The slave Cato offered his hand to Beatrice as she stepped down from the carriage. She accepted it politely, but continued to puzzle over the odd dreams she'd had the night before: watching Cato partake in some kind of… battle? …game? Fitted in the usual style of breeches, but topped with bulky shirtsleeves and something resembling a Grecian helmet. She had been cheering his skill along with a raucous crowd of other young women. Odd.
Beatrice shook it off quickly and paused to admire the grand façade of Inclenberg, the Murrays' far-from-modest home. "Beautiful Hill" was the perfect name. Set on the peak elevation of 29 acres of farmland, the house offered sweeping views of the East River and – Uncle Hercules pointed – Kips Bay. It would have been easy to stand on the piazza all night and watch the setting sun turn the water to gold, but the sound of laughter and music drew the Mulligan party through the wide front doors.
"Hercules… Elizabeth… How wonderful of you to join us this evening!" A stately, solidly-built woman draped in rose-colored silk bustled her way across the entrance hall to the newly-arrived guests. With her silver hair piled high and a broad sweep of welcoming arms, Mrs. Mary Murray easily commanded attention, even among the high ceilings and grand staircase. The Mulligans greeted her warmly – John with some thinly-disguised distaste, as if encountering an overbearing great-aunt – and Hamilton paid her due respect with doffed hat and a deep bow.
"And this is our niece, Beatrice Whaley," offered Elizabeth. "She is staying with us for the summer, recently arrived from her family's home in Boston."
"Indeed?" Mary arched an eyebrow. "And how do you find New York, Miss Whaley?"
Beatrice curtsied in greeting and replied, "Very welcoming, Mrs. Murray. Much busier, and so many… different people. I quite enjoy it!"
"Yes," said a voice at the Mulligans' backs, "New York does encourage a variety of differences. Differences of opinion, for example…"
The group turned to see a gentleman leaning in the parlor doorway, a glass of Madeira in his hand. He had the same dignified air as Mary Murray, but a more piercing gaze.
"Ah, Robert!" Hercules smiled and offered his hand. "Your home is lovely this evening. Thank you for your hospitality. I trust business is going well?"
Robert Murray sipped his wine. "For the moment. So long as the New York shipping lanes don't draw any undue attention. Forgive me, Miss Whaley," he continued with a thin smile. "Boston's reputation precedes you."
Hamilton drew himself up and frowned. "I assure you, Mr. Murray, that Miss Whaley keeps with the finest of company."
"Look to yourself, Mr. Hamilton," Murray answered. "You and Mr. Mulligan have been spending quite a bit of time at the Fraunces Tavern lately. Shouldn't you be concentrating on your studies?"
Elizabeth and Mary exchanged fretful glances as Hercules cleared his throat. Hamilton's hand closed around Beatrice's elbow and gently steered her toward the large drawing room, into which John was already making his escape. They were quickly enveloped by the warmth of a candle-lit chandelier, smiling faces, and twirling bodies.
Beatrice barely had a moment to catch her breath before Hamilton swung her into a line of dancers. Hands caught hands, elbows locked, feet spun – the quick passing of faces made Beatrice dizzy, but dizzy with delight! She laughed in sheer joy, and continued to laugh even as the music ended.
Mr. Hamilton stood before her, lightly holding her hands. The firelight softened the lines of his face, and his smile, while still broad, had lost its usual smugness. The couples around them began to call for another song, but Hamilton barely noticed. One of his thumbs lightly caressed her fingers.
The flush finally caught up to Beatrice's face. "What?" she asked softly. Hamilton leaned forward, his breath against her cheek, and…
"Again?" Music burst from the corners of the room, Hamilton stepped back into the crowd, and pulled the laughing, gasping young woman with him.
"Oh heavens, help me!" Beatrice flopped down in a side chair, in an exhausted heap of green silk. Her feet tingled from one too many reels. The two girls sitting on either side of her giggled sympathetically.
"Mr. Hamilton has certainly laid claim to you this evening," observed the dark-haired one. "If you have any desire to share…"
"Take him, please!" Beatrice gasped with a wave of her hand. The gentleman was insatiable when it came to dancing. Fortunately for her feet, he was also unable to commit to just one partner for more than an hour. She caught glimpses of his auburn hair weaving amongst the crowd and did her best not to be noticed again right away.
The blonde-haired girl to her other side scoffed. "Beulah, you couldn't dance your way out of a box. I don't know why Mother even insists on the lessons."
Beulah pouted. "Your accompaniment leaves much to be desired, Susie." She leaned into Beatrice and whispered loudly, "When she sings, birds flock… in the opposite direction!"
Both girls were only able to hold their scowls for mere seconds, before dissolving into giggles again. Beatrice looked back and forth between the two, noting similarities: same high foreheads, rounded chins, solid builds. Susie sported freckles across the bridge of her nose, but despite that, they were obviously related. And the arch of their eyebrows was familiar.
"Are you Murrays?" she asked, sweeping gentility aside.
They took no offence at the question. "We are!" declared Susie, striking a mockingly regal pose. "Welcome to our humble dwelling, Miss – "
"From Boston?" Beulah positively squeaked. "We'd heard you were in town! Please…" Both sisters drew nearer. "Tell us about Boston."
Beatrice wondered. It's filthy? It's poor? It's angry? Where to start?
