Rebel is for Alex and Katfay de Jonge, who introduced me to the Old Dominion
The young man was trapped at the top end of Shockoe Slip where a crowd had gathered in Gary Street. The young man had smelt the trouble in the air and had tried to avoid it by ducking into an alleyway behind Kerr's Tobacco Warehouse, but a chained guard dog had lunged at him and so driven him back to the steep cobbled slip where the crowd had engulfed him.
"You going somewhere, mister?" a man accosted him.
The young man nodded, but said nothing. He was young, tall and lean, with long black hair and a clean-shaven face of flat planes and harsh angles, though at present his handsome looks were soured by sleeplessness. His skin was sallow, accentuating his eyes, which were the same gray as the fog-wrapped sea around Nantucket, where his ancestors had lived. In one hand he was carrying a stack of books tied with hemp rope, while in his other was a carpetbag with a broken handle. His clothes were of good quality, but frayed and dirty like those of a man well down on his luck. He betrayed no apprehension of the crowd, but instead seemed resigned to their hostility as just another cross he had to bear.
"You heard the news, mister?" The crowd's spokesman was a bald man in a filthy apron that stank of a tannery.
Again the young man nodded. He had no need to ask what news, for there was only one event that could have sparked this excitement in Richmond's streets. Fort Sumter had fallen, and the news, hopes, and fears of civil war were whipping across the American states.
"So where are you from?' the bald man demanded, seizing
the young man's sleeve as though to force an answer.
"Take your hands off me!" The tall young man had a temper.
"I asked you civil," the bald man said, but nevertheless let go of the younger man's sleeve.
The young man tried to turn away, but the crowd pressed around him too thickly and he was forced back across the street toward die Columbian Hotel where an older man dressed in respectable though disheveled clothes had been tied to the cast-iron palings that protected the hotel's lower windows. The young man was still not the crowd's prisoner, but neither was he free unless he could somehow satisfy their curiosity.
"You got papers?" another man shouted in his ear.
"Lost your voice, son?" The breath of his questioners was fetid with whiskey and tobacco. The young man made another effort to push against his persecutors, but there were too many of them and he was unable to prevent them from trapping him against a hitching post on the hotel's sidewalk. It was mid-morning on a warm spring day. The sky was cloudless, though the dark smoke from the Tredegar Iron Works and the Galle-goe Mills and the Asa Snyder Stove Factory and the tobacco factories and Talbott's Foundry and the City Gas Works all combined to make a rank veil that haloed the sun. A Negro teamster, driving an empty wagon up from the wharves of Samson and Pae's Foundry, watched expressionless from atop his wagon's box. The crowd had stopped the carter from turning his horses out of Shockoe Slip, but the man was too wise to make any protest.
"Where are you from, boy?" The bald tanner thrust his face close to the young man's. "What's your name?"
"None of your business." The tone was defiant.
"So we'll find out!" The bald man seized the bundle of books and tried to pull them away. For a moment there was a fruitless tug of war, then the frayed rope holding the books parted and the volumes spilt across the cobbles. The bald man laughed at the accident and the young man hit him. It was a good hard blow and it caught the bald man off his balance so that he rocked backward and almost fell.
Someone cheered the young man, admiring his spirit. There were about two hundred people in the crowd with some fifty more onlookers who half hung back from the proceedings and half encouraged them. The crowd itself was mischievous rather than ugly, like children given an unexpected vacation from school. Most of them were in working clothes, betraying that they had used the news of Fort Sumter's fall as an excuse to leave their benches and lathes and presses. They wanted some excitement, and errant northerners caught in the city's streets would be this day's best providers of that excitement.
The bald man rubbed his face. He had lost dignity in front of his friends and wanted revenge. "I asked you a question, boy."
"And I said it was not your business." The young man was trying to pick up his books, though two or three had already been snatched away. The prisoner already tied to the hotel's window bars watched in silence.
"So where are you from, boy?" a tall man asked, but in a conciliatory voice, as though he was offering the young man a chance to make a dignified escape.
