Recap: Chevi confides in Yehudis about problems going on and why she was so secretive, and Yehudis and Chevi are starting to be friends. Chevi is good at solving mysteries and she says maybe if they read the journal they’ll discover more about why the man with the red bandana broke into the house. They sit down together and begin reading more of the journal.
That night, Ezra told me more about the big plan. I listened with growing horror as each detail revealed more and more how wrong this was for my brother.
“In August, Mr. Burr commissioned 15 large flatboats capable of transporting 500 men. He had a contract with Mr. Woodbridge. I’ve seen the boats. They’re great.”
My brother rubbed his hands by the crackling flames of the fireplace and shared more. “Mr. Blennerhassett paid $2,000 for the boats and one was built for his family with separate rooms, a fireplace, and glass windows.”
“Ezra.” I tried to think of some way he would listen to reason. “I have an article Father gave me to show you from The New York Commercial Advertiser:
From information recently received, we have been induced to believe that now powerful efforts will soon be made to sever the western states from the Union, connect them with Louisiana, and form a whole into a distinct empire with Col. Burr at its head.
Many there are who are needy, unprincipled, and ready at all times to embark in any desperate enterprise that holds out a prospect of accumulating a fortune. If this be the object, it is hoped that the government will be vigilant, and ready to crush with a strong arm any attempt at such a nefarious measure.”
Ezra glanced at it. I didn’t think he even read it. It was like he was hypnotized by that Mr. Burr. How could I get him to see that he was risking prison and all kinds of other terrible dangers – for what?
That night, we heard a carriage pull up to the house. Mr. Blennerhassett was at the door with his slave Cajole in attendance.
Ezra ushered him in. Miriam came out and offered him some tea.
“Thank you, no, my good lady. I’m in a hurry.” He stomped his feet to remove snow and took off his hat.
Ezra motioned Miriam to go back to the bedroom.
I was frozen to the spot.
“Ezra, I had to change my plan. I’m leaving tonight. My wife and family will follow when they can,” Mr. Blennerhassett said.
“What? I thought Mr. Burr was coming this week. Why are you going now?”
Mr. Blennerhassett’s hand that held his top hat trembled slightly. “I’m—there’s a big misunderstanding. I’m sure Mr. Burr will fix everything, but there’s a warrant out for my arrest. These dirty officers have invaded my mansion. I––my wife urged me to go. I felt I should warn you of the slight change of plans. You’ll tell Mr. Burr when he comes, of course.”
Ezra rose. “Sir, this doesn’t make sense. How can officers seize your island? Will your family be safe if you leave?”
“Yes. I must go. My wife will come soon with our children. Please help her if she needs anything. Adieu.” He raised his hat with a dramatic flourish and disappeared into the night.
“Ezra, surely now you must see.”
My brother’s face darkened. “Please leave me to think.”
I tiptoed back into Dovid’s room. There was no way I could sleep. I took out my T’hilim and by candlelight read through the whole book until dawn.
The next morning, Dovid woke with his usual ebullience. I tried to stay hopeful, and I helped Dovid with n’tilas yadayim and we davened together.
Miriam asked me to watch the baby so she could rest. Ezra had gone to Blennerhassett Island to see what was happening with the family.
I was teaching Dovid the parshah when there was a loud knock on the door. I had just rocked the baby to sleep in her cradle. She stirred. I quickly answered the door.
“Good day, is Mr. Chapman home?”
“Sorry, sir. He isn’t. Who is calling? The man, who wore an expensive looking fur coat and a top hat, handed me a card. “Gabriel Shaw, sir. I’m the traveling companion of Mr. Aaron Burr, former Vice President of our country, sir.”
I took the card. I invited him in, but he declined. “I will be back by the boats this afternoon. Kindly tell Mr. Chapman to meet us there. Thank you.”
The man left.
Dovid was cowering in the corner of the room.
“Hey, Dovid, little man. What’s wrong?”
“Scary man’s friend. Scary man.”
“Hey, it’s okay. Come on. Let’s finish these p’sukim and then we’ll go out and play in the snow.”
Dovid’s dark eyes brightened.
We played in the snow until Dovid’s cheeks were bright red and my toes were numb. “Let’s go in and warm up, little man.”
We hurried into the house. Miriam handed me the baby. “Can you take her? I have to rest.”
“I made lunch,” she said. It’s on the stovetop.” There was vegetable soup and homemade bread. “Thanks, Miriam,” I called to her.
I gave Dovid lunch and held the baby until she drifted to sleep, and I gently put her into her cradle.
We sat near the fire, sipping our soup.
“Can we go back outside after lunch?” Dovid asked.
“Let’s warm up a bit and then we’ll see.”
After Dovid’s nap, we went back outside to have a snowball fight.
Ezra came home and he called us over to meet someone.
“Yishai, this is Mr. Shaw, an associate of Mr. Burr.”
I shook his hand.
Dovid backed away.
“Mr. Chapman, come. I want to show you the boat you’ll be taking.” Ezra followed Mr. Shaw towards the boat dock.
“Come with me, Dovid,” Ezra called to his son.
Just then, Miriam poked her head out the door. “Ezra, the baby is fussing. Can you take her? I have to lie down.”
“I’m going down to the dock with Mr. Shaw. Yishai, can you take care of her for a bit?” Ezra asked.
I headed into the house.
I calmed the baby and then I started learning. An hour later, Ezra came back all full of excitement about the boat and the soon-to-be trip out West.
Miriam greeted him. “Where’s Dovid?”
Ezra frowned. “Isn’t he in here with you?”
I rushed outside and called for him.
“Yishai, wasn’t he with you?” Ezra joined me outside.
“I thought he went with you to the dock.”
I had a terrible, sinking feeling inside.
Ezra began calling Dovid’s name. His words hung in the air, echoed, and died away with no response.
I ran towards the edge of the yard where we’d built a snowman. Dovid liked to play over there by the woods. There was no sign of him anywhere. Snow had started falling in whirling sheets.
Ezra pointed to the ground. There were two sets of footprints. He bent down. There were a few red feathers on the ground.
“Indian headdress feathers!” Ezra gasped.
To be continued…