Hammersmith: Carey Explains Himself (chapter ten)
Carey Explains Himself
Less sticky about being accommodating than she’d feared, Hogben did her the favor of saying, “I might head down with Shaw, when he goes after that salve, and see about a room at Derfinger’s.”
Of course, by that, she had probably lost him. Why had she ever said it to herself, tempting fate…that Carey would be fine if she could just get a peaceful spell to arrange things?
It happened at a job site. Meeting his aunt and Miss Leybourne coming up the road, propping himself between Ruby and Shaw on a tender toe, Carey gasped out a bit of his story. Hired to help shingle a roof, down to Springfield…
Jane, Carey said, had got sick. She was doing pintucking and plackets, concentrated work. You could get five dollars a week. But not to worry, ma’am, she was better now. And the baby, he wanted Aimee, and his audience, to know, wasn’t even in the city with them…she was at Jane’s sister’s.
“Why wouldn’t we get that rocker off the front porch? Like a sedan chair…I bet with four of us, we can carry it.”
This was Minnie’s thought. They were spared trying by a buggy from Mossbunker’s estate crossing the bridge, drawing up short where the crowd of them blocked passage. Carey, hoisted onto Mossbunker’s seat, and with only the driver to overhear, told his aunt more.
“I don’t know…I set down my hammer. Then it slid off the edge. I had to go back down the ladder. The first time I did it, I didn’t think anyone saw. The second time, I was bent over the grass…and a bunch of nails started raining off the roof. I figured that was me, too. Even though I remembered putting everything in my apron pockets…but maybe they fell out. I figured.”
“Joshin,” the driver commented.
“So the boss came by, and he said, you pick up every one of those, and don’t you let me find one you didn’t pick up.”
The driver laughed. “Sounds like a boss.”
“And also I took my lunch in a sack, cause I didn’t know they had a lunch wagon would come round, so I got ragged a bunch about that.”
Aimee could see Carey, crosslegged on the lawn, pulling from his sack something sad and inadequate—breakfast’s cold flapjacks, it might be—that poor sickly Jane would have got herself out of bed to pack, to beg, of their landlady’s kitchen.
“And did you miss your train, going back?”
“No, I just left. In the middle like that. I wasn’t going to, exactly. I stood up, and I walked down to the sidewalk, and I started off. Everything got quiet. The weather was kind of hot. It was a long time later…or maybe not a long time, I wasn’t noticing for sure. I was thinking about… About things. So anyways, I got myself out of town, I guess, and I was on the highway. There wasn’t anyone out that way. It was just farms. When it got about sunset, a man came along…he was an animal doctor, called out for a cow, he told me. Took me a couple miles up the road, and asked me where I was headed to…and I thought I’d have to say a name, or I’d look… I don’t know.”
“Hammersmith, you told him,” the driver said. “Got fixed on the idea. What’d you do then, sleep in the ditch and go on walking next day?”
Carey nodded, and opened his mouth. The driver said, “Biyah Kendrick. That was me and Chilly, ma’am, saw that man drowned.”
“Chilly sells papers for Mr. Mack.”
The driver nodded, brought his horse to a halt, and looked at them over his shoulder. “Mossbunker gone up to Philadelphia. He asked me to keep an eye on Abel’s place. Now, this one’s your nephew, ma’am, did I hear that right?”
Biyah Kendrick was doing her a favor, letting her know this. Abel and Mossbunker were partners these days, so how could she tell whose eye was being kept on her? Her house belonged to Abel. Aimee was well aware her guests were alarming Ralph’s son.
Two things of equal importance, one at least of urgency. And all three needed doing at once. Aimee felt poised at the moment of inertia, dropping to earth, Biyah’s hand releasing hers…
Not, as she’d envisioned herself capable of, rising to a crisis, but abstracted, remembering Jane. She tried to gauge this niece. Carey’s disappearance frightening to the girl, no doubt…but hadn’t Jane, whenever they’d met, seemed a practical, virtually an unsentimental, creature? Aimee put one foot in front of another foot, and began wording a telegram…
By the by, she said to herself, if Mossbunker is gone…he doesn’t keep a family at the castle, does he? I ought to ask Biyah to stay for lunch.
(Of course, until she fixed it, there was no lunch.)
Biyah had been awfully helpful. He was still helping, and the cluster of men and women surrounding Carey, exclaiming, inquiring, encouraging, had got ahead of Aimee; had surged past Mr. Hogben. Mrs. Frieslander followed them indoors.
Carey (Aimee had resolved on this, at least) must write down what he wanted his wife to know. She would make him do it. But first…first aid, obviously…
She came upon Hogben, his feet on two different steps of the front porch, his lips bemused, her nephew’s boots, dangling by the laces, in his hand.
o State the Matter Frankly
Every Sort of Help
(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)