Part One: The Masker Chapter Two
On this bright morning, neither of Matthew's breakfast hosts knew of his tribulations of the night before; therefore they merrily jaylarked about the day with no regard to his headache and sour stomach. He kept these injuries to himself, as Hiram Stokely and his wife, Patience, went about the sunny kitchen in their small white house behind the pottery shop.
Matthew's plate was filled with corncakes and a slice of salted ham that on any other day he would have considered a delight but today was a little too discomfited to properly appreciate. They were good and kind people, and he'd been fortunate to find a room over the shop. His responsibility to them was to clean the place and help with the throwing and kiln, as much as his limited talents allowed. They had two sons, one a merchant sea captain and the other an accountant in London, and it seemed to Matthew that they liked having the company at mealtimes.
The third member present of the Stokely family, however, definitely found something peculiar with Matthew this morn. at first Matthew had thought it was the salted ham that made Cecily, the pet pig, nose about him to the point of aggravation. Considering he was putting knife and fork to one of her relations, he could well fathom her displeasure, yet she was surely by now used to these cannibals who'd taken her in. Surely she knew that after two years of this coddled life she wasn't destined for the plate, for she was a smart piece of pork. But the way she snorted and pushed and carried on this day made Matthew wonder if he'd gotten all the horse manure out of his hair. He'd almost scrubbed his skin off with sandalwood soap in the washbasin last night, but perhaps Cecily's talented snout could find some lingering stink.
"Cecily!" said Hiram, after a particularly hard push from the rotund lass to Matthew's right kneecap. "What's the matter with you todayi"
"I'm afraid I don't know," was Matthew's response, though he presumed Cecily was reminded of rolling in the sty by some aroma he was emitting, even though he wore freshly cleaned trousers, shirt, and stockings.
"She's nervous, is what." Patience, a large stocky woman with gray hair pinned up under a blue cotton mob cap, looked up from her hearth, where she was using a bellows to fan the biscuit-pan fire. "Something's got her gristle."
Hiram, who was just as physically sturdy as his wife, with white hair and beard and pale brown eyes the color of the clay he worked so diligently, took a drink from his mug of tea. He watched Cecily make a circle in the kitchen before she went back under the table to give out a snort and push Matthew's knee again. "She was like this a morning or two before the fire, you rememberi She can tell when there's trouble about to happen, is what I believe."
"I didn't realize she was such the fortune-teller." Matthew scooted his chair back from the table to make room for Cecily. Unfortunately, the lady continued to shove her snout at him.
"Well, she likes you." Hiram gave him a quick, joshing smile. "Maybe she's trying to tell you something, ehi"
a day late, Matthew thought.
"I recall," Patience said quietly, as she went back to her work, "when Dr. Godwin came to visit us last. To get his plates. Do you remember, Hirami"
"Dr. Godwini" Hiram's eyes narrowed a fraction. "Hm," he said.
"What about Dr. Godwini" Matthew asked, sensing something that perhaps he ought to know.
"It's not important." Hiram drank from his mug again and began to eat the last piece of corncake on his platter.
"I imagine it is," Matthew insisted. "If you brought it up at all, it must be."
Hiram shrugged. "Well, it's just...Cecily, that's all."
"Yesi and Cecily had what to do with Dr. Godwini"
"She acted like this that day, when he came to get his plates."
"That dayi" Matthew knew exactly what the man meant, but he had to ask it: "You mean the day he was murderedi"
"It's nothing, really," Hiram said, though he squirmed in his chair. He figured he ought to be used to Matthew's ravenous questions and particularly the penetrating expression the young man gave when he knew he'd been thrown a hook. "I don't know if it was that day, exactly, or some other day. and thank you, Patience, for bringing this subject to light."
"I was thinking out loud," she said, rather apologetically. "I meant no harm in the saying."
"Will you stop thati" Matthew, his nerves on edge, stood up to get away from Cecily. The knees of his trousers were sopping with sow spit. "I'd better go; I've got an errand before work."
