A Cool, Cool, Considerate Man
Disclaimer: I am an aspiring historian of the American Revolution and an avid fan of musical theater, neither of these facts; however, give me ownership of the musical 1776 or any of the characters, situations, or music in it.
Summary: To the congress he is cool, calm, and collected, only to his wife does he let his true feelings be known. A collection of moments between John Dickinson and his wife.
Author's Note: Again italics = French. Underlined = Title of a book, essay, etc. Bold = handwriting.
A Modest Proposal
"It is probably because I find him very attractive but I feel comfortable speaking with him and his letters have made me even more comfortable." Mary Norris babbled into her mirror as Anna twisted and pinned her hair into a new, elaborate, and hopefully comely hairstyle. Anna Smith was a kindly woman in her early fifties who had been at Fairhall for as long as Polly could remember. She had been her mother's maid prior to her death. Mary had made her housekeeper after she inherited the house but at times like this she needed a mother and so Anna stepped in. She helped her dress and did her hair and above all listened quietly as Polly spoke.
"Don't question it if he makes you feel comfortable. Rejoice in the conversation." Anna said through hairpins between her teeth. She and John (as he was called in her head) had been exchanging letters for many months now - discussing books mostly, but also matters of politics, religion, law, economy, and philosophy. They had met in person a few times, hardly at all compared to the frequency of their letters. These meetings had occurred mostly at the bookshop, though they had also taken to strolling through the city green, or going for rides around town. She had invited him to dine with her and her sister at Fairhall once. It felt too much like courting, and while she was secretly thrilled at the idea, she did not want to push her intellectual friendship with the man. Also Sarah had declared after he had left that she thought him to be a bit too cool for her tastes and groused extensively at the amount of French they used throughout the meal, she claimed it was some secret code they had devised to exclude her from their fun. Sarah was Mary's near perfect opposite, she never had seen the point in learning languages, and she absolutely hated being excluded from a conversation or attention.
Polly did not care that her sister thought John was cool, most people assumed the same thing about her. She knew that gossips considered her the haughty mistress of Fairhall who spent too much time reading and isolating herself from society. Her reluctance to speak with people, especially strangers, was a mark of insufferable pride. She knew that she was not particularly proud, but rather exceptionally shy but others did not see it. She knew this about herself and she felt confident that John's 'coolness' was a similar stigma. She always found him charming, witty, and very warm. She felt that she could *talk* to him and that he would listen. Until she was six the majority of people including some of her family thought she was dumb because she was too afraid to speak. Even as an adult her heart raced in the presence of strangers and her palms sweated, she would lose her ability to take a full breath and her world would spin. Mary hated speaking with people in person. She did like letters and she felt that she could handle letters well. People were another matter. Yet she was not afraid to speak with him.
"There." Anna announced, stepping back to admire her work. "You look lovely, child. Your mother would be so proud, bless her soul." Mary turned on her stool to meet Anna's brown eyes in life and not the glass.
"Yes truly! My dear you have grown into a beautiful woman, taken to running the estate like a duck to water, and are about to go for an afternoon with a man who makes you positively glow. Yes, she would be proud and so very happy. She desperately wanted you to be happy, little one, and for you to find someone who would support you and comfort you and that you would come out of that shell for."
Prompt as always a fine carriage pulled up before Fairhall at four on the dot. From her upstairs window Polly watched as he alighted from his open hack he was wearing a suit of hunter green and looked particularly smart. She chided herself for being pleased that she had chosen a plum colored gown. The compliment of her wardrobe with his was frivolous but delighted her nonetheless. Choosing a shawl and adjusting her hat Polly very calmly descended the stairs as Bates, her butler, announced,
He smiled at her and Polly caught herself discreetly as she tripped. Every time she had seen his smile she'd lost herself for a moment - forgotten how to breathe, how to speak, how to walk. She tried her best to return his smile but felt she only succeeded in blushing scarlet.
"Mister Dickinson, how lovely to see you again." Sarah had been right in some respects, speaking and corresponding in French had become one of their little jokes, though why they found it so amusing escaped them both.
"Nothing could be as lovely as you Mademoiselle." He replied and Polly felt very, very warm.
"You flatter me, sir, and I thank you for it."
"Nonsense, I speak the truth always. I am a lawyer after all." He replied. His dry sense of humor was one of the things she had come to adore most about him. Offering her his arm, she took it and met his gaze for the first time that afternoon. His blue eyes were fairly glowing. She only felt warmer.
"I have something for you." John began, pulling a slim package from his coat pocket as they rolled along one of the main boulevards of town.
"Monsieur! You should not have! I cannot accept when I have nothing to give you in return." He waved off her protest.
"Your presence is gift enough. Please, open it and I may explain further." He took her hands and pressed the package into them. The look in his eyes as he met her gaze obliterated any argument she had in mind. Nodding she took the gift, the plain brown paper peeled away to reveal a slender book. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania the title read. Confused she looked at him again, the letters had been published individually over the course of a year. The volume she held appeared to have all twelve.
