenberg’s, and the Hermans across the street were convinced that the Lindberghs’ nursemaid was guilty. Others insisted there was no evidence to show Hauptmann was in any way connected with the Lindbergh’s new house. These doubters asked how Hauptmann, a man from the Bronx, would even know where the Lindberghs’ house was, or if he did know, how he’d know where the baby’s room was.
“How is it,” Margaret asked herself a hundred times a day, “that I’m the only person in the world who can prove Hauptmann is guilty?”
On Wednesday evening, Margaret stared through the dressing room curtains to where Mr. Rothenberg sat on the striped love seat with his legs crossed at the ankles. She slipped out of her dress, took the first dress off its hanger and stepped into it. When she turned to the old man he smiled at her and his bald head glistened in the light from the urn-shaped lamp. Tiny gold fans had been painted onto the pink lamp. Other fans were on the wallpaper. There were fans and rosebuds on the fabric that hung in big bunches from the curtain rods above the dressing room doorways.
The puffy love seat was flanked by four gilded chairs that were arranged in a semi-circle in the sitting area. The floor was covered in pink carpeting and a strip of carpet ran beside the individual dressing rooms. A floor-to-ceiling mirror, draped with a pink satin swag, stood at the end of the hallway.
“Mr. Rothenberg,” she said. Her mouth was dry but her voice came out louder than she intended. “Do you remember the day we went on that trip to the Lindberghs’ house over in Hopewell?” She felt strange asking the question because in the three years since they’d taken the trip, neither of them had ever mentioned it. There were other things they didn’t mention – things Margaret was too embarrassed to mention.
“A trip, my dear?” The old man’s smile widened as he made a circle with his finger to tell her to turn around and show him the back of the dress.
“Don’t you remember? Milton drove us. It was cold and rainy and we ate in Flemington.”
“I especially like that emerald one,” he said, lifting a freckled hand to the chiffon gown which had enough fabric to cover three love seats.
“Don’t you remember?” Margaret’s hands were icicles. “We had lunch at that cabbage place, and you looked at some property.”
Mr. Rothenberg smiled even wider before tilting his head to one side. “Lovely, lovely, my dear.” He brushed his trouser knees with his palms before folding his hands and staring at her with the sweetness of a baby.
“You don’t remember?”
“Such a pretty girl and that lovely hair. You can pin it up when you try on the blue gown.”
“You don’t remember?” she said again.
A frown crossed the old man’s forehead but in an instant it was gone, and then, though it didn’t seem possible, his smile grew even sweeter.
“It’s all right, Mr. Rothenberg.” Margaret had never done anything really wrong with Mr. Rothenberg. She hadn’t done anything she felt she needed to confess to Father Byrnne. Really, all she ever did was take off her clothes and put on the dresses he brought to the dressing room. She’d turn, walk to the big mirror, shift her weight from leg to leg and walk back. The old man only touched her when he gave her an envelope. Then he’d rub her arm and brush her breasts before patting her hand with a steady little pat that made her feel she couldn’t pull away.
On the day Margaret and Mr. Rothenberg went to Hunterdon County she’d waited under an awning on the corner of Wister and Goodman Streets. When the shiny black Cadillac pulled up to the curb, the driver got out and opened the door.
She’d thought they were going to New York to see the spring dresses, but Mr. Rothenberg told the driver to go west to Flemington. “I want to look at some property my wife’s brother told me about,” he said. “And there’s a good little restaurant out that way that’s known for its cabbage soup.”
“Oh,” Margaret said. Of course she knew Mr. Rothenberg was married but he’d never mentioned his wife before.
“We’ll be back by late afternoon, isn’t that right, Milton?”
Margaret sank into the backseat and crazily thought about Lewis and Clark heading west to explore new territory. She pictured herself draped in animal skins and standing on a flatboat while Milton pushed a pole along the river bottom.
