Story [Hamilton] "With a Second Hand", (Poetry Inspiration Challenge), Eliza, Finale Coda

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Oct 22, 2016.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    "With a Second Hand"

    Fandom: Hamilton: An American Musical
    Genre: Drama, General
    Timeframe: Finale-era
    Characters: Eliza Hamilton, and a few special guests from history

    Summary: Eliza Hamilton, and her role in building both the Washington Monument . . . and her husband's legacy. And, for others, such as the soft-spoken congressman from Illinois: how lucky they were to be alive while such a woman still walked amongst them.

    Notes: This started as a thousand words of introspection for the Poetry Inspiration Challenge, and turned into quite the vignette when all of these extra characters decided that they wanted to pop up and have their say. My poem was "One day I wrote her name upon the strand", by Edmund Spenser, and once I switched the genders around it seemed a perfect fit for Eliza and her amazing tenacity to be her husband's voice when his time was up. Because, as beautiful as this musical is as a whole, it's the finale - and Eliza's role within it - that slays me, each and every time. I suppose that you could say that this story is a coda to that, and a study on legacy - planting seeds and writing notes, and all of that. Really, this is just a small tribute to a truly amazing woman; I had to exorcise my girl-crush somehow.

    As a last note, since this piece uses historical characters not included in the musical - I suppose that this part of the finale can be called 'post-canon', in a way - I tried to use race neutral adjectives when describing them, so that you can imagine whoever and however you like. (Personally, for my leading guy here - you'll know him when you see him - I like to picture Brian Stokes Mitchell for obvious reasons, just saying. ;))

    And now, for the story . . .

    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.

    One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
    But came the waves and washèd it away:
    Again I wrote it with a second hand,
    But came the tide and made my pains his prey.
    Vain man (said she) that dost in vain assay
    A mortal thing so to immortalise;
    For I myself shall like to this decay,
    And eke my name be wipèd out likewise.
    Not so (quod I); let baser things devise
    To die in dust, but you shall live by fame;
    My verse your virtues rare shall eternise,
    And in the heavens write your glorious name:
    Where, when as Death shall all the world subdue,
    Our love shall live, and later life renew.

    July 4th, 1848, Washington City

    The day, having dawned hot and humid, was overcast and stiffing by noon. Fog rose from the waterways and dew soaked grass in ghostly curtains, held close to the earth in a clammy embrace by the low line of clouds, swollen with rain overhead. It had been a healthy spring, wet and verdant and lush, and that pattern had continued to hold with overcast skies and rumbling storms into the summer season. Eliza Hamilton did not hold out hope that the day would last without the heavens pouring down upon them; the scent of rain was too heavy in the air; she could feel it in her bones.

    Well then, this would certainly not be her first Independence Day spent in the rain, and she yet hoped that it would not be her last - no matter her already living to see the truly remarkable age of one and ninety years. She enjoyed the far-fetched shape of her wishes, she took comfort in their familiarity, for she had lived a life full of impossible things coming to fruition thus far.

    In spite of the thick heat of the day, Eliza chose to don the unforgiving black of her widow's weeds. She refused to wear any other color on the birthday of their nation, no matter that her daughter huffed and scolded her for the color choice like a clucking hen for her decision. Now a woman long since grown, and more recently a widow herself, Lizzie wore a summer's gown in a print of blue and white plaid; the colours drew attention to the locks of steel streaking through her otherwise dark hair, now curled and tucked away at the base of her neck in the new style the ladies of the day favoured. How strange, Eliza thought often as of late, that the baby of her babies - the dear girl whose arrival she had finally forgiven her husband his indiscretions with - was beginning to age before her eyes, with she too bowing before the unyielding hands of time. For the most part, she thanked the Lord for her being able to see her children through so many years, and yet, in fleeting moments, she dreaded just what she would see at her time continued onwards and on.

    Her hands did not shake, even though they were wrinkled and speckled with age as she caught Lizzie's fussing fingers in her own. No matter how grown a woman her daughter was, Eliza was still her mother; it was thus second nature for her to look Lizzie in the eye and press her mouth together in a practiced look of displeasure. Her decision was made, and it was final.

    “If President Polk hopes to garner favor by parading the last living memory of a bygone age about, then I would have them look at me and know who - and what - I am in mourning for,” Eliza was stubborn to insist. Not only a husband, she thought, but an era . . . an age of ideas and ideals, now seemingly forgotten by the union their collective pains had helped birth. It was an old line - a tired line, to some - yet it was a song she would sing until she had not the breath left within her to do so.

    Lizzie only sighed at her words, and looked over her shoulder to recruit her brothers' help. Eliza prepared herself to stand firm against her reinforcements. “Mama is being moribund again, Phil, and insisting on all that black in this heat. She listens to you - you try and reason with her.”

    “You wish me to reason with a Hamilton who's mind is set? I do not know what you think I can accomplish, Lizzie, but I will try.” Phil - her second Philip, her youngest child - wore a look of all too obvious amusement as he peeked into the parlor to glance between his mother and sister. Following more slowly behind him, John Church gave a dry chuckle at the familiar contest of wills, but he did not try to offer up aid to his little sister's endeavor. His dark eyes already acknowledged the futility of it all.

    “You are a lawyer,” Lizzie nonetheless crossed her arms to say. “Didn't Columbia teach you anything at all?”

    “I'll have you recall that Father too was a lawyer, and yet his skills in court never much translated to Mother yielding him the floor,” Phil blithely reasoned. Even so, he came into the room to kiss his sister's cheek with an exaggerated affection. “Besides, if you were allowed to pass the bar, Lizzie, I believe that you would have been the greatest prosecutor known to this family.”

    “Charmer,” was Lizzie's dry reply, little impressed.

    “Alright then, I shall try, sister. For you I shall try,” Phil heaved a dramatic sigh before turning to face his mother. “It's a happy day, Mama, this dedication. You've worked for years to see the building of the Monument approved, and you have much to be proud of – so, let yourself feel that pride, today of all days.” He aimed with honey where his sister had tried with vinegar. “You can pick up your sword again tomorrow; Lord knows there will still be dragons enough in Washington for you to slay.”

    His smile, when shaped to coax . . . how much like his father's it was. Yet, it was not enough to persuade her. “When you've lived as long as I have, you do not know which day shall be your last; I cannot risk taking even a minute for granted.” Stubbornly, Eliza kept to her course. “I will not put down my sword, lest I never pick it up again.”

    “Well then, you stubborn crusader,” her John, at least, had learned better than his siblings over the years. He knew to let her have her way. “At least allow us to pick up arms and help you man the line; you need not shoulder such a burden alone.”

    “You already do, dear,” she assured her son as he offered her an arm to help her to the door and out towards the waiting carriage. “More than you know.”

    Eliza glanced behind in time to see Phil shrugging apologetically to his sister. Lizzie, defeated, threw her hands up in the air before snatching her bonnet up. “A curse upon the Hamilton pride,” she huffed, but nonetheless followed her mother and brothers.

    Once they were settled, it was not a long ride from her daughter's home to the National Mall in the heart of the capitol. Indeed, were Eliza even ten years younger she would have suggested they all walk. Instead, she leaned back against the cushion of her seat and closed her eyes, steeling herself for the long day she knew was to come. She flitted between listening to the well-meaning chatter of her children, to the youthful prattle of her youngest two grandsons - with Laurens, all fourteen years old and ungainly from a springtime growth spurt, educating young Louis, now nearly five years old and solemnly eager for his being allowed to attend such an auspicious event, on how to Act a Hamilton in Public. It was a familiar lecture to her ears, one that each in her comfortably large family had heard many times before. It was a speech, she continued to remember with some fondness, that she had to remind her own husband of more often than not - no matter how many times he repeated its rules to their children.

