Part Three: The Message Chapter Twenty-Nine
It was an eerie morning to which Matthew awakened, for when he came up from sleep he wasn't certain that the events of yesterday hadn't been just a wretched dream. Therefore when he found himself on the deerskin cot in the dim light that filtered through the air-vents, with Eben ausley's notebook on the table, his body stiff and sore from being yanked off his feet by the Masker's arm and the memory of the pottery's destruction still crashing in his mind, he squeezed his eyes shut again for a while and lay still as if to avoid life itself until he felt strong enough to receive it.
Oh, his back hurt! He got up, wondering how the Indians could bear it. His first task was to get a match aflame and light the lamp. The candle had burned down to almost nothing, yet there remained a small stub and a bit of wick that sputtered but finally accepted the fire. He felt the same as that wick. Then, in the meager illumination, Matthew picked up the notebook to make sure it was real. He turned again to the dog-eared page, held it nearer the light, and examined the names and numbers penciled there.
Matthew assumed they were the names of orphans. The Two beside the Jacob would mean he was the second Jacob in the group but his surname was unknown; the same as John Five. The lines of numbers were a mystery. and then there were the other markings: Rejct, Chapel, and what might have been dates. The ninth of May, twentieth and twenty-eighth of June. The last entry bearing no notation or date. He looked at the word Rejct.
Rejecti Why had ausley not simply added the second ei Or was it a shorthand for Rejectedi
The word Chapel next drew his attention. He knew the orphanage did have a chapel. Just a small room with a few benches in it, really. In Matthew's time there, the churchmen occasionally came to make sure the orphans were following the righteous path. Otherwise the chapel would have been just another chilly chamber for bunks.
Matthew had a sense of unease about that word. Was he looking at a record of ausley's more recent "punishments"i and had that bastard committed his sickening deeds in the chapel, of all placesi
But the notation Rejected did not fit, in that context. If that was really the word, then Rejected for whati and by whomi Why also was there no notation next to the last namei
He reasoned that he would have to put together a time span for this notebook. When ausley filled up one, he likely went right to the next. The notebook might have been his fifth or fifteenth. Just going by the dates on the list, this particular volume of ausley's great deeds would have been started around the second week of May.
The wick began to spit again. Matthew decided it was time to rejoin the world. His stomach was also making itself heard, calling for breakfast. When he checked his watch, he was shocked to see the time was nearly eight o'clock. He'd been more weary than he'd realized, as he usually woke around six. He spent a moment splashing cool water in his face, but there was neither soap nor towel. after getting some breakfast he intended to visit the barber for a shave and bath, for he had both the grit of travel and the dust of disaster in his pores.
He took a clean-clean being a relative term-light blue shirt from his bag and put it on, along with a pair of fresh stockings. The two pair of breeches in the bag were about as grimy as the pair he'd slept in, so he made no change in that regard. Then he put ausley's notebook into the bag under the breeches and the bag under the cot. He walked out into a brilliant sunshine that at first blinded him; it was darker than he'd thought in the Dutch dairy, which was of course the purpose. He locked the door behind him.
Marmaduke Grigsby answered his knock and invited him in, and soon Matthew was sitting at the table in Grigsby's kitchen as the printmaster cut slices of salted bacon for him and broke two eggs into a pan over the hearth's small fire. a cup of strong dark tea tore away the last cobwebs in Matthew's mind.
Matthew started in on his breakfast, which was absolutely delicious, and drank down a mug of apple cider before he asked, "I presume Berry's sleeping latei"
"Sleeping latei That girl hardly sleeps at all. She's been up and out almost before sunrise."
"Reallyi Where to so earlyi"
"Gone up Queen Street. Looking for a place, as she put it, to catch the morning light."
Matthew paused with a piece of bacon half-chewed in his mouth. "Catch the lighti Whyi"
"Her fascination," said Grigsby, as he poured a cup of tea for himself from the pot. "Didn't I tell youi That she has hopes of becoming an artisti Well, she already is an artist, I mean, but she hopes to make some money off it." Grigsby sat down across from Matthew. "Your breakfast all righti"
"Fine, thank you, and I do appreciate your hospitality." Matthew finished his bacon before he spoke again. "an artisti I thought she planned to be a teacher."
