Hi, we’re interviewing Leah Masters from Mary C. Findley’s book Send a White Rose. Leah is here to tell us how a lovely young society lady from Boston ended up in territorial New Mexico, in the middle of an assassination plot against the man who sent for you to discuss marriage.
1. What do you do for a living, and how’s business?
I’ve been blessed to be provided for by my father, Senator Masters, but I do keep our household running smoothly, do his accounts, and play hostess at his dinner parties since the death of my mother some years ago.
2. You’ve been seen fainting in public. What’s wrong?
Yes, I’m afraid my health is not the best, and I do seem to catch everything that goes around. I can’t believe I was sick right when it was time to visit Judge Durant in New Mexico.
3. When you traveled to the New Mexico territory, that certainly was a life-changing decision, wasn’t it?
It certainly was the most difficult thing I have ever done, but my brother Randall insisted we couldn’t put off the trip until I was over my illness. Of course, neither of us realized how hard the trip was, or how sick I really was. And how humiliating, to faint at Judge Durant’s feet and not even be able to say a word.
4. Did it shock you when you learned where your brother Randall was? How did you feel about the upset to your whole reason for coming to Santa Fe?
I had two big shocks one right after the other. First, I learned that my brother had been arrested on suspicion of having tried to assassinate Judge Durant. The second was being told that that Judge Durant had left town, when I came all this way to meet him and discuss the possibility of marriage.
5. Some of us like to exercise the “ask a friend” option at odd times in our lives, but it seems especially odd that you brought Alethia in to help you solve the problem of people not informing you about Judge Durant. What’s special about Alethia?
It didn’t seem strange at all to me that Alethia and I would become friends. I didn’t learn until later that many people thought of her as the natural choice to be Judge Durant’s wife. She was the only one who could really tell me the truth about what had happened to Judge Durant.
6. What did you think when Judge Durant refused to see you, and how did you handle it?
Governor Markham insisted he could persuade Judge Durant to see me and help work out this terribly confusing and embarrassing situation between us. I went with him to the hospital, but the judge got angry at all his friends and banished everyone. It was only by pretending to be lost looking for another patient that I found the courage to actually talk to him again. He didn’t even recognize me, for which I was grateful.
7. What was one thing your brother Randall did that angered and saddened you, but turned out to be extremely important to how things turned out?
I couldn’t believe, after all the changes for the better that my brother had gone through, that he would revert to his old ways and accuse Alethia of such a terrible thing. But there were so many things I still didn’t understand about my own brother, and what he was capable of.
8. Did you do anything you really regretted that made a big difference?
It certainly was foolish of me to just run off in the pouring rain trying to find the judge when I had so little information. I just knew that he was in danger, and I couldn’t find anyone else in time. I suppose I didn’t think about how dangerous for me, too.
9. Was there a time when you were certain things just were not going to turn out right?
More than once, certainly. There were so many complications. Even when everything else seemed to be working out, that only made it harder to try to believe that things would work out between the judge and myself.
10. Why would you refuse the marriage proposal you’d crossed the country and gone through so much hardship just to hear?
A combination of anger, humiliation, and honestly, happiness that he’d made a decision, even if it wasn’t for me. I didn’t even understand why he would ask me, when Alethia has loved him all her life.