Recap: Yehudis is still reading the journal in her father’s office about Yishai, who lived during the early 1800s in Marietta, Ohio. Yishai’s parents sent him to Marietta to warn his older brother to stay away from Aaron Burr and his dangerous schemes. So far, his brother is not receptive to Yishai’s advice.
We docked, and as we approached, I saw that the mansion was even bigger up close. Ezra rattled on about the mansion. “It’s built in the Palladian design, with a large two and a half story wood frame main section; from that, there extend two portico wings. The main house has ten rooms. It has a summer kitchen and servants’ quarters. You’ll see inside the elegant mirrors and the custom-made imported furniture.”
A servant answered the massive front door and ushered us in. The domed entrance hall led to a great dining room. Mr. Blennerhassett greeted Ezra with a warm pat on the shoulder. “This must be the younger brother you told us about. He looks just like you. “Mr. Blennerhassett was dressed fashionably in buff colored breeches and silver-buckled shoes. His hair was peppered with gray and he was thin and slightly stooped. “Come in. Come in. Show your brother the best room in the house.” He led us down the long hallway to a drawing room. It had polished walnut paneling, floor to ceiling, and shining brass doorknobs, gold moldings, marled wallpaper, and a giant Venetian window and well-stocked library upstairs. The servant entered, carrying a tray with lemonade and sugar cookies. “Please have some,” he offered.
“No, thank you.”
I was happy to see Ezra refused, as well.
“Have you told your brother about the plan?” Mr. Blennerhassett asked.
Ezra shook his head.
“Well, it’s the most amazing thing. Let me show the letter Mr. Burr sent me. That letter has changed my life.” He walked over to his desk and rummaged around. Then he brought a letter back towards us and began to read it aloud.
Dear Mr. Blennerhassett:
Your talents and acquirements seemed to have destined you for something more than vegetable life. It would seem there has been, without explanation, a sort of consent between our minds.”
He hugged the paper to him and smiled. “Yes, this plan will be amazing. I will be the ambassador to Mexico. I can picture the whole thing. The Western states will separate from the Union.”
I shivered in horror. That would be terrible. How could he talk like that? It sounded treasonous.
He took a glass of lemonade from the servant who was still standing at attention with the tray.
He sipped slowly, and then he said, “Just think, with the large military group we form, we can take over Mexico.”
“So much gold and riches to be had,” Ezra added. “It’s a sure thing we’ll win.”
“We’ll?” I started. “Ezra, you are planning to do this?”
“Of course. You should, too. Well, you’re a bit young, but if you were a little older I would take you with us,” Mr. Blennerhassett said.
I shuddered. Now what? Ezra was so ensconced in this thing.
“You plan to make a military takeover?” I whispered.
Mr. Blennerhassett smiled. “A complete one, my friend. Cajoe,” he motioned to his slave.
“Bring wine for all. Let’s drink to victory.”
My brother took the drink offered. He clicked glasses with his host. I refused a glass. “So sorry. I keep kosher.”
My host shot a questioning look at my brother.
Mr. Blennerhassett held up his glass. “To victory for our cause.”
“To victory and riches,” my brother replied.
Mr. Blennerhassett drained his glass and requested another. As he turned his back to get more, I noticed my brother discretely put his glass down without drinking from it.
We left the mansion with our host’s hearty compliments and good wishes.
Ezra was in high spirits as we entered the boat to go back to his house. “Isn’t he amazing? Isn’t the house awesome? I’m going to build one like that out West. You’ll see.”
“It’s dangerous. It could be treason what they’re doing.”
“Oh, Yishai. You don’t understand anything about it.”
I realized with a sinking feeling that there was nothing I could say to Ezra to change his mind.
When we returned, Miriam and Dovid were sleeping. I slid into the little bed near Dovid. Then I realized I hadn’t davened Maariv, and I got up and I lit the gas lamp in the living room and began to daven.
Ezra saw me and he pulled out a siddur and began davening, too.
I begged Hashem to help me fulfill the mission my parents had sent me on. I was so happy that Ezra was davening with me.
“Like old times,” Ezra said when he was done. “I haven’t davened in a while. Thank you, little brother.”
“Mama says you’d be much happier back in Pittsburgh with a Jewish community.”
“Yeah, one day, maybe. Now, I want to strike it rich.”
“See you in the morning.” Ezra headed to his bedroom.
I crept into little Dovid’s room. I kissed his sweet forehead and then I slid into bed. I tried to sleep, but when I closed my eyes I saw the image of my brother talking with Mr. Blennerhassett, and the image disturbed me. This was not a good influence. Why couldn’t Ezra see this? What argument could I give for him to realize he was heading down the wrong path?
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).