    Eliza let the rocking of the carriage and the murmur of her family lull her until the tell-tale sounds of a crowd heralded their arrival. Lizzie made no secret of the worry lurking in the corners of her gaze as the carriage came to a halt; Phil, ever ready to hide his own concern with sympathy, took her hand in his own and squeezed, lending her his unspoken support as John leapt down first to take the coachman's job in helping her out. Beyond the curtained windows, she could already see the flares lit to aid the newfangled cameras the newsmen so obnoxiously favored. The noise of the crowd swelled in volume. It was time, then.

    As ever, she steeled herself as John gave her a hand in disembarking, reminding herself to hold her head up high and look down to no one. She had never shone naturally in crowds, she was self-aware enough to admit, and for many years she had been content to support the harmony, rather than claim the melody in any given group. She had always been comfortable with playing the moon to Angelica's sun; she had rejoiced to reflect her light. Later, she had played the same such moon to the great gravity of her husband's earth, and, in turn, had been blessed to influence his tides however she could, when she could. And yet, now . . .

    Angelica was gone, these many years now resting in peace, she knew with a still piercing pang of grief, and her Alexander too was made moot by the grave. It was left to her to speak where they could not. And so, Eliza squared her jaw; she made a mountain of her gaze. No matter what, she would maintain her smile; it was what was expected of every politically minded soul in Washington city, from the lowest, scrapping lobbyist to the president of the United States himself, and she would be no different.

    It was not long before Eliza was whisked away from her son's arm to be shown from one high ranking official to the next. Each man in the current president's cabinet, a senator from here, a congressman from there: they all paid their respects. Following, she was sure to thank each generous financial donor to her project - all railroad tycoons and prosperous bankers and vast southern plantation owners. She made sure to catch Dolley Madison once in the fray and squeeze the former first lady's hand; they had done it, she was able to tearfully congratulate her co-conspirator, they were successful. Against time and criticism and the petulant odds imposed by the jealous and the ungracious, they had persevered. They two had triumphed.

    Mrs. General Hamilton, she heard over and over again, by then well used to the curiosity and the wonderment that accompanied those saying her name. How good it is to have you with us today, the well-wishes and greetings gushed in one monotonous stream - as if her living was some great feat, with the rest of the founders and their wives having so long known the mansions of rest. What an age she represented, what a good-luck charm she was thought to be by these men to whom the idea of America was an inheritance, an entitlement that was expected, rather than fought for and earned outright.

    She was, Eliza reflected somewhat distantly, then so incredibly tired. She was fatigued down to the bone - that day, for some reason, more so than most. But she was not yet satisfied, and so, she pushed on. She mingled, she smiled, and when appropriate she spoke. She reminded . . . just as she would continue doing until she had not a breath left within her to utter.

    The ceremony to follow was long, and made even longer still by the sticky warmth of the day. Even under the thoughtfully erected awning over the stands, where she sat with the president's family and the highest ranked members of their government for the dedication, she suffered to endure the stiffing embrace of the summer's day. She waved her fan, fighting the heat and the biting insects who were drawn by the promise of rain, all the while pitying the men who stewed in their suits as one speaker after another took the podium and droned on and on. Not a one of them cut their remarks short out of courtesy for the crowd when it was their turn to speak, for each of them wanted their names forever associated with that day. One after another puffed up his chest and sang his own praises, thinly veiled within the praises for a nation - as if the Monument was a project that would have been impossible without their particular hands added to the mix, as if each one of them was not interchangeable with the next man in line.

    For, while Eliza knew a sense of peace – a triumph for what her organization had accomplished – that satisfaction was touched with an underlying thread of disquiet . . . with an almost petulant sense of ire. Though this should have been a happy day for her, a celebrated day for the many pains and hardships she had endured to see it dawn, all she could think as she looked around was: it has taken you decades to do what should have been thoughtless from the first, and yet you congratulate yourself. All monarchies and dynasties they may be, but there is not a country in Europe who would have shamed their leaders so as to let their memories languish so long without a fitting memorial paid . . . There was not a Pharaoh who ever had to wait for the completion of his pyramid; there was never a king who wanted for gild to his crown. Yet, since we are a democracy, our brave men may not be honored without some perceived hypocrisy in maintaining their memory. Since we have republican values, each jealous and petty man may voice his grievances to the point where such dedications must eternally languish in committee and debate. Then, when we finally find our voice, our governing men are shameless in patting themselves on the back for that which it has taken decades to accomplish.

    Over fifty years . . . fifty years since General Washington's passing, and a monument, grand and unmistakeable, was only then at last approved to honor his name.

    Over fifty years . . . as ever, her awareness of time was as a whisper across her senses. Once was, even before the turn of the century, President John Adams had swallowed his pride and personal dislike long enough to authorize the building of a monument following the general's death. To this day she could remember Alexander's reaction, with clarity in its every detail: “I will not let them get away with building some generic equestrian statue and hiding it outside of some nugatory governmental office . . . no. No. Rather, we need something that the world can look on, and with a single glance know . . .”

    And yet, though he had been able to sketch, he had not wholly been able to find his words to create a complete picture. Not then. There were only a few souls whose deaths her husband met silence, rather than an outpouring flood of words and grief. Only three that she could count: John Laurens, that terrible, dark day so early in their marriage; their baby boy, lost in a terrible foreshadowing of his father's own eventual fate; and, then . . .

    “ . . . I told him not to call me son, you know,” was all that Alexander could mutter as she rested a hand on his shoulder. She had stood, ever an anchor at his side; ever a boulder against the turbulent currents of his mind as he mournfully whispered, “And he never did again.”

    Though John Adams had first approved a monument to honor General Washington, the exact size and shape of such a memorial had languished in congressional debate. When Adams' single term in office ended, one of the first actions of Thomas Jefferson's presidency had been to reverse that monarchist decision of his Federalist predecessor . . . Their third president had not stopped there, however, and along with removing the general's face from their currency and outlawing the celebration of his birthday, he had been careful to always refer to him as Mr. Washington - affording him no honor or titles for what he claimed was simply his rightful duty completed as an American citizen. Even now, she could remember her husband erupting hot with outrage over the decree, scathing to say: “His republican values amaze me. No national hero should be individually honored, he dares to claim, for honor should rather be paid to the nation and people as a whole – yet, what would he say that if it was his face they wanted to carve onto a mountainside? His petty jealousy can masquerade itself as virtue, yet I suspect that he would not be so egalitarian then - ”

    Yet . . . her Alexander had lost his chance to fight and reverse that decision. He'd ran out of time; cruelly, his death took from him the ability to fight for so many things.

    And so, now . . .

    Thomas Jefferson and his ilk were dead, Eliza reflected with a dark sort of satisfaction. Such a fierce contempt was perhaps unchristian of her to revel in, yet the knowledge still simmered, all but warming her blood in her veins. He and his kind were gone - with their defaming words and their slanted points of view and their outright lies where her husband was concerned. They were no more while she lived on . . . she still lived with her husband's words in her mouth – her words now, her whole heart and soul, truly – and she intended to fire those words as arrows until she had not the time or strength to do so anymore. Until the grave wired her mouth shut, she would speak. At one and ninety she still felt her will going strong; she was not done with this world yet.