"Open it." He said watching her intensely. She did as he bid her, opening to the first few pages. The first few hand written pages – his hand written pages. Before her the Farmer's arguments were laid out in his hand and edited as well – in his hand.
"You" she began after studying the pages. "You are the Farmer?" the letters had been published anonymously and had been attributed to nearly every Pennsylvanian male who could write in English. He simply smiled at her.
"No wonder you were so interested in my opinion and so vague with your own!" She exclaimed, playfully swatting his knee. "You could have told me!" He laughed.
"I wanted your honest opinion and not empty pleasantries, and you gave them to me."
"I should have been meaner." She huffed, not really put out. Leaning forward in his seat, he caught her hand in a gentle but firm grip. Mary looked from their hands to his face. He was serious; she'd so rarely seen him truly serious. His eyes were intense as they looked into hers, his gaze made her breath catch and her stomach erupt into butterflies.
"Mary," She said quietly, "Please, I value your honest opinions; I value them a great deal." He said in English.
"And you have had them, you have always had them." She replied, also in English and feeling bold since he had used her Christian name added, "John you shall continue to have them as long as you ask." The expression on his handsome face made her shiver.
"You're shivering." He said, his hand still holding hers across the carriage. The early spring evening was chilly but she would not cut this ride short for less than a hard freeze.
"I am comfortable, truly." She said, squeezing his hand, she rather enjoyed holding it.
"Nonsense, you aren't wearing a jacket and I have my doubts about the warmth of your shawl."
"Even if I was chilled, what would you propose as a solution?" She countered; little debates made their letters the highlight of her day. They would begin seriously then dissolve into sillier and sillier arguments and reasons. John looked about cautiously, no one could really see into their carriage even without a roof, moreover no one on the street seemed to care at all about the hack rolling by.
"I have an unorthodox solution if you will permit me." He began, releasing her hand. She felt colder at the loss of contact. "I have it on good authority that I give off a tremendous amount of body heat, more than enough to keep myself warm. If you will allow it I am willing to share, though this will require that I sit beside you." Playfully she wrinkled her nose and hoped to God it masked the multitude of emotions she was feeling at the prospect of sitting beside him – sitting close beside him.
"Before I answer I must ask, who has been commenting on your body heat?" She teased, their usual French forgotten.
"I had ten other siblings growing up, a bed or two has been shared in that time."
"Goodness gracious!" She exclaimed, "You told me you had a large family but I did not imagine ten siblings." She slid over on the carriage bench, making room for him. She might combust but she would die happy. "Ten siblings cannot be wrong; I shall take up your offer Mister Dickinson." He could come and sit beside her or just smile at her, either way she felt her temperature soar. He shifted and sat beside her, one long arm stretched across the back of the seat. Hesitantly she scooted closer to him, being near him made a blush bloom across her cheeks and neck. He could have been a block of ice and she still would have melted.
They were silent for a while, nearly touching but not quite. Mary intently studied the book in her hands, amazed it had not caught on fire from the intense heat she was feeling within her skin.
"You said this was a gift" she began, a thought having occurred to her in their companionable silence. He hummed in acknowledgement. "But these appear to be your original drafts." He agreed again. She looked up from the pages to look at him. "Should you not keep them? Why give them to me? There must have been another way to tell me you wrote the essays if that was your objective." John looked down at her, studying her face for a moment. Those eyes lingering on her face – on her eyes… on her lips, they made Mary feel as if she had been jolted with Dr. Franklin's electric rod. She felt as if that lighting was crackling between them.
"As a lawyer I learned not to ask questioned unless I already know the answer and I had intended to do just that but here and now I find it difficult to wait further and you must forgive me for deviating from such a course." He began. Polly could not think so instead she touched his hand. He wrapped his fingers around hers. "I value your opinion a great deal Miss Norris. I enjoy hearing your thoughts on life, politics, culture, religion, and in general. I truly wish to hear and discuss your thoughts on all things and especially on the things I write. Especially since I feel as though I will be writing more of these pamphlets in the future. I would very much like for you to be with me as I do it and to help me with all my first drafts." Mary though she might faint.
She was not sure when exactly she had fallen in love with John Dickinson but she had and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. It had happened rather like she had fallen asleep – slowly at first then all at once. As she sat in his carriage, his words in her hands she knew. She loved him and if she was not mistaken he seemed to be admitting something similar.
"Are you asking for me to be your editor or your wife?" He burst out laughing, loud and long until he shook with it and she joined in. He wrapped the arm that had been resting along the back of the seat around her shoulders and pulled her closer into his side. He really was warm – and so was she.
"Forgive me Mary for not being clearer. I am asking for both although I would like to have you as my wife first and foremost."
"Really?" She squeaked in spite of herself.
"Yes, really. Now, may I have my answer please?" Mary felt herself beam and never had her voice been stronger than when she said,