"The biscuits are almost done," Patience said. "Sit down, the magistrate will-"
"I'm sorry, no. Thank you for the breakfast. I presume I'll see both of you at Lord Cornbury's addressi"
"We'll be there." Hiram stood up as well. "Matthew, it doesn't mean anything. It's just a pig, playing with you."
"I know it doesn't mean anything. I didn't say it did. and I reject the idea that there's any connection between Dr. Godwin and myself. I mean...in terms of being murdered." Dear Lord, he thought. Do I have feveri "I shall see you this afternoon," he said, and dodged Cecily making another snorting circle around him as he got out through the door and walked along the fieldstone path that led to the street.
Ridiculous! he told himself as he strode southward. To let a pig's so-called premonitions cloud his mind, as if he really believed in such a thing. Well, some did, of course. Some said animals could foretell changing weather and such before the human breed, but to foretell murder...that smacked of dabbling in witchcraft, didn't iti as if he held any stock in that, either!
On this fine morning it seemed the entire population of New York was out and about on the public ways. They meandered, squatted, scurried, and barked all around him, and those were just the cats, goats, chickens, and dogs. The town was becoming a veritable menagerie, as on some of those vessels arriving from England. The three-month journey had killed half the people and left their livestock to enjoy the greener pastures of North america.
The Stokelys' pottery shop was one of the last structures of the town proper. Just north beyond their door lay the High Road, which led across rolling fields and hills crowned with thick green woodland to the distant town of Boston. The sun shimmered in gold flakes on the waters of the East and Hudson rivers, and as Matthew followed the Broad Way over a hilltop he took in the panoramic view of New York he saw every morning on his way to work.
Haze from cooking hearths and blacksmith fires hung above the yellow-tiled roofs of scores of houses, shops, and sundry buildings spread before him. On the streets moved the industrious citizens, either on foot or by horse and ox-cart. The higglers were out, selling baskets and rope and all kinds of middling merchandise from their street-corner wagons. So too on the move was the ragand-bone man, scooping up the night's animal manure into his bucket-like cart for sale at the farmers' market. Matthew knew where the man might find a right treasure of a pile over near Sloat Lane.
Three white-sailed skiffs advanced before the breeze along the East River. a larger sailing ship, piloted out of the harbor by two long rowers, was leaving the Great Dock to a small gathering of well-wishers and a ringing of bells at the wharfside. The area of the piers was of course a center of business and was like a beehive even before dawn, with its assemblage of canvasers, anchorsmiths, codmen, pulleymakers, riggers, tarboys, shipwrights, treenail makers, and all such cast of seaplay characters. Then, looking to the shops and buildings to the right of the docks, one peered into the domain of the warehousers and merchandisers who held sway over goods either leaving the town or coming in, which gave occupations to packers, tollers, tally-clerks, stevedores, tide waiters, scriveners, out-criers, and perchemears. at the center of town stood the stone structures of the Custom House, the mayor's home, and the newly built City Hall, which had been constructed to bring together in one place the offices of those townsmen who oversaw the day-today politics and essentials of New York, such as the ward officers, the department of records, the legal staff, the high constable, and the chief prosecutor. Basically, as Matthew thought, they were there to keep rival businessmen from killing one another, for this might be the new world but the old savage sensibilities of London had also made the atlantic crossing.
Matthew walked downhill into the town, his pace brisk and his destination deliberate. By the dint of repetition and the sundial that stood before Madam Kenneday's bakery, he knew he had half-an-hour until Magistrate Powers arrived at the office. Before Matthew put a quill to paper this morning he was determined to light a fire under a pair of blacksmith boots.
