Respected political leader Harry Tresmayne has been found murdered beside a lonely road on Cape Fear. Harry's friend, Matthew Livesey, is drawn to investigate the truth, and the more Livesey learns about Harry's private life, the more reasons for murder he finds.
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What Lies Buried
A Novel of Old Cape Fear
By Dewey Lambdin
McBooks Press, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Dewey Lambdin
All rights reserved.
THE TAFFRAIL LANTERNS and nighttime riding lights of the many ships alongside the piers, or anchored out in the stream, lit only a bit of the evening, shimmering like molten yellow gold over the broad expanse of the Cape Fear River, which glinted like a ripply sheet of black glass. Across the river on Eagle's Island lay a weak smear of light from fires that burned low and sullenly amber-red under the try-pots and rendering works to keep their contents soft and workable for the morning. Up-river, down-river — beyond the marshes and the rice beds west of the island, Alligator Creek and the narrower Brunswick River — primeval, stygian dark ruled, as far as the Piedmont uplands.
Ebony blackness and vast tracts of forest surrounded the tiny seaport town of Wilmington on the opposite bank, the cape side. North, south and east dark mastered the named streets that climbed the river bluffs and the numbered streets that ran north-south. It was a rare homeowner diligent enough to light a porch lantern much past suppertime unless expecting company. Wilmington was small but industrious, and its residents were mostly "early to bed, early to rise." Even on a night during Quarterly Assizes, Court Sessions and the corresponding militia muster, and market day to lure plaintiffs, planters and humble settlers to town, when its population could double, the borough was already snoring at that middling hour. Mostly.
Near the Courthouse, though, there was Widow Yadkin's Ordinary, and there was light aplenty. Two lanterns shone in the coach yard in front, where men chuckled and joshed, comparing the merits of horses they had brought to town for the races; two more burned on the deep front porch of the log-cabin tavern, where other men smoked pipes and sipped from tankards, taking the cooler night airs, sitting on the log benches with their heels up on railings or planter-boxes.
A visitor in search of meat, drink and joy would espy Widow Yadkin's and be drawn like a moth to that wee oasis of brightness, be lured by Sirens' Song, by the merry sounds of fiddles from within doing a lively "Rakes of Mallow," perhaps. He would turn the reins of his humble wagon, fine coach or mount over to the towheaded lad who served as ostler, and relish his entrance, perhaps pausing for a while to survey the sprawling, added-upon-so-often establishment, take cheer from the flung-open windows along the front, nicely framed by gingham-checked curtains within and fresh-painted shutters without, and all the amber candlelight that spilled out of them. And smile to himself as he cocked an ear to the genial hum-um of its patrons' voices commingling in good-natured banter, or raised in songs of merriment and glee:
Come, let us drink about, and drive away all sorrow.
Come, let us drink about, and drive away all sorrow.
For, 'haps we may not, for 'haps we may not, for 'haps
we may nnott ... be here to drink, tomorrow!
There was a talented young Alston on violin, an older Harnett plucking a lute and an Irish sailor whom no one exactly knew off one of the anchored ships piping on a flute. The song, though, was being bellowed out by Harry Tresmayne, who stood atop a stout wooden bench and waved one arm to lead the others, his left akimbo against his hip.
"This'un's for you, Matthew," Tresmayne called down from above to one of his table companions, "you abstemious old rascal!" reaching down to ruffle the fellow's shock of reddish hair.
Wine, wine, it cures the gout, the spirit and the colic!
Wine, it cures the gout, the spirit and the colic!
"Aye, top him up there, a brimmin' bumper!" cried Mr Osgoode Moore, a younger member of their set at the table.
Hand it to a-all men, hand it to a-all men,
hand it to a-all men! A very specif-physick!
Harry Tresmayne bugled in high spirits. "Drink, drink, drink! Show us heel-taps!" he instructed.