    At last, President Polk finished with his portion of the ceremony, and she continued to sit still and unmovable as a silent observer. While she could argue her politics and plead for her causes behind closed doors, the constrictions of her sex did not allow her to speak on behalf of the society that had raised the primary funding for the Monument – no matter that the promise of pre-allocated capitol was the only thing that had rescued the idea from the basement of the past in the first place. Instead, she kept to her place with a benign smile, silent in her words as she often had to be. Truly, she did not mind being paraded around as a relic of the Revolution for the political benefit of others – her role in ornamenting gatherings of state and gracing the gathering rooms of the White House opened doors to her, doors that would have otherwise been closed, and she knew how to pander to her age and her relationships with the dead in order to grant her presence before ears which would not of listened before. There were times, she knew, when she well exasperated President Polk; at other times, she charmed him. She only had to make sure that she did more of the latter than the former, and her course would remain steady.

    Even so, she felt her age most acutely when she watched little Wash – only, not so little now was George Washington Parke Curtis – take the stage to say a few words about his step-grandfather when it was his turn to do so. That little boy, forever lost within his poem books, or tending to his kittens and cataloging species of butterflies, was now a man grown . . . and an old man, at that. His back was stooped by his years and his hair was a winter-swept silver grey, but his soft brown eyes were much as she remembered, all of those years ago. His speech was the only one she paid close attention to, down to his every word, and when he was helped down from the podium by his son-in-law to lay the first stone of the Monument in a symbolic gesture, she felt tears gather at the corners of her eyes. Only a sheer stubbornness of will kept them from falling.

    You should have been here for this, Alex, she thought then as she had so many times before. This day - this triumph - should have been yours to share in as well.

    The ceremony was at last concluded by a fanfare of brass and strings, and all of those in the crowd gave a mighty hip hip hurrah when bidden by the conductor. Through all of it Eliza remained in her seat, watching Wash Curtis as he brushed off the stone to make sure that no dirt or residue marred its surface. The deep well of feeling in his old, careworn eyes was one she imagined that she mirrored in its entirety.

    Afterward, as the crowd left the stands for the promise of lemonade and iced sweet-tea on the lawn beyond, she found that she was not as ready to mingle as she had been before. Instead, she stood in the long shadow cast by the stands after convincing her family that she was fine, she only needed a moment to collect herself. She had her cane and her wits about her still; she did not need to be coddled any more than that. Grab Laurens an ice cream, you know that he fancies himself too old to ask for one outright; and show Louis the ducks in the pond – I do not know if I can make that walk right now. Her sons had left only after such further coaxing, though she knew that her daughter was not far should she need her. Even so, Lizzie would let her have her moment uninterrupted; in her own way, with her own dear departed husband, she understood her pains more so than any of her other children.

    For longer than she would later care to admit to, Eliza stood in the relative coolness of the shade, allowing her grief to rise and overtake her so that she could subdue it and better enjoy the remainder of the celebration to follow. She felt her mourning as a breath rattling in her lungs, and she exhaled, determined to persevere through the blade that had so long rested in her heart that it now rusted with every pulse of her long years. Slowly, she felt her control rise up around her like the strong walls of a fortress once more. At length, she looked up, taking solace in the grey sky and the bright, green cast of the world around her. She breathed deeply, and could smell the rich, fertile scent that came with the surplus of rain that season; so much so that it was almost a taste in her mouth. Her eyes still watered, but no longer did she feel the danger of crying outright.

    “Pardon me, ma'am, but while my manners know better than to draw attention to a woman's tears, I cannot quite keep myself from noticing that your handkerchief is quite beyond the point of use. If you would forgive my rudeness, and accept this as proof of my sincere wish to be of service . . . ”

    The voice she heard approaching was warm in timbre, with a slow, almost lilting cadence to its flow that spoke of the newly opened land west of the mountains. Blinking to further clear her tears, recognition prickled at her consciousness as she turned – first taking in the handkerchief that the gentleman was offering her before looking up, and up -

    Eliza Hamilton knew that she was a short woman. She had been, even in her youth, and her years had only further condensed her bones, shrinking her spine into an even more diminutive form. Once was, Alexander had teased her to say that was one of the things that had first endeared her to him – for hers was a beauty he did not have to look up to see. Yet, her stature was now only further emphasized just how tall the man before her was – with a height that was only emphasized by the somewhat battered stovepipe hat he wore, pulled low over a high brow and shadowing deep-set, almost sad eyes that nonetheless . . .

    . . . with a whisper, she thought to understand such eyes . . . such watchful, canny eyes. They were familiar with their spark, so much so that -

    - yet, with a start, decades of enforced manners had her reflexively taking the proffered handkerchief with a wobbling smile. “I thank you, sir, for your kindness. It is much appreciated.” Truly, she was grateful to have a fresh square of cloth to clean her eyes with, no matter that she'd rather be done with her tears altogether.

    “Mrs. General Hamilton, is it not?” the man took off his hat and bowed low to say – perhaps lower than propriety dictated, and with no one to see him do so, at that. He moved with a strange almost-grace for his height, Eliza observed, as if his was a steel frame that merely wanted for oil; and she found herself curtseying in answer, the motion by then a well practiced one with her cane. “I must apologize for my forwardness, I know that we have not been properly introduced.”

    “The 'general' is what men tend to add to my name when they wish to speak to my husband's ghost through me,” Eliza drolly remarked. “Please, call me Eliza, or Mrs. Hamilton, if you will.”

    “Mrs. Hamilton, then,” the man tipped his hat as he returned it to its place, and she found her smile quirking, despite herself. “It is a pleasure to formally make your acquaintance.”

    “And I yours, Congressman Lincoln,” she discreetly finished dabbing at her eyes to say. She noticed the flash of surprise that colored his expression – too quickly to properly be called a reaction before it was gone. For seeing so, she felt an answering flare of satisfaction rise in her own lungs, and she exhaled with the emotion, pleased.

    “I make it a point to know of any potential allies to my various causes,” her half-smile in answer to the unspoken was as much a reflex as it was a motion well-practiced by her many years. She tilted her head back, looking up to meet his eyes and boldly say, “You are a self-educated man, are you not? You taught yourself the law, passed the bar, and you went on to be a successful lawyer in Illinois. An outspoken abolitionist, you agree with the modernization of the economy through banks and tariffs and railroads. Yet, while you want those railroads built, you do not believe in Manifest Destiny at the expense of a powerful nation subduing its less powerful neighbors in such a monarchist, European style as our previous motherland long endeavored to do. Expansion should not be sought, at that, until we can solve our issues here at home, and that includes slavery. I remember your remarks in speaking out against the Mexican war, they've quite stayed with me these last few years.”

    Military glory – that attractive rainbow that nevertheless rises in showers of blood, he had called out President Polk where few others did, standing tall and alone on the Congress floor but determined to stand by his principles, even so. He had a gift for rhetoric, she'd thought then; he had a remarkable way with words.

    Even so, Eliza did not insult his intelligence or her own by deigning to mention the less graceful whispers that circulated the capitol. She would not validate them with the privilege of sound, the murmurs where enlightened, republican men scoffed and disapproved: the son of a bastard mother and an illiterate father, who are his people? Where is his fortune? His breeding? What backwater corner of our country was he born to, again? Uncultured and coarse, he'll never amount to much, you'll see.

    . . . and yet, here Abraham Lincoln was, slowly but surely proving all of the naysayers wrong through his tenacity of deeds and the determination of his mind. Her husband, she had long ago concluded, would have liked this man . . . he would have liked him very much indeed.

    It took Lincoln a moment, but the congressman at last found his voice to reply, “You, ma'am, have a rather excellent gift for memory. Such a triumph over one's mental powers should be the aspiration of all.” He did not add at an age such as yours out of a gentleman's polite respect for a lady's delicacy, but his eyes twinkled, and she heard the unspoken nonetheless.