"Faulconer Court House." The young man heard and accepted the note of conciliation. He guessed that other strangers had been accosted by this mob, then questioned and released, and that if he kept his head then he too might be spared whatever fate awaited the middle-aged man already secured to the railings.
"Faulconer Court House?" the tall man asked.
"Baskerville." He had just read the name on a fascia board of a shop across the street; "Bacon and Baskerville," the board read, and the young man snatched the name in relief.
"Nathaniel Baskerville." He embellished the lie with his real Christian name.
"You don't sound like a Virginian, Baskerville," the tall man said.
"Only by adoption." His vocabulary, like the books he had been carrying, betrayed that the young man was educated.
"So what do you do in Faulconer County, boy?" another man asked.
"I work for Washington Faulconer." Again the young man spoke defiantly, hoping the name would serve as a talisman for his protection.
"Best let him go, Don!" a man called.
"Let him be!" a woman intervened. She did not care that the boy was claiming the protection of one of Virginia's wealthiest landowners; rather she was touched by the misery in his eyes as well as by the unmistakable fact that the crowd's captive was very good-looking. Women had always been quick to notice Nathaniel, though he himself was too inexperienced to realize their interest.
"You're a Yankee, boy, aren't you?" the taller man challenged.
"Not any longer."
"So how long have you been in Faulconer County?" That was the tanner again.
"Long enough." The lie was already losing its cohesion. Nathaniel had never visited Faulconer County, though he had met the county's richest inhabitant, Washington Faulconer, whose son was his closest friend.
"So what town lies halfway between here and Faulconer Court House?" the tanner, still wanting revenge, demanded of him.
"Answer him!" the tall man snapped. Nathaniel was silent, betraying his ignorance. "He's a spy!" a woman whooped.
"Bastard!" The tanner moved in fast, trying to kick
Nathaniel, but the young man saw the kick coming and stepped to one side. He slapped a fist at the bald man, clipping an ear, then drove his other hand at the man's ribs. It was like hitting a hog carcass for all the good it did. Then a dozen hands were mauling and hitting Nathaniel; a fist smacked into his eye and another bloodied his nose to hurl him back hard against the hotel's wall. His carpetbag was stolen, his books were finally gone, and now a man tore open his coat and ripped his pocket book free. Nathaniel tried to stop that theft, but he was overwhelmed and helpless. His nose was bleeding and his eye swelling. The Negro teamster watched expressionless and did not even betray any reaction when a dozen men commandeered his wagon and insisted he jump down from the box. The men clambered aboard the vehicle and shouted they were going to Franklin Street where a gang was mending the road. The crowd parted to let the wagon turn while the carter, unregarded, edged his way to the crowd's fringe before running free.
Nathaniel had been thrust against the window bars. His hands were jerked down hard across the bar's spiked tops and tied with rope to the iron cage. He watched as one of his books was kicked into the gutter, its spine broken and its pages fluttering free. The crowd tore apart his carpetbag, but found little of value except a razor and two more books.
"Where are you from?" The middle-aged man who was Nathaniel's fellow prisoner must have been a very dignified figure before the jeering crowd had dragged him to the railings. He was a portly man, balding, and wearing an expensive broadcloth coat.
"I come from Boston." Nathaniel tried to ignore a drunken woman who pranced mockingly in front of him, brandishing her bottle. "And you, sir?"
"Philadelphia. I only planned to be here for a few hours. I left my traps at the railroad depot and thought I'd look around the city. I have an interest in church architecture, you see, and wanted to see St. Paul's Episcopal." The man shook his head sorrowfully, then flinched as he looked at Nathaniel again. "Is your nose broken?"
"I don't think so." The blood from his nostrils was salty on Nathaniel's lips.
"You'll have a rare black eye, son. But I enjoyed seeing you fight. Might I ask your profession?"
"I'm a student, sir. At Yale College. Or I was."
"My name is Doctor Morley Burroughs. I'm a dentist."
"Starbuck, Nathaniel Starbuck." Nathaniel Starbuck saw no need to hide his name from his fellow captive.
"Starbuck!" The dentist repeated the name in a tone that implied recognition. "Are you related?"
"Then I pray they don't discover it," the dentist said grimly.