"Drink, drink, drink!" the others hooted and cheered, and their current "victim" was forced to tilt back his wineglass and gulp down the whole thing, before lifting it high, upside down, to show that not a drop remained, which garnered a further cheer, and a thunder of fists pounded on the tabletop.
"And the next is you, Thom Lakey!" Tresmayne shouted, pointing to a slim and distinguished-looking planter of some means. "What? Hiccup is it, Matthew? More wine's your cure fer that, too!"
"Have mercy!" Mr Matthew Livesey cried in mock distress, one hand to his chest. "Mercy, I beg you, and 'let this cup ... hic ... pass from me'!" Which quotation raised a cheerful growl from his compatriots, and more drummed fists.
Spotting what Lakey was drinking, Tresmayne skipped a verse, moving on to:
But, he that drinks small beer, goes to bed quite sober.
He that drinks small beer, goes to bed sober.
And they all joined in on,
falls as the leaves do fall, falls as the leaves do fall,
falls as the leaves do fall ... he'll rot before October!
Thom Lakey upended his pint tankard of small beer in a few gulps, then goggled at them through the glass bottom to show manful; without even a stifled belch.
Finally, the last "victim" exhausted and the song done, Tresmayne sprang lithely down and took his seat on the bench again, the amateur musicians launching themselves into the lively "Flowers of Edinburgh."
"A toast, gentlemen," the dashing and handsome Harry Tresmayne offered, waving for their serving maid to come attend any who lacked spirits.
"Lord, spare me," Livesey tried to demur.
"Aye, God's sake, Harry. I've a plea to make in th' mornin'," Osgoode Moore mildly protested. "Politics in th' afternoon, too, so ..."
"I've the chandlery to open ... early," Livesey added.
"We've the 'barons' to confound," Thom Lakey fussily stuck in. "An' thick heads'll not carry th' day. Your oration after all ..."
"He'll toast a round dozen things, like he always does," a Mr Ashe said to Livesey from 'cross the table. "But the one glass this time, Tresmayne, and make it a combination."
"Oh, very well then, ye pack o' tea-drinkers," Tresmayne said, with only a slight sign of disappointment. "A combination, then. And never fear about th' speechifyin', Thom. My address is all but writ, and a mornin's polish'll put a high gloss on it. We'll roast our opponents, and serve 'em up well-done this time. Top-ups all 'round, me girl!"
"You'll touch upon autonomy, as we discussed?" Thom Lakey asked in a whisper, leaning closer to Tresmayne. "Gently I trust ... In his last letter to me, even Samuel Adams in Boston said he feared raisin' too much Hell 'gainst th' Crown. Time's not ripe ... average people aren't ready for too much talk o' change an' upsets, so ..."
"Bosh, Thomas," Tresmayne blithely objected as the maid returned with a full tray. "Boston 'Bow-Wows' mayn't have th' bottom t'dare be outspoken, but we Carolinians are possessed of bolder spirit, after all. And no, I'll not cry out for too much, too soon, Thomas. We are loyal Englishmen merely callin' for th' rights o' free Englishmen t'govern ourselves but a tad more. A Parliament of our own, this side of th' ocean. Though, one without a House of Lords, pray God! Else we'll end held in thrall forever by self-styled landgraves, white caciques and barons, are we ever that successful, hah! Are the current leadin' men ever given patents of nobility by the King, well ...!"
"Never happen," Thom Lakey snickered. "They refused good Colonel Washington th' right t'even apply for an Army commission, e'en could he afford t'buy colors ten times over —"
"And him one of th' most talented soldiers Virginia's produced," Tresmayne interjected, "the American colonies have produced, too. Those of ye who went north with me in the militia will surely vouch for that!"
"As I said," Thom Lakey went on, "if Colonel Washington's too crude an' rustic t'soldier with their elevated arses, then it's long odds any colonist'd ever win a knighthood much less be made th' merest baronet, hah! We're not thought quite as good as home-raised ..."
