"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Chronicle Of A Yale Man Without Principle - A Happy Life With Wealth And A Beautiful Octoroon Mistress

Hardy Crowell had a mistress thanks to Madame Alicia Porter of Washington and Sioux City.  Why Sioux City, she was often asked, but she replied only, "Indians need comfort too".  The real reason was that Alicia had grown up in Iowa, had strong roots there, and wanted to 'give back to the community'.  A call girl service such as hers had not been seen west of the Mississippi since the days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and her girls serviced clients throughout the Midwest. 


It was in Washington, however, where Hardy met Lucy, la crème de la crème of Mme. Porter's table, a beautiful octoroon from New Orleans who had been the consort of none other than Hercule Landry, long term Congressman from Bayou La Fourche and a grandson of Huey Long, until he, Hercule, died in her arms in the Mayflower Hotel. 

In New Orleans, thank God, color had never been a bar to sexual adventure, Andrew Jackson's troops in 1812 and Farragut's in 1862 had their pick of the city's Creole beauties, and the Long family had continued the legacy until the death of the last of their line.    

Now, it might have been surprising that Hardy Crowell of Boston and Nantucket, heir to a shipping fortune and Senior Vice President at Bear Brothers Stern who made millions on top of his inherited wealth would have been a client of Mme. Porter - after all his money alone should have attracted the East Coast's finest women - but there was always a bit of the 'unconventional' amidst the Chippendale highboys, Townsend chairs, and Revere silver of his Beacon Hill home.  

'Unconventional' was the way his maiden aunts called his businesses at Yale - porn king of Trumbull College, distributor of blue movies, condoms, and bourbon to his classmates defying Connecticut's blue laws and making thousands, enough for him to put a down payment on land in Truro and later, despite the objection of old weathered-shingle New England Puritans, built a housing development on the cheap, made millions, and went on to Wall Street. 

Making money came easily to Hardy. There are always men who have a sense for it, a nose for weakness and opportunity, a fearlessness and brass-balled, risk-taking chutzpah that leave others in the dust, and somehow, despite his family's rock-ribbed rectitude and his stern upbringing, he instinctively cut moral corners.  The give and take of the marketplace had more flexibility, more fungibility, than most realized.  Life on the margins was, if not the safest place to be, certainly the most profitable; and Hardy was the first in credit swaps and other innovative financial instruments, the last out before the pyramid crumbled, and a happy man with estates on Long Island and the Vineyard, 

All of which is to say life came fast and easy to Hardy Crowell, and life on the moral edge was exactly where he wanted to be, where he was most suited and most at home.

Not so for his forbears who had been among the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and then who, along with John Davenport left to establish more fundamental, conservative Puritan settlements and built the New Haven plantations before moving on the New Jersey in search of even a more religious and principled life; or the other branch of the family who had been prosecutors in the Salem witch trials. 


Nothing doing, thought Hardy, times change and survival of the fittest was now featured in a new algorithm of edgy opportunism.  Yes, his ancestors made money and lots of it from the Three-Cornered Trade; and ships built in New England and sailed from Newport to Africa to pick up slaves for the sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean and then back to Boston with molasses provided the family's financial legacy; but there were easier, better ways now. 

Keeping one step ahead of federal investigators was part of his choreography.  As well as a nose for money, Hardy had one for the law; and knew how to outsmart them and leave them behind and befuddled. 

And so it was that he had no second thoughts whatsoever about buying Mme. Porter's services.  Who was fooling whom?  All sex is matter of contract, people looking for something in return.  

He had been surprised at the seductive beauty of Lucy Rousseau gifted as promised as any courtesan of the Thousand and One Nights - a sexual delight, a companion as deft and subtle as she was enticing, a woman of grace and charm - and for this he paid thousands.  Yet the transaction never seemed to diminish the affection - she was an actress, a marvelously accomplished woman of many emotional colors.  She could be whatever Hardy wanted, whatever he pleased, and did it with style and elegance.

Was he falling in love? Hardly. He was a man without principle and without commitment, a man for all seasons, adaptable, changeable, without emotional or moral fetters, no spiritual harness, no reins.  Love was an unnecessary codicil to the sexual contract and never in any of his.  His various affairs were mutually satisfactory and beneficial, and when it came time to end them, no blood was spilled. 

The arrangement with Lucy Rousseau was ideal - not only were there no caveats or codicils and no lengthy 'the party of the first part' clauses, there would never ever need to be.  Marx was at his best in the bedchamber - his economic animal was most at home there.

He had in fact bought Lucy as openly and aggressively as her slave ancestors had been auctioned and bought in Charleston; but that, like everything else in Hardy's vigorously independent life, was morally irrelevant. 

Hardy was her only client, and was paid a fortune for such availability.  She had her own life, far from that in the overstuffed Victorian parlors of a New Orleans bordello.  The contract was a good, profitable, and durable one.  


The advantage of all this was that when Hardy did decide to marry, have children, and leave his considerable wealth to them, he had no regrets.  His marriage was simply another contract, a means to a desirable end, an agreement without irregularities.  Looking at him everyone assumed that here was another successful Yale man, Boston brahmin, man of inherited and acquired wealth, and a man of substance and principle.  Little did they know that his happiness and success came from indifference, a unique, rare quality of disassociation and moral distance. 

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