    Eliza felt her smile stretch; it settled into a truer shape upon her mouth to say, “When you've lived as long as I have, Congressman, a good memory becomes a requirement, and now it is my most treasured asset. Yet, even so,” she could not help but playfully add, “I must confess that you are simply the tallest in the room. It makes it easy for you to attract attention . . . and hold it.”

    “That's the true reason I was voted into Congress, I suspect,” Lincoln's agreement was unexpectedly deadpan. “Folks couldn't see over me to know the man I was running against. I'm not proud of the fact, but I've endeavored to make use of the time in government its awarded me as best I can.”

    “Those are the words of a wise man,” Eliza dryly approved. “We all do what we can do, when and how we can do it, do we not?”

    “For which some could say that you've done more from outside of the House than most of the men sitting comfortably within it,” Lincoln inclined his head to acknowledge her hand in the day they celebrated. He angled his body to match her own, and his gaze found the large, open space on the green with its single, lonely stone set. Someday, how many stones would stand there? she wondered. How high above Goliath would it reach in height? She could not quite picture it in her mind, no matter how she tried to stretch her imagination.

    “It's quite a triumph you have earned for yourself today, ma'am,” his words were soft to congratulate, with a sincerity to his voice that had been lacking in many of her well-wishers that day. He too looked up at that same invisible point in the sky, and she distantly wondered if he could picture the future more clearly than she could. Could he envision its final shape?

    “This,” her words were pitched with a similar hush, lost as she was to her many years of memories, “is simply the culmination of a great many souls working together over the course of a great many years. I only did my part.”

    “A humble spirit in a woman,” even so, Lincoln did not fully allow her to dodge the credit he thought due to her. “That is something I can more than respect, especially here in Washington city.”

    While such humble spirits were refreshing, they were a rare breed in the capitol, she too agreed but did not say. Instead, it was impossible for her to keep from commenting, “For many years I was blessed to play a counterpoint to my husband; the Lord would not have allowed my Alexander to choose a wife who was not humble enough to balance his moments of conceit, I think.”

    There was another flash of . . . something in the congressman's eyes, she noticed then. It was a sort of something that she recognized from her many years of playing the mother to eight curious children – with each one of them sharing their father's insatiable hunger to know and understand anything and everything about the world around them. Yet, Lincoln did not ask what most did not have a qualm about bidding from her as if she was a fountain of such waiting stories. Instead, he inclined his head to surmise, “There are very few here who are personally invested in this project, I should say. I'm happy that this is a day which came in time for you to see.”

    “I suspect that the lack of personal investment is the reason why its approval has taken so long to arrive,” Eliza shrugged to acknowledge. She tucked the handkerchief she had borrowed away, and, her eyes thus dried, she looked again to the fenced off site the Monument would someday occupy. The crowd had thinned enough about the ropes that she now wished to pay her respects, and she found her cane in order to do so. Wordlessly, perhaps easily understanding her intentions, Lincoln politely offered her an arm to aid her stride. Gratefully, she accepted. His arm was strong and his gait was patient and steady as he helped her pick a path over the uneven grass. She did not falter once.

    “I understand folks fearing a dynasty,” Lincoln at last remarked to her earlier words, “and fearing the appearances of such a memorial. Even so, it's not the man being remembered, but what the man stood for, is the way I reckon it - no matter that General Washington was a great man, worthy of such recognition on his own merits. I believe that it's good and decent to applaud those who've left a mark on this world that's larger than themselves, so to speak.”

    “Your requirements for such dedications are painfully simple,” Eliza sighed to approve. “If only every congressman in the House felt that way.”

    “Well then, what would the congressional season be, without days and days of mind-numbing debate over even the simplest of matters?” Lincoln wryly philosophized. “Would democracy survive?”

    “The capitol would by quieter, no doubt,” Eliza mused in answered. “The newspapers would be thinner.”

    “Ah, well, that's what you get with a nation that's by the people, for the people,” Lincoln chuckled. “You get to hear from every sort of person for every sort of thing - oftentimes at great length, solely for the simple pleasure of men hearing themselves speak.”

    “Such are the banes of a republican government; sometimes I can well understand the Roman citizens who wished to do away with it in their time,” Eliza sighed, leaning more heavily upon her cane to say. In the distance, she could hear the far off rumble of thunder from further inland, promising the rain that was soon to come. She could feel the weather as a throbbing in her bones, ever growing as the storm searched out the ocean. “And yet, we are still a young government. Perhaps, a hundred years from now, the wrinkles will have at last been smoothed.”

    “Or, men will just have different things to prattle on about,” Lincoln was slow to agree. She glanced up in time to see him tuck away a smile. “Unfortunately, I myself will not be a congressman for much longer to see such a day dawn, if it ever comes, at that.”

    His constituents did not agree with his going toe to toe with President Polk's policies, she knew. Honorably, he would not stand for reelection to represent his state when his views were not those they shared. Instead, he would resign. Standing up for one's beliefs in Washington, she knew, oftentimes came with a heavy price.

    “You will not be long remaining in the capitol, then?” Eliza felt a pang, knowing that the list of those she respected and admired in the interior was slowly growing more and more thin. Disconcertingly, there were too many voices from the south, rising from a whisper and promising quite a clamor to come, all the while those in the north and newly opened west were still uncertain about a great many things . . . too many things, for her comfort.

    But those battles, she knew with a ghost of foreboding, would be to the next generation to fight. Those victories, those losses, would be to her children and her children's children to bear. Soon, her time would run out, and her fight would be carried on by those who remained.

    “Yes, ma'am. It's back to Illinois for me, and my practice waiting there,” Lincoln inclined his head in answer. “There's a certain peace to be had in practicing the law, rather than setting those laws, especially on the frontier. A part of me even looks forward to the rest.”

    Those words, she thought, sounded halfhearted and hollow, even to her own ears. They were absent the ring of belief.

    “Washington will be losing a sound voice during a time when such voices are dearly needed,” carefully, Eliza let herself remark. She was not familiar enough with the man to say anything more than that.

    And yet she suspected that her instincts were correct. Lincoln did not agree with her plainly, but rather deflected the subject with humor to say, “And yet, America will never be wanting for voices in the House. My place will be filled easily enough, I suppose.”

    For that she could not help but shake her head as they came to stand by the ropes fencing off the great space where the Monument would someday stand. “They're as little dogs yapping, the lot of them; you know that I agree. Yet, every once in a while . . .” The overcast sky allowed her to look up and up further still, to where she tried to imagine the colossus standing, silent and solemn and grave, to acknowledge, “ . . . humanity surprises you, and gives you a voice worth listening to.”

    From the corner of her eye, she could see Lincoln, not staring up at the now empty sky, but rather, down at her, with something contemplative in his expression. He looked, for a moment, as if he would speak, and yet -

    “ - is that . . . Mrs. Hamilton?” a voice called from behind her, uncertain at first, but then with greater certainty to say, “Why, Mrs. Elizabeth! As I live and breathe, it is you.”

    Recognition prickling against her skin, she turned from her companion, carefully balancing her weight on her cane to see -

    “ - why, if it isn't little Wash Curtis,” Eliza warmly greeted, memories pouring over her from her husband's years as President Washington's treasury secretary. Then, this man had been a quiet little boy that the Washingtons had raised, following them from capitol to capitol, often as a playmate for her own growing sons. The dark eyed lad with his unruly mop of curls stood taller than her now, and though his brow was wrinkled and his hair was bleached with time, his expression was as clear and warm as ever. “Goodness, but it has been much too long,” Eliza felt her smile split from her memories. Her ghosts, in that moment, seemed close enough to touch.