"Yes, that's the plan. Headmaster Brown's going to interview her for a position next week. But Berry's always been interested in drawing and such, even as a little girl. She got the tar spanked out of her once, as I recall, for fingerpainting the family dog."
"Somehow, I'm not surprised."
Grigsby smiled at Matthew's tone of voice, but then he frowned and said, "aren't you due at worki I know that might be difficult today, but surely you ought to at least speak to Magistrate Powers."
"I've been discharged," Matthew answered, and then wished he hadn't because instantly the printmaster's gaze sharpened and he leaned closer over the table.
"What's happenedi Was Powers firedi"
"No. I might as well tell you that the magistrate is leaving New York. He has an offer for a better job in the Carolina colony. Working with his brother on Lord Kent's tobacco plantation." Matthew knew the shine in Grigsby's eyes behind those spectacles meant an item of news was being born for the next Earwig. "Now listen, Marmy, that's not to be printed. I mean it." If an Earwig could get to the asylum in Westerwicke, one could also find its way to Professor Fell. "It's important that you understand, the information is confidential."
"and why is it so confidential, theni" Grigsby watched him carefully. absentmindedly, the printmaster reached over to a bowl of walnuts and removed one. "It's a change of residence and position, yesi Or is it something morei"
"It's just confidential, that's all. I expect you to refrain from printing it."
"Refrain." Grigsby grimaced. "Now that's a strong word, isn't iti Particularly to a man in my profession." The hand with the walnut in it flew up against his forehead. There was a pistol-shot crack and with no ill effect whatsoever Grigsby separated nut from broken shell. "You know, with the Masker not killing anyone since the decree began, I have to take the news as it comes. It's my duty to report the facts, so to have to refrain can be difficult." He paused in his chewing of the walnut to sip at his tea with a slurping noise and then looked at Matthew over the cup's rim. "What do you honestly think of Berryi"
"I have no thoughts."
"Surely you do." He chose a second nut from the bowl. "She made you a little angry last night, didn't shei"
"She did. She has that way about her. Speaks her mind. all that malarkey about the bad luck. I'm not sure if she really believes it or not. But you may be right." Crack! shattered the shell.
"about whati" Matthew busied himself with finishing the eggs. How did the man do thati and not a mark on his forehead. The skull must be made of iron, the flesh of leather.
"Her creating a dark cloud to hide under. I think it's because she likes her freedom. She doesn't want to give it up to anyone. Particularly a husband, though she came close to the altar with that young man who broke out in the blotches. also I think she doesn't want to be hurt. That could be a reason for creating a dark cloud, couldn't iti"
"Yes, it could be," Matthew agreed.
"You know," Grigsby said, chewing, "you have the damnedest way of pretending not to pay attention when you're taking everything in. It's infuriating."
"Oh, is iti I'm sorry."
"Well, I don't want her to be hurt," Grigsby went on. "You know what I mean. Berry's not exactly a clothes-horse, nor does she give a fig about the latest fads. She couldn't care less about those French hairstyles and the new dances, which seem to consume the minds of almost every girl her age in this town."
"The ones who aren't married, at least," Matthew said.
"Yes, and that's another thing." a third nut was selected, forehead-cracked, and eaten. "The young men around here are not to be trusted. Listen, I could tell you stories that would curl your hair about what some of these young gents get up to with the girls on Saturday nights!"
"Told to you by the widow Sherwyn, I presumei"
"Yes, and others as well. These young men are like ravenous wolves, eager to snap up whatever innocent morsel they can find! I think it must be something in the water."
"Spoken like a true grandfather." Matthew tipped his teacup to the man.
Grigsby sat back. He pushed his spectacles up onto his forehead and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "ah, me," he said. "Seeing Berry again...it takes me back, Matthew. She reminds me so much of Deborah. The red hair, the fresh face, the glorious youth. I wasn't so squat and ugly in my own younger days that I couldn't attract a pretty girl. It also helped that my father's printshop did very well and we lived in a nice house. But I wasn't the landcrab you see before you now, Matthew. Far from it. You know they say a man's ears, nose, and feet grow larger all his life. True in my case, very true. Unfortunately many other parts grew smaller. Oh, don't look at me like that!"
"I wasn't," said Matthew.