"And those who served know th' truth o' that!" Harry Tresmayne energetically agreed. "And that's th' whole problem in a nut-shell. They look down their long, top-lofty noses at American-born Englishmen as if we were little better than Red Indians. And do we not stir th' pot an' make 'em take notice of our bein' their equals, then they'll never have t'face th' matter, and things'll never change. Ah, thankee, me dear Betty. Glasses topped? Let us lay our toast, and bow like a Chinaman to our betters yonder, hmm?"
With a fresh glass of wine at last in hand, Harry Tresmayne held it aloft in a silent and sardonic salute to the gentlemen congregated at the other end of Widow Yadkin's public rooms, to those richer, and longer-settled, in the opposing faction: "Prince Dick" Ramseur and his son, a gaggle of the Moore clan, and others allied with the original developers who'd come up from Goose Creek, or Charleston from the South Carolina colony, those more-elegant with real aspirations to nobility from down south of the Pee Dee River, who had naturally segregated themselves from the "upstarts" and "parvenus."
"A toast!" Tresmayne cried, with a devilish glint of merriment in his eyes. "Success to our endeavors ... profit to our commerce ... untold bounty for our crops ..." He knew he had the barons' attention as he concluded with, "and, by the Grace of God, all th' liberties of loyal Englishmen be granted to American Englishmen!"
His companions lustily cheered his toast, and his characteristic boldness, tipping their glasses back to heel-taps, again. The sentiment was shared, and glasses were raised, among a fair majority of the ordinary's other customers as well.
The musicians had, in the meantime, done "He that Would an Alehouse Keep," changing the words to twit Mrs Yadkin, and just finished the sentimental "Over the Hills and Far Away" from The Beggars' Opera. Then, at the urging of Mr Richard Ramseur, Esquire, himself, they launched into a tune of his choosing. His son, possessed of as fine a voice as Harry Tresmayne's, stood to lead them.
Here's a health to the King, and a lasting peace.
To faction's end, and our wealth increase.
Come, let us drink while we have breath,
for there's no drinking after death.
And they that will this health de-ny,
down among the dead men, down among the dead men,
down, down, down, down,
down among the dead men, let them lie!
Tresmayne lifted his significantly empty glass to them, a broad grin and a quick laugh on his lips, and made an exaggerated, wide-armed bow from the waist, congratulating his opponents for their sly choice of a song, and the quick wits that had twisted a genial drinking song into a pointed comment in riposte.
"Didn't think they had such drollery in 'em!" he snickered as he sat down, his voice lowered to be shared only among his tablemates.
"My apologies, Mr Livesey," Osgoode Moore said as he slid a pew or two closer, "for I've not, as yet, inquired of you how Sam'l and your charmin' Bess keep. They thrive, I trust? And mine and Anne's best regards t'both, I hope ye'll say for me."
"Main-well, sir, main-well," Livesey replied, struggling to get a long, clay, church-warden pipe lit.
What else passed, he could but dimly recall after: a smatter of his conversation with Osgoode, vague memories of more wine than was his usual wont taken aboard, more songs, some jocular tales told by others (though exactly what they'd been quite escaped him!) and a last reverie of stumping homeward, more dependent on his walking stick than usual, down the inky darkness of Dock Street, grunting "I'll Fathom the Bowl" under his breath. Or, had it been "Nottingham Ale"? Either one, it did not signify, for it had been a rare, and most convivial, evening.CHAPTER 2
SHALL I HELP you with your leg, Father?" Samuel asked from beyond the bedchamber door.
"I shall manage." Matthew Livesey replied, testily. A rare free night had left him "headed" and grumpy. But he could picture his tall, athletic son, so anxious to please, so eager to contribute, and modified his tone. "Thankee kindly, my boy, but I rose early. I'm all but afoot."
It was a kindly lie, and after a long moment, Livesey could hear Samuel clumping down the short hall to the front rooms, gangly and loose-limbed. And loud!