    “Though I dare say that time has been kinder to you than it has to me,” his words were quick and smooth to flatter. In his time, Wash had developed a practiced Virginian flair for charm. “Staring down the age of a century, and you outshine us all, dear lady.”

    With the manners of an older era, she let him bow and kiss her hand, watching all the while where he was careful of his movements to remain steady on his feet. He too needed a cane to walk, she espied, and he leaned heavily upon it. At his side, his son-in-law – Eliza distantly identified him from her keeping correspondence with Nelly Curtis over the years – was watchful and ready to help the older man should he need it.

    “You,” Eliza waved his flattery away, “are just as kindly as I remember. My, how many years ago were you a little boy, sneaking your poetry books into my husband's office for a place to read in quiet . . . It seems a lifetime ago now.”

    “I was a bane for my tutors, it's true,” no matter the passing of the years, Wash's cheeks colored pink to admit. “I could never quite apply my mind where and when they wanted. I exasperated my grandfather, I know – at times, I think that he did not quite know what to do with me.”

    Well able to remember George Washington's mingled fond exasperation and abject frustration where the child was concerned, and yet unwilling to reveal such a thing even years later, Eliza settled for neutrality and dropped her voice to solemnly remark, “Such a feeling is one suffered by all parents who know what their children are capable of . . . and are then disappointed when they do not amount to the height of such hopes.”

    She looked him straight in the eye to speak, refusing to break his gaze all the while. She did not need to see him frown to know that he knew of what she truly wished to say. With the likes of John Laurens and the Marquis de Lafayette - and even her own dear husband - combined, their voices had convinced the likes of George Washington to at last emancipate his slaves at his death. For those dower slaves whose freedoms he could not legally grant, he had to rely on the kindness of Wash Curtis and the like for their release. Yet, for his grandson to refuse to practice the same simple act of humanity . . . now some fifty years later . . .

    Eliza found her teeth inwardly grinding together, even as she forced her smile to hold; she would not have lasted long in Washington City without such a skill for grace.

    “Quite right you are, Mrs. Elizabeth, and well spoken in your wisdom as well.” Wash Curtis, for all that he was a kindly old man, was neither deaf nor blind. Yet, he was polite enough not to debate with a woman in public - or so he excused himself, Eliza well suspected. Instead of picking up her challenge, he turned to the man at his side to introduce, “Yet, I myself know only a father's pride in my own children. I do not believe that you've met my son-in-law, Captain Robert E. Lee?”

    Eliza kept her smile as she turned to the young man standing at Wash's side. Garbed in his military best to honor their Independence Day, Captain Lee was a tall, handsome man with features dominated by a high, square brow and wide, flat cheekbones. His face did not seem to be one made for easy smiling, and his eyes were dark and brooding; yet, Eliza was quick to note, there was a constant churning of thought in his gaze that was, at least, in its own way familiar to her. He wore his uniform with the confident ease of a man who was born to hold a soldier's bearing – so much so that she was reminded of the boy's father, almost painfully so. With so many from that era now lost, and she alone remaining . . .

    “I've not had the pleasure, sir,” Eliza at last said, extending her hand so that Lee too could bow and kiss the back, much as his father-in-law had done. His manners were polite and formal, but they were not forced, she continued to observe. “Yet, I knew your father, Henry Lee,” her smile turned true to warmly relate. “Light-horse Harry was dear to my husband during the war and long after. The trials he faced later in life brought me much heartache to hear, and I am sorry for the losses your family has suffered.”

    “I thank-you, ma'am. You are kind to say,” Lee inclined his head with all of the easy grace of a southern gentleman. Even so, his voice was warm and curiously smooth, without much infliction or any discernible accent she could place. Perhaps, she thought, he had been too much from one end of their ever growing country to the next to retain the Virginian drawl of his home.

    “He's only just won great accord for himself in the Mexican war; he was recently promoted to captain, and is set to go further still,” Wash continued to praise his daughter's husband, a proud father obvious in every vowel he spoke. “Just give it time,” he effused, glancing at Lee, “and I'm sure that America will give you another just cause in which to unsheathe your sword. You'll be a general in no time, I foresee.”

    “While I am proud to praise one of my countrymen for his valor, forgive me, Captain Lee, if I hope that the conflict that would award you such a promotion is still many years to come,” Eliza felt her expression hold to say. “No matter how much, at times, such conflicts become a painfully necessary, I'd rather them be fewer and farther between than not.”

    “Your wish may sadly be so, Mrs. Elizabeth. There are some in this great union – unfortunately, some of which whom hold seats in the House - who are not as open minded to the necessity of such conflicts as others.” Wash's voice turned sour just as he turned his attention to her companion, she uncomfortably noticed. “Congressman Lincoln,” he politely addressed the younger man, even so, “It has been some time since I had the . . . pleasure of hearing you speak on the floor.”

    “It's been some time since I had something to say,” Lincoln gave an easy roll of his shoulders to return. “However, it's an honor to make your acquaintance, Mr. Curtis,” he offered his hand to shake, which Wash accepted grudgingly. “Captain Lee,” he greeted next. Lee accepted the courtesy with more grace than his father-in-law; he had a good strong grip to his hand, which Lincoln equally returned.

    “Even so, I think that you paint my character wrong. I agree with the nature of necessary evils when declaring war, and would not shy away from engaging in any just sort of confrontation,” Lincoln addressed the subtle accusation laid against him outright. “Sometimes, men will not always agree with the necessity of a particular conflict; this time, President Polk and I were at odds. Next time, it may not be so.”

    “You do not see the necessity in avenging American lives, Congressman?” Wash challenged, a note of boldness strengthening his tone. “How is that not a just confrontation by your standards?”

    “I did not see the necessity of exacerbating an alleged, already delicate matter with the outcry of war. I could not, not when that conflict was truly sought with the sole purpose of gaining more American land,” Lincoln returned, barely blinking in the face of the older man's ire. “Especially, may I add, in the interest of gaining more American, slave-holding land, at that.” He refused to back down from his opinion, and, no matter that his voice was soft, he said his words proudly and honestly.

    Eliza, seeing an incensed flare in Wash's normally genial expression, wondered what she could say to sooth the rift before it was further widened. Overhead, perhaps somewhat tellingly, she heard a whispered rumble in the heavens. Yet, she was saved from her needing to do so by an unexpected source.

    “I myself am personally grateful for the peace we have won, and I am eager to see it hold for many years to come,” Captain Lee was the one to cut in and say. He laid a gentle hand on his father-in-law's shoulder to sooth, even while meeting Lincoln's eyes and nodding to continue, “With so much uncultivated land having been opened up to our use, there is more than enough work to keep any surveyor and engineer busy – especially on behalf of the army. Happily would I be well used in that way, rather than in spilling blood again.”

    “Well said, Captain,” Eliza did not have to feign her warm approval for his words. “That, I believe we can all agree on.”

    “Yes,” Lincoln agreed after a heartbeat. “I believe we may.”

    “Indeed,” Wash was more grudging with his praise, but after a moment he sighed, and Lee's hand slowly fell away from his shoulder. Eliza watched the exchange with a growing sense of foreboding in her heart, well able to see the fracture-lines laced through the country whose birth she had witnessed, and yet unsure how to help sooth them in any way that wouldn't result in more young men donning uniforms and manning arms. There had been so much blood spilled in the formation of their country to start, and now, to preserve it . . .

    . . . yet, she knew again with a whisper, such violence - if it came to that - would not be in her time to witness.