For most of the trip Margaret looked at the fashion drawings the old man took from a wide black folder. When they arrived on the outskirts of Flemington Mr. Rothenberg read out the directions that were written on the back of an envelope. Ten minutes later they came to a lone brick building on a ten acre site dotted with “For Sale” signs. Mr. Rothenberg and Milton got out of the car and went into the building while Margaret stayed in the car. When the men returned, there was a moment of quiet before Milton turned on the engine. Five minutes later they were at the Sugar Maple Inn, in a fieldstone cottage on a street that ended in a large empty lot. A picture of a red cabbage was painted on a yellow board that stood just inside a picket fence. There was another cabbage painted on the door. When the door was opened, the smell of apples, cinnamon, bacon and cabbage wafted out to meet them.
After the soup, Margaret ate roasted chicken, spiced apples and pecan pie. She drank two cups of tea and visited the tiny powder room which was the same pink as the dressing room at Rothenbergs. Even so, she was glad when Milton stopped for gas ten minutes after winding through Hopewell.
A stoop-shouldered man wearing a cap with ear-flaps was pumping gas into the car when she found the facilities at the back of the gas station. After leaving the restroom, she stood under a narrow roof and tilted her head up to the drizzle. “Good weather for ducks,” a young boy said. He wore overalls on top of a gray sweater. With his freckles and long bangs he looked just like James did when he was ten.
“You want it to snow?” she asked.
“No customers when it snows.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.”
“That’s my dad.” The boy pointed to the stooped man in the cap. “That’s my house.” A stone house with a red door stood across from the gas station. It reminded Margaret of a picture in her old nursery rhyme book and for an instant she expected Old Mother Hubbard to bounce through the door wearing a big white pillow on her head.
“You ain’t from around here, are you?” the boy asked.
“I’m from Newark.”
“I knew you weren’t from here.”
“You know everybody who lives here?”
“Just about – all the ones with cars anyway. Course we get new folks every now and then.” The boy walked alongside Margaret and when she got back into the car he leaned inside and kept talking. “Guess you could say we got the most famous folks in the whole world come to settle right here in Hopewell.”
“Really?” Margaret said.
“Who are they, young fellow?” Mr. Rothenberg asked.
“Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh and Mrs. Anne Morrow Lindbergh.” The boy spoke as if he was making an announcement. “You don’t think that’s famous?”
“Oh, that’s famous all right,” the old man said. “That’s famous.”
“They’re just after building a big stone house down that road over there. When it’s done, they’re gonna put in an airfield.”
“An airfield?” Margaret said.
“Yes, Mam. They bought up thirteen farms – got near 400 acres.”
“The stone boulders in that house are over 28 inches thick. My Uncle Roscoe was one of the carpenters and he says you ain’t gonna see the likes of it for a long while. They got a three-car garage too. They got chauffeurs stop in here more than once when the Lindberghs come to see how it’s coming. They’re fixing to move in soon. The butler is there already.”
Milton had settled back into his seat and the boy’s father had gone back to the gas station, but the boy kept talking. “That butler don’t mind giving folks tours neither. You can just drive right up and he’ll show you around. My mom done it.”
“You say people visit the Lindberghs’ house?” Milton asked.
“Yes, sir. You take that road over there.” The boy pointed to the road beside the red-doored cottage. “It ain’t but two miles. Turn right when you see the stone posts and keep going up the driveway. You go to the side door and the butler will take you around. My uncle says he likes to show it off.”
After Milton turned on the motor and began to drive away, Margaret waved to the boy. When Mr. Rothenberg told Milton to turn at the red-doored house, she looked out the window and saw the boy still waving. Minutes later, at the end of the Lindberghs’ driveway, Milton gave a whistle and stopped the Cadillac. The white-washed stone house was on the left. On the right, was the still-unfinished garage. Piles of bricks sat on wooden pallets in the mud.
When Milton opened the door and held out an umbrella, Mr. Rothenberg told Margaret she should go by herself. “You go see the house while Milton and I take a little stroll on that path over there.”
“A stroll?” The air was even gloomier than at the gas station and the drizzle was getting heavier.
“I’ve got a little indigestion and I feel like taking some air. You go and have the tour. Milton, you ready?”
