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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)

TITLE: Naive Treason
By Dee Yoder


“Rachel, I’ve news that Harman is meeting with Mr. Burr again tomorrow morning.”

“Is that so? Here at the house?” I asked carefully.


I watched my cousin trail her fingers along the mantle. The fire was reflected in her worried eyes as she gazed at the portrait of Harman hanging over the fireplace.

It still made me uncomfortable to think of their marriage. The Church could not sanction their union, and, truthfully, no one in decent society understood what she was thinking when she married her own uncle. As children of Harman’s brothers, Margaret and I grew up together in Ireland. I was her confidant during those years after her marriage, so I didn’t hesitate to come with her to America as she and Uncle-I mean- Harman, tried to escape the gossip at home.

But now, gossip had again reared its ugly head. People were whispering about Harman in connection to the ambitious politician, Aaron Burr.

“I’ve no hope of convincing Harman that Burr is a menace, not to mention what a leech he is on our finances.” Her bitter tone seemed to stem more from Burr’s never-ending outstretched hand than from his rebellious political views.

“Margaret, surely Harman will take counsel from his wife.”

“He is hopelessly naïve, I’m afraid. He has total belief in what Mr. Burr wants to do, but Burr only tells Harman what he wants him to hear.”

Margaret stood and walked to the fireplace. Her pinched expression showed her inner turmoil, but she squared her shoulders and turned to me with a smile. “Never mind. We have a party to plan, Rachel. I’ve already spoken to cook about the menu-“

She was interrupted by the sound of pounding footsteps in the marble entry. The doors to the library burst open, and Harman stood in the doorway, his face pale and his eyes filled with terror.

“Margaret! Burr has sent word that the Virginia Militia is advancing on the island! They plan an arrest. An arrest, Margaret, for treason!” He collapsed into a chair and covered his face with his hands. Then, springing up again, he ran to the west windows and scanned the lawn to the river. Over his shoulder, I could see dusk settling along the tree line at the river’s edge.

Margaret slumped briefly against the mantle and then held her hands out to Harman.

“Harman! They cannot arrest you! You have to get away…Harman! Listen to me!”

She hurried to his side and pulled his face to hers. “Listen! Take the boat over to Parkersburg. Make your escape now before they reach us!” The two exchanged a look of defeat.

It broke my heart to see Margaret in such a state, but truthfully, I knew the day would come when her union with Harman would bring her pain. She’d lived the life of the privileged few. She’d entertained the best poets, essayists, and the cream of society, but Harman and his ways were due for a downfall. The piper would be paid.

An hour later, Margaret stood at the doors and watched Harman flee to the river. In her eyes she beheld an escaping hero, but to me…well…I recognized cowardice when I saw it.

Margaret, the children, and I spent the night huddled alone together in the library. The servants had fled when their master fled, so as Margaret whispered prayers through the black night for her husband’s safe escape, I remained silent.

When the morning rays began to filter through the covered windows, and we heard the marching of feet and the shouting of orders as the Virginia Militia surrounded Blennerhassett mansion, my thoughts shifted to our dire position. No one would know that Harman was not here; we were in for a siege and I couldn’t think of what the soldiers might do when they discovered two women and three children left behind in this house.

“Margaret…let’s pray the Lord’s Prayer, shall we?” I whispered.

Her large eyes studied mine and then she quietly reached out and grabbed my hands.

“Our Father, Who art in Heaven…” I began.

Fierce pounding at the front door drowned out my words, but we held tightly to each other and let the pounding continue while we finished the ancient prayer together.

The crashing breech of the doors coincided with our shared “Amens.”

Margaret stood, walked to her frightened children and kissed them each softly, then turned and faced the soldiers who clattered into the library. It was over.

Author’s Note: Harman Blennerhassett was caught, along with Aaron Burr, and charged with treason. He was held in a Virginia prison for five months before being released when no evidence could be presented against him. The Blennerhassetts lost everything, including their mansion on Blennerhassett Island when the surrounding populace angrily ransacked the house. The island and the re-built mansion are now a National park.

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This article has been read 1032 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shirley McClay 05/29/08
What a different take on cousin! Very interesting history lesson. I would love to see the mansion and park.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/29/08
This is a great historical piece. I loved the loyalty of the cousin in spite of the scandal.
Joanne Sher 05/31/08
Fascinating - I love Historical fiction, and this certainly did not disappoint. Great characterization and sense of place.
Betty Castleberry06/01/08
This held my attention and was very well written. Besides, I learned something.
Laury Hubrich 06/01/08
Nicely written, Dee. I love to learn as I read. Thank you for the double blessing of enjoyment and knowledge!
Sharlyn Guthrie06/01/08
Excellent historical piece. I'd never heard this story, and telling it from the cousnin's erspective was very effective.
Marilee Alvey06/01/08
Very creative, well written and informative, as well. You had me every step of the way. I, too, admire how you used the cousin to see both characters. It was masterful!
Cheri Hardaway 06/01/08
What a history lesson! Thanks! And a job well done on this topic. Blessings, Cheri
Yvonne Blake 06/01/08
Interesting...and I don't usually like history! Good use of dialogue.
I can tell you put a lot of research into this.
WEll done.
LauraLee Shaw06/01/08
Wow, this is excellent! Creative POV and engaging story line. Historical pieces amaze me, especially when they're so well-written.
Beth LaBuff 06/01/08
Your writing is so smooth in this well-written piece. I loved reading of this bit of history and would love to visit the National Park. Excellent.
Lyn Churchyard06/02/08
A nice look back into history. The feel took me right there. Well written. Great job Dee :-)
Jan Ackerson 06/02/08
How interesting! I love learning tidbits of little-known history. This was great.
Joshua Janoski06/02/08
You know a good historical piece when it gets you wanting to research more about it.

This is definitely a story that I want to know more of, though I doubt it could be told with the same excitement and intensity by someone else.
Beckie Stewart06/04/08
I am not a history buff at all, but LOVED this way of telling history. If it all could have been like that. I think I would have actually enjoyed the subject. Well done.
Sara Harricharan 06/04/08
Ohh, I never heard of this story! Such emotion inside, I felt bad for M, but the MC's thoughts made this an easy story to follow. Very well done-very interesting! ^_^
Loren T. Lowery06/04/08
We both took an historical approach to this subject, but yours is a bit more steeped in realism. You make the characters and their situation come alive and the tension building up the pounding on the doors was tangible. Great job, Dee.
Mariane Holbrook 06/04/08
What an interesting take on history! I was fascinated by this story and perhaps it will rekindle a love for this type of writing that I used to have. This is so very well crafted by a super word carpenter!
Debbie Wistrom06/05/08
Your details sounded true so I was pleased to see your note. I loved the toughts your MC kept to herself, most telling....