"Here's the rub." Grigsby returned his spectacles to his eyes, blinked heavily once, and then focused on his guest. "I'd like you to move into the dairyhouse for a while, so you can watch Berry. Keep her out of trouble and away from those young serpents I've mentioned. You know who they are, those youngsters of Golden Hill who tear through the taverns and end their evenings on Polly Blossom's pillows."
"Indeed," Matthew said, though this was news to him.
"I can't keep up with her. and she certainly doesn't want me tagging along. So I thought you might introduce her to some people more her age. Pave the way for her, so to speak."
Matthew was slow in answering, as he was still taking in the I'd like you to move into the dairyhouse. "If you haven't already noticed," he said, "I'm not at the center of the social whirl. The last time I looked, clerks were not being invited to join the Young New Yorkers, the Bombasters, or the Cavaliers." Naming three of the social clubs that held dances and parties throughout the year. "I am not one for loud gatherings and so-called merriment."
"Yes, I know that. You're steady and dependable, and that's why I want you to be an example for Berry."
"You mean her guardian."
"Well, you might learn something from each other," Grigsby suggested, with a twitch of his eyebrows. "She to be more responsible, and you to be more...merry-making."
"Move into the dairyhousei" Matthew decided to steer toward a firmer shore. "It's a dungeon in there!"
"It's a cool, cozy summerhouse. Think of it that way."
"Summerhouses usually have floors and at least one window. There's not even a latch on the other side of the door. I could be murdered in my sleep."
"a latch is no problem. I could easily have one put on the door." Grigsby then pounced on Matthew's silence. "You can live there free of charge, as long as you please. Eat your meals here, if you like. and I also could use your help with the printing, so I'd pay you a shilling or two per job."
"I already have a job. Hopefully it will turn into a profession." He saw that Grigsby was all ears. "Do you know that notice I had you placei For the Herrald agencyi I've joined them."
"That's well and good, but what do they doi"
For the next while, Matthew explained to the printmaster his meeting with Katherine Herrald and the agency's purpose. "She thinks I can be of service, and I'm eager to get started. I understand she and her associate, Mr. Greathouse, are close to renting office space."
"Problem solvingi" Grigsby shrugged. "I suppose it might go over. Especially if the agency hired out to City Hall to help with criminal cases. I'm not sure what Bynes or Lillehorne would think of it, but there's the possibility." He cast a sharp eye at Matthew. "ah ha! You're working on finding the Masker, aren't youi Has the city already given that overi"
"No. I am working on finding the Masker for Mrs. Deverick, though. as a private concern. I'm waiting for her to respond to some questions I sent her in a letter. The agency has some other things going on, as well." He dared not mention the Queen of Bedlam, for he wished that to remain his own business. Neither did he want to speak the name of Professor Fell. "So you see, I do have a future." He quickly corrected himself. "a job, I mean."
"I never doubted that you had a future." Grigsby finished his tea before he spoke again. "I still would like for you to move into the dairyhouse and keep watch...I mean keep company with Berry. Whatever you wish to do with the dairyhouse as far as making it more comfortable, I am at your service. and I do have some money saved up to work with."
"I appreciate the gesture, but I expect I can find a room somewhere. That's not to say I wouldn't be willing to help you with the print jobs, if time allows it."
"Very kind of you, very kind." Grigsby stared at a pineknot on the table. "But you know, Matthew, it would be difficult for me to refrain from printing a certain item concerning Magistrate Powers if you weren't...say...living on the premises."
Matthew's mouth fell open. "Tell me," he said quietly, "that you didn't just stoop to what I think you stooped to."
"What did I stoop toi"
"You know what! Marmy, I can't nursemaid your granddaughter! and I'll bet she'd brain you on the skull with that frying pan if she even knew you were suggesting it!" Little good the frying pan would do, he thought.
"Then she ought not to know, for the sake of my skull."
"She ought to find her own way here! She doesn't need my help! I'd say she can take care of herself well enough, bad luck or not."
