"Dot said Rodger didn't say," Peggy said, which was tantamount to saying that Rodger didn't know—General Schuyler's valet was an uncontrollable gossip, a trait the general himself was strangely ignorant of, and the rest of the family tolerated because it was how they got their news. "But he did mention..." Peggy let her voice trail off. A little smile played over her face.
"Yes?" Eliza demanded. She could tell from her sister's expression that Peggy was savoring a juicy bit of gossip. "Tell us!"
"The aide coming to the party is Colonel Hamilton," Peggy half squealed.
Angelica raised an eyebrow and Eliza tried not to blush.
Like every other girl in every other prominent American family, Eliza had heard stories of Colonel Alexander Hamilton, General Washington's youngest but most trusted aide-de-camp, who was, if rumors were to be trusted, heart-stoppingly handsome and dashing to boot. Colonel Hamilton had been recruited by the commander of the American forces when he was still a teenager, just a few years after arriving in the North American colonies from the sugar-rich West Indies. Some said he was the son of a Scottish lord and could have claimed a baronetcy as well as a vast fortune if he'd chosen the loyalist side, while others said he was in fact a bastard, the illegitimate child of the disgraced son of some British aristocrat or other (there were so many!) with neither a name nor a penny of his own.
What was known, however, was that twenty-year-old Colonel Alexander Hamilton was brilliant, having made a name as an essayist while still a student at King's College in New York City. He was also known as having a bit of a reputation with the ladies. Eliza's old friend Kitty Livingston, who had met the young colonel on several occasions, had written Eliza about him after each meeting. She had been necessarily discreet in her letters (Susannah Livingston, Kitty's mother, was as much of a gossip as Catherine Schuyler), but it was clear she and the young soldier had carried on quite a flirtation. Eliza had been amused by Kitty's letters and curious about this young man who had captured the interest of Continental society.
Eliza peered through the second-floor windows of her father's office, hoping for a glimpse of the famous young colonel, but could discern no figures within the room, only the occasional flickering shadow.
"Perhaps Church will introduce us; I'm certain they are acquainted," said Angelica, meaning her rich suitor who was practically tripping over himself to ask for her hand. The oldest Schuyler sister was close to giving it, too, as John Barker Church was in the process of building one of the greatest fortunes in the new country, enough to rival or even eclipse their own father's (or at least before the British had burned a large part of it up at Saratoga). But Angelica was enjoying being the belle of the ball too much to relinquish it just yet.
"It will be interesting to finally meet this Hamilton fellow," said Angelica. "Livens up the party for once."
Eliza shrugged, attempting to appear disinterested, but her sisters knew her better than that.
"Maybe if you wore something a little more fashionable tonight, you'd catch his eye," said Peggy cheekily.
"And why would I want to do that?" Eliza retorted.
"As Mama says, honey catches more flies than vinegar," said Peggy, echoing their mother's perennial advice about reeling in the right suitor—and quickly.
"Honestly, Peg," Eliza said, rolling her eyes. "I have no interest in Colonel Hamilton other than to satisfy my curiosity."
"If you say so," said Peggy, sounding totally unconvinced. There was no hiding her feelings from her sisters, Eliza realized. They knew her too well.