Katherine Howe's ancestors settled Essex County, Massachusetts in the 1620s, and stayed there through the twentieth century. Family members included Elizabeth Proctor, who survived the Salem witch trials, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not. Katherine Howe is completing a PhD in American and New England Studies at Boston University, which included teaching a research seminar on New England witchcraft. The idea for this novel developed while she was studying for her doctoral qualifying exams, walking her dog through the woods between Marblehead and Salem. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with her husband and assorted animals
The House of Velvet and Glass
somewhere below the hubbub of the dinner hour, under the omnipresent vibrating of the ship’s engines, a clock could be heard beginning to chime. Helen Allston tightened her grip on her daughter’s elbow, brushing aside the lace from Eulah’s sleeve to better settle her fingers in its crook. She cast a sidelong glance at Eulah, whose buoyant anticipation seemed not to register her mother’s weight on her arm. Eulah’s face, flushed and pink, eyelids darkened with such a cunning hand that even Helen, who knew better, found the change difficult to detect, wore a bright, open expression that few other women’s daughters could manage with success. Helen sighed with satisfaction. She never tired of seeing the world through Eulah’s eyes, young and willing as they were.
But not too willing, of course.
“What a fetching way you’ve done your hair,” she murmured, steering Eulah with a firm hand toward the grand staircase. Her daughter’s blond curls, too unruly for Helen’s liking most of the time, had been twisted off her forehead and fastened back in a roll, then smothered with a cloud of fragile black netting fastened at the crown with a butterfly, its enamel wings set en tremblant, and so shimmering slightly with Eulah’s every movement.
“My brooch?” Helen said aloud, recognizing the ornament, and Eulah turned to her, eyes wide with mock innocence.
“You don’t mind, do you, Mother?” she asked, dimpling. “Nellie said that all the New York girls were wearing brooches this way, and I thought . . .”
Helen held her gaze for a moment, sufficient to indicate whose brooch this was really, but not long enough to instill any real remorse. She knew that she was inclined to give Eulah too much, rather than too little, leeway. Eulah had a way of making one see the absolute logic of her preferences, no matter how unorthodox. And she had to admit that the new maid they’d brought with them had a good eye for what was fashionable in hairdressing.
“Well,” she demurred, and Eulah laughed, placing her hand on her mother’s, knowing the battle was won before it started.
“Just remember, my dear, that for all that New York fashion, you’re a Boston girl,” Helen whispered, to Eulah’s puff of exasperation. This motherly remonstration dispensed with, the two Allston women paused at the top of the staircase, readying themselves.
Helen’s gaze traveled over her daughter for a final appraisal, wanting to ensure that everything was in its place before they swept down the stairs and into the first-class dining room. Under the netting Eulah’s liquid blue eyes glimmered with anticipation, behind which lurked something else that Helen struggled to identify. She peered closer. Determination, perhaps.
She was accustomed to seeing her youngest child determined. All her children were willful, of course, but Eulah had taken the Allston stubbornness and aimed it outward, at a world that she felt needed fixing, with the same alacrity that Helen’s two older children aimed inward, at themselves. Perhaps after all Eulah finally understood the opportunities available to her on this journey, even more than Helen had guessed.
Excerpted from the book THE HOUSE OF VELVET AND GLASS by Katherine Howe. Copyright (c) 2012 Katherine Howe. Published by Hyperion/Voice. All Rights Reserved.
The card security code is an added safeguard for your credit/debit card purchases. Depending on the type of card you use, it is either a three- or four-digit number printed on the back or front of your credit/debit card, separate from your credit/debit card number. To make shopping at Book-of-the-Month Club®
even more secure, we require that you enter this number each time you make a credit/debit card purchase. Please note that your security code will not be stored with us even if you have saved your credit/debit card information.