From: Numidicus <email@example.com>
To: Mr. Ron Chernow <*****@****.com>
Subject: New writings of Alexander Hamilton's unearthed -- Please Advise
A source of a prodigious quantity of writings by Alexander Hamilton has come to my attention. While I am confident as to authenticity, I should appreciate your assessment and good opinion on the matter.
Lest you think me a charlatan or mountebank in search of base gain, let me assure you I do not seek payment for that within my possession. I simply wish for a trustworthy party to employ it for the greatest good. It is my hope that you might be that man.
I hesitate to transport precious cargo more often than necessary, and my health is not as robust as I might wish. If you could bear the inconvenience of traveling upstate to Sleepy Hollow to meet me and examine my evidence, you would have my enduring gratitude.
A fellow student of History,
Ron spent the train ride north editing proofs and trying not to feel ridiculous. His new pen pal doggedly persisted in writing in 18th century pastiche, but sent a photo of himself in modern clothing, hastily snapped on a phone camera. The resemblance was obvious; even if he wasn't a relative of the Hamilton line as he claimed, he could still find work as an impersonator for history clubs.
He was cagier about sending photos or any explanation of the supposed papers, but if Ron could at least get him mapped on the family tree, that would be worth the trip. They were meeting for coffee "to lend assurance that I am of sound mind and sensible disposition before embarking on a more private scholarly discussion."
Ron smiled to himself as he walked into the Starbucks. Honestly, it was worth a two hour ride just to see how long the guy could keep this up in person.
He found not one, but two anachronisms. His gray-haired correspondent wore an ordinary collared shirt. A younger bearded man, in a modern approximation of Revolutionary-era tailcoat and boots, was introduced as Mr. Crane, "with whom I am lodging at present." They stood and half-bowed in introduction, and he found himself repeating the gesture instead of shaking hands. Outnumbered by historical reenactors, their manners prevailed.
After a coffee and polite inquiry as to the comfort of his journey, they walked to a nearby house. The photos in the living room showed a family of black women, conspicuously lacking anyone as white as Crane or Fawcett. Crane caught him staring and said, "Miss Abigail Mills, who is so kind as to let us lodge with her."
"I see. Does she do the, ah, old-fashioned manners as well?"
Crane laughed. "No, she finds us quaint but is tolerant of it. She is an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." He offered Ron a chair and sat down himself.
Alex Fawcett began pacing nervously. "Sir," he said, "I fear I must begin with an apology, for I have introduced myself to you under a false name."
Ron grinned. "Hamilton's mother's maiden name. You had to know I'd notice."
"Yes." Fawcett paused. "I presumed you would find such an obfuscation eccentric but tolerable, whereas if I were to introduce myself as one Mr. Alexander Hamilton, you would think me utterly mad and discard my letters."
Ron nodded, suddenly grateful he was seated closest to the door. "You're right, I would have."
"I regret to say that I'm not. Mad, that is. But I am Alexander Hamilton, and by that I do not mean a namesake. I don't ask you to accept this easily! I will offer you such proofs as I can, if you will but give me the chance." He stood ramrod straight, his hands shaking.
"Okay." Ron found that adrenaline was making him notice odd little details. The supposed Mr. Hamilton really was short enough. His mannerisms were right. The famous Scottish complexion lit up when he blushed. "What did you have in mind?"
Hamilton relaxed a little. "You are one of the world's foremost experts on my life. You have read ten times as many pages of my correspondence as you have written in my biography. There are many details, both in explicit text and in surmise, that only another scholar or the man himself would know. Ask me whatever you like. Within the bounds of decency, of course. But then, even my indecencies are largely a matter of public record, and as such —"
Crane cleared his throat. Hamilton managed to cut off his paragraph. "I am at your service, sir."
Ron chewed on this for a moment, then it came to him. "You've already read my book."
"What did I get wrong?"