"Possibly true. But I'm not asking you to nursemaid her or watch her every move. I'm simply asking you to show her around. Introduce her to people. Take her to dinner a time or two. Listen...before you decide anything, will you at least go talk to heri Try to get to know her a little betteri I hate the idea that you and she got off on the wrong foot." He watched Matthew scowl. "You being one of my favorite people, and she being another. Just go and talk to her for a little while. Would you do that for an old addlepated grandpai"
"addlepated is right," Matthew said. Then he drew in a long breath and let it out and figured he could at least speak to the confounded girl before he went on his way. Grigsby wouldn't print the item about Magistrate Powers; he was bluffing. Wasn't hei Matthew pushed his chair back and stood up. "Where did you say she wenti" he asked glumly.
"Up Queen Street. Looking for-"
"a place to catch the morning light, yes, I know." He started for the door and then turned back. "Marmy, if she bites my head off I'm not going to have anything more to do with her. Is that agreedi"
The printmaster regarded him over the lenses. "I'll go ahead and get the locksmith to work. Does that suit youi"
Matthew left the house before he said words no gentleman should utter. Since he was going walking, he decided he ought to take his bag of dirty clothes to the widow Sherwyn, so he went back into the dairyhouse-was the place even smaller than it had been last nighti-and retrieved the bag from beneath his cot. The notebook was problematic. He didn't wish to leave it lying about if the locksmith did come today, nor did he wish to be carrying it around town. He lifted one of the shrouds of canvas and found of all things a burlap-covered archery target, well-punctured. Some of the hay stuffing was boiling out. He widened a rip, slid the notebook down into the target, and covered it over once more with the canvas. Then he noted something leaning in the corner alongside the shovel and axe: a rapier with what appeared to be an ivory grip. There was no scabbard. The blade was splotched with rust. Matthew wondered how the sword and the target had gotten in here, but he had places to go and things to do. With the bag in tow, he left the dairyhouse and locked the door behind him.
It took him almost twenty minutes and a walk of well over a mile before he found Berry Grigsby. She had gone north along Queen Street past the hubbub and clatter of shipyards and wharfs until she'd found a pier to her liking. The place was shaded with overhanging trees, and the river washed around house-sized boulders that had been set here by the hand of God. She was sitting out about fifty feet from shore at the very end of her chosen pier, her straw hat on her head and in her lap a pad of sketching paper. She was wearing what looked to be a dress sewn together from patches of a dozen different eye-startling costumes, in colors of peach, lavender, pale blue, and lemon yellow. He didn't know if he'd be talking to a girl or a fruit bowl.
He bit his lip and called, "Hello!"
Berry looked around at him, waved, and then continued her drawing. She seemed to be concentrating on her view of a green and rolling pasture across the river in Breuckelen. Gulls were swooping over the water, following the white sails of a small packet boat making its way south.
"May I come outi" Matthew called.
"as you wish," she answered, without pause in her creative labor.
Matthew thought it was a lost cause, but he started out along the pier. It took him only three steps to realize Berry had chosen a wharf that must have been used by the first fur trader to have ever skinned a beaver in New amsterdam. The thing had been battered by the prows of many long-forgotten boats and spaces gaped between the weather-beaten planks. He stopped, thinking that one misstep or the breaking of a worm-eaten board beneath his feet could give him a bath and douse his clothes at the same time. Then he felt her eyes on him, and he knew he had to go the distance. Besides, the girl had made it, hadn't shei But why the devil had she chosen this old broken-down pier, of all placesi
He kept walking. Every creak and groan sent a shudder up his spine. at one place there was a hole the size of an anvil. He saw dark water below, and he almost stopped and turned around but he was more than halfway to where the girl sat, crosslegged Indian style, and he felt somehow that this was a mission of honor. Or a dare. Whichever, he edged around the hole with its jagged boards and eased forward, step after nervous step.
When he reached Berry, he must have breathed a sigh of relief because she angled her face up at him from under the straw hat and he caught the brief glimpse of a mischievous smile. "Nice morning for a walk, isn't it, Mr. Corbetti"
"Invigorating." He felt a bit damp under his arms. She returned to her drawing and Matthew saw she was penciling a very pleasant scene of the pasture and rolling hills. Beside her was a small box, open to display an assortment of different-hued crayons.
"I don't think I've caught it yet," Berry said.
"The spirit of the place," she replied. "all that energy."
