Emily Pigbush's mother is dying from wasting disease& whose symptoms are weakness and coughing up blood. The Civil War has just ended and Washington D.C. is in an uproar. Emily plans to move in next door with her friend Annie Surratt and her family until her Uncle Valentine, a doctor invites her to live with him. Emily is not comfortable with his invitation. Her mother has always disliked him and been suspicious of him. Living with Annie isn't a perfect solution either since 14 year-old Emily does not have a job or means to contribute to the household. She's also uncomfortable that Annie's mother entertains Southern sympathizers including John Wilkes Booth.
The decision is made when President Lincoln is assasinated, and Mrs Surratt is arrested on suspicion of being involved in the plot. Emily's feelings towards Uncle Valentine improve when she discovers him watching over her mother's grave after her burial to keep it safe from grave robbers. Her reaction to Uncle Valentine's household is mixed. She likes Robert his young assistant. Robert a veteran is devoted to Valentine because he saved his leg from amputation. His housekeeper Maude, and a young teacher named Marietta are also devoted to him. Marietta keeps a strange night blooming garden behind Valentine's house.
Valentine keeps an elderly black woman named Addie locked in the upstairs, he says for her own protection. He rescued her from suicide and is treating her for wasting disease. Addie wants to be free, and also hints to Emily that Valentine is up to suspicious activity. Emily begins to share the suspicion that Uncle Valentine is a grave robber.
Emily gets Robert to show her Valentine's lab while a shipment of pickles arrive. She looks in the lab again when a schoolmate Myra threatens to spread ugly rumors about Valentine if Emily does not show her the lab. When Emily finds out the truth about Valentine, she has to decide what to do. At the same time, she tries to support her friend Annie while her mother awaits trial in dungeon like prison for her involvement in the Lincoln assasination.
This report prepared by Susan Coffey