The House of Gremot: part two
He heard his cousin’s voice. “Everard is an intemperate man. I believe he is drunk most days anymore.” This was subtlety; Gremot meant to ask Ebrach whether, on the night before, Everard had come home drunk.
“The unfortunate circumstance,” Ebrach said, “places a burden on young Richard.”
To this, Gremot lifted his shoulders. “I don’t care for the son. The time seems right to me to be done with all the foolishness. I’ll be hiring a man to oversee the running of my new property. I can’t be there every day myself.” He barked out a single laugh. “I can’t take things on like I have been. Now. I see no reason why a good tobacco man, qualified to manage my Kentucky place, isn’t the man to recommend a foreman for my place here. Do you agree?”
“If he has been given charge of your establishment, and knows his own temperament, certainly he will prefer to see in others those habits familiar to himself.”
Gremot accepted this. “I don’t care either, for what you tell me about young Everard and my relative there…” He glanced back. Honoré, falling in arrears, tried to engage himself in their talk, and could not catch Gremot’s eye. “I don’t like it. But that’s not to say I don’t get your meaning, sir. A man might chafe at a job he isn’t suited to.”
The Everard sons were able, in Gremot’s opinion, to find employment. Didn’t need holding by the hand. Gremot’s neck strained here against this fresh prompting to look behind. The new road—before long, the company’d be hiring―would cut across the state’s southwest corner.
(Indiana being shaped somewhat like a Christmas stocking, it was the toe Gremot and his fellow investors meant to sever.)
It would make the flatboat traffic obsolete. No…day and a half or more down to Paducah, Cairo—was there any reason for it?
“And that’s not the half of it. From here, Cookesville, you could go straight on to the St. Louis line. And you know…”
Gremot lowered his voice; Honoré, having lost so much ground, strained to hear.
“Shift cargo on a damned packet, how many hands…couple dozen maybe…just there to ride along. Those wages factor right back into your cost. And that, Ebrach, is plain wasteful.”
Robert helped Honoré to the crest of the knoll; ringing its foot was a collar of earth covered in rushes…or, as the Americans called them, cattails. Ebrach and Gremot had got ahead now by the length of a city block. They were crossing (Gremot crossed already…Ebrach placing cautious shoes) a plank bridge over a ditch, where grew many more cattails. Gremot had opened the gate opposite; he had one hand lifting the latch, another firm hand keeping the way narrow.
But as Honoré watched Ebrach pass through, Gremot close and latch the gate behind him, Robert gently tugged at his arm. “Now, sir, we want to go this way, down to the pond.”
The summer house was screened, like the porch, the four triangles of its roof curling up at every edge, lopped by a central cupola. This hint of pagoda perhaps an outlier of the European fancy for orientalism. In the main house too, Honoré had noted effects that must have, in and of themselves, pleased either Gremot or his wife. It seemed characteristic of their taste that they liked a thing, or disliked it. They did not bring any two objects together to see them harmonize.
The House of Gremot
(2017, Stephanie Foster)