Margaret watched as the men walked to the small woods where pine needles had been spread out to make a path. She went around to the other side of the garage and stared at the house while the wind blew her coat against her legs. A squirrel darted in front of her, but instead of heading to the house, she turned to the wide expanse of land that fanned out from a downward slope. It was probably where the airfield would go. She’d never been on an airplane, or seen one close-up, but she knew if she ever got onto one she’d need a leather cap with a chin strap.
Her hair was a windmill by the time a man yoo-hooed to her from the house. A moment later, holding her hair and running as best she could, she arrived at the side door.
“You came to see the place?” The man was heavy-set and spoke with an English accent.
“The boy at the gas station….”
“It’s fine. I’m just doing a bit of settling in. I’d be glad to show you around.”
“That’s very kind.”
“My wife is in Englewood packing up some linens. I’m Oliver Whatley.” the man said.
“I’m Margaret Dooley,” Margaret said. “The boy said the Lindberghs will be moving in soon.”
“That’s right.” The butler nodded to her feet, then to a small gray rug. Without any further sign, she slipped off her shoes and followed Mr. Whatley into the large kitchen which held an enormous wooden work table in its center.
“This is grand,” she said. She’d never used the word “grand” before, and she wondered why she was talking like her mother.
Mr. Whatley tilted his head at the six sets of candlesticks and the twelve tiny salt cellars that sat next to a cloth-covered notebook. Sixteen napkins rings sat on the counter beside her and an open jar of polish was giving off a mothball smell.
“There’s still a lot of work.”
Just then Margaret heard a knock. “Another visitor,” Mr. Whatley said, going to the side door. Margaret stood stiffly, aware of being alone in a place she had no business being. She was afraid that when Mr. Whatley returned he’d accuse her of taking something. Worse still, she had a strong urge to put a silver napkin ring into her pocket.
She heard a guttural mumbling and when Mr. Whatley returned to the kitchen he was accompanied by a thin man wearing a brown suit and carrying a hat. “Here’s another visitor,” Mr. Whatley said. “This is Miss Dooley, and Miss Dooley this is….”
“Mr. Schmidt,” the man said in a heavy German accent. He bent down to untie his shoes. After he picked them up he turned to the hall and returned without them.
The butler led them through a large pantry lined with glass-doored cabinets. Inside the cabinets were rows of wine and parfait glasses. Other cabinets held plates, bowls, cups and saucers. An entire cabinet was filled with platters, and another with soup tureens and gravy boats.
“My wife and I have been working on the kitchen and pantries all week,” the butler said, “but there’s still a great deal to be done in the rest of the house.”
In the dining room a mahogany table was pushed away from a chandelier that hung from the fifteen foot ceiling. Boxes stood three deep around the perimeter of the room and waist-high andirons guarded either side of the fireplace.
Rolled-up rugs rested against the walls in the center hallway and more boxes sat on both sides of the wide front door. A moment later, when Mr. Whatley opened the double doors to the living room Margaret gasped. She’d never seen anything so beautiful. She wanted the blue silk curtains and the polished floor. She wanted the window seat, the grand piano, the fireplace with its hand-carved woodwork. She wanted the dark table that held a pair of Chinese vases and the short chestnut table that stood on ballet slipper feet. She wanted the silver-framed photos of the baby who’d been born a year and a half earlier.
Margaret pulled in her breath and lowered her eyes. Mr. Whatley stood with his fingers laced in front of him. “I’m partial to this room myself,” he said.
Mr. Schmidt combed back his hair with his fingers so Margaret could see his wide forehead and deep-set eyes. He swept his eyes around the room as if looking for something and when Mr. Whatley led them to Colonel Lindbergh’s study it seemed that Mr. Schmidt had found it. He stood with a pleased expression, nodding at Lindbergh’s desk.
“As you see, there are still plenty of boxes to unpack,” the butler said with a glance to the bookshelves. He stood by the study door so they wouldn’t linger, then made a small clicking noise with his tongue so they’d follow him up the stairs. “I’m not able to show you all the rooms, but I know you want to see the nursery.”
