The sun rose over the horizon and hung suspended like a pale wafer in the haze. Upstairs, the beams stabbing through the lace curtains of Bridget’s Sullivan’s third floor room were a harbinger of the relentless inferno to come. Downstairs in the kitchen, the inhabitants of 92 Second Street pushed back half-eaten breakfasts, thinking of the somber line of mourners soon to stream through the wide front door, now bedecked with a silken black wreath of pale lilies and fern.
In the dining room society’s mortician, James Winward, poured fresh water into the ironstone basin as spirals of lifeblood unfurled into the deep pool . The lifeless bodies beneath his deft touch lay cool and still under the shrouds of white cotton sheeting. They were dressed for all eternity as they had been in life. Already the sober taffeta clung damply to the small of Lizzie’s back, the fluttering ministrations of her feather fan ineffective in the saturated air which was heavy with the scent of Death and putrefying lilies. Outside in the garden, a lone pale rose spread her satin petals, then wilted in despair.