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Deleted Scene – Invasion! – The Burr vs. Hamilton Duel

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This slowed the story’s pace, delaying the reader’s view of Dolley killing the highwaymen in 1810. Bits of it have been placed into other scenes, for example, Sukey’s introduction to Dolley is part of the opening scene of Subversion!  Dolley’s reconstruction and analysis of the Burr-Hamilton duel is spot-on. I might slip it into Subversion! or Retribution!

The bit about Dolley distracting Jemmy during the writing of the Constitution came from the 1912 novel “First Lady in the Land -or- When Dolly[sic] Todd Took Boarders” by Acton Davies and Charles Nirdlinger.  A cute, engaging, highly fictional story that later inspired the 1946 movie “Magnificent Doll” staring Ginger Rogers as Dolley, Burgess Meredith as Jemmy, and David Niven as a quite dastardly Aaron Burr.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Warning! ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The following is a deleted scene, mercilessly cut from the heart of the novel and tossed screaming into the outer darkness of this web site for your sadistic amusement. It’s raw stuff, unrefined, un-wordsmithed, probably not even spell-checked. Read at your own risk!
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 13 July, 1804  Presidential Mansion, Washington City

Dolley sat at the table, planning the menu for next week’s dinner. One hundred guests, most  of them Federalists, including the head of their delegation, Alexander Hamilton.

Alex and Jemmy had been close friends, had coauthored the Federalist Papers during the Constitutional Convention, but had grown apart over the years.   Their disagreement centered on the extent of power wielded by the Federal Government: Alex saw the government as the solution to all national problems, and was ever trying to grow it larger.  Jemmy saw it as a necessary evil, to be kept as small as possible and strictly in check.  Nothing she or Jemmy said could dissuade  Alex, and when he founded the Federalist Party to champion his views, Jemmy founded the Anti-Federalists, now known as the Democratic-Republicans.

Thomas would be running for a second term as President, but with a different man for Vice President.  He and Aaron never got along well due to the muddled election, where the two of them had whipped the Federalists, but had themselves tied for President.  It took weeks for Congress to sort out the mess, and in the end the Federalists, led by Alex, resolved the issue by throwing their weight behind Thomas instead of Aaron.  Jemmy told me the tie was the result of a Constitutional loophole, and he accepted full responsibility since he had written the part of  the Constitution prescribing elections.  That is so like dear Jemmy, not shy about admitting his own mistakes, unlike many men I know.  I remember his confession to me, the day Aaron introduced us, that he’d seen me walking about the streets of Philadelphia during the writing of the Constitution.  I’ll never forget the sweet thing he said which captured my heart: ‘The vision of your loveliness preoccupied my mind as we wrote the Constitution, and if some parts of it are vague and uncertain, it is because my wandering  thoughts dwelt on you.’   What a man!

She sighed and chuckled, then stood, mouth open, in shock. Good golly Lord Almighty!  Maybe he wasn’t just flattering me. Maybe it was true, and the loophole causing the rift between Aaron and Thomas was one of those ‘vague and uncertain’ parts. Oh dear . . . I was the cause of all this!

Well, time to set  things right.  Alex and his Federalists are coming to talk about ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, written specifically to fix the mess I caused by distracting poor Jemmy.   This Amendment must pass, and we must have their support to do it, so this meal is going to be spectacular! Not a good time to try out the new cornish hen recipe.  Last time the braised pork got them all mellow and agreeable, so I’ll make a double batch.  What else?

She outlined the meal, item by item, then stood at the end of the banquet table, serving platter in hand,  visualizing  desert options and decorations.  The outside door slammed, small feet pounded down the hallway, and her sister rounded the corner at a run, shoes sliding on the polished floor.

“Have you heard the news? Have you heard?”

Anna looks miserable.  Probably another sick horse. Better lighten the mood or she’ll have me crying. “You’re going to have a baby?  About time Richard held up his end of the bargain!”

Anna shook her head without so much as a giggle. “Alexander Hamilton is dead.  Vice President Burr killed him in a duel two days ago.”

The serving platter shattered on the tile floor, sending pieces skating to the four corners of the room. Stunned, she dropped into a chair and Anna related the story: Hamilton had published several slanderous letters which had cost Aaron the governorship of New York.  Alex refused to apologize, so Aaron challenged him to a duel.  They met at dawn, along the west bank of the Hudson River in Weehawken, New Jersey.  Alex provided the dueling pistols.  Both men fired.  Alex’s shot went high, over Aaron’s head; Aaron’s shot hit Alex in the gut, a mortal wound that delayed death until the next afternoon.

