I am starting this journal tonight. So many troubling things happening. If I write, perhaps it will help to calm me. Mama has still not recovered since the birth of our new baby sister.
“Yishai, come here, son. I need to speak with you,” Father said.
I was in the kitchen, sitting near the gas lamp, learning Gemara. I stood up and father came over and put his arm on my shoulder.
“How is Mama? How is the baby?” I asked, hoping he would say she was better.
“The baby is thriving. Thank G-d that we found the milk maid. I am worried about Mama. She is so weak. With Hashem’s help she will recover, but I need you to do something for your mother and for me. Mama and I are worried about Ezra. It’s this new scheme he wrote to her about.”
“Yes, this Mr. Burr is not to be trusted.”
“But how is Ezra involved with Mr. Burr?”
Father sat down on the wooden kitchen chair. He motioned for me to sit as well. “Ezra wrote that Aaron Burr is planning to create a sort of military group that will cause the Western states to break from the union and form their own country. He wants to involve Mexico and possibly go to war with Spain.”
“It sounds dangerous, Father.”
“It could be considered treason, and I don’t want our son involved. You know Ezra. He will love any get-rich-quick scheme, and this Mr. Burr is a smooth talker – very slick and convincing. Ezra met him at the home of Mr. Harman Blennerhassett. He’s talking about joining this wild scheme.”
I knew my big brother: He left home so young – at 19 – and married Miriam, a girl my parents did not approve of. He could be very impulsive.
“Ezra’s always been a bit of a rebel,” Father seemed to read my thoughts. “But he’s got a good heart and he just wants some discipline – some direction. Sorry to say that Miriam encourages him in this scheme.”
Poor Dovid. I thought of my adorable four-year-old nephew. We had not seen any of them since Rosh HaShanah, when Ezra informed us that they were moving out west to Marietta.
“It’s so far from a Jewish community,” Mama had said.
Father tried to convince them to stay in Pittsburgh.
“This is where we want to go, Father. Please give us your blessing.”
They were off on the next boat after Yom Tov, and there was nothing anyone could do. Dovid cried when I hugged him good-bye. That sweet little boy – how I missed him.
“So, we want you to go to Marietta, son, and try to talk him out of this dangerous plan. I really should go but I can’t leave Mama right now. You will have to be the man to do it.”
“Father, Ezra won’t listen to me.”
“With Hashem’s help he will. Please, Yishai, we need you to go.”
I lay in bed that night wondering how I could convince Ezra to stop associating with Mr. Burr and his dangerous plan. What was it about this Mr. Burr that was so enticing? I had read in the newspaper that he was compared to a snake. Someone described his hazel eyes like glittering diamonds.
I asked Hashem to please help me find the right arguments to help my brother and his family. If my brother went off with Mr. Burr, who knew what could happen to him?
I finally slept. I dreamed of Marietta and Ezra and a frightening man with glittering eyes pointing a shotgun.
The next morning, Mama called to me from her room.
The curtains were drawn and she lay in bed looking pale and ill.
“Yishai, thank you for going. I pray that Hashem will help you to convince Ezra and Miriam to turn back from this terrible plan.”
“Be careful, son. There are Indians near there and dangers on the sea.”
“I’ll be careful.”
I arrived in Marietta by boat. The trip was not too long. There were a few other travelers like me heading to Ohio. One man who was moving with his brother to Ohio commented, “You look young to be starting out on your own out West.”
“No, I’m not moving to the West. I’m going to visit my brother.”
“Ah, what’s his name?”
“Ah, I know that name. He’s involved with Mr. Burr,” I believe. Terrible business, this Mr. Burr. Terrible.”
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines. Fiction serial Jewish Press Falling Star (2019).