Daughter of the Revolution
Veronica Jorden
(10 reviews)
After her father's murder, Elizabeth Burgin must find a way to support her household and unravel the ... Show More
Genres:
Historical Fiction, Romance
Tags:
American Revolution

CHAPTER 1

New York, February 7, 1778

Elizabeth waited for Thomas to open the carriage door, then climbed out into the cold New York air. The typical morning fog drifted in thick swirls through the streets and clung to the buildings like a winter coat. Through a break in the mist she could just make out the sign that hung over the warehouse door - Manhattan Merchant Co., Est. 1739. Three generations of her family had built this company. Now, the warehouse within lay empty.

“Wait for me here, Thomas. I shouldn’t be long.”

Thomas looked up at the sign and then pulled open the heavy warehouse door. The broad-shouldered servant wiped at his eyes and nodded. “Yes, ma'am, I'll wait right here."

Elizabeth reached out and touched his shoulder. "I miss him, too. It does not feel right to be here without him, does it?"

Thomas shook his head.

The door opened to a darkened space that only weeks before had been packed with shipments of various goods. She had come to settle her father's accounts and no amount of delay would bring him back, but she could not make herself step inside.

"Your father would have my hide if I let you catch cold standing out here on the street, ma'am. Best hurry inside."

Elizabeth gave Thomas a half-hearted smile and a nod, then gathered her heavy woolen skirt and hurried across the hard packed floor to the back of the warehouse and her father’s office. The small room that housed her father’s work space was nearly as empty as the rest of the building. It was almost unrecognizable without his presence and general clutter.

Her father’s lawyer and oldest friend stood up from behind the desk. His jacket and waistcoat hung loose on his shoulders. A haggard face offered her a smile.

She smiled in return. “You look tired, Mr. Cornwall, I pray you are well.”

“If by well you mean old, then yes, I am quite well, thank you.” He pulled at the edges of his dark green waistcoat as if suddenly aware that it did not fit him. “Come, please come in.” He motioned her inside. “I hope you do not mind, but I took the liberty of starting a fire. At my age this cold seeps right down to my bones.” He rubbed his hands together. “I should be happy for the warmth of spring to find us once again.”

Besides her father,  Henry Cornwall had been one of the only constants in her life. Though not related by blood, he was as much her family as her father had been. "I am happy for your initiative, this morning feels particulary cold." She rubbed her hands together and held them out to the fire, then took a seat in one of the two faded brocade chairs that flanked the fireplace. The familiar scent of pipe tobacco drifted up from the cushion as she sank into the seat.

Cornwall set about gathering his papers from the desk and she took an inventory of the room. The dark wooden paneling that had once made the office feel rich and warm, now only added a consistent darkness to the room. Over the fireplace she could just make out the outline of the frame that had held her mother’s portrait. A victim of a long and lingering fever, Elizabeth barely remembered the woman, but had inherited her auburn hair and green eyes, and according to her father, her gentle manner.

Elizabeth pulled off her gloves and tucked them in her pocket. She undid the clasp of her cape and smoothed the dark fabric of her simple gown. The fabric was fine but worn. She had spent too many months in mourning as of late.

“It is still hard to believe he is truly gone from us, Mr. Cornwall,” she said as the older gentleman came to sit beside her.

“Aye, that it is. I have had no better, dearer friend in all my life than Edward Smith. Save your own tender heart, there is no one in all of New York who mourns him more than I.”  He handed her a single account sheet. "And no one more surprised by the state of his accounts."

Elizabeth leaned forward in her chair, tilting the paper towards the fire that she might better read the long column of figures. Eyes wide with incredulity, she looked back up. “Can this be correct, sir? Is this really all there is?”

Cornwall removed his spectacles and rubbed his eyes. “Ellie, my dear, I wish I had better news. I have never known a man with a keener mind for business than your father, but then I suppose the war has taken its toll on everyone.”

“Does this include the proceeds from the sale of his property? All of his furniture and the books he kept here?”

“Yes. That is all of it minus the sale of his warehouse, of course. But with so many merchants leaving New York I am not sure how quickly it will sell.” He paused and pushed his spectacles back onto his nose.  “I should tell you that an officer of the garrison was here yesterday. It would not surprise me if they decided to commandeer it for themselves.”

“You mean they wish to make it into a prison.”

He gave her a small nod.

Elizabeth shook her head. “You must not let them. I have seen the men that suffer in the other prisons in town. My father respected all men, no matter their politics. I will not have his memory dishonored by allowing such things to happen here.”

“I will do the best that I can, my dear, but there are few who can deny the wants of his Majesty’s forces.”

Elizabeth reexamined the account sheet in her hand then leaned back in her seat. “This is barely enough to last until summer.” She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, as the realization of her current financial state sank in. “Why did he not tell me? I had no idea he was doing so poorly.”

The older man shook his head. “That I cannot say for he kept this even from me.”