    Their party came to a moment of awkward silence following, and yet it did not hold for long. Just beyond them, Eliza was aware of a parting in the crowd. The gathered throng of people split as a ripple to make way for President Polk and the various members of his cabinet dutifully trailing behind him. He was heading for Wash, she espied, and sure enough he said upon arriving, “Mr. Curtis, there you are! There are those who are asking to meet you, and I was loathe to dissuade them. Would it pain you overly much to accompany me in humoring them?”

    Wash glanced at her for a last time, before looking to Polk and then just beyond him, to where a crowd of newspaper men were waiting with their photo cameras at the ready. He reached up to fix his tie, and his stance straightened.

    “Of course, I serve at the pleasure of the president,” Wash assured, and he turned towards the waiting flock of reporters. It took Captain Lee a moment longer to accompany his father-in-law. There was something in his gaze that was considering as he continued to hold Lincoln's eyes, charged like the air before lightning struck, before he too turned and moved away.

    “Mrs. General Hamilton,” President Polk next held a hand out to her. “It would be my honor if you were to join us.”

    He was very careful not to look at the man standing by her side, she noticed. Son of a misborn mother and an illiterate father, she heard again, and wondered if this president too would have sneered bastard orphan if her husband tried to make his way in his government. And though she knew that she would not live long enough to see the fruition, and hopeful eventual solution, of all of America's lingering divides, she knew that she was still alive then. While she still breathed she could stake her flag where she wished to place it.

    And so. “I thank you for your kindness, Mr. President,” she leaned upon her cane to say. “Yet I fear that I do not have it within me to pose for one more photograph. I honestly would rather for some movement; at my age, a body in motion stays in motion. I do not much like the alternative, as I'm sure you can imagine.”

    Polk pressed his mouth into a thin line, clearly displeased by her decision and yet little eager to force the matter. He looked as if he would try again before she added, “Besides, I am quite enjoying the company of my escort. If, however, you would allow the good congressman to join us - ”

    “ - no, no. That's quite alright,” Polk was quick to interrupt and assure her, a saccharine smile stretching across his face before fixing firmly in place. “I well understand your wish for movement, Mrs. Hamilton. Alas, I would join you if I could, and yet . . .” he gestured apologetically to the waiting reporters behind him. Helplessly he shrugged, as if his burden was an inescapable one.

    “Of course,” Eliza was gracious in extending her understanding. She found an overly polite smile to match the president's own. “Duty calls.”

    “A good day to you, then, m'lady,” Polk tipped his hat to her to say. A heartbeat passed, and he added without looking, “And to you, Congressman.”

    “Mr. President,” Lincoln politely returned with a bow of his head, but Polk had already turned away. Not sparing any last looks, his cabinet followed behind him like obedient puppies as they went to join the waiting flock of reporters.

    Eliza waited for a moment, and when she was sure that the president was out of earshot she snorted and said, “If I had the option, I do not think that I would have voted for him.”

    She did not miss Lincoln's minute flash of teeth before he hid his grin. “I don't know, ma'am. He's not a wholly bad apple, as far as presidents go. He's the sort that says what he means to do and then does it; I respect that in a man.”

    “Yet, you do not always respect what the man does?” Eliza offered in addendum, eying him knowingly.

    A heartbeat passed, before Lincoln answered, “Perhaps, the best thing my time in Washington city has shown me is that there is a time to keep one's mouth closed, and a time when not to. I've learned that to my regret.”

    “How very political of you to say, Congressman,” teasingly, Eliza raised a brow.

    “Careful, that sounded almost like an insult, Mrs. Hamilton.”

    “I'll let you wonder about that,” she chose to conclude mysteriously, all the while steadying herself to stare up at where the Monument would be once more. The clammy heat of the day had tucked itself under her collar, and she could feel the rain in her old joints. Even her fingers seemed to ache with the promise of the nearing storm as she curled them over the handle of her cane.

    She saw a bird fly then, so very high above them, and wondered if the winged creature crested the point the Monument would pierce in the years to come. She felt a ghosting pang grip her heart, once again knowing that its completion would not be something she would live to see. She had stolen too much time already.

    “Someday,” Eliza finally whispered, more to herself than to her companion, “it will be towering.”

    “I do reckon that it should be,” Lincoln gave a small shrug to say. A heartbeat passed, one and then two, before he asked with honest curiosity, “What do you think that the general would have thought of this? Would he have approved?”

    “Honestly, I could not tell you,” Eliza answered after a long moment of contemplation. “In many ways, George Washington was a hard man to get to know – and my husband knew him better than most, at that. But I do know that he never much cared for fanfare; he would sneak into cities he passed through to avoid celebrations and parades in his honor, did you know that? But, he did love sitting for his portraits,” Eliza chuckled, sharing a little known facet of the man, knowing that in the decades - centuries - to come, people would only remember the legend. “I think that a part of him would have been mortified by the attention; another part of him, however, would be secretly pleased. I think he'd reconcile himself to the idea that it's not he himself being remembered, but rather the values he stood for . . . an everlasting reminder of the republic he and so many toiled to create.

    “Because . . . I think that is what we need now, perhaps more so than ever - not another so-so president in a long line of so-so presidents. So many Americans take their freedsoms for granted; they forget why, and for what this country was founded. It was founded imperfectly so, I grant you, but, even so, it was founded in the knowledge that things would get better with every generation, instead of lingering in stagnation. To that end, what are the greatest achievements of this past presidency, I ask you? A war, and the realization of expansionism in the name of Manifest Destiny. And for what? To add more land to a union that still shackles its citizens in chains? Eleven presidents, and slavery still runs rampant in the African States. And yet, even if we succeed in finally abolishing that great evil, what kind of life can Negros expect to live thereafter? We cannot get a president to fight for their basic-most freedom, let alone their standard of living. Will they be allowed to own property, to attend school, to vote? These are the fundamental rights of any citizen, yet even women are not afforded many of those same such staples, and it is 1848 already. We can subdue a continent, but we cannot admit that a female knows her own mind well enough to vote, solely because of her sex. If these . . . these men cannot see the equal in those they supposedly adore, how can they ever be expected to live in equality with those who are different from them?

    “Even many so-called abolitionists I know would clamor and claw to see slavery end, but I do not know if they would suffer buying from a colored shopkeeper . . . or have a colored teacher instructing them . . . or trust a colored doctor treating them – let along a Negro having any sort of place in government. Can you imagine?” for a moment, the fancy of her thoughts took her, and her voice turned soft . . . wistful and far away. “Can you imagine a president who is both American and African, even? What a day for this country that would be, and yet . . . I cannot see it. I cannot see so far down that road, when I have walked it so very far already. It is a thought that pains me, this not knowing if I can trust the next generation to fight as I fought . . . to fight as my husband fought. It's a knowledge that I cannot breathe with at times.”

    The passion she felt for her words then overtook her. She could feel her eyes burn with the tell-tale sign of tears returning, even though she had been determined that she would not cry again that day. She would not. She was through with her tears.

    “I do not, lamentably, have a second handkerchief to share,” was Lincoln's voice, soft and gentle in answer to her grief. But that was all she needed. She laughed – a surprised sound that for a moment intermixed with a sob, before she blinked to clear her eyes. The moment had passed, and she then felt as if she could breathe again.

    “And there,” Eliza approved after recovering herself. “Sometimes laughter truly is the best antidote to be had for sorrow.”

    “An equally sorrowful thought,” Lincoln granted her. “And yet, you speak with more passion and sense than half of those I know in the House. It's become expected that a politician should speak with anything but, and it is not . . .” his mouth closed, and he looked as if he would speak, if only he had the words to say. “It is not right . . . it does not properly honor those who came before us.”

