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A Strong Enough Foundation

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Angelica isn't sure when Alexander has time to sleep. He writes her letters, and he writes Eliza letters--more letters than he writes Angelica, of course, sometimes whole packets of them bound up with string that Eliza dutifully sends back to him with her reply--and his letters to them both talk about how he and his friend Laurens spend some of their time writing about Important Issues, and he is writing for General Washington, and he is fighting a war, which by most reasonable estimates doesn't leave much time for things like sleeping. He has only been gone for a month or so and Angelica has already amassed a small pile of letters, each addressed to My Dear Friend, Angelica, each signed Your Dear Friend, Alexander.

("My wife insists we should be dear friends," Alexander had said to her, after the wedding.

Angelica had smiled a nearly-genuine smile at him and responded, "I should like that. It would be absurd for us to be anything but.")

She hasn't read any of the letters he's written to Eliza, but Eliza has said that they're often about how much he misses his wife. In one letter, she says, laughing, he entreats her to spend more time reading, because he thinks her face is wonderful and wants to make sure that her brain is too.

He never tells Angelica to read more. He tells Angelica about the war, about the fighting, the in-fighting, the problems, the near-hopelessness (out-gunned, he writes, and out-manned). Angelica wonders if he writes about these things to Eliza, or if he leaves them out to keep from worrying her.

Eliza says that she's in the family way and that she's written to the General to send Alexander home. Angelica is ecstatic for her, for them, and she promises to come visit even more once the baby has arrived. Given what she knows about Alexander and how the war is going, she is doubtful he'll be home before the baby. Then, suddenly, there are rumors of one of Washington's aides-de-camp participating in a duel and there's a letter from Alexander saying he's being sent home (neither sister is sure if or how these things are related) and then he's home, in his house, with his wife, out of danger, tantalizingly close.

Angelica does not visit. It's been months since Eliza and her husband have seen each other, and she knows they have much to discuss.

She expects the letters to stop, but they don't--she receives one more, an unexpected missive still addressed to My Dear Friend, Angelica. She opens it and is greeted by Alexander's overzealous prose.

I do not suppose I should ask you to keep the contents of this letter a secret, it reads, because that is unfair to you--one cannot ask a friend, even a dear friend, to keep things from someone they love. However, I write to you now because of these connections of yours, not despite them, because you are in a unique position to understand and possibly address the unease I have been feeling since returning home.

As Eliza has surely told you, we are expecting a child, our first. (If she has not, I apologize that you must receive the news this way and ask that you please do me the favor of acting surprised when she tells you.) She is more than thrilled, and I cannot blame her, but I find myself a bit more apprehensive. I do not doubt that Eliza shall be an excellent mother, but for my own part, I am less than certain about my own fitness for parenthood. I do not like to speak of my decidedly unhappy childhood, but suffice it to say the universe has presented me with a dearth of good role models when it comes to fatherhood. Lacking such a role model, I am unsure that my own version of fatherhood will suffice. And of course, this is not the sort of sentiment that one expresses to one's wife when she is carrying the child that is causing this apprehension. The unique position which I mentioned is this: you know my wife and her childhood and her father, and you know, in some small part, the measure of my own person. We have exchanged many letters, and I cannot help but feel that you have had me sized up entirely since the first evening that we met.

Eliza insists that all she needs from me is my presence, that all I need to do is be here. But what if I fail? What if I am no better a father to my child than my father was to me? What will Eliza think of me? What will you?

Angelica thinks about it.

She hands the letter back to Alexander after the next dinner she attends at the Hamiltons' home, and the emotion on his face is a mixture of terror and relief. He quickly tosses it on the fire--something of a surprise from the man whose correspondences are kept and cataloged so meticulously. "You didn't tell Eliza?"

Eliza, growing bigger by the day, had retired to bed after dinner, and Angelica casts a glance towards the bedroom where Eliza is sleeping or, more likely, still attempting to get comfortable enough to sleep. "I don't need to tell my sister everything," she says, and it surprises her how defensive she sounds. "She has enough things to worry about now, with the pregnancy and the war."

"So only you think less of me," Alexander says. It sounds like cold comfort.

She's not going to dignify his self-pity with a response, and so she says, "You really shouldn't worry. You're underestimating how much and how well Eliza will keep you on track, I promise."

"I'm already asking a lot of her."

"She knows what she's gotten into. She knew it when she married you."

Alexander frowns. "That's what she said when we discussed it. But--"

"You said you don't like to talk about your childhood," she interrupts, "That your own father was not a man to look up to. But use that as your guideline: all the things about him that you remember fondly, emulate. All the things you don't, avoid."

"It can't be that simple!"

"But what if it is?" Angelica wonders if this is the first thing he's ever been unsure about in his life. "I can't tell you that it will be okay, Alexander, but if you love your family as much as you do your work, I imagine you will be just fine."

He looks indignant for a split second, but then huffs a quiet laugh. "You do indeed have me sized up, dear friend." Maybe he thinks she was joking. She hopes that he doesn't.

"And," she continues, smiling, "You needn't worry too much, because Eliza won't be alone in her endeavor to keep you on track; I will do my part to help. The Schuyler sisters together will surely hold you to account. It is my duty as a sister, and as a dear friend."

"I would expect nothing less," Alexander says, and he smiles back at her.