Elizabeth bit her lip to keep the tears at bay. She stood and moved to the center of the room, her steps echoed for lack of the fine rugs that had once covered the floor. She pointed to the empty chandelier that hung over her head.

“The last time I came to see him here I teased him for only lighting half the candles.” She smiled as she recalled his response. “He told me he only needed to light half the room.”

She heard Cornwall’s soft chuckle. The once familiar sound was now almost foreign to her without the rich, deep undertone of her father’s voice laughing in unison. “Perhaps I should have understood then. Was that his way of telling me that money had become an issue?”

Cornwall shook his head, “Your father would have carried the weight of the very world itself before he would have allowed you to worry.”

She nodded, a half smile on her face as she moved to stand near the window. Through the glass she could see the bright red coats of the British soldiers as they marched in formation down the center of town toward the harbor. “Have you heard from the commandant’s office? Is there any news on the investigation?”

It had been nearly two weeks since a small group of officers on patrol had stumbled upon her father, a dagger buried in his belly. The vision of her father’s body, bloodied and dirty, flashed in her mind.

Cornwall nodded. “I received a letter from General Pattison only this morning, though I fear you will not be glad to hear of it.”

Elizabeth gripped the window sill, and rested her head against the cool glass. “Even in times of war, murderers must find themselves facing the gallows, Mr. Cornwall. How can he do nothing?” She looked back at the lawyer’s kind, bearded face. Her tears fell freely as she spoke. “You must implore him to do something. The coward that left my father to die in the street must be held accountable.”

“With no witnesses, there is little he can do, my dear. And then there are the rumors.”

Elizabeth wiped at her tears, “Rumors are nothing more than lies contrived by those who have nothing better to do than destroy the reputation of men they envy. My father was not a traitor.”

Cornwall hurried to her side and offered her his handkerchief. “Of course not. He was my friend and an honorable man. Come, sit by the fire, you'll catch your death in front of this drafty window.”

Elizabeth took his arm and allowed him to lead her back to the fire.

“These are inauspicious times, my dear, friend and foe often so hard to tell apart. I beg you to remember the man Edward was in his life and not to linger on the circumstances of his death. There are too many such stories these days, too many who will never have the justice they so rightfully deserve.”

It pained her to hear his words, but she knew he spoke the truth. “How long, sir, will we continue to fight a war that does little but take away those we love?”

“Another answer I cannot give you. My hope is that we will soon see the end of it, but my instincts tell me we may not soon be so blessed.”

“I hope for all our sakes, sir, that your instincts are wrong.”

“Would not be the first time. If he were here, your father would tell you as much.” He reached across and covered her hands with his own. “Edward never ceased in insisting that his daughter was not only beautiful, but clever, too. I know times look bleak, but I pray you do not despair.”

“Thank you, sir. I am sure I will think of something.”

“You know, there are a great many gentlemen in this town with incomes great enough to care for both you and your children even better than your father did. Edward often expressed his wishes that you would remarry.”

“So that I may become less of a burden to him, yes, I know.” She managed a smiled and dotted a tear from the corner of her eye. Her father often teased her, but he also never hesitated to insist that it was his joy to provide for her.

“You were never a burden to him, Ellie. He only ever wanted for you to be happy.”

“That being said, marriage is no assurance of happiness and I fear my chances of securing a husband decrease by the hour.”

“Nonsense, girl. You are still quite handsome, with a kind heart and a pleasant manner. I am sure there are many who would make you an offer.”

Elizabeth felt the rush of color come to her face.

“I would make you an offer myself, but I am far too old and you see, I already have a wife.”

Elizabeth laughed in spite of herself. “I should be heading home. I promised the children I wouldn’t be long, but I will think on it. "And," she said, handing back his handkerchief, "I promise not to tell Mrs. Cornwall of your proposal.”

Cornwall winked and laughed with her. “Wait, before you go,  I almost forgot, I have something else for you.” He returned to the desk and pulled a leather bound book from his satchel. “I found this amongst your father's ledger books.” He handed the book to Elizabeth. “It appears to be some kind of journal, but honestly I cannot make heads or tails of it.”

The book felt heavy in her hands. The soft leather cover bore the imprint of a rose, its many petals dyed blue.

“I did not know he kept a journal.” She opened the cover and flipped through several pages.

Inside her father’s elegant handwriting filled line after line. There were passages on the weather and various shipments, followed by numerous lines of numbers."

"What do these numbers mean?"

“I have not the faintest idea. I tried to match them with manifests and account ledgers, but no luck. It would seem your father had more secrets than any of us knew.”

“Yes, so it would seem." Elizabeth closed the book and hugged it close to her chest. "Thank you, Mr. Cornwall. Thank you for everything.”

“You are quite welcome, my dear. I only wish I could do more.” He bent and kissed the top of her head then moved to collect his things.

