All Bedlam Courses Past (part thirty-seven)

Posted by ractrose on 2 May 2023 in Fiction, Novels

Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfire






All Bedlam Courses Past


Chapter Two
Avarice Creeping On
(part thirty-seven)





Quackenbush (who had just said frah-cah) laughed, discovering irony. “I suppose, by that, you may have heard of him…papers all rechristened New Democrat. Nashville N. D., Jeff City N. D., St. Louis N. D., so forth.”

“Got an active widow, I think.”

LeBeau leaned in. “You could have claimed the same twenty-five years past. First husband a steamboat man. Had them a fine, stone-built house on First Avenue, called Alexandrina after his flagship. All torn down. And why do it, you’d like to know? To get out the masonry, lotus capitals and palm leaf cartouches and whatnot. Buckleys had no use for a house in town, they wanted an estate. Put all the fancy work on their new castle.”

“Is that here nor there, LeBeau?”

“Wasn’t it the widow’s father Buckley welshed on?”

“No, sir! Think again.”

Saying so, Quackenbush started a judicious cigar. He puffed, not offering. LeBeau sat, head bobbing, murmuring at last, “No, damn…didn’t welsh. Other thing got him in trouble. Printed!”

“Buckley took a chivalrous notion, you see. Mrs. Cloughman, as she was…obviously not a blushing maiden…had shuttered the manse and gone home to Papa. Papa being one Absolom Demrose, a gambler. Got hold of some fraudulent notes, wanted to start a bank on them. Demrose a corruption, you know, of Damrasche…sugar planters down Barbados. 1783, first recorded.”

“Not,” Thacker said, “a born citizen, then.”

“Not. War of 1812, Damrasche bought a two-master off a privateer and set up to privateering himself. And so a fellow named Parker…”

“Family from Scotland,” LeBeau put in. “Not any Parker line you ever heard of. No, I don’t think the American Parkers…”

“Thatcher, was your mother a Parker?”

“Smith, sir.”

“Thatcher doesn’t care about Parker lines, LeBeau.”

“Parker,” LeBeau finished, “was come to start a railroad bank, and he didn’t like Demrose pulling off his investors. Demrose, likewise, didn’t like Parker pulling off his.”

“Now you appreciate,” said Quackenbush, “Buckley could have asked Mrs. Cloughman direct. She was thirty or so, had her own money. Thinking to please milady best, he begged old Demrose for the daughter’s hand. Nice touch of ceremony, all by itself, but Demrose saw his opening. Would you do me a little favor, run a piece on a matter of business? Told Buckley he’d just sit down and write it out himself, while the young folks waited lunch. Only an editor’s eye need run over it.”

“But.” Thacker waggled his pencil. “You’re being facetious now, or you mean to say, Demrose was. Buckley would have been how old…?”






Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfireAll Bedlam Courses Past (part thirty-eight)















(2023, Stephanie Foster)