"Forces of nature. Here, this one I've finished." She flipped up her sketch to display the sheet of paper below it, and Matthew thought his eyes might bleed. This previous work, the same scene as the present one, had been attacked with vivid emerald green, pale grass green, streaks of yellow, and splotches of fiery orange and red. It looked to him more like the interior of a blacksmith's forge than a sunny pastoral view. It was an act of war against Mother Nature, he thought as he looked out across the river to make sure he was seeing what she did. Obviously, he did not. He wondered what the good, witch-fearing folk of Fount Royal would have thought about this picture and the artist who'd created it. Thank God bad taste in art wasn't a sign of demonic possession, or Berry would have been hanged by her blue stockings. I wouldn't show that to anyone, he almost said, but he bit his tongue so hard the blood almost bloomed.
"This is the rough work, of course," she said. "I'll put it to canvas when I get it right."
He had to open his mouth. "You know, I don't see any red or orange over there. Only green. Oh! Was that the sun coming upi"
She let the new drawing fall back to cover the first, as if saying he wasn't intelligent enough to view it. Her sketching continued. "I'm not trying to capture what is, Mr. Corbett," she said, with some frost. "I'm trying to capture the essence of the place. You don't see any red or orange, which is my interpretation of the creative fire of the earth, because you're only looking at the pasture."
"Yes," he agreed. "That's what I see. a pasture. Is there something I'm missingi"
"Only the element at work beneath the pasture. The surge of life and fire from the heart of the earth. almost like...well, a cooking fire, I suppose. Or-"
"a blacksmith's forgei"
"ah!" Berry smiled up at him. "Now you've got it."
Matthew thought she should never mention phrases like the heart of the earth unless she wished to leave town under tar and feathers en route to Bedlam herself, but decorum prevented putting the thought to voice. "I suppose that's the modern art style from Londoni" he asked.
"Heavens, no! Everything's gray and gloomy on the canvases over there. You'd think the artists washed their brushes with tears. and the portraits! Why is it that everyone wishes to be viewed by history as tight-assed fopsi The women even more than the men!"
Matthew had to recover his wits after this scandalous outburst. "Well," he ventured, "possibly because they are tight-assed fopsi"
Berry looked up at him and this time allowed the sun to catch her face. Her blue eyes, clear as diamonds and potentially as cutting, appraised him with a genuine interest for a few seconds, and then she lowered her head and the sketching pencil scratched on.
Matthew cleared his throat. "May I ask why you chose this particular pieri I think it might collapse at any moment."
"It might," she agreed. "I didn't believe anyone else would be foolish enough to walk on it and disturb me while I'm working."
"Pardon the disturbance." He gave a slight bow. "I'll leave you now to the furnace."
He had just turned to retrace his path over the rickety structure when Berry said, very calmly and matter-of-factly, "I know what my grandfather is asking of you. Oh, he doesn't know that I know, but he disregards my...call it...intuition. He wants you to watch me, doesn't hei Keep me out of troublei"
"What, theni Exactlyi" Berry put down her pencil and turned around to give him her full attention.
"He's asked me to squire you around a bit. Help you get settled." He was beginning to be annoyed by her sly little smile. "New York may not be London, but there are pitfalls here. Your grandfather simply wishes you not to step into one."
"I see." She nodded and angled her head to the side. The sun gleamed on the red curls that fell over her shoulder. "You should know, Mr. Corbett, that you're being foxed. Before I left England, my father received a letter from Grandda telling him not to worry, for my grandfather was making a vow to find me a husband. You, sir, seem to be the candidate for groom."
Matthew smiled broadly at the nonsense of that last sentence, but when Berry's face remained steadfastly serious he felt his smile collapse. "That's ridiculous!"
"I'm glad we're of a single mind on the subject."
"I don't plan on being married to anyone, anytime soon."
"and before I marry I plan on making a living from my art."
an impoverished spinster for life, Matthew thought. "But your teaching is important to you also, isn't iti"
"It is. I think I have value as a teacher, and I do like children. But art is my true calling."
More like a yodel at midnight, he thought, but he kept a straight face. "Listen, I assure you I'll put your grandfather on the straight road about this. He's been hounding me about moving into the dairyhouse, and now I know why."
Berry stood up. Her height almost put her eye-to-eye with Matthew. "Don't be so rash, Mr. Corbett," she said silkily. "If Grandda puts all his eggs in your basket, he won't be trying to foist me off on a succession of boring imbeciles whose idea of a plum future is an easy chair and an easy maid. So if you were to play along, it would be to my favor."