    “It is only . . . I am running out of time,” Eliza whispered, looking up to where the Monument would crest once more. “My time is almost up, and I am not sure if I did enough.” I tried, Alex, she gave her own silent prayer, but I am not you . . . I tried to do as you would have done, but I do not know if my little bit is enough . . .

    “I suppose that's how most feel when faced with the twilight of their days.” Lincoln's reply was almost whispered before his voice grew strong to say, “And yet, Mrs. Hamilton . . . I suspect that's when you simply need to allow yourself to rest at the end of your run, and trust that your fight will be picked up by others when you are gone.”

    “But will it?” Eliza whispered that single, most agonizing thought aloud. “Will it?”

    “I cannot fully answer that with any sort of honesty,” Lincoln said. “And yet . . . I like to believe that it will.”

    She heard something in his voice then . . . a note of something that reverberated deep within her. It was a feeling she had not known in long years passed . . . not since her husband had last explained whatever project had taken his passion, either in court or in legislature. Eliza stared, only to find that Lincoln was not looking at her, but to where the Monument would someday stand. Given her time to look uncontested, she thought to see a new shape to his spine . . . a new strength to his bones. He seemed taller to her in that moment, tall enough to match the obelisk that would someday be erected before them, so much so, that -

    “ - Mother! There you are!” she heard a familiar exclamation cut through the still mingling crowd of people. Her thoughts gave up like a vapor on the breeze as she reflexively honed in on her son's voice. “You cannot wander off so whenever you like; you had us worried!”

    “Am I one of your spaniels, Phil, to require such looking after?” Eliza returned her son's concern without turning to address him. “I was fine, dear, you needn't have fretted so.”

    She heard a sigh – a familiar, distinctively Hamilton trait that each one of her children had unflatteringly inherited from their father. “You know that is not what I meant to say, Mother,” was Phil's somewhat exasperated reply in return. He sounded out of breath, as if he had been running to find her.

    “Well then, what did you mean, Phil?” coming up more slowly behind him, old and wise enough to know not to run, she turned in time to see John teasingly box his younger brother's ears. “That is how it sounded, you know.”

    Phil, she saw, eyed his sibling in a way that would have resulted in a scuffle were they still little boys rough-housing in the yard. But she would have none of that then. She noticed Lizzie making her way through the crowd with her grandsons, all the while shaking her head at both of her brothers in a long-suffering way – this Eliza could see, even from a distance.

    “I was well attended, Phil, though I thank you for your concern.” Letting go of her scolding, Eliza reached up to pat her youngest boy's cheek in a way that – predictably – had him fighting back a wince. She could not help her answering grin to his exasperation. Watching his eyes turn a question, she then turned to find the Illinoisian who watched their familial teasing all with amusement tucked away in the corners of his expression.

    “Congressman Lincoln, I would like to introduce you to my youngest son, Philip, and my fifth-born, John Church,” Eliza introduced each man in their turn. No matter her many years of doing so, a mother's pride still inflected her voice every time she had the pleasure of showing her children anew to others.

    “Then, this is my youngest daughter, Elizabeth,” she introduced as Lizzie arrived with her grandsons. “The youngsters you see there are Phil's son Louis, and John's son, Laurens. Lizzie, boys," she turned to her family to say, "this is the representative from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.”

    Her sons each shook the congressman's hand in their turn, and to Lizzie, Lincoln gave a slanted smile and a bow. His true interest was taken by the children, however - which Eliza could only smile in her turn to see. “I have a son about your age,” he addressed Louis to say. After seeing the way the little boy craned his head up to look at him, he knelt down to look the lad straight in the eye. “You must be what, ten . . . eleven, even, am I right?”

    “I'm five,” Louis gave a shy, small smile to correct.

    “Almost, anyway,” Laurens rolled his eyes at his little cousin to say. “He's still only four.”

    “I'll be five at the end of the month,” Louis protested, glaring up at the older boy. His father's well-knowing hand on his shoulder kept him from attempting to tackle Laurens to prove his point, however.

    “Well, such a giant of a boy you are, I reckoned that you were older,” Lincoln's eyes twinkled to tease. “Ten, I would have sworn you for, and not a day younger.”

    Louis all but preened the words, and Phil smiled down at his son before affectionately ruffling his hair.

    “And I believe that you are named after a particular hero of mine,” Lincoln turned to Laurens to say. He rose to his feet, holding the youth's eyes all the while. “You're named for John Laurens, of South Carolina, are you not?” he extended his hand with the same courtesy he had shown for the adult men.

    “The same and only,” Laurens answered proudly before shaking his hand. He put his all into giving a firm shake, Eliza noticed. “I'm going to enlist when I am old enough, and be a soldier, just like him. Just like grandfather.”

    “He's been reading his namesake's letters. I cannot get the notion out of his mind, now,” John sighed to say, but there was a fondness in his voice. Pride, too, she heard - even as Eliza herself swallowed her instinctive fear for yet another man in her family donning a soldier's uniform and picking up a sword once more. Perhaps, it was wholly naïve of her to hope that all of her sons and grandsons would keep strictly to practicing the law, but it was a prayer of hers, nonetheless.

    “Well, we could use a few more John Laurens in this world. Hamiltons too,” Lincoln inclined his head to acknowledge. He glanced at her to say, “Now, perhaps, more so than ever.”

    For that was an unfortunate truth plaguing their country - their world, even - in its simplest form. Eliza gave a small, sad smile, for once feeling a strange sense of peace settle over her for the knowledge. It was a tired peace, but a satisfied one – one that had been missing throughout much of the dedication ceremony so far that Independence Day. Perhaps, a better morn dawning would not be one she lived to see, but she would leave this world after speaking her all - after doing her all - and, to those left behind . . .

    “If you would not consider it forward of me,” Lincoln offered next, “It would be the pleasure of my wife and I to host you, and however many of yours, to supper while we are still in the capitol. I have enjoyed making your acquaintance, Mrs. Hamilton, and expect that Mary shall, as well.”

    “Of course,” Eliza was quick to accept the invitation. “Although,” she could not help but add in a teasing tone, “I do well suspect that you will not be away from Washington city for too long. If I had a dollar for every time my husband said he was retired from politics, I would be a rich woman right now. This country has a peculiar way of deciding who she needs, when she needs them.” History has its eyes on you, she thought, but did not say. She simply knew.

    “Well, as I am needed then,” Lincoln's voice trailed off to thoughtfully muse aloud. From the corner of his eyes, she saw him glance at the spot the Monument would be again before shrugging to give into the tug of fate and say, “I suppose you never know.”

    A Few Fun Facts:

    Did You Know?: That Hamilton was almost Lincoln? Lin-Manuel Miranda toyed with the idea of turning Team of Rivals into a musical before, you know, Lincoln the movie stole his thunder. Even so, I would have paid good money for a hip-hopping Lincoln, that's all I have to say on the matter.

    Could This Have Happened?: Eliza Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln were in the same spot, at the same time, at the opening ceremony for the building of the Washington Monument – that's a fact, historically speaking. I do not know if they would have spoken, given President Polk's wish to show off “Mrs. General”, and Lincoln being on the outs in politics at the time, but, I could plausibly make it happen here, and so I did. It's my prerogative as holder of the pen.

    Eliza Hamilton: She went on to live, fighting for her husband's legacy, for another six years before peacefully passing away at the old age of ninety-seven.

    Laurens Hamilton: This is a side note, but I find it very interesting that Hamilton never named one of his sons after John Laurens – even though each and every one of his children were namesakes. John Church, even, named only the last son of his fourteen children Laurens – doing so, it looks like, around the time when he was going through his father's letters for his biography. Perhaps, it was then that he understood just how close Hamilton and Laurens were to each other. How close? is a debate lost to history due to John Church editing those same letters when publishing them, so, really, only he knew for sure.

