|On a Golden Chain
a novel by
Copyright © 1991.
Life for the Wilsons, a Presbyte-
rian Jamily living in a small English
towit is picture perfect. But when her
young son receives a toy train as a gift,
Dorothy Wilson reacts with strange
Soon, she is having recurrences of an
inexplicable old nightmare
involving a terrible train crash.
Why does it all seem so real? And why
is it always exactly the same? Then the
family is suddenly plunged into confusion-
by the sudden death of Dorothy's
mother who, with her last gasping
breath, reveals that Dorothy is not
really her child. Dorothy is stunned.
Who is she? Who are her real parents?
Are they still alive? How can she ever
expect to find them? Unfortunately,
the only clue to her identity is a small
Jewish star on a golden chain . . . and
those awful nightmares.
On a Golden Chain, by Ruth Ben-
jamin, is the tense and deeply moving
story of the Wilsons' heart wrenching
and frustrating search for the elusive
details of Dorothy's past.
Ruth Benjamin has drawn on her
experience as a clinical psychologist
in Johannesburg, South Africa, to make
On a Golden Chain a fascinating and
suspenseful drama. The numerous
twists and turns result in a profound
insight into the innermost workings of
a family caught in an unexpected crisis
that forever changes their lives.
Nana, she's pretty. She's really, really
pretty. I just love her!" Lucy stroked the doll's
en curls, stared into its large, blue eyes
framed by thick eyelashes and hugged it gently,
knew just what to buy me for my birthday!
I just love her!"
Steven stood by, a little uncertainly. He knew
it wasn't his birthday and therefore there was no
present due him, but he couldn't help but feel a
little jealous of his sister's present. Even he, who
would seldom give dolls a second glance, had to
admit the doll was beautiful.
His grandmother came over to him. "Steven,"
she said. "I haven't forgotten about you. I know
it isn't your birthday, but I got you a small
The old lady went to her cupboard and took
out a small, compact, very realistic steam train engine. It was
black and shiny with green markings. It had sturdy silver
wheels and a fully dressed engine driver.
"I bought batteries and it really goes," she said. "I already
put them in. All you have to do is to twitch it on. It doesn't
need to run on tracks."
He put the train on the floor and switched it on. It emitted
a sharp whistle and started to chug along the floor, blowing
out tiny puffs of smoke.
Even Lucy's attention was caught, and she brought her
doll with her to look at it.
"Wow," she said. "It really works! It really smokes!"
Steven was delighted with his new toy. He watched it
make its own circles and noted the way it would avoid any
obstacles placed in its way. Suddenly, however, he walked
over to it and switched it off. He sat down next to it, an
anxious look on his face.
"What's the matter, Steven?" his grandmother asked.
"Why do you look so worried?"
Steven stared at her for a few seconds, not knowing if he
should speak. Finally, he said, "Nana, what will Mummy say?"
"She won't mind," she said, a puzzled look in her eyes.
"She knows that when I give one of you a birthday present I
always give a small present to the other one."
"Yes, but . . ." Steven seemed embarrassed and his
grandmother became more puzzled. "Yes, but a train. What
will Mummy say about a train?"
His grandmother was suddenly serious. "What do you
mean, Stevie?" she asked, her voice becoming guarded. "Why
should she mind a train?"
Steven looked unhappy. "Mummy has dreams," he said.
"She dreams about trains."
"Did she tell you she dreams about trains?" she asked.
"No," he said. "No, she never talks to me about that, but
I heard her talking to Daddy. It upsets her very much. She
dreams about trains like other people dream about monsters.
I suppose trains can be frightening."
He seemed to lose his anxiety and once more switched on
the train, again becoming excited about its tiny puffs of
smoke. He looked at it fondly.
"Mummy won't be scared of you, little train, I am sure she
won't," he said. "You are such a smart, good little train. But
you wouldn't hurt anyone, would you? I think Mummy will
They heard a car outside the cottage, and the children ran
out to meet their parents who had dropped them off for a
short time while they had gone to buy some soda for Nana,
which was always far too heavy for Nana to carry on her own.
They had tried for years to dissuade her from doing any of her
heavy shopping on foot, but she continued to disregard their
pleas, reassuring them that she had walked to the shops and
returned with parcels for almost sixty years, and why should
she change now?
Richard and Dorothy Wilson admired the toys Dorothy's
mother had bought for their children. The doll truly was
beautiful, and the train?
"Magnificent," said Richard.
"It's incredible," said Dorothy. "It's almost real. Look, it
puffs real smoke!"
Her mother watched her carefully. Was Dorothy really
still anxious about trains, to the point of becoming upset
about a toy train? She recalled that she herself had had to
comfort her as a child on countless occasions.
But Dorothy did not seem affected by the train, and the
family was soon drinking tea from Nana's gold rimmed china
teacups with large English roses on them.
Nana had made a special cake for Lucy's birthday. She
had iced it herself, and had obviously taken several hours to
do so. It was a delicate shade of pink, with darker pink roses*
and emerald green leaves. In the center was a fairy with a
billowing skirt, also made of icing.
"Nana, I must keep this cake," said Lucy. "I can't let
anything ever, ever happen to it."
Her grandmother laughed, delighted with Lucy's reac-
tion. She had worked hard, but she had enjoyed it.
"I have always loved decorating cakes for my little girls,"
Dorothy cast her mind back to the time when she, too,
had been a little girl. Each birthday had seen a different cake.
There was a clown, a cat, a princess, a castle, a village and
many other things. In fact, most of those had been photo-
graphed and were placed proudly in a family album.
She remembered the parties she had had, always with
only a few children, but always expertly catered by her
mother, always something special, to be remembered. Her
father would help with the games to entertain the children,
setting up fairly complicated equipment.
She felt a stab of pain as she thought of him. Had ten years
already passed since he had died? Why had that sense of
emptiness still not left her?
Her mother, she could see, still mourned every day for
him. She had never been the same since he had died.
Both her parents had been older than any of her friends'
parents. In fact, they had been more in the age group of many
of their grandparents. She was an only child, obviously born
when they were fairly advanced in years, and she had loved
She pictured her father as he had been in earlier years,
before he had become so ill. He had always been a person
who kept to himself. He would arrive home from work and
then spend many hours in the workshop at the back of the
house. His hobby had been carpentry, but he had never made
anything he was prepared to sell. His house was full of
beautifully carved pieces, priceless, she was sure.
Both he and her mother had been perfectionists. She
remembered how she used to sit with her father for many
hours in his workshop, chatting to him and doing oddjobs for
She remembered, too, the distinctive way in which he
would sometimes speak, especially when he was excited or
tired. It was almost as if he had a foreign accent. And yet, as
far as she knew, her parents had never been out of England.
She had always been very close to her parents, regarding
them as her best friends. She was aware that she had always
been the center of their lives. Anyone with less sensitivity and
intelligence might, in that position, have become thoroughly
spoiled and disagreeable. They had given her everything and
had done everything they could for her. She had gone to the
best schools, had gone to college and had been given a car as
soon as she had graduated. Anything she had expressed a
wish for, she was given, if not immediately, at her very next
Her mother tended to spoil Dorothy's children, too, in
this way. Nothing was too good or too expensive for them.
She was interrupted from her reverie by Lucy coming
over to her with her doll.
"What shall I call her, Mummy? What do you think her
name should be?"
"My favorite doll was called Esther," Dorothy said slowly.
"She was lovely. In fact, she looked a little bit like this doll."
"Come, Esther," said Lucy, smoothing out the doll's
dress. "Come and see Steven's train."