For all of its cattle corrals, stables, skinning shops, warehouses, and rough taverns, New York was a pretty town. The Dutch pioneers had left their mark in the distinctive narrow facades, high stepped-gable roofs, and their penchant for weathervanes, decorative chimneys, and simple but geometrically precise gardens. all the structures south of Wall Street bore the Dutch signature, while the houses and buildings north of that demarcation were of the typically four-square English variety. Matthew had gotten into a conversation about that subject a few nights ago at the Gallop; it would be seen in the future, he contended, that the Dutch were of a pastoral mind and so strived to beautify their surroundings with gardens and parks, but the English were eager to jam their boxes onto every available space in the name of commerce. One just had to cross Wall Street to see the difference between London and amsterdam. Of course he'd not been to either of those cities, but he had his collection of books and he was always interested in the stories of travelers. Plus he was always armed with an opinion, which made him either the hero or goat of these conversant evenings at the Gallop.
It was true, he mused as he ventured along the Broad Way toward the steeple of Trinity Church, that New York was becoming...well, how would one put iti Cosmopolitan, perhapsi That its presence and future was beginning to be noticed around the worldi Or so it seemed. On any day one might see walking the cobblestones brightly robed visitors from India, or Belgian financiers the picture of serious intent in dark suits and black tricorns, or even Dutch merchants in gilt waistcoats and elaborate wigs puffing powder at each stride, indicating that enemies could meet quite profitably at the counting table. Found planning the trade of coin over wine and codfish at the alehouses day or night might be Cuban sugar merchants from Barbados, Jewish gemstone traders from Brazil, or German tobacco buyers from Stockholm. Indigo dye suppliers from Charles Town or ambassadors from numerous businesses in Philadelphia and Boston regularly visited. a sight not uncommon was that of Sint Sink, Iroquois, and Mohican Indians bringing into the town cartloads of deer, beaver, and bear skins and causing a right hullabaloo among people and dogs alike. Of course slave ships arrived at dock from africa or the West Indies, and those slaves who weren't purchased for duty here were sent off for auction to other localities like Long Island. Perhaps one New York household in every five held a slave; though the slaves were forbidden by town decree to gather beyond two in number, there were alarming reports from dockside merchants of night-roaming gangs of slaves who, perhaps continuing to fight old tribal feuds, attacked one another over perceived territories.
Matthew wondered, as he walked, if becoming cosmopolitan meant an eventual emulation of the sprawl, debasement, and utter calamity of London. The tales he'd heard of that pandemetro chilled his blood-everything from the twelve-year-old prostitutes to the freak-show circuses and the joy of the mob at the hangman's theater. Possibly, with that latter revulsion, he was remembering how near Rachel Howarth had come to being burned alive in Fount Royal, and how the merry crowd would have howled as the ashes flew up. He wondered what would be the future of New York, in a hundred years. He wondered if fate and human nature decreed that every Bethlehem become in time a Bedlam.
as he crossed Wall Street before Trinity Church and the black iron fence around the church cemetery, he gave a glance at the trough in which he'd cleaned himself of his night's misfortune. The Dutch fortress wall that had stood here, made of logs twelve feet tall, had been constructed to guard that avenue of attack from the British before the settlement changed hands some thirty-eight years ago. It occurred to Matthew that New York no longer faced an adversary from without, as barring severe epidemic or some unforeseen catastrophe the place was securely fixed. He thought that the next threat to the survival of this town might well come from within, and bear from the consequences of forgetting the perils of human greed.
On his left, also on Wall Street, was the yellow stone City Hall and the town gaol, before which a notorious pickpocket named Ebenezer Grooder was on public view, confined to the pillory. a basket of rotten apples lay within reach of any citizen who wished to apply further justice. Matthew continued south, entering the smoke-hazed realm of stables, warehouses, and blacksmitheries.
It was one of those establishments, whose affixed sign read simply Ross, Smith, that was the aim of his arrow. He went into the open barn door of the place, into the dim light where hammers rang on iron and orange flames seethed in the black-bricked forge. a thick-set young man with curly blond hair was at work on the bellows cord, making the fire flare and spit. Beyond him, the elder master Marco Ross and the second apprentice were hammering out the vital commodity of horseshoes on their respective anvils. The noise was a kind of rough music, as one hammerblow was pitched higher than the other. all the smiths wore leather aprons to protect their clothes from flying shards of red-hot metal, and the heat and strenuous activity already at this early hour made the men sweat through the backs of their shirts. Cart-wheels, plows, and other bits of farm implements were arranged in wait for inspection, showing that Master Ross was at no sorrow for work.