Elizabeth stood and refastened the clasp of her cape, then followed him to the desk. Her fingers trailed along the edge of the finely polished wood. It struck her odd that the fine piece of furniture had not sold.

“Were you unable to sell his desk? Seems a shame to leave it here.”

“It was, in fact, the first thing sold, along with the chairs.” He nodded toward the fire and fastened the buckle on his bag. “The buyer was quite insistent, paid much more than any of it was worth.”

Elizabeth’s brow furrowed, "Why would anyone do that?"
 
The old man smiled. “No great mystery here, Ellie, I bought them myself."

Elizabeth smile in return. “I think it would have made him happy to know that.”

“There are too many memories tied up in this desk and those chairs for an old man like me to resist.”

Cornwall offered her his arm. They walked in silence back through the warehouse and out onto the street. The watery expanse of Long Island Sound stretched out in front of them, as gray as the sky above it.

Thomas jumped down from the driver’s seat and opened the door to the carriage.

“Home, if you please, Thomas.”

Cornwell held her hand as she climbed in.

“Should you be in want of anything, madam, you know where to find me.” He bowed slightly then pulled his coat tighter around him.

“Yes sir, I do. God keep you safe and well.”

“And may he keep you, my dear, as I pray he keeps us all.”
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 3/31/2014 7:10:20 PM
  • Kelly Allegretti commented on :
    5/20/2017 9:36:08 PM
    Hi I love what I read so far. I have a publishing opportunity you might be interested in please email me at kellyallegretti1@gmail.com for more details
  • Clark Farley commented on :
    4/24/2016 11:35:07 AM
    “If by well you mean old, then yes, I am quite well, thank you.” loved that line... (trying a 'historical novel/setting' will continue to read. Even in as short a ... Show More
  • annah brown commented on :
    4/1/2016 2:35:18 AM
    Hello good day, i will like to meet you in person, am miss Anna, am from France and am leaving in London, please contact me on my email id at (annh1brown@hotmail.com), ... Show More
  • Kittie Botterman commented on :
    9/2/2014 2:16:51 AM
    It is truly amazing how you have weaved a marvelous tale about Elizabeth Burgen using cues from history. The American Revolution happens to be one of my favorite sections in US history.
  • Owl Johnson commented on :
    5/6/2014 12:08:27 AM
    This is a great opening chapter; you've established the mystery very well and I love the relationship between Cornwall and Ellie. It's a very warm, almost father and ... Show More
  • Linda Barr commented on :
    4/26/2014 11:26:51 PM
    This is a well written start to your story. Historical/Speculative Fiction is one of my favorite genre's. I write in it often. It is sad that many who choose to write in ... Show More
  • Joanne Orion Miller commented on :
    4/18/2014 8:24:15 PM
    Hi Veronica: This first chapter was loaded with possibilities, and I love the setting of New York during the Revolution, and the realistic look at the difficult politics ... Show More
  • June Korn commented on :
    4/17/2014 8:18:21 PM
    Great start!! I can't wait to start chapter 2.
    • Veronica Jorden I'm so glad you like it, June! I always get nervous sharing my writing with others, this kind of positive feedback helps keep me going. Thank you!
      4/17/2014 11:37:27 PM
  • Joyce Hertzoff commented on :
    4/15/2014 9:59:49 PM
    VJ, you've set up an excellent start to this story. Elizabeth is in quite a predicament, but also several questions and mysteries surround her father's death. I'll read ... Show More
    • Veronica Jorden Hi Joyce! Thank you so much for your feedback. I truly appreciate it.
      4/17/2014 11:35:48 PM
  • Heather O'Neil commented on :
    4/3/2014 7:14:22 PM
    Awesome. I love it and am looking forward to more.
    • Veronica Jorden Thanks so much, Heather! I hope you enjoy the rest! I appreciate any and all feedback!
      4/17/2014 11:34:59 PM
  • Leila Smith commented on :
    4/1/2014 11:54:06 PM
    Great job on this, Veronica! Can't wait for more!
  • Leona Pence commented on :
    3/31/2014 8:37:37 PM
    Very good chapter. I can't wait to read more.
  • Yvonne Rupert commented on :
    3/31/2014 6:56:06 PM
    Smooth lovely writing. I like the characters already, and the mystery is already unfolding. Looking forward to Chapter 2.
  • Elisa Acker Grimes commented on :
    3/31/2014 2:02:17 PM
    I loved the 1st Chapter, looking forward to reading more and finding what happened to her father.
  • 4/12/2014 1:18:25 PM
    Each character's voice rings out with a unique clarity across the centuries. Details are slowly revealed, adding up to a buffet of intriguing possibilities. The setting ... Show More
  • 4/1/2014 11:53:22 PM
    Great start for a wonderful story...I found the characters to be engaging and realistically done and look forward to more! This has something for everyone: mystery, ... Show More
  • 3/31/2014 5:08:58 PM
    A beautifully written introduction with a tantalizing hint of mystery. I can't wait to read more.