"Reallyi and what favor would I get out of iti a dirt floor and a dungeoni"
"I'm not saying you would have to...as you put it...squire me around very long. a month, possibly. If that. Just long enough for me to impress my will upon my grandfather." She blinked and thought better of that last statement. "I mean, impress to my grandfather how important my freedom is. and the fact that I can find my own young man, in my own time."
"a monthi" That word left a sour taste in Matthew's mouth. "I'd be just as comfortable in the gaol. at least the cells have windows."
"Think about it, at least. Will youi I'd be in your debt."
Matthew didn't wish to give it a moment's further thought, but here was the point of the pickle: if he did consent to stay in the dairyhouse and at least pretend to serve as Berry's squire or guardian or whatever the blazing hell Grigsby intended, he could keep that item about Magistrate Powers from turning up in a future Earwig. One monthi He could stand it. Maybe.
"I'll think about it," he agreed.
"Thank you. Well, I believe I'm done for the morning." Berry knelt down and began to put away her crayons. "May I walk back with youi" It was obvious now that she was warming to him, as this business of the New York groom had been overcome.
"I'm not going all the way back to Grigsby's, but you're welcome to accompany me." So saying, he cast an uneasy eye along the fifty feet of rotten pier and fervently hoped Berry's bad luck would not sink them both.
They made it over, though not without Matthew thinking more than once that the next step would take him into the river. Berry gave a laugh when they reached solid ground, as if what was for Matthew an ordeal was for her an adventure. He had the impression that her problem might not be bad luck, but unfortunate choices. Still, she did have a nice laugh.
On their walk back along Queen Street, Berry asked if Matthew had ever been to London and he said regrettably not, but that he hoped to go before long. She then proceeded for the next while to entertain him with descriptions of some of the sights and streets of London that were clearly remembered by the eye of the artist, so richly were they fashioned. He found it interesting that Berry described several book stores she used to visit, and one book seller in particular who sold coffee and chocolate at a counter right in the shop. after her telling of it, Matthew felt he could smell the fresh paper of the books and the wafting aroma of the hot black coffee on a rainy London afternoon.
They were nearly back to Grigsby's house when, with Berry talking about her life in the Great City and Matthew listening as if walking the cobblestones at her side, there came the sound of horse hooves and jingling traces behind them. a high-pitched bell was rung, and they stepped aside as a double-horse carriage approached. as it slowed, Matthew saw in the seats behind the driver Joplin Pollard and Mrs. Deverick, he jaunty in a beige suit, waistcoat, and tricorn and she again grim in black gown and hat, her face pallid beneath white powder. The leather top of the carriage had been put up to throw shade over the passengers.
"ah! Corbett!" said the lawyer. "Mrs. Deverick and I were just on our way to the printmaster's house. We've been trying to find you."
"We made a stop at Stokely's house. He told us you'd left with Grigsby after that ghastly mishap yesterday. Not much left of the pottery, is therei and who might this bei"
"This is Miss Beryl...Berry Grigsby. Marmaduke's granddaughter. Berry, this is Mr. Joplin Pollard and...the widow Deverick."
"Charmed, my dear." Pollard touched the rolled rim of his tricorn, and Berry gave a nod in return. The lady in black swept her gaze across Berry's clothes and then looked at her with narrowed eyes, as one might regard a strangely colored lizard. "May we steal Mr. Corbett away from you for a little discussioni" Pollard didn't wait for Berry's response, but clicked open the carriage's door. "Climb up, Corbett."
"If you're going in that direction," Matthew said, "might you give Miss Grigsby a ride homei It's just-"
"a private discussion," Mrs. Deverick interrupted, staring straight ahead.
Matthew felt a bit of heat in his cheeks, but when he looked at Berry she just shrugged and gave him a glimpse of the gap between her front teeth when she smiled. "It's all right, Matthew. I think I'd rather walk. Will you join us for lunchi"
"I have some errands, but I'll see you later."
"Fine. I'm sure Grandda will appreciate that. Good day, sir," she said to Pollard, and to Mrs. Deverick, "Good day, widow." Then Berry walked on along the harbor street, carrying her valise and sketchpad, and Pollard said to Matthew, "Come, come! We have some business."
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