Matthew crossed over the bricked floor to stand near the young man at his bellows labor. He waited until finally John Five sensed him there and turned to look over his shoulder. Matthew nodded; John returned the nod, his cherubic face ruddy in the heat and his eyes pale blue beneath thick blond brows, and then he returned to what he was doing without a word, since speaking was useless so long as the hammers did the talking.
at last John knew Matthew would not be denied; Matthew saw it, in the slump of the younger man's shoulders. That alone gave him an indication of how their meeting must go, but he had to pursue it. John Five ceased the bellows work, waved his arm in the air to get Master Ross to see, and then held up five fingers to ask for that much time. Master Ross gave a curt nod, with a stern glance at Matthew that said Some of us have work to do and laid in again on the hammer-and-tongs.
Outside, in the smoky sunlight, John Five wiped his sparkling forehead with a cloth and said, "How are you, Matthewi"
"Well, thank you. and youi"
"Well also." John was not as tall as Matthew, but had the wide shoulders and thick forearms of a man born to command iron. He was four years Matthew's junior, yet far from being a youth. In the King Street almshouse-then known as the Sainted John Home for Boys, before it was expanded to include two more buildings for orphaned girls and adult paupers-he had been the fifth John of thirty-six boys, thus his identity. John Five had one ear; the left had been hacked off. across his chin was a deep scar that pulled the right corner of his mouth down into a perpetual sadness. John Five remembered a father and mother and a cabin in a wilderness clearing, perhaps an idealized memory. He recalled two infant siblings, both brothers he believed. He recalled the logs of a fort, and a man in a tricorn with goldleaf trimming talking to his father and showing him the shaft of a broken arrow. His memory could pull up the shrill sound of a woman screaming and blurred figures bursting through the window shutters and the door. He saw the glint of firelight on an upraised hatchet. Then the candle of his mind went out.
One thing he remembered quite clearly-and this he told Matthew and some of the others, one night at the orphanage-was a thin rail of a man with black teeth, tipping a bottle to his mouth and telling him to Dance, dance, you little shit! Dance for our supper! and smile or I'll carve one in that fuckin' face!
John Five recalled dancing in a tavern, and seeing his small shadow thrown on the wall. The thin man took coins from the customers and put them in a brown pot. He remembered the man drunk and swearing on a nasty bed in a little room somewhere. He remembered crawling under the bed to sleep, and two other men breaking into the room and beating the drunk man to death with cudgels. and he remembered thinking, as the man's brains flew upon the walls and the blood flowed over the floor, that he had never really liked to dance.
Soon after that, a travelling parson had brought the nine-year-old John to the orphanage and left him in the care of the demanding but fair-minded Headmaster Staunton, but when Staunton had left two years later to answer the call of a dream bidding him to take God's salvation to the Indian tribes, the position had been filled by Eben ausley, newly arrived with commission in hand from jolly old England.
Standing with John Five alongside Master Ross' blacksmith shop, as the town began to speed itself into the rhythms of another day of trade and citizens passed by in their own currents of life like so many fish in the rivers, Matthew looked down at his shoes and measured his words carefully. "When we spoke last, you said you'd consider my request." He looked up into the younger man's eyes, which he could read like any book in his collection. Yet he had to go on. "Have youi"
"I have," John answered.
John gave a pained expression. He stared at the knuckles of his hands, which he closed into fists and began to work together as if fighting a private battle. and Matthew knew this was entirely true. Still, Matthew had to persist: "You and I both know what needs to be done." There was no response, so Matthew plowed deeper. "He thinks he's gotten away with everything. He thinks no one cares. Oh yes, I saw him last night. He crowed like a madman, about how I hadn't gone to the magistrate because I have nothing. and you know the high constable is one of his gaming friends. So I have to have proof, John. I have to have someone who'll speak up."
