Dawn on a Distant Shore Page 29

Curiosity nodded. "I expected as much. I don't suppose Merriweather will throw herself in the road to stop us, but she won't let you go easy, either."

"Yes, well," Elizabeth said wearily. "You forget that I grew up arguing with her."

"She didn't much hold with you leaving England, I reckon."

"No, she didn't."

"And here you are anyway."

"Yes," whispered Elizabeth. "Here I am. She warned me that I would regret it, although at the time I did not realize she meant to come and see to it personally." She managed a small smile. "I see your line of reasoning, Curiosity. You needn't worry, her disapproval won't stop me."

"Didn't think it would. Don't see how an army could stop you now." Curiosity wrung her handkerchief out in fresh water from the washstand, and then put it in Elizabeth's hand.

The cool was welcome on her flushed cheeks. "You could turn back to Paradise with Galileo, if you wanted to. It isn't too late."

"No, child. I got my mind set on seeing this through, and that's what I'll do."

"Good," said Elizabeth. "It is very selfish of me, but I find that I cannot do without you."

There was a soft scratching at the door.

"Looks like there's folk here feel the same way about you." Curiosity's heels tapped briskly on her way to the door.

"That will be an emissary of my aunt's," said Elizabeth, putting her clothing to rights. "Sent to speak common sense to me."

Amanda's apologies for her mother began before she was in the room. On her way to Elizabeth she paused to embrace Curiosity, which took the older woman by surprise but left a pleased expression on her face.

Elizabeth held out her hands toward her cousin. "I am very glad to see you, Amanda, even if you come bearing disagreeable messages."

Amanda was one of the few people she truly missed since leaving England; she had been closer to Elizabeth than to her sisters. The youngest of Aunt Merriweather's three girls and the prettiest, she also suffered under what her mother called a nervous disposition--a vivid imagination and a demonstratively affectionate manner, both of which put her at a disadvantage in a household of strong-minded, pragmatic women. Now she came to stand by Elizabeth's bedside, but her gaze was fixed on the sleeping infants.

"Come," said Elizabeth, and patted the bed. When Amanda had settled, she put Lily in her arms and together they watched the baby stretch, her mouth working even in her sleep.

Amanda's shoulders bent into a protective bow around the baby. "You know how very fortunate you are."

"Oh, yes. I am very aware of my good fortune."

A soft flush crept up Amanda's neck. When she looked at Elizabeth, there was a nerve fluttering gently in her cheek. "Will is all I have. You will send him back to me as soon as possible?"

"Yes," whispered Elizabeth. "Of course I will."

While Elizabeth visited with Amanda and Aunt Merriweather continued negotiations with Will, Mrs. Schuyler performed a miracle and reduced the population of her sitting room drastically, seeing her visiting children, their families and servants off to their own homes. Even the Hamiltons departed for the first leg of their journey down the Hudson to their estate in New-York City. Elizabeth watched them take leave from her window, vaguely curious about Betsy's husband, the famous Alexander Hamilton. She mentioned his Federalist Papers to Curiosity and found that she had read them, as she read everything that came into the judge's possession, and was little impressed by them or their author.

"Look at him," she snorted. "Fought in the Revolution all right, but there's a man in love with the old ways. Making up to your aunt as if she was wearin' a crown. Don't he put you in mind of one of them yappy ginger-haired dogs, always worrying at a woman's heels?" At Elizabeth's shocked expression, Curiosity sniffed. "The man famous for more than his writing. Cain't resist a lady with a title, and always lookin' to get his belly scratched. And I'll wager it's freckled, too."

Elizabeth might have choked, if not for Curiosity's vigorous thumping between her shoulder blades. "Look at him hard, now, and tell me you don't feel sorry for Betsy."

"I shan't argue with your superior knowledge of his reputation," Elizabeth said when she had regained her composure. She picked up her brushes in a last attempt to tame her hair. "But right now General Schuyler is downstairs waiting to discuss details of the journey with us, and I think it is not very wise to be criticizing his son-in-law behind his back."

Curiosity laughed loudly at that. "Elizabeth, you wait and see the look on Nathaniel's face the day that Lily bring home a husband. Ain't nobody more critical of a woman's choice than her daddy."

She picked up the gray watered silk, the only formal gown Elizabeth had packed, and smoothed the lace. "You go on and have your set-down with the general. He won't need me there."

Elizabeth looked up in surprise from the unfastening of her traveling gown. "But I need you. I depend upon your judgment. Runs-from-Bears will be there, too."

"Bears is something special, they've known him since he was a boy. But they ain't going to set a place for your daddy's housekeeper at their table, Elizabeth, and don't you get no ideas about teaching them different. You just go see to getting us to Montréal as quick as possible and I'll see to the children."

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