Cameo: Andrew Jackson (and Sneak Peek at a Work-in-Progress)

Andrew Jackson
7th President of the United States
If you've read any of my work, you know how much I love giving real historical figures cameo roles in my novels (George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, etc.). Sometimes, I will even make them a secondary character (the Marquis de Lafayette). So, when I needed a courier for the piece I am currently writing, I thought, "Hmmm. I wonder if any 'Founding Fathers' were young enough to be couriers during the Revolution." Sure enough, there was one who actually did serve as a courier: Andrew Jackson.

Unfortunately, there are two tricky parts with Jackson:

1/ The story takes place in Wilmington, DE, and according to Wikipedia, he lived somewhere on the North and South Carolina border. Close enough for me. Problem solved. For the purists out there, just think of this character as inspired by Jackson. Plus, if this passage remains in the final, I will add something in my endnotes as I try to do with any liberties I (knowingly) take with history.

2/ Jackson is not exactly a beloved Founding Father. Still, at the time this story takes place he was probably only nine or ten, so I felt I could use a little artistic license with his character. I tried to make him sound intelligent, but somewhat of a schemer.

Here's the passage from my current work-in-progress. I would love to hear what you think.

            The knock sounded again. Louder. More urgent. Sarah strode to one of the long windows that flanked the front door and peaked out through dusty curtains. A messenger, no more than a boy, stood on the porch, hopping from foot to foot and blowing on his clenched hands. In his armpit, he trapped what looked to be a letter of some kind.
            Sarah opened the door. "Yes?"
            "Message for Mr. Garrett," the boy squeaked, then went back to puffing on his raw, red hands.
            Could it be from her father? Perhaps he regretted his hasty remarks and was ready to welcome her home. He was a stubborn man. Still, when he lost his temper, he might not change his mind easily, but he rarely stayed angry for long.
            "I'll take it."
            The messenger regarded her outstretched hand with a dubious eye. "I don't know. I'm supposed to give this directly to Mr. Garrett." He leaned forward, slanted his head and gave her a pointed look. "And, only Mr. Garrett."
            Sarah shivered. She wanted that letter, but she had no wish to stand in an open doorway freezing while she argued with the boy.
            "He's not at home at the moment, but you can wait for him inside." She stepped aside to let him pass.
            "Don't mind if I do." The boy pushed past her into the foyer with about as much decorum as Molly showed when the door was opened for her.
            It wasn't a large entryway, but the boy glanced around, his jaw agape. Judging from the thin, patched breaches he wore, Sarah guessed he came from a home of modest means. Perhaps he even worked as a courier to support his family.
            "What's your name?" Sarah asked.
            "Andy. Andy Jackson." The boy studied her with close-set eyes that were clear and intelligent nonetheless.
            "Can I get you something to eat, Andy?" Sarah offered, sensing the boy's trust would not be so easily earned.
            "No, thank you, Ma'am." He looked around again, jaw clamped firmly shut this time.
            "Well, if you change your mind, I'm sure Mrs. O'Malley could scrounge up some biscuits from the kitchen." There were always fresh-baked biscuits in Mrs. O'Malley's kitchen. "I really do not know how long it will be before Mr. Garrett returns."
            Andy furrowed his dark eyebrows. "I gotta be getting back. They're gonna think I skipped out, and I could lose my post. But, the thing is." He chewed his lip for a moment. "The thing is, the man who hired me told me I couldn't give this letter to anyone but Mr. Garrett."
            "Hmmm. That is a dilemma." Sarah tried to look pensive. "But, I assure you, you can trust me to give it to him on your behalf."
            "Look, lady." His guarded expression belonged on an older man, not on a boy of nine or ten. "I don't know you. Why should I trust you? You related to Mr. Garrett or somethin'?"
            Sarah thought for a moment. She was really no more than a temporary houseguest, but that hardly sounded like someone to whom you would hand a confidential letter. She settled on something that suggested a closer relationship.
            "No, but I am a very close friend of Mr. Garrett's."
            Andy's youthful gaze raked her from head to toe. "Oh, I see now."
            Heat rose to Sarah's cheeks. "No... I mean... I am... Oh never mind. There's a shilling in it for you if you give me the letter and be on your way." Sarah did not have a single cent to her name, but she recalled the coin she had seen lying beneath the settee in the parlor. She hoped it was a shilling
            Without a moment's hesitation, the boy handed the letter to Sarah and then held out his hand, palm up.
            "Just a moment. I will have to get it."
            "Ahem." The boy thrust his hand forward. "I will need to hold that letter for collateral, ma'am."
            "Oh, very well." She slapped the letter back in his palm and went to retrieve his payment from beneath the settee.
            When she returned, she placed the coin in his sweaty palm and recovered the letter from his other hand at the same time. The boy gave her an impish grin, then darted through the door and scampered down the long, dirt road the led back into town. Sarah watched him go, her feelings alternating between exasperation and grudging respect. She had the odd feeling that child would go far. Still, she wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing for the world at large.

No comments:

Post a Comment