"Someone," John said, with just a trace of bitterness.
"Myles Newell and his wife moved to Boston," Matthew reminded him. "He was willing, and close to it, but now that he's gone it's up to you."
John remained silent, still pressing his fists together, his eyes shadowed.
"Nathan Spencer hanged himself last month," Matthew said. "Twenty years old, and he still couldn't put it to rest."
"I know very well about Nathan. I was at the funeral too. and I've thought about him, many days. He used to come here and talk, just like you do. But tell me this, Matthew," and here John Five peered into his friend's face with eyes that were at once racked with anguish and as hot as the forge, "was it Nathan who couldn't put it to rest...or was it youi"
"It was both of us," Matthew said, truthfully.
John gave a quiet grunt and looked away again. "I'm sorry about Nathan. He was tryin' very hard to move on. But you wouldn't let him, would youi"
"I had no idea he was planning to kill himself."
"Maybe he wasn't, until you kept pesterin' him. Did you ever think about thati"
In truth, Matthew had. It was something, though, that he'd forced away from himself; he couldn't bear to admit to the shaving mirror that his pleadings with Nathan to make witness against Eben ausley in front of Magistrate Powers and Chief Prosecutor James Bynes would result in a rope thrown over the rafters of the young man's garret.
"Nathan wasn't well," John Five went on. "In the head. He was weak. You should have known that, you bein' such the scholar."
"I can't bring him back, and neither can you," Matthew said, with more spice than he'd meant; it sounded too much like the curt dismissal of responsibility. "We have to go on, from where we-"
"Wei" John scowled, an expression of menace not to be taken lightly. "What is this wei I haven't said I wanted anythin' to do with this. I've just listened to you talk, that's all. For the sake that you're such a high-collar now, and I have to say you're a fine smooth talker, Matthew. But talkin' can only go so far."
Matthew, as was his wont, took the initiative. "I agree. It is time for action."
"You mean time to put my neck in a noose too, don't youi"
"No, I do not."
"Well, that's what would happen. I don't mean hangin' myself. No, I'd never do that. But I mean ruinin' my life. and for whati" John Five drew a long breath and shook his head. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter and almost disconsolate. "ausley's right. No one cares. No one will believe anythin' that's said again' him. He has too many friends. From what you've told me, he's lost too much money at them gamin' tables to go behind bars, or be banished from the town. His debtors wouldn't stand for it. So even if I spoke out-even if anyone spoke out-I'd be called a madman, or devil-possessed, or...who knows what would happen to me."
"If you're afraid for your life, I can tell you that Magistrate Powers will-"
"You talk and talk," John Five said, and stepped forward upon Matthew with a grimness that made the elder man think their friendship-an orphans' comraderie, as it were-was about to end with a broken jaw. "But you don't listen," John went on, though he checked his progress. He gazed toward the street, at the gents and ladies passing, at a horse-cart trundling by, at some children chasing each other and laughing as if all the world was a merriment. "I've asked Constance to be my wife. We're to be joined in September."
Constance Wade, Matthew knew, had been John's love for nearly a year. He never thought John would get up the nerve to ask her, since she was the daughter of that stern-faced, black-garbed preacher William Wade, the man of whom it was said birds hushed singing when he cast the unblinking eye of God at them. Of course Matthew was happy for John Five, for Constance was certainly a fair maid and had a quick and lively mind, but he knew also what this meant.
John didn't speak for a moment, and Matthew likewise held his tongue in check. Then John said, "Phillip Covey. Have you asked himi"
"I have. He steadfastly refuses."
"Nicholas Robertsoni John Galti"
"Both I've asked, several times. Both have refused."
"Then why me, Matthewi Why keep comin' to mei"
"Because of what you've gone through. Not only from ausley, but before. The Indian raid. The man who took you around and made you dance in the taverns. all that being knocked down, all that darkness and trouble. I thought you'd want to stand up and make sure that ausley's put away where he ought to be." There was no response from John Five to this; the younger man's face was emotionless. Matthew said firmly, "I thought you'd want to see justice done."
