augustus maverick

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Forty-Nine

Above, “Dr. Augustus Maverick, Mrs. Maverick and daughter Vienna,” San Antonio Express, August 20, 1913

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Forty-Eight

Hedda Burgemeister, August 1913

“Mein Liebchen. Put this envelope away for safekeeping. Although I leave for Germany tomorrow, I can’t bear the thought of being separated for so long. So here’s your round-trip ticket to meet me in three weeks.”

“Oh, Otto!” Hedda throws her arms around him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. That will be wonderful.”

“Unfortunately, you’ll have to return by a separate liner as well. Emma would not fail to make the connection if you appeared on board our ship. But we’ll rendezvous in Germany and afterwards in New York.”

“It doesn’t matter if I sail alone, as long as we get to be together some. I’ll pack an ample supply of books to keep me occupied during the crossings.”

“I hope you don’t have to go to work tomorrow, Hedda. You need to avoid downtown. Things are in turmoil. Doctor Maverick—Gus Maverick—was killed late last night. Crowds fill the streets. There’s talk of lynching. Talk of setting the murderer ablaze.”

“The young doctor?” Hedda takes the newspaper from Otto’s hands, trying to grasp who the victim is. “Oh, Otto, his wife and daughter are so beautiful. Vienna, the daughter is named Vienna.”

“Yes, she was born while Gus studied in Austria. When they returned, they brought this young Austrian girl back to cook and take care of their—by then—two daughters. The couple built a house over on West Magnolia, near where it crests at Blanco Road.”

“Whatever happened?”

“He was shot, point blank, by a negro boy who used to work for them. A Leon Jones, or maybe Johnson. Seems the lad was smitten by the cook. His affections weren’t returned, however. So he scaled a ladder into her room in the middle of the night to take her with him by force. Or, perhaps, to force himself upon her and even kill her. Trying to protect the hysterical girl, the doctor was shot by the crazed fool. His father, William Maverick, grabbed a gun from a cabinet and winged the negro as he fled, making it easier for the police to capture him hiding in a yard a few houses away.” 

“Oh, Otto, a tragedy indeed! Are they sure it was the negro who shot him?”

“The police have no doubt of his guilt. District Attorney Linden told reporters that a lynching would almost be an excusable act given the nature of the crime. But Linden said a far greater punishment is to make him wait. To wait in jail, day after day for 30 days, the clock tick-ticking….”

Seeming to relish her rapt attention, Otto dramatically inserts details he presumably knows she would rather not hear. “Each inescapable tick taking him closer.” Otto places his hands around Hedda’s throat. “Closer to that final plunge through the trap door with a rope burning his neck.” He loosens his hands and caresses her cheek.

“Alex Halff is sitting on the grand jury. He told me that, fearing the crowd would get out of control, Sheriff Tobin moved the prisoner from the city jail to the county jail. Still ill at ease, the deputies dressed the negro up like a woman and slipped him past the angry mob. They drove him clear to Austin, hiding him in the jail there to protect his life.

“The absurdity of it all, Hedda, is that the boy’s wrath was first aroused by the cook’s failure to understand English. This spring, the brazen imbecile asked the girl if she wanted to go out for a ‘Fiesta ball.’ She accepted his invitation for later that week, wondering where she could find something nice enough to wear.

“Increasingly curious about how this negro could possibly gain admission to a fancy party, the naïve girl asked Missus Maverick about it. Without meaning to, Missus Maverick burst into laughter. She explained that attire was irrelevant as the invitation was far from a proper one.”

Hedda belatedly comprehends the double entendre.

“When the girl refused to depart the house with him on the appointed night, the negro cursed and threatened her. He continued to do so throughout the summer, but, unfortunately, the frightened girl never relayed his threats to the Mavericks.

“Having one’s life suddenly end that way. Bang! No chance to prepare. No time to straighten out your business and personal affairs. The life you built shattered. Poof. You disappear.”

Footnotes

What complicated arrangements must be made for a mistress to join a trip without arousing a wife’s suspicions!

Twenty-seven-year-old Dr. Augustus Maverick was shot dead on August 18, 1913. Otto Koehler’s telling of the incident to Hedda follows the newspaper accounts, and language, of the day. And, yes, not one to cut to the chase, the Author finally is explaining the fear of gallows Hedda exhibited 48 chapters earlier.

Continue to Chapter Fifty

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