went, it wasn’t even that over the top. Florence Banish’s mother told her of rare birds at Naumkeag, swans in the ponds and flamingoes in the swamp. Idlewylde had an incendiary carousel. And there were rumors that at Elm Court the house staff was bioengineered to be mute. Guy fenced in 13 acres of rolling fields and woodlands toward the back of his property and, late at night, would come and stand at the edge of the stables, listening to the beast grunt and dream. And something must have worked too, because soon there was a wedding both lavish and perfunctory, and a young woman from a Scarsdale trading family took up residence in the east bedroom of the main house. Florence Banish’s mother was promoted to midwife. For a time that autumn, Fleur-de-Lys had a hum to it that transcended the hollow frivolity and general end-of-the-world-ness of society America on the cusp of a distant war. Guy himself, then just twenty-five years old, was seen to be walking taller, a more serious figure, his hair oiled and slick, his gaze quicker.
“I have a memory of him coming up the drive in his fancy car,” said Florence Banish, who had been four in 1914. “Just a whirl of finery, everyone moving.”
Alas, the pregnancy did not take, and the girl from Scarsdale went back to Scarsdale, and winter pushed fall aside earlier than usual at Fleur-de-Lys. The white rhino stopped visiting the back meadows and stayed closer to its stables, snorting and chirping and pawing at the same parcels of muddy lawn. The dogs, no longer afraid, nipped at its tail. Guy left for the city for nearly all of November, and in his absence the stable-hands, who in their defense were horsemen and cow-milkers by training and somewhat terrified of exotic animals, gave the rhino a wide berth. The warm apples and scrub baths ended.
By the time Guy returned, around Thanksgiving, the rhino was despondent. It rubbed itself raw against the walls of its stall, stabbed its huge horn into the trunks of elms, ate little. It keened in grunts throughout the night. Guy tried to contact Asko Hoge, but of course the Hungarian was long gone, miles past Albany, never to return. Forsyth would have seen that one coming.
Guy took to his chambers.
One December morning, as the house staff of Fleur-de-Lys readied the breakfast and the grounds crew swept the first snow of the year off the pea-stoned walkways, a great crash echoed from the ground-floor ballroom. Florence Banish’s mother had been one of the first to reach the room, and to have seen the great white rhino twirling and stomping at its center, a wooden window frame impaled on its horn, blood on its muzzle, a jagged hole where just the day before French doors had led to the back patio, and to the lawn, and then down to the stables.
Florence Banish’s mother was herself relatively unflappable, and had in fact once coolly stuck a gardening fork into the meaty palm of an opportunistic handyman—rather less handy after that—but when the beast turned and looked at her, its eyes cloudy and mad, she screamed and took off running back down the hallway toward the front of the house. She didn’t need to look back to know that the rhino was charging after her, nor did she need to warn the other household staff, who were already hiding themselves in closets. When Florence Banish’s mother reached the landing of the curling stairway that led to the second floor bedrooms, she took them two at a time and, about halfway up, caught her toe on her skirt and went down hard, splitting her lip on the marble steps. Nine stairs below, the rhino came into the main foyer and snorted. Florence Banish’s mother looked at it. It didn’t seem to see her, focusing on ground-level nuisances like a marble bust of Cleopatra and an urn purportedly from the Greek island of Naxos, both quickly destroyed. The rhino whirled about the foyer, bludgeoning the walls. Portraits fell, windows shattered, and it occurred to Florence Banish’s mother that