Dear Mr. Laurens,
It has not escaped my notice that, as we are meant to be conveyors of his Excellency's correspondence - and with the unpredictability of war and politics - that we should endeavor to keep a running record, of sorts, concerning letters responded to or otherwise dispensed with.
Additionally, given the sensitive nature of these missives, and of the revolutionary effort itself, our record should represent something free from public scrutiny. I suggest this simple folio, secured with a strand of hair after each use, to ensure the chain of custody between aides.
I eagerly await your response in the matter.
Your obedient servant,
Dear Mr. Hamilton,
I was gratified to receive your note and think it a most excellent idea.
Your obedient servant,
Dear Mr. Laurens,
Thank you for your swift response. Your hand should do serviceably in these matters - it bears the elegant strokes of a fine education and it will, no doubt, trouble some future redactor to strike through its admirable lines.
Thus far today, I have dealt with missives from the Congress, who have answered our request for more reasonable rations with their own hunger - born from likely cowardice and a lifetime of battles against their waistlines as we battle to fill our own bellies - to see this war acquitted and acquitted hastily. Naturally, I answered reasonably and in his Excellency’s measured tones. The substance of my letters concerns the matters of these supplies, with particular attention to emphasize that the Continentals will not taste victory while our armies eat horse meat.
I envision our response to be one that assumes military men can survive on words, paper, and little else. I await your updates with an eager appetite.
Your obedient (and hungry) servant,
Dear Mr. Hamilton,
I regret that my update on today’s piles of letters does not include any substance of note - that which we could eat, or that which we could use to procure such victuals. My hand, and my stomach, regret this news. General Washington is, as always, taciturn in his disappointment, but I can see that this is weighing heavily upon him - both in concern for the men and for the cause of revolution itself. I fear I have become a casualty of our shortages as well, and seek the comfort of sleep if I cannot have the comfort of supper.
Yrs in hunger,
My dear Laurens,
Wars, as you allude, are won by bread as much as musket and ball. It is a testament to a keen intellect that you can see both the humanitarian and practical necessity of such matters. It is some small consolation that, in these endeavors, I have found, at least, a like mind.
I admit, in my weaker moments and perhaps swayed by the secrecy of this record and your prudent nature, to envision awaking to a line of carts and dray horses, each bearing such good things as meat and salted fish and bread. One finds that the drought of hunger makes for a fertile imagination, and I imagine our combined bliss at the supper table, the foam from full tankards and the chatter of men full of revolutionary spirits. In my more practical mind, I know that such simple repasts that would mean the difference between a cold sleep and a contented one, and pray you are able to find contentment as you slumber now.
Congress writes today, and they suppose us to be an army of silverfish rather than men, seeing as how our demands for food have yielded only more paper. I have obliged them to return in kind and, perhaps this is an extension of my delirium - or the clarity that hunger affords a body - but have used the useless Continental currency for my correspondence, since it has no other utility in our efforts. I pray His Excellency thinks me bold and not bull-headed.
Your most obedient servant,
My dear Laurens,
I was surprised, and confess myself disappointed, to find that the hair still encircling this book to be my own and not one of yours. Though I understand that, given its lustre, its shimmer like that of the black fleece of which Solomon once sang, not wishing to separate a single strand from its owner.
My folly to Congress, it seems, has yielded fruits - or more accurately turnips. Great piles of turnips, their tops white as newly shorn ewes, and His Excellency has set me with the glorious task of their inventory. Still, once roasted and mashed, and with a scant trace of the butter we have remaining to us, they are a feast before famished men.
I came to find you, though
Gilbertthe Marquis reported that you’d come riding in with a different supply line (a rumor of pork, perhaps?) and were from these cavalry efforts, exhausted. I found you enjoying the quietness of sleep and, not wishing to trouble you further, have left this message with the promise of a hot meal and companionship when you arise.
Your obedient servant and Master of Turnips for the Revolution,
My dear Ham,
You were correct about these turnips. They are delicious. Thank you for reserving some for me though the men rightly have the greatest need for them. Our revolution should not fall into the traps of the aristocracy - the ocean between our efforts and our colonial masters should baptize us from these ranks and make us all equals at the supper table. (I do confess that I have eaten my share, and my share again, though. It has been an age since I have tasted anything so sweet.)
I have spared a hair for this book, though I fear, given our candor, we perhaps will be in need of a sounder lock.
(P.S. The rumors of pork are true. Ask the staff sergeant at the Mercer Mill.)
Nights are getting colder, friend, and our revolutionary ardors are not enough to accomplish the very practical job of keeping us warm. I fear my Caribbean upbringing has betrayed my capabilities in these matters. I am reluctant to requisition more blankets, as the men are in much dearer need of our existing supplies, and the relative comfort we enjoy here is vastly superior to their experiences in the field.
If you wake to find the bed bearing an impression of another body, I confess, in my weakness, to have made use of the blankets and the attractive bedwarmer here. Though slim, it emits heat like the comfort of a warm fire, and I find it puts me in mind of my schooling to sleep this way.
Laurens finds him eating supper. He’s writing, of course, pen in one hand, interchanging it with his fork as necessary. The food is such that Alexander could eat it now, and never hope to taste it, but is better than the nothing they had to eat previously, so he is grateful for it nonetheless.
Laurens removes his hat, as if manners have a place at a soldier’s table. “It’s cold at night,” he says, without greeting.
“Yes,” Alexander agrees, through his dinner.
“It is folly not to continue to sleep as bedfellows, I mean. The General worries after your health.”
Alexander pauses midway through a bite of something claiming to be chicken. “Yes, his Excellency’s worries are well-placed, clearly. As I am the one who has not yet been shot. It’s good that you are so concerned with his Excellency’s wishes such that I -”
“Ham -” Laurens begins. “I just meant that we could share. No offense intended.”
“Apologies, Laurens. I should not take my frustrations at being thought too fragile for the battlefield on you. You meant no insult. You are correct - we should share. It, as you say, is folly not to, and will be an example to the men as a means of conserving heat and space in such difficult times.”
He gestures, and Laurens sits, Alexander sliding a portion of the day’s meal over to him. Laurens eats as the men do, mostly with his hands, none of the forced niceties of his upbringing, and Alexander thinks of Gideon’s men at the river, kneeling to cup water in their hands. He eats as he seems to do all things, with hunger and urgency, and Alexander can’t help but watch him.
Laurens takes notice of this observation, pausing. “I did mean to ask,” he asks, moping grease up with a hunk of likely-stale bread. “You mentioned a bedwarming pan - I traded mine to Gilbert for a spare blanket. Did you borrow one?”
Alexander nearly chokes on his supper laughing.