"What are they going to do to us?" Starbuck could not believe he was in real danger. He was in the plumb center of an American town in broad daylight! There were constables nearby, magistrates, churches, schools! This was America, not Mexico or Cathay.
The dentist pulled at his bonds, relaxed, pulled again. "From what they're saying about road menders, son, my guess is tar and feathers, but if they find out you're a Starbuck?" The dentist sounded half-hopeful, as though the crowd's animosity might be entirely diverted onto Starbuck, thus leaving him unscathed.
The drunken woman's bottle smashed on the roadway. Two other women were dividing Starbuck's grimy shirts between them while a small bespectacled man was leafing through the papers in Starbuck's pocket book. There had been little money there, just four dollars, but Starbuck did not fear the loss of his money. Instead he feared the discovery of his name, which was written on a do/en letters in the pocket book. The small man had found one of the letters, which he now opened, read, turned over, then read again. There was nothing private in the letter, it merely confirmed the time of a train on the Penn Central Road, but Starbuck's name was written in block letters on the letter's cover and the small man had spotted it. He looked up at Starbuck, then back to the letter, then up at Starbuck yet again. "Is your name Starbuck?" he asked loudly. Starbuck said nothing.
The crowd smelled excitement and turned back to the prisoners. A bearded man, red-faced, burly and even taller than Starbuck, took up the interrogation. "Is your name Starbuck?"
Starbuck looked around, but there was no help in sight. The constables were leaving this mob well alone, and though some respectable-looking people were watching from the high windows of the houses on the far side of Cary Street, none was moving to stop the persecution. A few women looked sympathetically at Starbuck, but they were powerless to help. There was a minister in a frock coat and Geneva bands hovering at the crowd's edge, but the street was too fired with whiskey and political passion for a man of God to achieve any good, and so the minister was contenting himself with making small ineffective cries of protest that were easily drowned by the raucous celebrants.
"You're being asked a question, boy!" The red-faced man had taken hold of Starbuck's tie and was twisting it so that the double loop around Starbuck's throat tightened horribly. "Is your name Starbuck?" He shouted the question, spraying Starbuck's face with spittle laced with drink and tobacco.
"Yes." There was no point in denying it. The letter was addressed to him, and a score of other pieces of paper in his luggage bore the name, just as his shirts had the fatal name sewn into their neckbands.
"And are you any relation?" The man's face was broken veined. He had milky eyes and no front teeth. A dribble of tobacco juice ran down his chin and into his brown beard. He tightened the grip on Starbuck's neck. "Any relation, cuffee?"
Again it could not be denied. There was a letter from
Starbuck's father in the pocket book and the letter must be found soon, and so Starbuck did not wait for the revelation, but just nodded assent. ‘I’m his son."
The man let go of Starbuck's tie and yelped like a stage red Indian. "It's Starbuck's son!" He screamed his victory to the mob. "We got ourselves Starbuck's son!"
"Oh, Christ in his holy heaven," the dentist muttered, "but you are in trouble."
And Starbuck was in trouble, for there were few names more calculated to incense a southern mob. Abraham Lincoln's name would have done it well enough, and John Brown's and Harriet Beecher Stowe's would have sufficed to inflame a crowd, but lacking those luminaries the name of the Reverend Elial Joseph Starbuck was next best calculated to ignite a blaze of southern rage.
For the Reverend Elial Starbuck was a famous enemy of southern aspirations. He had devoted his life to the extirpation of slavery, and his sermons, like his editorials, ruthlessly savaged the South's slavocracy: mocking its pretensions, flaying its morals, and scorning its arguments. The Reverend Elial's eloquence in the cause of Negro liberty had made his name famous, not just in America, but wherever Christian men read their journals and prayed to their God, and now, on a day when the news of Fort Sumter's capture had so inspired the South, a mob in Richmond, Virginia, had taken hold of one of the Reverend Elial Starbuck's sons.
In truth Nathaniel Starbuck detested his father. He wanted nothing more to do with his father ever again, but the crowd could not know that, nor would they have believed Starbuck if he had told them. This crowd's mood had turned dark as they demanded revenge on the Reverend Elial Starbuck. They were screaming for that revenge, baying for it. The crowd was also growing as people in the city heard the news about Fort Sumter's fall and came to join the commotion that celebrated southern liberty and triumph.
