Hammersmith: Epilogue (conclusion)
Mossbunker’s patronage had been lifted from the town of Hammersmith.
Abel Bard looked at the prospect of Meadow Lane’s new houses, of all the Mossland development, hemming round the farmhouse and his father’s pastures, where he’d been putting in alfalfa…
He talked to the construction foreman, who said they would keep going as long as they had money.
“What happens when you finish one?”
“Put it up for sale.”
“But you can’t draw anything out, finish the others?”
“Not unless Mossbunker signs the note.”
For a man who had shared humiliation and imprisonment with a millionaire who called himself a patriot, Abel felt recompensed…thinly.
Aimee had had some scheme, so far as he’d half-understood it, to hitch up with one of the refugees from the flood, one he and Rolinda had been supposed to meet at a dinner…
That the Bards took for granted they themselves would host.
“What sort of man could he be?” Abel’s wife had asked. “When I just think about what it would take for me to marry a stranger…if I was widowed… Did you get a look at him, Abel?”
He hadn’t, other than a generalized property-owner’s gander at the lot, the show people, that Shaw…whatever he’d been. And the stockjobber…
He could only blame his stepmother’s soft-heartedness. But then unaccountably (after Abel’s testimony, given to the sheriff, of his ill-treatment during Hammersmith’s night of infamy; and after he’d taken a few days’ rest), Vic Mack had showed up at his door, telling him, “Not to worry, Abel. She’s given me the go-ahead.”
He gathered, by this, that the clause in his father’s will would be activated. Aimee would remarry; he and Ralph be free to pull down the old farmhouse, divide the land into lots, lots Mossbunker would have built up…
It was as well he hadn’t broached the project with Ralph.
The Mossbunkers themselves, though with no particular prejudice, had transferred household to Europe. Bugenhagen castle, properly the possession of Mrs. Mossbunker and her sibling—the more romantic-sounding appellation of von Zetland notwithstanding—needed repair; its ancestral oils needed cleaning, their canvases patching, their provenances determining by experts, in case any were worth selling…
The count’s reputation sat high with Cranston.
He found Ludi, almost a stranger in the early years of his marriage, the very man for wise and bold counsel. To the extent Mossbunker could be impressed by things, his mental state rested between stirred and dashed, at Ludi’s single-handed rescue (“The very least I can do for you, Cranston”) of himself…
And, of course, a handful of others.
Mrs. Mossbunker, though conscious of starting hares in this peaceful pasture, knew her brother. Ludi took her husband’s blank checks and speculated, as he’d done with the unfortunate Maxims—on the principle that a sum of money put to a single use, could accomplish a single thing; whereas, a sum of money multiplied could accomplish many things…
To her knowledge, this maxim in its own right lived in theory and not fact. But Cranston had a great deal of money.
As to prejudice, it concerned him not that the government, the American one, might have somewhat against him. His senator was expected to sort the matter. But Mossbunker remained interested in Hammersmith; he had faith in his cableworks…he would come in time to be reminded of his plans for Mossland…
He had left Biyah Kendrick, in the meantime, to keep his own castle, monthly opening its doors to the Patriots. And continued dictating his instructions to his secretary, who continued cabling these in cipher to the Valley Clew office. Their captain reminded the men (Elton Bott still, gloomy in resignation, charged with the codebook) that the undeclared war raged without armistice, and that he did not dismiss them from their duties.
Vic’s paper, in addition to the new gloss of astonishing Philadelphia with its Mossbunker sources, had an energetic new managing editor, and a new linotype operator, in the person of Wesley Crumpacker. Vic had a new niece and grandniece, keeping and livening his house, all of which help left him free to prop heels on the counter and peruse the city rags, or stroll across to Derfinger’s, talk up advertising to the business people of Main Street. The gossip they brought to his table was mostly gripes…
Hammersmith, in short, back to normal. This was heartening to Vic.
And anything good, he could pass on to young Carey.
Carey on their valley travels answered to Chilly, a man who’d never had a harsh word for anyone. Aimee’s nephew on jobs past having rarely heard a kind one, under this tutelage he seemed shaping up, as his step-uncle had doubted he would, to the role of roving reporter.
In practical terms, covering the valley meant covering an expanded range of gripes…but Aimee’s sound framing of these so far had satisfied Hammersmith that the Clew’s editorial perspective was degraded to a faintly disguised radicalism, one that leaned either left or right.
Meaning, they now printed twice the letters to the editor—as many as three or four a day. Even Warple had sent one:
I would like to share with readers of the Clew a very edifying discovery of my own, as to a cheaper means, available to any person living near the river, of obtaining a medicinal tonic every bit as effective as coal tar…
Nico had been found guilty of an attempt to subvert public order, and of the dissemination of materials intended to undermine the authority of the United States government. He had not been witnessed in the commission of an act of violence (and no factory hand was found to testify to his having incited one); further, the hostages themselves admitted Nico had not been present…neither had Oldfield…at the time they were taken captive.
Oldfield, with every promise of thriving on it, was jailed.
Nico was deported.
June, reconciled to her father, and willing to hear Aimee’s advice, had married him. She had popped the question herself. And though they had then to sail together for Sicily, a reunion of Nico with his family—Aimee, for his passing the test, had faith in her stepson-in-law.
Letters came to them now and then, while Aimee wore Vic down to the prospect of touring Europe.
These were written by June in English.
Now, Enrico, for you, if you can find someone to translate this, let me say in plain terms that I will raise my son to defy serving in the army at the behest of a tyrant, to fight his needless wars. And too bad for you if you can’t find Nico when you come looking for him. That’s your own job. Party wives don’t live in their husbands’ pockets.
Now, Aimee and Dad, I include a letter Vittorio has done his best to write to his nonna and nonno. It is only his alphabet and some words he knows how to spell out. But he means to say with all his heart, as do his mother and father (yes, Nico has fond memories of you, Aimee. And Dad, well, he never really got to know you. But he will), I love you and can’t wait to see you.
Please remember to bring two of everything, for the customs…
(2019, Stephanie Foster)