Now, to Matthew's surprise, a hint of emotion did return to John's face, but it was the faintest trace of a knowing smile-or a slyness of knowledge, to be exact. "Justice donei Is that really iti Or do you just want to make me dance againi"
Matthew started to answer, to protest John's point, but before he could the younger man said quietly, "Please hear me, Matthew, and make true of it. ausley never touched you, did hei You were of an age he thought...older than he cared to bother, isn't that righti So you heard things at night-cryin' maybe, a scream or two-and that was all. Maybe you rolled over on your cot and you had a bad dream. Maybe you wished you could do somethin', but you couldn't. Maybe you just felt small and weak. But if anyone was to want to do somethin' about ausley now, Matthew, it would be me, and Covey, and Robertson, and Galt. We don't. We just want to go on with our lives." John paused to let that sink in. "Now you talk about justice bein' done, and that's a fine sentiment. But justice can't always see clear, isn't that the sayin'i"
"Near enough, I guess. If I-or any of the others-got up on the stand and swore again' ausley, there's no for certain he'd get more than ol' Grooder's gettin' right now. No, he wouldn't even get that. He'd talk his way out of it. Or buy his way out, with that high constable in his pocket. and look what would become of me, Matthew, to admit to such a thing. I'm to be married in September. Do you think the Reverend Wade would say I was good enough for his daughter, if he was to knowi"
"I think he and Constance might both appreciate your courage."
"Ha!" John had almost laughed in Matthew's face. His eyes looked scorched. "I don't have that much courage."
"So you're just dismissing it." Matthew felt sweat on his forehead and on the back of his neck. John Five had been his last hope. "Just dismissing it, for all time."
"Yes," came the reply without hesitation. "Because I've got a life to live, Matthew. I'm sorry for all them others, but I can't help 'em. all I can do is help myself. Is that such a sini"
Matthew was struck dumb. He'd feared that John Five would say no in this way-and indeed the tenor of their meetings had never indicated compliance, but hearing it outright was a major blow. Thoughts were spinning through his mind like whirlagigs. If there was no way to entreat any of ausley's earlier victims to speak out-and no way to get into the almshouse to gain the testimonies of new victims-then the Headmaster from Hell had indeed won the battle and the war. Which meant Matthew, for all his belief in the power and fairness of justice, was simply a piece of sounding brass without structure or composition. One reason he'd come to New York after leaving Fount Royal was to plan this attack and see it to the finish, and now-
"Life's not easy for anyone," John Five said. "You and me, we ought to know that better than most. But I think sometimes you've got to let bad things go, so you can move on. Just thinkin' about it, over and over again, and keepin' it in your head...it's no good."
"Yes," Matthew agreed, though he didn't know why. He'd heard himself speak as if from a vast distance.
"You ought to find somethin' better than this to hold on to," John said, not unkindly. "Somethin' with a future to it."
"a future," Matthew echoed. "Yes. Possibly you're right." Inwardly, he was thinking he had failed himself and failed the others at the orphanage and failed even the memory of Magistrate Woodward. He could hear the magistrate, speaking from his deathbed: I have always been proud of you. always. I knew from the first. When I saw you at the almshouse. The way you carried yourself. Something different and indefinable. But special. You will make your mark. Somewhere. You will make a profound difference to someone...just by being alive.
I have always been proud of you.
He realized John Five had said something he'd not caught. He came back to the moment like a swimmer gliding up through dark and dirty water. "Whati"
"I asked if you would be goin' to the social on Friday night."
"Sociali" He thought he'd seen an announcement about it, plastered up on a wall here and there. "What sociali"
"at the church. Friday night. You know, Elizabeth Martin has got quite the eye for you."
Matthew nodded vacantly. "The shoemaker's daughter. Didn't she just turn fourteeni"
"Well, what of iti She's a fine-lookin' girl, Matthew. I wouldn't turn up my nose at such a prize, if I were you."
