Dreams of Glory

Dreams of Glory by Thomas Fleming Read Free Book Online

Book: Dreams of Glory by Thomas Fleming Read Free Book Online
Authors: Thomas Fleming
Bedchamber and a frequent hunting companion of the King.
    Flora Kuyper intensified Beckford’s unease by ignoring his prophecy. She freed her arm and turned away from him to stare into the fire again. For a moment an image flashed into Beckford’s mind, as vivid as a scene from a play. He was in London, strolling through Pall Mall with Flora on his arm.
Major General Beckford and his German mistress, her face a lurid mask of paint concealing the lines of age, approach. Beckford and Flora pass them without so much as a nod.
    Absurd, Beckford told himself. Flora belonged by agreement to the man they called Twenty-six. She was replaceable in that Pall Mall scene by another woman, any woman of comparable beauty. But many things could happen to his old friend Twenty-six between today and the consummation of their intricate plan. Beckford had not seen any woman in America who came close to Flora Kuyper’s exotic beauty. It was important that the woman in the Pall Mall scene be a trophy, a symbol of triumph, carried back to England as his father had brought his own mistress back from Germany, announcing his defiance of his pudgy English wife and the fortune for which he had married her. That kind of freedom belonged only to conquerors.
    â€œVictory, Flora,” Beckford said again, seeking a response that went beyond mere obedience.
    She continued to ignore him. The firelight played on her mournful mouth, her downcast eyes. Walter Beckford struggled to control his exasperation. Women were as unknowable, as transient as the weather. Wayward personal emotions, such as sympathy for dead slaves, distracted them. Why was he allowing such a creature to make him doubt the certainty of that transcendent word, victory?

FOUR
    IDIOCY , CONGRESSMAN HUGH STAPLETON THOUGHT as he watched the hospital orderlies lug the pine coffin out of the shed behind the army hospital. The Reverend Caleb Chandler walked beside the coffin, a model of morose Puritan piety. It was impossible to imagine him ever smiling, much less laughing or dancing. His worn wool stockings drooped, the wide buckram skirt and boot-sleeve cuffs of his coat had gone out of style in the 1760s, his cloak was a mass of patches, yet the fellow assumed that because he was a college graduate, a gentleman should treat him as an equal. As if a degree from Yale—or Harvard, for that matter—proved a man was anything but a canting Yankee hypocrite.
    The wind came out of the northeast like a spear, piercing the beaver greatcoat that Stapleton’s London tailor had guaranteed would keep him warm anywhere, even in Saint Petersburg. The slate-gray sky was unchanged from yesterday and showed no sign of changing tomorrow. The Yankees had not only exported their fanatic politics to the rest of America, Stapleton thought, they had also sent their abominable New England weather.
    â€œIt’s good of you to do this, Congressman Stapleton,” Caleb Chandler called as he and the equally ragged pallbearers approached the sleigh.
    â€œI’m doing it as a favor to my old friend Henry Kuyper, Chaplain. For no other reason.”
    â€œI hope you can find time to question Mr. Kuyper about the money in Caesar’s pocket and his whereabouts when he was absent without leave. General Washington’s investigation made no attempt to explore those matters.

    â€œGeneral Washington has more important things on his mind, Chaplain.”
    â€œI wish I saw some proof of it,” Chandler said. “He and his staff continue to live in luxury while their troops starve and freeze.”
    There it was again, that mindless Yankee hatred of Washington which Stapleton heard so often from the New Englanders in Congress. It was really a hatred of anyone who lived like a gentleman. They want to pull us all down to their patched-homespun grubbiness, Stapleton thought. To abandon all of life’s pleasures and talk through our noses about salvation and righteousness. What

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