Susie glanced around at the crowd, then back. "Father is furious with the Whigs for endangering his livelihood – he's in shipping, you know. He worked years to build a reputation, and" she waved a hand around at the ornate room, "all this."
Beatrice nodded, thinking, And some livelihoods grow on trees.
Beulah bit her lip. "But we've met so many who agree with the rebels, and they are just as concerned about making a living, having a home. Mother reminds us of that often. Not around Poppa, of course."
The three girls watched the dancers for a moment in silence.
Susie turned to Beatrice with a frown. "Are they foolish, Miss Whaley? The rebels?"
Beatrice smoothed her dress and straightened a bit. She looked around at the laughing faces, hands clasping and letting go, bodies interweaving and partners interchanging. Chaos…
"They're some of the bravest people I know." Couples returning to their original partners, lines reforming. …Returning to order.
Beatrice closed her eyes, losing herself in the memories. "There's a doctor in Boston, Dr. Joseph Warren. He is considered one of the most dangerous rebels around, but he can speak kindly with anyone. Whether they agree with him or not. He couldn't do that if he were a fool."
The music ended.
"Dr. Warren spoke at the Massacre anniversary a couple of years ago. My father never would have let me go, but I've since read his speech in the papers. One line I remember: Stain not the glory of your worthy ancestors; but, like them, resolve never to part with your birthright: be wise in your deliberations, and determined in your exertions for the preservation of your liberties."
She smiled and opened her eyes. "Wise and determined. If that's all I could be, it would be enough."
Susie and Beulah nodded.
Suddenly, a pair of shadows fell across the three girls, and they looked up, alarmed. Mr. Hamilton stood over them, joined by John. John sighed resignedly and offered his hand to Beatrice, who gave it a sour look. "Forgive me, Mr. Mulligan," she said pertly. "My leg is still a bit sore."
With a huff, John switched his hand to Beulah, who practically lifted him airborne in her haste to reach the dance floor. Hamilton grinned and presented himself to young Susie. Beatrice sighed and sank back in her chair to watch the dance once more.
The moon had turned the river from gold to silver. The Mulligan party stood on the piazza, waiting for their carriage to arrive, joined by Mrs. Murray and her two girls. Other guests drifted past, calling their thanks and farewells.
The tired hostess shook her head. "Mr. Mulligan, my apologies again for Robert's behavior. Everything has been turned on end, as of late."
Hercules patted the gracious woman's hand. "Mary, please don't give it a second thought. We're all hoping this will turn out for the best."
Beatrice stood at the railing, gazing off over the hills. Only a few weeks into the summer, and it had seemed a lifetime. New friends, new foes, unexpected adventures… The uproar of Boston life would almost seem restful. Even in this serene landscape, she found herself aching for home.
Hamilton appeared at her shoulder. "So let's see," came his familiar drawl. "I've saved your life, defended your honor, proved that I can dance with the best of them." He ticked the points off on his fingers and grinned with satisfaction. "What's left?"
"The flower gardens are beautiful," Beatrice mumbled distractedly, "but why don't the Murrays farm the rest of the land?" She looked around the remainder of Inclenberg's acreage, a few outbuildings scattered across the hill but little in the way of livestock, no tilled fields. No orchards.
Her companion shrugged. "Too much ledge. Stone, boulders… it's hard to work around that."
"That's never stopped New Englanders from trying. You want rocks, Mr. Hamilton, check out the soil in Massachusetts."
"Who needs a farm when you have the rest?" Hamilton pulled on his gloves as the carriage turned up the drive. "A theater of refinement. Only the best, Miss Whaley, for a lady as refined as yourself."
Beatrice frowned. "I'm afraid you've misread me, sir. I can be surprisingly pastoral. There are few things I enjoy more than the shade of an apple tree."
Hamilton snorted. "Is that what you want? Fruit? If only I'd known it was that simple." He sighed. "Women. When will you break from the ways of Mother Eve and stop being tempted by apples?"
Dear Mr. W,
So much has happened since I last wrote, and I will save most of it to tell you in person. A short note just seemed necessary.
I haven't regretted a moment of my time here in New York. As much as I enjoy disagreeing with Mother and Father, those are the conceits of a young girl. They were right in sending me here. Mother told me, "family comes before all else", and I've found more than one reason to be proud of my Mulligan connections. (You will be surprised to learn what you already have in common!)
Most importantly: I beg you not to worry more about Mr. Hamilton. He is a man of good intentions, but would not last a minute behind a plow. I much prefer a man with a back strong enough to support his convictions.
Again, forgive my brevity. Please send my very best to Dr. Warren and the rest of your family. I look forward to autumn, and harvest time.
Beatrice quickly folded, sealed, and addressed the letter, as she heard the men's voices downstairs wrapping up their conversation. She ran down the staircase and pressed the note into the large, calloused hand of the post rider who stood just inside the Mulligan's door. The man glanced at the name on the letter and smiled.
"You know this will arrive safely, Miss Whaley."
He and Hamilton exchanged bows, and Hercules clapped their visitor on the shoulder. "Thank you again for the news, Paul. Have a safe ride home."
Beatrice stepped out after them onto the curbside, and watched as the man swung up into his saddle. She waved in gratitude.
"Thank you, Mr. Revere!"
The rider touched the brim of his hat in return, spurred his horse, and rode off. Beatrice watched until he turned out of sight up the street, headed north to Boston.