    George Washington “Wash” Parke Curtis: He did finally free his slaves in his will, of a sort – his estate was deep in debt, and he left quite the financial mess for his son-in-law to sort through, which he nonetheless endeavored to do to the best of his ability.

    Robert E. Lee: Yes, he is the very same General Lee of Confederate fame who fought during the Civil War. For all of his southern loyalties, however, he had very mixed feelings on slavery, and he went to great lengths to appeal for reconciliation in the years after the war. He's further proof that history is almost always written in shades of grey.

    Henry “Light-horse Harry” Lee: He was indeed a friend of Hamilton, and even sent him a horse as a gift during his time as treasury secretary - teasingly reminding him not to forget to exercise, and to enjoy the outdoors instead of constantly chaining himself to his desk. The Civil War had a sad way, once again, of dividing friends and families down the middle.

    The Washington Monument: Construction was not finished until long after the Civil War, in 1885. I technically combined two opening celebrations – one, to announce the project in 1848, and the laying of the cornerstone in 1850 - but, Lincoln was not in Washington for the second celebration, and I really wanted to add Wash Curtis to the story to hit my Civil War foreshadowing home. So, I meshed history together. The struggle to agree on the shape of the memorial and build it over the years was factually related in the text, as far as my reading can tell. And, Thomas Jefferson? They did indeed plaster his face onto a mountainside – there, cozy to stay for all time next to the same ol' George Washington he had tried so hard to put down after his death . . . and right beside a famous president you might also know by the name of Abraham Lincoln. ;)

    ~MJ @};-
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
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  2. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 10, 2005
    This was beautiful and AMAZING!

    Amazing, I say!

    It was so well planned out and executed, the foreshadowing of the Civil War and Lincoln's Presidency with bits of Hamilton thrown in... Wow!

    Some things that I particularly loved:

    Only three that she could count: John Laurens, that terrible, dark day so early in their marriage; their baby boy, lost in a terrible foreshadowing of his father's own eventual fate; and, then . . .
    “ . . . I told him not to call me son, you know,”

    This was such an emotional moment. That Alexander remembered telling him that and then regretted it. It really shows how much Washington meant to him. I also loved how you talked about Philip's death foreshadowing his father's.

    The 'general' is what men tend to add to my name when they wish to speak to my husband's ghost through me,” Eliza drolly remarked. “Please, call me Eliza, or Mrs. Hamilton, if you will.”
    This made me laugh! Not only could I see people doing that exact thing, but I think that would very much be her response.

    “Can you imagine a president who is both American and African, even? What a day for this country that would be, and yet . . . I cannot see it. I cannot see so far down that road, when I have walked it so very far already. It is a thought that pains me, this not knowing if I can trust the next generation to fight as I fought . . . to fight as my husband fought. It's a knowledge that I cannot breathe with at times.”

    And this is where I started to cry. It was quite emotional, between this and her talk of allowing women to vote, and that she wouldn't even dream of a women being president at this time. We've not come as far as we should have and we have so far to go, but hope people like Eliza would be proud. I frequently think "How lucky we are to be alive right now." (I thought that for a while, not in those exact words, but since Hamilton has taken over my brain, it's turned into those exact words. ;) ) But this part just really got to me. Beautiful!

    There were so many other parts, but if I kept going, I'd just end up quoting your entire story. I loved the history you gave us at the end!

    (Personally, for my leading guy here - you'll know him when you see him - I like to picture Brian Stokes Mitchell for obvious reasons, just saying. ;))
    OH MY GOD, YES!!
    I would watch Brian Stokes Mitchell sing a telephone book. I was lucky enough to see him recently in Shuffle Along and he was amazing, imagining him as Lincoln?? I need that in my life, right now!

    After seeing Hamilton (and I am totally obsessed!), I really want to know more about Eliza and you seem to know quite a bit about her. Have you read any books about her? If so, what would you recommend?

    Fantastic job!! I am in awe!
    Findswoman likes this.
  3. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Feb 5, 2005
    MIRA! This is so, so, so lovely! @};- [face_love]

    First of all, what a poem to be inspired by!

    I adore the way you write Eliza, and how the narrative follows her through various actions in the first couple paragraphs. I got a bit of a (sad) smile at her wearing black on Independence Day, despite her daughter chiding her for it. That was such a nice touch.

    I love the interaction between Eliza, Lizzie and Phil. They play off of each other so, so well and from the first moments, you know they're related. So many words. So many dramatic airs. 8-}

    Angelica was gone, these many years now resting in peace, she knew with a still piercing pang of grief, and her Alexander too was made moot by the grave.

    Oh. This one hurt. :(

    I love how present the dead are. Though they are no longer there, they echo very strongly. I suppose that is the point of a memorial monument--you capture it brilliantly.

    “Pardon me, ma'am, but while my manners know better than to draw attention to a woman's tears, I cannot quite keep myself from noticing that your handkerchief is quite beyond the point of use. If you would forgive my rudeness, and accept this as proof of my sincere wish to be of service . . . ”

    Whoever this is, I like him.

    . . . and yet, here Abraham Lincoln was, slowly but surely proving all of the naysayers wrong through his tenacity of deeds and the determination of his mind. Her husband, she had long ago concluded, would have liked this man . . . he would have liked him very much indeed.


    Hello, Abraham Lincoln.

    I really love Eliza's exchange with him--their interplay of words, their sharing of ideas (and compliments). It's very poetically crafted.

    So many people eager to speak to her... Eliza's quite the popular one. :p "I have never been the one to try and grab the spotlight"--HA.

    It's really nice to see how appreciative everyone is for her and her work and the Hamilton legacy. I also got a kick out of every time someone called her "Mrs. General Hamilton." I don't know why, I just find it amusing. :p

    I keep saying it, but really, this was so lovely! =D= [:D] @};-
    Findswoman likes this.
  4. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow, what an interesting and different approach to both the poem and the challenge! Since I haven't seen Hamilton, I read this essentially as a piece of historical fiction—and you clearly did your homework about the history behind these characters and this setting; the historical notes at the end were a nice touch. This story, like the poem, is a lyrical meditation on what it really means to memorialize someone and something (and how to go about it), and it explores those questions on several levels. On one hand, there's the public monument in honor of George Washington that's finally about to go up after years of congressional squabbling (and it's interesting how you have the characters reflect there on one of the limitations of government "by the people, for the people"). On the other hand, there's the more personal, quiet way in which Eliza doing what she can to memorialize her husband and his contributions—and, on top of that, she herself is serving as a living, breathing memorial to him. She plays that role with immense grace and poise, but I wonder too if she's slightly ambivalent about it, judging from her comment about "speak[ing] to [her] husband's ghost through [her]."[face_thinking] As the others have said, you've done a beautiful job bringing her to life here. I have to say, too, kudos on writing an elderly heroine in a sympathetic and three-dimensional way, something one doesn't always find in the realm of fanfic—and ditto with the very tender, sincere relationship with her children and grandchildren. (Mother-son banter for the win! :D )

    I found the Lincoln-Lee meeting very intriguing. You don't say anything about it in your notes after the story, but I am now curious about the possibility that Lee, as son-in-law of Wash Curtis (an appealingly dreamy, byronic character, the way you portray him here), could indeed have been at that dedication ceremony and could indeed have met Lincoln there. I guess it's as much within the realm of possibility as the Lincoln-Eliza Hamilton meeting, and in any case, I found it very poignantly emblematic of the way the American Civil War really did tear families and friendships in two. :(

    Thank you so much for being part of this challenge—it was well worth the wait! :)