Work Header

A Time of War

Chapter Text

The other Andrews sons arrived in the evening just before dinner. Thomas, who lived quite close to his father and younger siblings, arrived first and was followed closely by his older brother Charles. Mr. Andrews was especially glad to see Thomas, which did not go unnoticed by John. Although Mr. Andrews could see Thomas nearly everyday if he wanted to, and in fact saw him at least once a week, acted as though his son had been gone for several years.
“It’s good to see you, Father,” Thomas greeted. “I’m sorry Sarah could not make it. She is feeling unwell.”
“I am just glad you were able to be here,” his father told him.
“Father, I only live a block away.”
“But you’re always so busy that we never get to see you!” Elizabeth interjected.
“Of course he is busy, Elizabeth,” Mr. Andrews said. “The House of Burgesses does not exactly leave a man with very much leisure time.”
“That it most certainly does not,” Thomas agreed.
Benjamin stood to the side awkwardly as no one had introduced him yet. Charles, who also was going ignored, noticed him.
“And who is this?” He asked.
“Oh, yes,” John said as though he had forgotten. “Charles, Thomas, this is my friend from Yale, Benjamin Tallmadge.”
They exchanged the usual pleasantries, each of them assuring that it was a pleasure to meet the other.
“I believe the food is ready,” Mr. Andrews announced. “Shall we eat?”
They all made their way to the dining room and took a seat at the table. After grace, they all placed their napkins in their laps and made polite conversation as food was passed around.
“So, John,” Thomas began. “What do you plan to do now that you are finished with your education?”
“Well, I would say that any person’s education is never truly finished.” John asserted. “But now that I am finished with college, I think I might like to follow Father into business, or perhaps go into law.”
“Law? I would say that is a noble profession.” Thomas said. “In fact, I know someone who you could study under. He even went to William and Mary, so you’ll like him, Father, though we never met while we were both there. He serves on the House of Burgesses with me. I’m afraid he lives in Albemarle, but that is not nearly as far away as New Haven.”
“And who is this man?” Mr. Andrews asked.
“I believe you’ve heard of him, Colonel Thomas Jefferson.”
Elizabeth looked from her father, who was scowling, to Thomas, who was obviously quite pleased with himself. He always did like to mess with his father. Neither Mr. Andrews nor Thomas were shy about expressing their contrasting political views, which often lead to disagreements.
“Unfortunately, his name does seem to come up quite often.” Mr. Andrews became very interested in his food, as if to imply that the dead bird he was eating was more worthy of his attention than Thomas Jefferson.
“I do know another man who only lives in Hanover, much closer than Colonel Jefferson, although I must admit that Mr. Henry has more of a mouth on him than Jefferson.”
Mr. Andrews grumbled to himself, but said nothing, as he did not want to appear rude in front of their guest, even if he was uninvited and a little bit unwelcome.
Elizabeth said nothing, quite uncomfortable with the whole situation. Though she loved Thomas, she was always a bit resentful that he could argue with their father and never get in trouble. If she were to say something like that, her father would never let her into his library again. He always encouraged Elizabeth’s love for books, but he preferred that she read fiction rather than anything that might make her think she knew more than men about politics and economics and the like. Elizabeth glanced up at Benjamin who at the same time glanced up at her. As soon as their eyes met, they separated.
“I believe Charles has some news to share,” Mr. Andrews said, trying to steer the conversation away from rebellious politicians.
“Yes, I have just joined the King’s Army.” Charles was glad to finally have the attention on him.
“And now I get to introduce you to people as Lieutenant Charles Andrews,” Mr. Andrews bragged.
“Father couldn’t buy you a higher rank?” Thomas asked.
Everyone stared in shock at the audacity and nerve of Thomas’s question. Elizabeth could not believe Thomas. Something was different about him tonight. He was always opinionated and unafraid to show it, but he was never this rude or insistent on offending someone.
Mr. Andrews decided not to verbally chastise his son, instead giving him a warning look. He changed the subject once again, now focusing it on their guest. Surely Thomas would not have the gall to antagonize someone he barely knew.
“So, Mr. Tallmadge,” Mr. Andrews diverted the conversation. “What do profession do you plan on pursuing?”
“Well, I’ve been a school teacher in Connecticut for the past two years,” Ben explained. “I enjoy it, but I am not sure it is what I want to do forever.”
“I see. I understand your father is a reverend.”
“He is, yes.”
“Will you follow him into this profession?”
Mr. Andrews, though he was speaking to Benjamin, kept glancing at his daughter to be sure she was listening. He knew she would never fall for a man with such a lowly profession who could not support her expensive tastes.
