George ended the day’s business early as a birthday gift for Sam. His wedding would take place the following morning. Before sending the young man home, George sat him down to share a few words on the subject of marriage. As they talked, neither of them expected a visitor.
“It is common for a man to be so distracted by his own nerves and expectations that he passes through his wedding day without any appreciation or reflection. The day will take care of itself. You would do well to focus on your wife,” George told Sam.
“Thank you George, but I cannot make any promises when it comes to my nerves. I have always been a nervous man when it matters.”
“I understand my boy. I remember the excitement and terror of my wedding day as well. A man cannot help but feel that he is dying to himself when he binds himself to his wife. You no longer live for yourself. But, take comfort in your wife tomorrow, Sam.”
A series of knocks came at the door of George’s office. George motioned for Sam to remain seated.
“Most likely Adams with some extra business, I suppose. That man knows only how to work.” The moment he turned the knob, Ben shoved himself through the door, as if he were trying to escape a pack of wolves. Sam immediately stood up out of an impulse to be courteous. “Ben, what trouble are you living through in these days? No one has been able to reach you since you abruptly left the meeting.”
Sam noticed that Ben was breathing heavily. He also noted that Ben’s gaze remained fixed on the floor, even during conversation.
“I have become a different sort of creature. I feel condemned and cursed, but with no hope for redemption.” Ben said.
“How can you be in such a state? Have you committed some unspeakable act against humanity?” George asked. Ben made sure his left hand remained out of sight.
“I am an old man. I do not claim that my life was exemplary before, but I have allowed something powerful to take hold of me. I do not know if you can help me George, but I feel that you are my last hope.” Ben paced around the room.
“Sam, perhaps you should make the trip home now. We will have an opportunity to speak tomorrow, before the occasion.” George said. Ben turned from the ground to Sam.
“Oh, what is the occasion? What does this boy have to look toward?” Ben asked.
“It is my wedding day, sir. We are going to be married at Heaven’s Light Church, down the street.” George put a hand on Sam’s shoulder.
Ben licked his lips. He was hungry.
“That is good for an old man to hear. Why not tell me about this young lady. I need to be reminded of certain things.” Ben said. He took a seat.
“Ben, why not let Sam go on his way, and we can try to work out your problem together?” George asked.
“I feel better already. Sam will cheer me up with his happy story. Please son, tell me why you are going to be married.”
Sam told Ben the story of how he met Rose on the bridge. George stood at the corner of the room with his arms folded. He watched Ben intently, noticing his eyes widen when Sam’s emotions poured out through his words. He could not pinpoint anything, but something was amiss. Ben had changed his entire demeanor over the course of a few months, but the cause of such a shift remained a mystery.
“What a wonderful story! I feel lighter just having heard you now. Tell me, would it be intrusive of me to attend tomorrow’s ceremony?” Ben asked.
“Ben, it is their day. Your celebrity may distract others from the real focus.” George said. But that was not his chief reason for raising an objection.
“Oh, it is not a problem. Mr. Franklin, we would be honored to have you as our guest. Besides, our president is going to be in attendance anyway.” Sam said.
“George, you have revealed yourself to be somewhat of a hypocrite. Thank you Sam, I am honored by your kindness. You have done more for me than you know. Say, would you be interested in learning about something I have only recently discovered?”
“Are you saying that I will be the first to know about one of your discoveries?” Sam asked.
“Yes, the very first my lad. Mr. President, you will not be offended if I exclude you from this lesson?” Ben asked. George took a seat in the chair behind his desk.
“He must get home soon, but if this is your idea of a wedding present, how can I object? But, we never addressed the reason you came here. Ben, are you sure you are alright?”
“Good company and conversation has always served to heal me. Sam, come with me. Before the sun sets, we will take a look at a tree.” Ben said while rising from the seat. George felt uneasy seeing them exit the room together. Feeling an impulse, George called out to Sam.
“Sam! Please come here a moment.” Sam came back into the room. “Sam, please…I feel something is wrong. Your wedding is tomorrow. You can tell him, no.”
Sam smiled. These past months, he had had the privilege of not only working with one of the greatest men in America, but also sharing a meaningful friendship with him. This great man would undoubtedly claim a place of honor in the books of history. He would become more than a man, and with good cause. Seeing how much George Washington cared for him, filled Sam’s heart to the brim with gladness.
“I see this emptiness in his eyes, and my heart goes out to him. It is our duty to help the poor in spirit.” Sam said.
“I will see you tomorrow?” George asked.
“Only if you show up.”