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On the Train to Chicago

Chapter Text

Brady’s death fell like a shadow across the town of Hillsboro. Spectators unexpectedly found themselves thrust into roles as mourners. To some, it was merely the final act of the drama, and they wept accordingly. In other hearts, confusion fermented into anger that would later find its release at the bottom of a bootleg bottle. Residents closed up shop and returned to their homes. Tourists wandered the streets in a daze. A disquieted hush settled on the town. After almost a month of mayhem, the silence in the streets was as stifling as the heat. Such was the scene a single train left for Chicago.

Henry sat alone in the back of the car, removed from the chatter of the few other passengers. He knew Bert and Rachel were among them, but he wouldn’t burden them with the musings of an old man in mourning. Solitude suited him better. He gazed meditatively out the window as the train pulled away from the station, removing his hat in a silent gesture of goodbye to Hillsboro. The town would stand in his memory as a monument to the battles waged and won, to causes noble and selfish, to sacrifices and prices paid. None would leave that town unaffected, not least of all Henry Drummond.

Henry’s thoughts drifted inevitably to Matthew. A mutuality of understanding and admiration, he had called their relationship. That much was certainly true: they had once known each other intimately and shared deep respect. But to Henry, Matthew was more than an old friend. Not quite an old lover, but an old beloved. And although in recent years they had drifted apart, Henry found he still felt the same way.

But Matthew was not the same man Henry had once known. As the years wore on, Henry looked as always toward the future. But Matthew, who once stood, steadfast, alongside him, turned and stubbornly held his ground against the progress he had once fought for. Henry could only watch as his former friend, weathered and weary, was reclaimed by time. The lively sparkle in Matthew’s eyes dulled to a stern, steely glint; his rich voice grew strident and stretched; his once passionate determination hardened to dogged stubbornness. An undeniable rift had opened between them that dug deeper than the conflict at hand.

Even despite their estrangement, some key elements of their relationship remained. As always, the two brought out the worst in each other. And Henry had relished it. He suspected that Matthew had, too- the lively parry-and-thrust went both ways, after all. But then in the heat of the courtroom, the heat of battle, they became ruthless. Matthew brought his star witness almost to tears on direct examination. Denied his own witnesses, Henry was forced to do the same.

Destroying Matthew had been sickeningly easy. Henry knew Matthew like he knew his own mind. He knew exactly which strings to pull, precisely how to pattern a web woven of Matthew's own folly. His blind convictions and pride made ideal material; all Henry had to do was tie the noose. From the moment Matt took the witness stand, Henry had won.

After Matthew’s collapse, Henry was empathetic. But he must not have known Matthew so well after all. He had not anticipated that the disappointment would kill him.

Now that the shock and anger had left him, Henry was forced to face the reality of a world without Matthew Harrison Brady. He reflected with a touch of bitter irony that he, too, had troubled his own house only to inherit the wind. Hornbeck had been right about one thing: Henry was an old hypocrite, reprimanding the critic for his mockery of the very man he himself had destroyed. The world was wide enough for the Bible and the Origin. Why not for the self-appointed prophet and the reverent agnostic? And now that one was gone, it seemed only natural that the other should follow.