“No, I cannot say that I have the same gift my father has. I did enjoy my time as a teacher.”
“Perhaps you might become a private tutor.” Mr. Andrews suggested to further illustrate his point to Elizabeth. Benjamin was the type of man who could work in a gentry home, not live in it.
“If you decide you want to remain in Williamsburg, I think I have a job for you,” Thomas said. “I have three children, the oldest of whom is old enough to begin his education. I’m looking for a tutor for him.”
Mr. Andrews gave Thomas a look. Thomas was oblivious to his father’s dislike for Benjamin.
“I’m sure Mr. Tallmadge does not want to remain in Williamsburg longer than his visit-”
“I would have to consider it-”
“No, no I understand.” Thomas said. “Only something for you to think about.”
They all went back to their food, a heavy silence lingering in the air. The conversation for the rest of dinner was kept to small talk and uncontroversial topics.
After dinner, Mr. Andrews asked Thomas to stay behind. The request went unnoticed by everyone, except for Charles. He decided he would remain at the house as long as possible and try to find out why his father had requested for Thomas to stay. Elizabeth excused herself and went upstairs. John excused himself and Benjamin, saying that the trip from Connecticut had exhausted them. The sitting room was now empty save for Charles, Thomas, and their father, who tried to drop hints for Charles to leave.
“Father, I was wondering if I could discuss something with you tonight,” Charles said.
“Yes? And what is that?” Mr. Andrews asked.
Charles thought for a moment. He did not actually have anything he wanted to discuss, he only wanted to know why Thomas was staying later than him. He made something up.
“It’s about Elizabeth, and her future.”
“Oh good, that’s what I wanted to discuss with Thomas.”
Charles smiled, pleased with his ability to fumble his way into his father’s approval. He smiled until he began to think. His father had wanted to discuss this with Thomas, not him. Charles thought that was ridiculous. He was the oldest. He would be responsible for his younger siblings if something were to happen to their father.
Mr. Andrews began. “As you both know, your sister Elizabeth is of marrying age. I want to make sure that she finds a suitable man who can provide her with the life she wants. However, I know how Elizabeth is, always going in the opposite of whatever direction you push her in. Otherwise, I would simply arrange a marriage for her to a good man.”
“You would force Elizabeth to marry someone?” Thomas asked.
“Not “force”, no, but if I found a man who I knew was good for her, I would make sure that they were married.”
“I don’t see where we fit into this.”
“I’m worried that your sister will begin to associate with men who are not good enough for her as an act of rebellion almost.”
“Elizabeth has always done what is expected of her,” Charles reminded their father. It was true. Despite Elizabeth’s hobby of debate and her tendency to resist anyone else controlling her, she was always ladylike and never did anything outside of the status quo, save for her love of education and arguments.
“Yes, I know,” their father said. “But her actions lately have me worried. Just a few months ago, when we visited John, she was rude to a man who would have been a perfect match for her. I worry that she will continue in this behavior and do something she regrets. I want you two to keep an eye on her and guide her in the right direction. Make sure she is associating with the right sort of men.”
“What do you mean by ‘right sort’?” Thomas asked.
“Gentlemen who will be good to her and who are similar to her.”
“Similar status that is?” There was slight animosity in his voice.
“Well, your sister has expensive tastes. She needs someone who can provide for that. I only want to make sure that your sister is taken care of.”
“We will make sure that she is only consorting with men of her status.”
“Good. And I want to make sure you both understand that there are no exceptions to that. Even if the person is a family friend.”
“We understand.”
Mr. Andrews nodded.
“I know I sound controlling, but I only want what is best for her.”
“Of course.”
Mr. Andrews dismissed his sons. They both left with wildly different thoughts in their heads. Charles was glad that his father seemed to finally approve of him and respect him. He attributed it to his recent joining of the army.
The conversation left Thomas with a sour taste in his mouth. He understood his father’s concern, but there was something wrong about it. Without anyone’s control or intervention, Elizabeth would marry someone respectable who would be good to her. She did not like to stray too much from societal norms. So why was their father so intent on controlling her and dictating her life? Thomas had a natural aversion to anyone imposing hard rules on another person. He was not sure he would obey his father’s request. Like his father, Thomas had Elizabeth’s well being in mind, and this was not in her best interest.