Too loud for this morning, Matthew Livesey grumpily thought, as he cursed again his lack of control the night before. Any other night, the chandlery would be closed by seven, and he'd have dined at home in sober domesticity. But he had let himself be seduced. Life had been hard for the Liveseys, the past few years, and he'd been little more than a drudge, six days a week from sunup to sundown at the chandlery, the sawmill or rendering works, so little in the till for any frivolities that he'd quite forgotten the simple joys of the coffeehouses or taverns.
Liveseys were stern Scots-Presbyterian stock, too, supposed to be immune to folly. Though they were listed on the parish rolls of St James's as somewhat Church of England, now. But it was the only church in Wilmington, so what could one do? Had Anglican ways rubbed off on him, at last, resulting in his seduction into frivolous doings?
"Damn, Harry ... you old pagan," Livesey chuckled as he pulled up fresh white cotton stockings on his legs, seated on the edge of his high bedstead.
Matthew Livesey's head was paining him. Not with the cotton-mouthed thudding of youthful excess, but with that maze-y, disoriented, semi-bilious, and when once attained, seemingly eternal sort of "head" that God retains for those who know better, but indulge anyway. And refreshing sleep had not stayed long enough to temper the slightest bit of it; he had awakened to a cock's crow, perhaps, certainly to the dry snap of the firelock on the tinder-box as Bess put light to the kindling of the hearth before sunup.
He had at least had wit enough to lay things out about him as he would on a righteous evening. Wash-hand stand, basin and pitcher were beside the headboard on one side, his own tinderbox with new flint and singed rag with which to light his pre-dawn candle on the other side. His clothes laid out at the foot of the mattress where he could reach them easily.
And, That Thing.
Satisfied that the end of the right stocking was well-padded with fresh wool batting and drawn snug against his stump, he pulled on his breeches, with the good leg and foot braced against the short bed-ladder, almost standing but not quite. Not yet.
He had already managed a clean shirt, attained stuffing the tails into his breeches, and did up the buttons and buckles. Then, with a put-upon sigh, he at last reached for It.
That Thing was, he had to grudgingly admit, a devilishly well-made appliance and a right handsomely decorated bit of carpentry. Though the militia surgeon had left him three inches of stump below the knee, he didn't trust it, so the glove-leather-lined cup was deep enough to reach well above his right knee, like a dragoon's knee-boot flap. The cup was of a handsome burl-wood, trimmed with silver inset wire and ivory. Below the cup it was oar-wood, solid and unyielding ash that tapered to a vaguely foot-shaped block which was long enough in the "toes" to give him better balance erect, some support in a custom-made off-side stirrup so he could still ride, and let him prop himself to the windward side of his little shallop even when going close-hauled down-river to Brunswick or New Inlet to fish.
Still, That Thing was the most hateful device ever he'd laid his eyes upon.
"Damned foolishness," he muttered as he snugged the last buckle in place. "Then, and now. God, Harry," he reiterated.
It had been the dashing and rake-hell Harry Tresmayne of his one and only year away at Harvard College, who had stayed in touch as his father's Philadelphia firm, Arnott Livesey & Son, was going under.
But then it had been Corinthian, brothel-haunting Harry who'd almost ruined that one and only college year with the threats of expulsion; Matthew had gone home before the term ended, short of funds. Harry had been expelled!
Yet it had been Harry who had lured him to the Lower Cape Fear country with his tales of Brunswick and Wilmington becoming the naval stores capital of the world, cheap land, cheap timber and a better life for him, his dear wife, Charlotte, and his two children. Harry Tresmayne who'd introduced them into Society and Trade hereabouts, and had steered him right the first few years to a modicum of comfort and financial security.
Excerpted from What Lies Buried by Dewey Lambdin. Copyright © 2005 Dewey Lambdin. Excerpted by permission of McBooks Press, Inc..
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