"I'm not turning up my nose. I just...don't feel in the spirit of companionship these days."
"Who's talkin' about companionship, mani I'm talkin' marriage!"
"If that's so, your kettle's got a crack in it."
"Suit yourself, then. I'd best get back to work." John made a motion toward the doorway and then hesitated. He stood in a shard of sunlight. "You can beat your head 'gainst a wall 'til it kills you," he said. "It won't ever knock the wall down, and then where'll you bei"
"I don't know," came the answer, in a weary and soul-sick breath.
"I hope you'll figure it out. Good day, Matthew."
"Good day, John."
John Five returned to the blacksmith shop, and Matthew-still hazy in the head, whether from his disappointment or the knock he'd taken last night-walked away to New Street and thence northward to Wall Street and the City Hall office of Magistrate Powers. Before he reached that destination, he passed again by the pillory where Ebenezer Grooder was so justly confined, since he himself had heard the facts of this particular case as the magistrate's clerk.
Grooder, he noted, had company. Standing next to the basket of ammunition was a slim dandy in a beige-colored suit and a tricorn of the same color. He had pale blond hair, almost white, that was tied back in a queue and fixed with a beige ribbon. Grooder's visitor wore tan boots of expensive make and rested a riding-crop against his left shoulder. The tilt of his head said he was examining the pickpocket's predicament with interest. as Matthew watched, the man plucked an apple from the basket and without hesitation fired it into Grooder's face at a distance of more than twenty feet. The apple smacked into Grooder's forehead and exploded upon contact.
"ah, you miserable bastard!" Grooder shouted, his fists clenched through the pillory's catch-holes. "You damned wretch!"
The man silently and methodically chose another fouled apple and threw it smack into Grooder's mouth.
He'd chosen an apple with some firmness to it, for this time Grooder didn't holler insults as he was too busy spitting blood from his split upper lip.
The man-who ought to be a grenadier with aim that true, Matthew thought-now took a third apple, cocked his arm to throw as Grooder found his ragged profane voice again, and suddenly froze in mid-motion. His head swiveled around and found Matthew watching him, and Matthew looked into a face that was both handsome for its regal gentility and fearsome for its utter lack of expression. Though there was no overt animosity from the other, Matthew had the feeling of looking at a coiled reptile that had been mildly disturbed by a cricket lighting on a nearby stone.
The man's piercing green eyes continued to hold him for several seconds, and then suddenly-as if some decision had been made about Matthew's threat or more precisely the lack of threat from a passing cricket-he turned away and delivered the third apple again with cold ferocity into the pickpocket's bloody mouth.
Grooder gave an anguished noise, perhaps a cry for help muted by broken teeth.
It was not for Matthew to intercede. It was, after all, Magistrate Powers' sentence on Grooder, that he stand at the pillory by daylight hours and that the pleasure of the citizens be to punish the man in such a fashion. Matthew strode past, quickly now because he had much work to do. Still...it was terribly cruel, wasn't iti
He glanced back and saw that the man in the beige suit was swiftly crossing the street, heading in the opposite direction. Grooder was quiet, his head bowed and blood dripping down into a little gory puddle below him. His hands kept clenching and unclenching, as if grappling the air. The flies would be all over his mouth in a few minutes.
Matthew kept walking. He'd never seen that man before. Possibly, like many others, he'd recently come to New York by ship or coach. So what of himi
Yet...it had occurred to Matthew that the man had taken great pleasure in his target practice. and never be it said that Grooder didn't merit such attention, but...it was unpalatable, to his taste.
He continued on, to the yellow stone edifice of the triple-storied City Hall, in through the high wooden doors meant to signify the power of government and up the broad staircase to the second floor. The place still smelled of raw timbers and sawdust. He went to the third door on the right. It was locked, as the magistrate had not yet arrived, so Matthew used his key. Now he had to harness his power of will, and force all thoughts of injustice, disappointments, and bitterness from his mind, for his working day had begun and the business of the law was indeed a demanding mistress.
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