Dreams of Glory

Dreams of Glory by Thomas Fleming Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Dreams of Glory by Thomas Fleming Read Free Book Online
Authors: Thomas Fleming
perverse deity had gotten him—gotten America—involved with these creatures?
    The orderlies heaved the coffin onto the floor of Hugh Stapleton’s sleigh. “If I get any information—which I doubt—I will write to you, Chaplain,” Congressman Stapleton said, wedging his fur-lined boots between the coffin and his seat and gathering a bearskin rug around his knees. He gave his Negro coachman, Pompey, a peremptory wave. Pompey cracked his whip over the heads of the two black Burlington geldings, which had won the admiration of that lover of good horseflesh, George Washington. The sleigh surged away from the army hospital and its attendant burial shed, away from the nearby rows of enlisted men’s huts in Jockey Hollow, with their pervasive stench of urine and excrement. Congressman Stapleton took a small diamond-encrusted silver box from his pocket and tried to banish the stink with a corrosive snort of snuff.
    This was more like it, he thought as the sleigh skimmed down the snow-packed road behind the powerful horses, jingling the first bar of one of his favorite songs, “The Good Fellow.” He hummed the rest of it to himself as they raced along.

    Good fortune attend
Each merry man’s friend
That doth but the best he may;

Forgetting old wrong
With a cup and a song
To drive cold winter away.

    Instead of cheering him up, the song made Hugh Stapleton melancholy. He thought of one of the last times he had sung it in his fine tenor voice, which had once set the fair sex sighing. Tom Barton of Philadelphia and Harry Brockholst of New York had been sitting beside him in this sleigh, with three of the prettiest girls in New Jersey around them, on the way to the old Three Pigeons Inn for a night of dancing and drinking and flirting and kissing. Only fifteen years ago. Where were they now? Tom Barton was a refugee in British New York, writing bitter ballads and essays ridiculing the American rebels. Harry Brockholst was dead, in a frozen grave outside Quebec.
    They soon reached the center of Morristown, with its rectangular snow-heaped green surrounded by churches, taverns, stores, and private houses. “Stop at the general’s headquarters,” Hugh Stapleton called. Near the end of the green, Pompey reined in the geldings and the sleigh slithered to a halt in front of the fine Palladian doorway of the two-story hip-roofed house, the former home of Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. Another old friend lying in a cold grave.
    In the spacious center hall, Congressman Stapleton encountered Washington’s affable young aide, Colonel Alexander Hamilton. “I only stopped to reassure the general that I have Muzzey’s body and will deliver it as requested,” the congressman said. “Mr. Chandler seems somewhat mollified.”
    â€œWe’re eternally grateful,” Hamilton said. “I hope it won’t take you too far out of your way.”
    â€œFar enough but I’m glad to do it. Let us hope it will keep your would-be Jeremiah quiet for a while.”
    â€œIf it doesn’t, we may resort to harsher methods,” Hamilton said.
    â€œDid you enjoy your evening with Miss Schuyler?”

    Hamilton groaned. “Another one like it and I’ll be a gone man. I hate to admit it, but she’s everything I want in a wife. Religious, but not a saint.”
    â€œAnd beautiful and good-tempered and submissive but not doltishly dependent,” the congressman added with a laugh. “Sometimes I think we New Yorkers all want the same woman.”
    Hamilton shook his head: It was obvious that he was already a gone man. “I swore I wouldn’t marry until I was thirty.”
    â€œI went through exactly the same experience.”
    â€œAnd you’re still a happy man?”
    â€œI’m sufficiently cynical to doubt that any husband of thirteen years is happy. But I wouldn’t trade the first five or six years—”
    â€œI’m afraid I

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