The butler went first, followed by Mr. Schmidt. Margaret had never seen a four poster crib before. To the left of the crib was a small table and chairs and a screen painted with farm animals. Margaret pressed the inside of her cheeks against her teeth and thought about the babies left in train stations and on doorsteps. Last week, a three- year-old girl with crusty eyelids, had been left in the foyer of Rothenberg’s. She’d had a note pinned to her coat asking someone to take care of her.
Mr. Schmidt stood by the window to the left before moving to the window closer to the crib. He ran his hand along the inside of the shutter. “Goot work,” he said, turning to the butler.
“One of these shutters isn’t right,” Mr. Whatley said, nodding to the corner. “I think it’s warped. We need to get the carpenters back to fix it.”
Mr. Schmidt went to the corner window and closed the shutter. Then he opened it. “Maybe rehang,” he said, sliding his hand under the shutter and looking out the window.
Margaret could tell Mr. Whatley was trying to hurry them along but she wanted to linger, and she could tell Mr. Schmidt did too. He was holding back, running his eyes around the room as if he couldn’t bear to leave. In the upstairs sitting room, Margaret watched Mr. Schmidt run his hands over the shelves and when they moved down the hallway he stopped to open and close the doors. “Goot. The work is goot.”
“You must be a carpenter, ” Mr. Whatley said.
“I don’t say yes or no,” Mr. Schmidt answered. His response made Margaret smile, but when she turned to look at him he looked away.
They were taken to the servants’wing, and finally back to the kitchen where their shoes waited on the gray rug. “Thank you so much,” Margaret said half a dozen times. Mr. Schmidt, who seemed more foreign now that the tour was over, brought his heels together and bowed to Mr. Whatley.
“When will the Lindberghs move into the house?” Mr. Schmidt asked.
“Soon. In the next week or so, I would say.”
The rain was steady and the air was colder than before. Margaret pulled her coat tight around her shoulders and was about to run to the Cadillac when Mr. Schmidt touched her elbow. “You don’t have car?” he asked.
“It’s behind the garage,” she said, pointing.
“These rich,” he said. “They live in big house. They have big car and airplane. Why is this Lindbergh big man? He is only one to fly airplane? I want to fly airplane.”
Margaret didn’t know what to say. Like every girl in America, she’d been in love with the Lone Eagle when he flew across the Atlantic. Before Lindy married Anne Morrow, Margaret used to dream he’d come into Rothenberg’s and ask for help in finding a dress for his mother. As they looked at the ball gowns in the special showroom, Lindbergh would fall in love with her and they’d get married.
“You think this Lindbergh is big man because he can do what anybody can do? You think he’s better than me?”
All Margaret could think was how Mr. Rothenberg and Milton were waiting. She took a breath and brought her heels together the way Mr. Schmidt had done minutes before. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know you.”
Mr. Schmidt pulled his lips into a sneer.
Margaret trotted over to the flat stones and when she got to the area sprinkled with gravel, she stopped. A blue Dodge with New York license plates was sitting at the edge of the gravel. She thought how Mr. Schmidt had come all the way from New York to see the Lindberghs’ house, and now he was complaining about it.
She tried not to make an imprint in the mud, and when she saw the Cadillac, she didn’t rush. When Milton got out of the car and waved to her, she turned to take one final look. Mr. Schmidt had walked around to the front of the mansion and was looking up at the windows.
It was an hour before midnight and Margaret knew this would be her third night without sleep. Her neck was stiff when she put her pillow against the rolled up mattress pads. She tried counting her breaths and saying the “Hail Holy Queen,” but nothing helped. She got out of bed and wandered around the first floor, stopping in the dining room. She sat at the table and folded her hands the way the nuns had taught her, but a moment later sweat pooled under her arms and trickled down her sides. Something was lurking in the room. She squeezed her lips together but they wouldn’t stop quivering. A moment later her whole body was shaking. Her toes were frozen but she was too frightened to bend over and rub them.