Unbidden, her mind reconstructed the event with the clinical precision of experience.  The dueling pistols were Wodgen & Bartons, identical to hers.  The newspaper called them “large caliber smoothbores”, yet she knew her pistols were rifled, and their rifling was not obvious by design. The duelist providing the pistols need only place a bit of wadding about the bullet to greatly increase its accuracy.  Furthermore, Wogden & Bartons also possessed a hidden hair trigger which required a mere two pounds pressure instead of the normal nine pounds required by the main trigger.   It had taken her hundreds upon hundreds of repetitions to master that light touch, but the tremendous increase in accuracy was worth it.  Until mastery, however, her shots fired prematurely.

The two men had started with pistols raised, and in the excitement and stress Hamilton allowed his finger to brush the hair trigger, firing prematurely as his pistol lowered towards Burr.  This was, to her, an obvious indication of insufficient practice.  Hamilton violated code duello by using rifled pistols, and had sought unfair advantage over Burr by using the hair trigger.  She tsk-tsked to herself. Hamilton had tried playing the assassin, to rid himself of the pesky Burr, and had been caught.   Naughty, naughty, Alex . . . that’s what you get for cheating–

She gasped, horrified by her thoughts, her cold analysis of the catastrophe, and the realization that she had actually chuckled over poor Alex’s comeuppance.  What am I thinking? Cheating?  This isn’t a game.  Alex is dead! She felt sick, wanted to throw up, and somehow stood, the room reeling about her. She mumbled an  excuse, stumbled upstairs to their bedroom and locked the door behind her. Without thinking she retrieved her favorite pistol from the oaken box and stood before the mirror, hammer cocked, head turned sharply over her shoulder, seeking solace in the  ritual.

She began to breathe deeply, through her nose, but was unable to purge her mind of stray thoughts.  The woman in the mirror, now a little older and a little fatter,  watched as she always did, but her face was stricken with grief.  She continued breathing, desperate to calm her mind, and the woman in the mirror faded, replaced by the image of Alexander Hamilton.  They regarded one another, speechless.  Without warning, his right eye splattered, struck by a bullet, and he fell to the floor, dead.

Horrified she brought her hands to her face, and in the right was her pistol, a Wogden & Barton, the same model  Aaron used to kill poor Alex.  She shrieked in agony, dropped the pistol, and backed away from the mirror, wiping her hands on her dress. What am I doing? What have I done? Alex, I am so sorry, so very sorry!   Oh, Aaron, how could you have done such a thing?  Political opponents are to be vanquished at the ballot box, not the dueling field.   What is to become of us?  Oh, dear Lord, forgive me! Forgive me! She flung herself to the bed, buried her head in a pillow, and bawled.

 

 

In time she stood, wiped her face and eyes, and prepared to receive her dear husband.  She was glad he was in town, glad that they had a place of privacy, and looked forward to an evening alone with him, an evening without responsibility or people or distraction.  She needed to be held and comforted, and, of all people, he would understand.

She retrieved the pistol from the floor, lowered the hammer, and returned it to the oaken case; she wrapped the oaken case in a white sheet and placed the bundle on the floor in the back of the closet, buried under stacked boxes of unfashionable shoes, resolving never to touch them again, for any reason. Ever.

She met Jemmy at the door, his expression indicating he already knew, and they embraced, drawing strength from one another.

“I thought you might need something to cheer you up.  You’ve been busy lately, so I bought you a personal servant.”

Not tonight. “Please, Jemmy, that’s the last thing I need right now.  You know I don’t like owning slaves. And I don’t want a servant, don’t need a servant, and after what happened I don’t feel up to training a new–”

A small head with wide eyes peered around his leg, looking up at her.  He stepped aside to reveal the most bedraggled waif she’d ever seen.   She glanced at the girl, then stared at her husband, incredulous, speechless.  What am I going to do with this . . . this . . . stray?

Jemmy gave her a peck on the cheek. “I’ll . . . uh . . .  leave the two of you alone to get acquainted.”

Her eyes followed him as he strode from the room.  I don’t have time for this right now.  She looked down at the girl. “How old are you?” she asked.

“Seven.” The girl regarded her with terrified eyes, as if expecting to be struck. “Seven, missus.”

The tiny voice quavered, uncertain and fearful.  She was an infant, small and scrawny. Her right cheek was bruised, and there were older bruises on her arms, and the backs of her legs. Her hair was black and straight, chopped short and unwashed.  Her dress was a tattered rag, dirty and torn.  And her eyes, so full of pain.

Oh dear Lord. What have they done to this poor girl? So small and scared and alone.  She leaned over and took the girl’s tiny hand into her own. “Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.  Where are your parents?”

“D-d-dead, missus.”

“What is your name?”

The girl swallowed. “S-S-Sukey, missus.”

“I am Dolley Madison.  Please call me Mizz Dolley.”

The little girl stared at her, puzzled and confused.

Dolley knelt and embraced her, willing that she understand she was loved. “Welcome to our home, Sukey. Welcome!”