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.Impatiently, Foxford said, ‘Sir, Patrick never—’‘Are you saying your cousin couldn’t wait to turn libertine on his own?’ demanded Mr Stuart mournfully.‘Thank you, dear boy, thank you very much.’‘Uncle, you know I didn’t mean that—’‘What happened to my son was Derryhick’s doing.’ The elderly diplomat’s eyes glittered dangerously.‘Left to his own devices, Theo would never have come to the end that he did.Nor would—’‘Is he over there now, Mr Shaw?’ Foxford broke in deliberately on his uncle’s words.‘That is – you said he had been taken to an undertaker’s.’‘He’s over there.’ Shaw glanced at January, then began to gather up the small impedimenta from the table with swift deftness that belied his earlier deliberation.‘Mr Quennell lays ’em out right pretty, an’ for a fair price.’‘That remains to be seen.’ Droudge sniffed and rose to fetch his extremely old-fashioned hat.‘My understanding has been that everything in the French Town costs between ten and forty percent more than the identical goods and services available in the American sector – identical – simply for the “cach-et”, as they call it –’ he mispronounced ‘cachet’ – ‘of being French! And this Mr Quennell had better not believe that, just because you deposited his body there temporarily, I will not have Mr Derryhick’s remains moved to another establishment if I find one less exorbitant.If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen – though I suppose it’s too much to expect that Mr Derryhick will have left so much as twenty shillings in the desk.’‘’Scuse me,’ said Shaw, intercepting the business manager on his way to the connecting door without the slightest appearance of hurry.‘But ’fore we goes, the Maestro here –’ he nodded to January – ‘an’ I would like to have a look at Mr Derryhick’s room.’‘Whatever for?’ Stuart made a move as if to place himself in the doorway that opened from the parlor into his chamber, then stopped himself.‘It’s clear as daylight what happened.Poor Patrick returned to his room and encountered a thief there.’‘Nonsense,’ snapped Droudge.‘He quarreled with the man – I heard him.At least, I heard someone on the floor shouting—’‘An’ you was here?’‘I was in my room – trying to get some sleep.’ Droudge glared at the other two with weak, pale-blue eyes.‘I sleep most poorly, Lieutenant, and I must admit that with cotton wool stuffed into my ears – an habitual precaution in places of public resort – it wasn’t easy to tell who was making such a ruckus, or where.’‘Patrick would quarrel with any stranger he found in his room!’ added Stuart peevishly.‘He was a damned shanty Irishman and would quarrel with anyone when in his cups.’‘Uncle, that isn’t tr—’‘Don’t you contradict me, Gerry, you know it is.And furthermore, you know it’s he who spoiled my poor son’s temper with drink and God knows what else, until he’d react to the smallest provocation in the same way.’‘That’s as may be,’ remarked Shaw.‘’Ceptin’ that wouldn’t explain why he went dashin’ up the stairs yelling “I’m gonna kill that bastard”.’‘Good Lord, I assume he’d just learned about another of old Droudge’s damned “economies,” like his attempt to sell my poor valet—!’‘Really, sir!’ protested the business manager.‘A good Negro brings fifteen hundred dollars in this town, and I resent your implication that Mr Derryhick would use such language to me.’‘So he comes up here half-drunk, in a deuce of a temper, finds old Droudge asleep and some total stranger in his room.’‘Then if’n that stranger left his callin’ card on the floor, accidental like, now’s the time to find it.’Droudge led Shaw to the connecting door of the Viscount’s room, glancing at him sidelong as if he fully expected him to scoop up any loose money or stray gold stickpins in the process.As they passed through into Derryhick’s room, January heard him say, ‘I trust you will give me a proper receipt.’Behind him in the parlor, January heard the almost soundless rustle of Mr Stuart stepping back – light-moving for all his bulk – to catch the Viscount by the arm.Droudge’s exclamation, ‘Good Lord! What on earth—?’ covered whatever soft-voiced words passed between uncle and nephew, but the Viscount cried, ‘Stop it, for God’s sake! Is that all you can think about?’‘It’s what you should be thinking about, my dear boy.And it’s no more than justice.He killed your father, and he killed my son, not to speak of robbing you into the bargain for all these years.So I think he owed us something.’The young man said quietly, ‘You are despicable,’ and the next moment the corridor door slammed.FOURRose asked, ‘What are they doing in New Orleans in the first place?’January handed her a cup of tafia – cheap rum cut with lemonade – and perched on the gallery railing of what had once been cook’s quarters above the kitchen.The two rooms that opened off the gallery behind them – one of them Rose’s chemical laboratory, the other scoured and fitted with makeshift chairs and school desks – were the only two in the house not currently crowded with neighbors, friends, and semi-strangers, talking quietly, uneasily, angrily.Hannibal had been quite right to wonder if two women who detested each other as did January’s mother and sister Olympe could manage to avoid one another at the wake until morning.At least the food was plentiful and good.‘It’s a thought that’s crossed my mind as well, my nightingale.Why would anyone in their right mind come to New Orleans at this time of year?’After the burial, under ordinary circumstances the procession would return – joyful, dancing, waving handkerchiefs and scarves like flags – to the home of the dead man’s family, or in this case to the home of the friend best able to host the night-long wake.Death was not invited to the party.January frequently suspected that his recent election as the newest member of the FTFCMBS board had as much to do with the size of the ramshackle Spanish house he and Rose had bought on the Rue Esplanade as with his willingness to be of service.The house had sprung from Rose’s ambition – realized last winter – to re-establish her school, which had been destroyed a few years previously by a combination of the cholera epidemic and the enmity of a socially prominent French Creole matron.* But in this slack infernal tail-end of the hot season, before the heat broke and the wealthy returned to town, January was glad he could open his doors for those who lived in rooms, for those whose families had been destroyed in the cholera or had left the town for good [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]