A Residence on Fifth · Introduction to Personages of Importance · The Southern Bug-bear · Advice from Men of Wealth and Influence · At the Delamater Ironworks · 95 Franklin Street · Impromptu Examination in Gearing Design · Rejection of a Long-Cherished Scroll
Mr.Theodorus Hubbard. Responding to the invitation of Mr. Micah Eaker. Theo gave
the butler his card, stripping off his dripping mackintosh, glancing resentfully
around the interior of 372 Fifth Avenue, New York City, to which the note
waiting at his hotel that afternoon had invited him.
Theo Hubbard was no larger than a boy. But he'd never let his size confine the scope of his dreams. At twenty-six he'd already earned the confidence of the engineer in chief of the Navy. At the moment he was in civilian clothes, a rumpled brown suit of only modest quality. His lips were firm, his blue eyes determined, his small chin smooth-shaven. For once his hands were free of coal dust and machine grease, though not, he suspected, for long considering what his orders laid out to accomplish over the next ninety days.
-- You are expected. If you will follow me, sir.
The room into which he was shown from the chill of an October afternoon had been decorated by someone of taste. Lavender moiré draperies puddled to a figured carpet. Gold-on-cream wallpaper glowed beneath glass torchieres. A black leather settee stood between the front windows, and a huge fireplace mirror reflected prints of the Hudson Valley. A fire crackled on the grate, its reddish heart well nourished, he saw, by a good draft. By the finest Pennsylvania anthracite too, by the smell. Three men in black broadcloth stood around it, holding segars.
-- Mister Theodorus Hubbard, the butler announced. The paneled door closed softly.
-- Mister Hubbard. I am Micah Eaker. Thank you for responding to my note.
A rubicund old gentleman with white chin-tuft. His grip was dry, glance sharp. -- I had not expected so young a man.
-- The Navy considers me old enough for my responsibilities, sir.
-- I am sure you will prove up to the mark. My own boy is in the naval service too; in North Carolina, I believe. Though we do not correspond just now.
-- I have met an Eaker.
-- We must compare notes. But now let me introduce you to two very good friends of mine. Mister G. L. Barnes, in the employ of Mister Griswold, of Albany. And this is Mister Cornelius Bushnell. Gentlemen, may I present Theodorus Hubbard. Engineer Hubbard has been noticed in the papers both at Fort Sumter and at Gosport, and more recently in the battle at Hatteras.
Theo shook hands, his natural bumptiousness daunted. Barnes was unknown to him, but John A. Griswold was a major industrialist and very well connected politically -- specifically with the former governor of New York and current secretary of state, William Seward. And Cornelius Scranton Bushnell was probably the most influential man in Connecticut...grocery magnate, railroad tycoon, industrialist. They looked down at him as Eaker suggested he help himself to a segar, that whiskey was on the side table, that they all might be more comfortable seated.
-- Well, sir. It seems appropriate to congratulate you, Bushnell began. Tall and self-assured, with upper lip shaven and a dark beard brushing his stock. -- I am given to understand the chief engineer has put you in charge of our ironclad project. The counterbalance to that great Southern bug-bear, the Merrimack.
-- Thank you, sir, but it may prove no bug-bear. And I believe Captain Ericsson would claim the distinction of being in charge.
They chuckled. -- I'm sure he would, but as the Navy's representative you will be responsible for a good deal of the construction. As such, we thought our views might be helpful.
From That Anvil of Our Souls by David Poyer. Copyright © 2005 by David Poyer. All rights reserved.
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