"String him up!" a man called. "He's a spy!"
"Nigger lover!" A hunk of horse dung sailed toward the prisoners, missing Starbuck, but hitting the dentist on the shoulder.
"Why couldn't you have stayed in Boston?" the dentist complained.
The crowd surged toward the prisoners, then checked, uncertain exactly what they wanted of their captives. A handful of ringleaders had emerged from the crowd's anonymity, and those ringleaders now shouted for the crowd to be patient. The commandeered wagon had gone to fetch the road mender's tar, the crowd was assured, and in the meantime a sack of feathers had been fetched from a mattress factory in nearby Virginia Street. "We're going to teach you gennelmen a lesson!" the big bearded man crowed to the two prisoners. "You Yankees think you're better than us southrons, isn't that what you think?" He took a handful of the feathers and scattered them in the dentist's face. "All high and mighty, are you?"
"I am a mere dentist, sir, who has been practicing my trade in Petersburg." Burroughs tried to plead his case with dignity.
"He's a dentist!" the big man shouted delightedly.
"Pull his teeth out!"
Another cheer announced the return of the borrowed wagon, which now bore on its bed a great black steaming vat of tar. The wagon clattered to a halt close to the two prisoners, and the stench of its tar even overwhelmed the smell of tobacco, which permeated the whole city.
"Starbuck's whelp first!" someone shouted, but it seemed the ceremonies were to be conducted in the order of capture, or else the ringleaders wanted to save the best till last, for Morley Burroughs, the Philadelphia dentist, was the first to be cut free of the bars and dragged toward the wagon. He struggled, but he was no match for the sinewy men who pulled him onto the wagon bed that would now serve as a makeshift stage.
"Your turn next, Yankee." The small bespectacled man who had first discovered Starbuck's identity had come to stand beside the Bostoner. "So what are you doing here?"
The man's tone had almost been friendly, so Starbuck, thinking he might have found an ally, answered him with the truth. "I escorted a lady here."
"A lady now! What kind of lady?" the small man asked. A whore, Starbuck thought bitterly, a cheat, a liar and a bitch, but God, how he had fallen in love with her, and how he had worshiped her, and how he had let her twist him about her little finger and thus ruin his life so that now he was bereft, impoverished and homeless in Richmond. "I asked you a question," the man insisted.
"A lady from Louisiana," Starbuck answered mildly, "who wanted to be escorted from the North."
"You'd better pray she comes and saves you quick!" the bespectacled man laughed, "before Sam Pearce gets his hands on you."
Sam Pearce was evidently the red-faced bearded man who had become the master of ceremonies and who now supervised the stripping away of the dentist's coat, vest, trousers, shoes, shirt and undershirt, leaving Morley Burroughs humiliated in the sunlight and wearing only his socks and a pair of long drawers, which had been left to him in deference to the modesty of the watching ladies. Sam Pearce now dipped a long-handled ladle into the vat and brought it up dripping with hot treacly tar. The crowd cheered. "Give it him, Sam!"
"Give it him good!"
"Teach the Yankee a lesson, Sam!"
Pearce plunged the ladle back in the vat and gave the tar a slow stir before lifting the ladle out with its deep bowl heaped high with the smoking, black, treacly substance. The dentist tried to pull away, but two men dragged him toward the vat and bent him over its steaming mouth so that his plump, white, naked back was exposed to the grinning Pearce, who moved the glistening, hot mass of tar over his victim.
The expectant crowd fell silent. The tar hesitated, then flowed off the ladle to strike the back of the dentist's balding head. The dentist screamed as the hot thick tar scalded him. He jerked away, but was pulled back, and the crowd, its tension released by his scream, cheered.
Starbuck watched, smelling the thick rank stench of the viscous tar that oozed past the dentist's ears onto his fat white shoulders. It steamed in the warm spring air. The dentist was crying, whether at the ignominy or for the pain it was impossible to tell, but the crowd didn't care; all they knew was that a northerner was suffering, and that gave them pleasure.
Pearce scooped another heavy lump of tar from the vat. The crowd screamed for it to be poured on, the dentist's knees buckled and Starbuck shivered.
"You next, boy." The tanner had moved to stand beside Starbuck. "You next." He suddenly swung his fist, burying it in Starbuck's belly to drive the air explosively out of his lungs and making the young man jerk forward against his bonds. The tanner laughed. "You'll suffer, cuffee, you'll suffer."
The dentist screamed again. A second man had leaped onto the wagon to help Pearce apply the tar. The new man used a short-handled spade to heave a mass of thick black tar out of the vat. "Save some for Starbuck!" the tanner shouted.
"There's plenty more here, boys!" The new tormentor slathered his spadeful of tar onto the dentist's back. The dentist twitched and howled, then was dragged up from his knees as yet more tar was poured down his chest so that it dripped off his belly onto his clean white drawers. Trickles of the viscous substance were dribbling down the sides of his head, down his face and down his back and thighs. His mouth was open and distorted, as though he was crying, but no sound came from him now. The crowd was ribald at the sight of him. One woman was doubled over, helpless with mirth.
"Where are the feathers?" another woman called.
"Make him a chicken, Sam!"
More tar was poured on rill the whole of the dentist's upper
body was smothered in the gleaming black substance. His cap-tors had released him, but he was too stricken to try and escape
now. Besides, his stockinged feet were stuck in puddles of tar,
and all he could do for himself was to try and paw the filthy
mess away from his eyes and mouth while his tormentors fin-ished their work. A woman filled her apron with feathers and
climbed up to the wagon's bed where, to huge cheers, the
feathers were sprinkled over the humiliated dentist. He stood
there, black draped, feathered, steaming, mouth agape, pathetic,
and around him the mob howled and jeered and hooted. Some
Negroes on the far sidewalk were convulsed in laughter, while
even the minister who had been so pathetically protesting the
scene was finding it hard not to smile at the ridiculous specta-cle. Sam Pearce, the chief ringleader, released one last handful
of feathers to stick in the congealing, cooling tar then stepped
back and flourished a proud hand toward the dentist. The
crowd cheered again.
"Make him cluck, Sam! Make him cluck like a hen!"
The dentist was prodded with the short-handled spade until he produced a pathetic imitation of a chicken's cluck.
Doctor Burroughs was prodded again, and this time he managed to make the miserable noise loud enough for the crowd's satisfaction. Laughter echoed from the houses and sounded clear down to the river where the barges jostled at the quays.
"Bring on the spy, Sam!"
"Give it him good!"
"Show us Starbuck's bastard!"
Men seized Starbuck, released his bonds and hurried him toward the wagon. The tanner helped them, still striking and kicking at the helpless Starbuck, spitting his hatred and taunting him, anticipating the humiliation of Elial Starbuck's whelp. Pearce had crammed the dentist's top hat onto its owner's grotesque, tar-thick, feathered head. The dentist was shaking, sobbing silently.
Starbuck was pushed hard against the wagon's wheel. Hands reached down from above, grabbed his collar and heaved up. Men pushed at him, his knee cracked hard against the wagon side, then he was sprawling on the wagon bed, where his hand was smeared by a warm patch of spilt tar. Sam Pearce hauled Starbuck upright and displayed his bloody face to the crowd. "Here he is! Starbuck's bastard!"
"Fillet him, Sam!"
"Push him in, Sam!"
Pearce rammed Starbuck's head over the vat, holding his face just inches from the stinking liquid. The vat had been stolen from its coals, but it was big enough and full enough to have retained almost all its heat. Starbuck tried to flinch away as a bubble slowly erupted just beneath his bleeding nose. The tar plopped tiredly back, then Pearce jerked him back upright. "Let's have your clothes off, cuffee."
Hands pulled at Starbuck's coat, tearing off its sleeves and ripping it clean off his back. "Strip him naked, Sam!" a woman screamed excitedly.
"Give his pa something to preach about!" A man was jumping up and down beside the wagon. A child stood by the man, hand at her mouth, eyes bright, staring. The dentist, unremarked now, had sat on the wagon's box, where he pathetically and uselessly tried to scrape the hot tar off his scorched skin.
Sam Pearce gave the vat a stir. The tanner was spitting again and again at Starbuck while a gray-haired man fumbled at Starbuck's waist, loosing the buttons of his pants. "Don't you dare piss on me, boy, or I'll leave you nothing to piss with." He pulled the trousers down to Starbuck's knees, provoking a shrill scream of approval from the crowd.
And a gunshot sounded too.
The gunshot cracked the still air of the street junction to startle a score of flapping birds up from the roofs of the warehouses that edged the Shockoe Slip. The crowd turned. Pearce moved to tear at Starbuck's shirt, but a second gunshot sounded hugely loud, echoing off the far houses and causing the crowd to go very still. "Touch the boy again," a confident, lazy voice spoke, "and you're a dead man."
"He's a spy!" Pearce tried to brazen out the moment.
"He's my guest." The speaker was mounted on a tall black horse and was wearing a slouch hat, a long gray coat and high boots. He was carrying a long-barreled revolver, which he now pushed into a holster on his saddle. It was a marvelously insouciant gesture, suggesting he had nothing to fear from this mob. The man's face was shadowed by the hat's brim, but clearly he had been recognized, and as he spurred the horse forward the crowd silently parted to give him passage. A second horseman followed, leading a riderless horse.
The first horseman reined in beside the wagon. He tilted his hat upward with the tip of a riding crop then stared with incredulity at Starbuck. "It's Nate Starbuck! Yes?"
"Yes, sir." Starbuck was shivering."
"You remember me, Nate? We met in New Haven last year?"
"Of course I remember you, sir." Starbuck was shaking, but with relief rather than fear. His rescuer was Washington Faulconer, father of Starbuck's best friend and the man whose name Starbuck had earlier invoked to save himself from this mob's wrath.
"You seem to be getting a wrong impression of Virginian hospitality," Washington Faulconer said softly. "Shame on you!" These last words were spoken to the crowd. "We're not at war with strangers in our city! What are you? Savages?"
"He's a spy!" The tanner tried to restore the crowd's supremacy.
Washington Faulconcr turned scornfully on the man. "And you're a black-assed fool! You're behaving like Yankees, all of you! Northerners might want a mobocracy for a government, but not us! Who is this man?" He pointed with his riding crop at the dentist.
The dentist could not speak, so Starbuck, released from the grip of his enemies and with his trousers safely restored to his waist, answered for his fellow victim. "His name is Burroughs, sir. He's a dentist passing through town."
Washington Faulconer glanced about until he saw two men he recognized. "Bring Mister Burroughs to my house. We shall do our best to make reparations to him." Then, that remonstrance delivered to the shamed crowd, he looked back to Starbuck and introduced his companion, who was a dark-haired man a few years older than Starbuck. "This is Ethan Ridley." Ridley was leading the riderless horse, which he now urged alongside the wagon bed. "Mount up, Nate!" Washington Faulconer urged Starbuck.
"Yes, sir." Starbuck stooped for his coat, realized that it was torn beyond repair, so straightened up empty-handed. He glanced at Sam Pearce, who gave a tiny shrug as though to suggest there were no hard feelings, but there were, and Starbuck, who had never known how to control his temper, stepped fast toward the big man and hit him. Sam Pearce twisted away, but not soon enough, and Starbuck's blow landed on his ear. Pearce stumbled, put a hand out to save himself but only succeeded in plunging the hand deep into the tar vat. He screamed, jerked himself free, but his balance was gone, and he flailed hopelessly as he tripped off the wagon's outer end to fall with skull-cracking force onto the road. Starbuck's hand was hurting, stung by the wild and clumsy blow, but the crowd, with the unpredictability of an impassioned mob, suddenly started laughing and cheering him.
"Come on, Nate!" Washington Faulconer was grinning at Pearce's downfall.
Starbuck stepped off the wagon directly onto the horse's back. He fumbled with his feet for the stirrups, took the reins, and kicked back with his tar-stained shoes. He guessed he had lost his books and clothes, but the loss was hardly important. The books were exegetical texts left over from his studies at the Yale Theological Seminary and at best he might have sold them for a dollar fifty. The clothes were of even less value, and so he abandoned his belongings, instead following his rescuers out of the crowd and up Pearl Street. Starbuck was still shaking, and still hardly daring to believe he had escaped the crowd's torment. "How did you know I was there, sir?" he asked Washington Faulconer.
"I didn't realize it was you, Nate, I just heard that some young fellow claiming to know me was about to be strung up for the crime of being a Yankee, so I thought we should take a look. It was a teamster who told me, a Negro fellow. He heard you say my name and he knew my house, so he came and told my steward. Who told me, of course."
"I owe you an extraordinary debt, sir."
"You certainly owe the Negro fellow a debt. Or rather you don't, because I thanked him for you with a silver dollar." Washington Faulconer turned and looked at his bedraggled companion. "Does that nose hurt?"
"No more than a usual bloody nose, sir."
"Might I ask just what you're doing here, Nate? Virginia doesn't seem the healthiest place for a Massachusetts man to be running loose."
"I was looking for you, sir. I was planning to walk to Faulconer Court House."
"All seventy miles, Nate!" Washington Faulconer laughed. "Didn't Adam tell you we keep a town house? My father was a state senator, so he liked to keep a place in Richmond to hang his hat. But why on earth were you looking for me? Or was it Adam you wanted? He's up north, I'm afraid. He's trying to avert war, but I think it's a little late for that. Lincoln doesn't want peace, so I fear we'll have to oblige him with war." Faulconer offered this mix of questions and answers in a cheerful voice. He was an impressive-looking man of middle years and medium height, with a straight back and wide square shoulders. He had short fair hair, a thick square-cut beard, a face that seemed to radiate frankness and kindness, and blue eyes that were crinkled in an expression of amused benignity. To Starbuck he seemed just like his son, Adam, whom Starbuck had met at Yale and whom Starbuck always thought of as the decentest man he had ever met. "But why are you here, Nate?" Faulconer asked his original question again.
"It's a long story, sir." Starbuck rarely rode a horse and did it badly. He slouched in the saddle and jolted from side to side, making a horrid contrast to his two elegant companions, who rode their horses with careless mastery.
"I like long stories," Washington Faulconer said happily, "but save it for when you're cleaned up. Here we are." He gestured with his riding crop at a lavish four-storied stone-faced house, evidently the place where his father had hung his hat. "No ladies staying here this week, so we can be free and easy. Ethan will get you some clothes. Show him to Adam's room, will you, Ethan?"
Negro servants ran from the house's stable yard to take the horses and suddenly, after weeks of uncertainty and danger and humiliation, Starbuck felt himself being surrounded by security and comfort and safety. He could almost have wept for the relief of it. America was collapsing in chaos, riot was loose on its streets, but Starbuck was safe.
"You're looking a deal more human, Nate!" Washington Faulconer greeted Starbuck in his study, "and those clothes more or less fit. Are you feeling better?"
"Much better. Thank you, sir."
"Bath hot enough?"
"That eye looks sore. Maybe a poultice before you sleep? We had to call a doctor for your Philadelphia friend. They're trying to unpeel the poor fellow in the stable yard. While my problem is whether to buy one thousand rifles at twelve bucks each."
"Why shouldn't we?" Ethan Ridley, who had settled Starbuck into Adam's room then arranged for his bath and a change of clothes, was now perched on a sofa at the window of Washington Faulconer's study, where he was toying with a long-barreled revolver that he occasionally sighted at pedestrians in the street below.
"Because I don't want to take the first available guns, Ethan," Washington Faulconer said. "Something better may come along in a month or two."
"There's not much better than the Mississippi rifle." Ridley silently picked off the driver of a scarlet barouche. "And the price won't go down, sir. With respect, it won't go down. Prices never do."
"I guess that's true." Faulconer paused, but still seemed reluctant to make a decision.