“Charlie,” she whispered as a picture of Little Charles Lindbergh – the Little Eaglet – came to her. He was supposed to have a perfect life. After all, he had perfect parents and a perfect house. He had nursemaids, gardens, and a hill to roll down. He had a little table and a screen painted with happy animals. Half a dozen pictures of Charlie had been in the newspapers, but the one that always came to her was the one taken on his first birthday. It showed a curly-haired boy sitting in a small wooden chair. His chubby face was turned away from a birthday cake with one lone candle. The little boy was looking at the shiny new bucket that hung from the chair arm.
The click of a floorboard exploded in her head. Whoever was creeping up behind her was getting closer but no matter where they were she couldn’t loosen the grip her hands had on each other. Slowly, she turned her head and heard a crunching noise that sounded as if someone was walking on sand. She forced herself to turn her head even farther and when she didn’t see anyone behind her, she took a breath and pushed up from the table.
In the kitchen, she drank a glass of water before going to the parlor and kneeling beside the radio. Static flew into the room and a moment later sounds of pandemonium broke through.
“Seven thousand people are here at the Hunterdon County Courthouse!” the announcer shouted over what sounded like the roar of the ocean. “Guilty!” he shouted. “Bruno Richard Hauptmann has been found guilty and sentenced to death!”
Margaret fell back and wrapped her arms around her knees. “Guilty!” the announcer yelled through the speaker. “After a thirty-two day trial, this Hunterdon County jury of eight men and four women deliberated for a full day. Tonight, at ten-thirty, the sheriff ordered a deputy to climb to the cupola on the courthouse roof and ring the 125-year- old bell. That was the signal here that a verdict had been reached. And what a verdict it is! The defendant has been found guilty of murder in the first degree. The sentence is death. Judge Trenchard has handed the sheriff a warrant ordering the sentence to be carried out sometime during the week of March 18th.”
Margaret lowered her head to her knees and began to sob.
The next morning she took the early bus and the night porter let her in at the alley entrance. She climbed the wide staircase to the mezzanine and caught sight of Mr. Fitzgerald, the head doorman, buffing the foyer with what looked like a lamb. The elevators were closed but there was a small private elevator in the back of the store.
She climbed to the seventh floor and turned to the office corridor. At the end of the hall, she stood in front of the glass-topped door. She tapped and waited until she was told to come in. Mr. Rothenberg was sitting behind his desk with his back to a window that looked down on Market Street.
“My dear,” the old man said, starting to get up. “Is the store open?”
“No, sir. It’s still early.”
He fell back to his chair, but not before pointing to a wide chair beside his desk.
This was the first time she’d been in his office though she’d imagined being here hundreds of times. In her imagination she always marched into the room and said she didn’t want to model anymore. In her imagination there was never a feeling of shame that would choke off her words; and there was no fear of losing her job either. She simply said she wouldn’t model, and that was the end of it.
Anyway, now that she here, she didn’t want to mention their Wednesday meetings. Now that she was here, she didn’t feel any urgency at all. In fact, she felt a lessening – a falling away.
“I’ve been worried about the Lindbergh case,” she said, surprising herself. “I thought maybe the jury would let him go and it would be my fault.”
“My dear, I can’t hear what you’re saying. You need to speak up.”
A moment later, Mr. Rothenberg said, “I’ve decided to retire in the spring.”
“You’re going to retire?”
“I’ll miss the early mornings.”
A stab of sadness went through Margaret as she looked at the old man in his crisp blue suit. His shirt was white and shiny and reminded her of the napkins with the silver threads that she’d been ironing since she was nine.
“I’ll miss feeling the store come alive around me,” he said.
Margaret stood and put her hand on the old man’s shoulder. She kept it there while she inched toward the window and a wider view of Market Street. She slid her hand off Mr. Rothenberg’s shoulder and stepped close enough for her hip to touch the window frame. She didn’t want to press herself against the glass, but no one would want to do that. She touched the cold window with her finger tips.
The sky was overcast but there was a hint of purple under the clouds so it still might end up being the sort of day she loved. She turned and went back to the chair Mr. Rothenberg had pointed to. The old man was sleeping, his head propped on his hands. Margaret sat in the chair and took a deep breath. A moment later, she wiped away the tears that rolled down her face. Then, remembering what Sister Mary Michael used to say, she bowed her head and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving.