As the British scheme to kidnap George Washington and bring the Revolutionary War to an end in one bold stroke, a tide of espionage ebbs and flows between the two opposing armies. It is 1780, and two very different men are sucked into these vicious currents. Tides that pull the men towards the bewitching embrace of Flora Kuyper, the beautiful spy who holds the future of America in her hands. This is a world of plot and counterplot, where a night of passion could lead to an act of treason and a man's avowed ideals could fashion a noose around his neck. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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February 01, 2002
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Excerpt from Dreams of Glory by Thomas Fleming
Dreams of Glory
IT WAS ALMOST MIDNIGHT ON the thirtieth day of January in the year 1780. Flora Kuyper shivered in her canopy bed, on the icy second floor of her gambrel roofed farmhouse in the town of Bergen, just across the river from New York. Outside the diamond-paned window, the frozen earth cracked, echoing like a musket shot across the eerie white-dark landscape. The house heaved and groaned in the grip of the northeast wind. Crack went the earth again. Flora shuddered, wondering if it were an omen. She seized the playing cards from the mahogany table by her bed and quickly dealt thirteen of them, facedown. Holding her breath, she turned up the thirteenth card. It was the Queen of Spades.
Death. In Louisiana, that green hot world south of winter where she had been born, Flora had seen the women sit in their shuttered parlors, laying out the cards while a fever victim struggled for breath in the next room. Mother Levesque, the juju woman, her immense black face a sweating parody of the moon, would turn up the thirteenth card. Flora remembered the groans and cries when the Queen of Spades cast her baleful eyes at the dim ceiling.
Flora drew another card from the pack, remembering that the Queen of Hearts could break the spell. She turned it over. The Jack of Spades, the black Queen's leering accomplice, confronted her.
There was no Mother Levesque in Bergen, New Jersey, to curse the cards, to summon the spirits of Africa to fight the evil jinn of America. Flora was alone in this frozen world, where winter had become perpetual. The Great Cold, the Americans were calling it. Old men and women, people like Jacob and Mary DeGroot, her nearest neighbors, said theyhad never seen anything like it in their lives. For thirty consecutive days now, the temperature had not risen above zero. For a week at a time, stupendous blizzards had howled out of the north; huge drifts had blocked the roads. More than once, desperate men knocked at Flora's back door to beg food and shelter. They were deserters fleeing the American army camp in Morristown, forty miles away. They told stories of men being buried in their tents by the storms and dug out days later, frozen, dead.
Footsteps on the first floor. A door slammed. Angry African voices quarreling. Flora reached for a green bottle on her night table. She poured its viscous contents onto a spoon and let five drops fall into a glass of water. She drank it quickly as a man's booted feet mounted the stairs. A sweet calm enveloped her. She thanked God--or the devil--for laudanum.
The bedroom door opened; Caesar stood there in his blue-and-buff uniform. Firelight and candle glow mingled on the intense blackness of his face, with its wide flat nose and proud thick-lipped mouth. Flora had seldom seen a Negro as black as Caesar. Perhaps that was where her love for him had begun--with a wish to be devoured, consumed by his blackness, to escape her lying white skin.
Flora sensed his unease, his dislike of her bedroom. He was so big. The enormous head, the massive neck and shoulders, belonged to nature, Africa. She told herself that he had a right to feel out of place in this feminine room, with its royal-yellow wallpaper, its glazed-chintz curtains, the four-poster bed with its camlet hangings and parti-colored quilts. She regretted the contempt with which Caesar regarded these luxuries. She remained confident that she could persuade him to admire beautiful furniture, clothes, paintings, even if they were made by white people.
Was she right? Could she ever change this huge, willful creature? Flora suddenly remembered what her husband, Henry Kuyper, used to call Caesar: the brute. Henry had used the term affectionately, even admiringly, as he always spokeof Caesar. But a cruel meaning had lurked within the word. Too often lately, it had become the only meaning.
"I've decided to go," Caesar said.
"Why, why?" Flora said.
"I told you why--for the ten guineas."
"We have enough money."
"No one ever has enough money."
Those last words reminded Flora of another man, with a similar attitude toward money. Caesar thought she was still thinking of the risk he was taking to return to the American camp in Morristown.
He smiled and sat down on the bed, shoving the cards aside. Caesar was not superstitious. He believed in nothing but himself, his size, his strength. Luck, devils, God--they were all nonsense compared to the power of his body, his will, the shrewdness of his brain. Flora knew he was wrong about the devils and God; she had no doubt both existed; she feared the devils and despised God. Flora even knew that Caesar was not as shrewd as he wanted her--and himself--to believe. No man who spends the first twenty-two years of his life as a slave, forbidden to read, unable to write, could learn enough to outthink the treacherous white world he was determined to defy.
"I've come back every other time. Why do you still worry?"
"The cards are bad."
"The hell with the cards."
With a flick of his hand he swept the cards off the bed. "When are you going to realize that you finally have a man who's not going to disappoint you?"
"We should have gone in the fall. We'd be in New Orleans now. Safe--happy."
"We would have been poor. I don't believe the poor are ever happy."
"My father was poor. I never knew a happier man."
Caesar curled his lip. "I'm sick of hearing about this marvelous father of yours."
For a moment she was afraid of him. She stared at his hands, with their wide pink palms and thick black fingers. She remembered what those hands had done in another bedroom only a few feet from this one. She remembered last night's dream, Henry Kuyper's contorted face on the pillow, the dream she had every time Caesar slept in the house.
She was glad she had taken the laudanum. It allowed her to think about the dream without weeping.
"You said you'd buy your discharge. Once you had that, you could stay here at the farm."
"I can buy that anytime I want it. I'm going back for the hundred guineas they offered me to find Twenty-six."
Bits of blowing snow scratched against the windowpane. For a moment Flora saw William Coleman, the man Caesar called Twenty-six, shivering in an icy tent somewhere in the American camp at Morristown. She simultaneously rejoiced in his agony--and pitied him. She was afraid to tell this to Caesar. He thought Twenty-six was a stranger to her, an impersonal number in their network.