A clock ticked heavily in a corner of the room. A wagon axle squealed in the street. Ridley lit a long thin cigar and sucked hungrily on its smoke. A brass tray beside him was littered with ash and cigar butts. He drew on the cigar again, making its tip glow fierce, then glanced at Starbuck. "Will the North fight?" he demanded, evidently expecting that a Yankee like Starbuck must have the answer pat.
But Starbuck had no idea what the North intended to do in the aftermath of Fort Sumter's fall. In these last weeks Nathaniel Starbuck had been much too distracted to think about politics, and now, faced with the question that was energizing the whole south country, he did not know what to respond.
"In one sense it doesn't matter if they fight or not," Washington Faulconer spoke before Starbuck could offer any answer. "If we don't seem prepared to fight, Ethan, then the North will certainly invade. But if we stand firm, why, then they may back down."
"Then buy the guns, sir," Ridley urged, reinforcing his encouragement by pulling the trigger of his empty revolver. He was a lean tall man, elegant in black riding boots, black breeches and a black coat that was smeared with traces of cigar ash. He had long dark hair oiled sleek against his skull and a beard trimmed to a rakish point. In Adam's bedroom, while Starbuck had tidied and cleaned himself, Ridley had paced up and down the room, telling Starbuck how he was planning to marry Washington Faulconer's daughter, Anna, and how the prospect of war had delayed their wedding plans. Ridley had talked of the possible war as an irritation rather than a calamity, and his slow, attractive southern accent had only made the confidence in his voice all the more convincing.
"There goes twelve thousand dollars!" Washington Faulconer now said, evidently putting his signature to a money draft as he spoke. "Buy the guns for me, Ethan, and well done." Starbuck wondered why Washington Faulconer was buying so many rifles, but he did not need to wonder that Faulconer could afford the weapons, for he knew his friend's father to be one of the richest men in Virginia, indeed in all the precariously United States. Faulconer could boast that the most recent survey done of his family's land in Faulconer Count) had been accomplished by a raw young surveyor named George Washington, and since that day not one acre had been lost to the family and a good many had been added. Among the new acres was the land on which Faulconer's Richmond town house stood—one of the grandest houses on Clay Street that had, at its rear, a wide stable yard with a carriage house and quarters for a dozen grooms and stalls for thirty horses. The house boasted a ballroom, a music room, and what was commonly regarded as Richmond's finest staircase, a magnificent circling stair that swept around and up a gilded well hung with family portraits, the oldest of which had been brought from England in the seventeenth century. The books in Washington Faulconer's study had the family's coat of arms tooled in gold into their leather covers, while the desks, chairs and tables had all been made by Europe's finest craftsmen because, for a man as wealthy as Washington Faulconer, only the very best would do. Flowers stood on every table, not just for decoration, but in an attempt to overwhelm the smell of the city's tobacco factories.
"Now, Nate," Washington Faulconer said heartily when he had decided to buy the twelve-dollar guns, "you promised us a story. There's coffee there, or something stronger? Do you drink? You do? But not with your father's blessing, I'm sure. Your father can hardly approve of ardent spirits, or does he? Is the Reverend Elial a prohibitionist as well as an abolitionist? He is! What a ferocious man he must be, to be sure. Sit down." Washington Faulconer was full of energy and happy to conduct a conversation with himself as he stood up, pulled a chair for Starbuck away from the wall, poured Starbuck coffee, then sat back at his desk. "So come! Tell me! Aren't you supposed to be at the seminary?"
"Yes, sir, I am." Starbuck felt inhibited suddenly, ashamed of his story and of his pathetic condition. "It's a very long tale," he protested to Washington Faulconer.
"The longer the better. So come along, tell!"
So Starbuck had no choice but to tell his pathetic story of obsession, love and crime; a shameful tale of how Mademoiselle Dominique Demarest of New Orleans had persuaded Nathaniel Starbuck of Yale that life had more to offer than lectures in didactic theology, sacred literature or the sermonizing arts.
"A bad woman!" Washington Faulconer said with happy relish when Starbuck first mentioned her. "Every tale should have a bad woman."
Starbuck had first glimpsed Mademoiselle Dominique Demarest in the Lyceum Hall at New Haven where Major Ferdinand Trabell's touring company was presenting the
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