"I've prepared some notes on that subject, actually. Excuse me a moment!" Hamilton almost sprinted for a side room, then returned with a couple dozen pages of printer paper covered in dense handwriting. "It's no criticism of your work, you did a creditable job with the materials at hand, but if you were to make corrections in a second edition, I would be most obliged." He started pacing again. "Firstly, regarding my mother's conduct..."
After twenty minutes, Ron raised his hand, then waved it, then finally said, "Hamilton!" to make him look up from his pages. "I believe you. I don't know how the hell you came back, but I believe you." He stood and offered his hand to shake. "It's a real pleasure to meet you, sir."
"How are you getting by?" Ron asked. "It's a lot harder to move in society these days without official records, photo ID."
"It's a pressing problem," Hamilton admitted. "Crane has a handful of years head start on me, and it took him over a year to engage the services of a competent forger. Until I can acquire a similar fake, I must rely on his largesse to take home a sufficiency of volumes from the public library."
"Your biggest concern is getting a library card." Ron rubbed his temples. "Of course it is. How are you doing for money?"
Hamilton fell momentarily silent. "I hoped to ask your advice on that. For the moment, I rely entirely on Miss Mills' charity, which is not only galling, but taxing the resources of a most patient and gracious woman. You know my not inconsiderable skills, but I am at a loss as to how to use them here."
Hamilton suddenly seemed small and gray, the facade of frantic energy falling away to show his age. A lifetime of putting a brave face on debts and desperation had let him slip past Ron completely; this guy had lost literally everything.
"Well, if you wouldn't find it beneath you, at least to get started..." Ron hesitated. He was acting rashly, giddy from an unbelievable conversation, but he could afford it. "I could use a research assistant. Someone else who can read old handwriting, help me separate the wheat from the chaff. A lot of primary source archives have never been indexed, so citing them is hell. Have you learned to type yet?"
And he was off and running again. "My speed's improving, though handwriting is still quicker, especially with the inexhaustible pens. I understand it's merely a matter of diligent practice. Adapting to the changing fads of spelling and vocabulary is the greater difficulty, but reading the online papers provides a wealth of examples for study."
"You found the Internet. Watch out, blogosphere." Oh, no. That was a terrible idea. "Huh."
"What is it?" Hamilton looked at him expectantly.
To hell with it. "You should get your ID sorted out. In a year or two, I think I can get you a book deal."
From the Pen of Numidicus
Thoughts on current events by Alexander Hamilton
Barring the Gate
The spectre of a stranger in our midst is enough to send the mob crying through the streets for blood, oft too careless of whose is spilt. But who cries, "Stranger," and who profits from the mob? The conscience of our Nation is stained repeatedly by this error.
We bar the pasture gate with a flock of sheep standing on the other side, crying for shelter from the wolves. I speak, of course, of Syria...
Abbie came home from work, shoulders aching, and dropped her bag in the hall. "Crane?" Three men were crowded around a laptop screen at her dining room table. "Looks like you didn't scare him off after all. You must be Mr. Chernow."
The stranger, a white man in his sixties, stood up and stretched, taking a moment to straighten out his back. "Ron, please." He extended his hand.
She shook it. "Abbie. If you're wondering if you've gone crazy, I'm right there with you. But they're real."
"I can see that." Ron Chernow had the slightly glazed academic look that Crane sometimes got over a really interesting translation problem. "In another week, I might even believe it."
"So does that mean you can get us backstage?" she asked.
Crane looked up guiltily. "My apologies, lieutenant, it escaped our minds. Mr. Chernow, we don't wish to impose on your acquaintance in its infancy, but the play is obviously of great interest to us, and —"
"And it's sold out until August," Ron finished.
"Seriously? Last week, it was May."
"Not for a block of three tickets one aside the other," Hamilton said without looking up from the screen. "August, verging on September now. And that hardly gains us entreé with Mr. Miranda. If you would be so kind, Chernow." He kept typing.
"I'll see what I can do." Ron already looked worn out. If it got Hamilton out of her hair, Abbie couldn't bring herself to be sorry.