Children of Liberty(10)

By: Paullina Simons

Harry shrugged. “I said nothing about Lawrence.”

“There is no work,” Ben interjected.

“We will do something,” Salvo said. “Don’t worry about us.”

“Who is worried? I’m just saying.”

“Leave them be, Benji,” Harry said. “Everybody finds something to do.”

Ben poured everyone more wine. Salvo intervened. He said it was too late for Gina to have even a little bit of wine. Keenly Gina felt her age. Perhaps Ben could offer her a milk bottle and send her to bed, would Salvo prefer that?

“Do you live here in the North End?” Gina asked Harry.

It was Ben who answered. “No, we’re from Barrington. Just a small town in the hills about ten miles northeast of here.” He smiled. “Not too far from the ocean.”

“Ah, Mr. Shaw,” said Harry, turning to his friend, “so now you’re from Barrington?”

Ben punctuated his blink with a swig of wine. “Oh, that’s right. My friend forgot to tell you his full name. Gina, Salvo, he is Harry Barrington.”

Gina and Salvo sat, taking this in.

“Barrington like the town?” Gina said finally.

“Exactly like it. Full relation.”

Gina gaped at Harry, but stopped when she glimpsed from the periphery of her vision Salvo’s sour face. “You have a whole town named after you?”

“Oh, not after him, miss,” Ben said. “After his productive and illustrious family. They built that town, you see. All Harry does is use the town library.”

“That is not true,” Harry said. “I also eat at the restaurants.”

Gina was impressed and slightly surprised. Harry in his dapper suit and fancy hat and slightly indolent air didn’t look to be the kind of young man who worked with his hands. “You’re from a family of builders?” she asked, trying not to sound incredulous.

“My father isn’t there with a hammer and nails, if that’s what you mean,” Harry replied. “He’s a merchant. He makes sure other people do the work.”

Ben laughed. “I can’t wait to hear you tell your father this. That seven generations of Barringtons, who built not only Boston but funded the expansion of the very university you get all your snooty notions from, got their solid reputation from nothing more than making sure other people did the work. I can’t wait.”

Harry waved him off. “Ben, you forgot to tell our new friends who you are.”

“I told them. Ben Shaw.”

“Yes, but who is Ben Shaw?”

“Humble engineering student?”

“Son of Ellen Shaw,” said Harry. “Who just happens to be the youngest sister of Robert Gould Shaw, the man who commanded the only all-black regiment in the union   Army during the Civil War.”

If Gina didn’t know any better, she might have thought they were trying to impress her, or perhaps in a game of one-upmanship emerge victorious in their teasing of each other in front of her. Salvo did know better, and it was certainly what he thought, because all he said by way of comment was a gruff, “Your uncle is black?”

“No, quite white,” said Harry. “And a colonel. He just happened to be the white colonel who took the job no one else wanted, or would take.”

“I keep telling you,” Ben said. “No one’s heard of him.”

“Well, someone must have heard of him, Benjamin,” Harry said pleasantly. “Because an architect named Stanford White spent fourteen years sculpting your uncle’s memorial.” He leaned back with self-satisfaction. “Ben comes from a very illustrious family,” Harry continued. “Aside from his martyred uncle, he is also the nephew of Josephine Shaw Lowell, who is a living legend in New York, advocating for peace, for women’s rights, active in politics, and she happened to co-found an organization with Erving Winslow called the Anti-Imperialist League right here in Boston.”

“In a tiny airless room in a walk-up on Kilby Street,” Ben said. “Not exactly remodeling Harvard Hall.”

Gina had never heard of the people they were talking about. She felt young and stupid. “Anti-Imperialist?” was what she echoed.

“I assume anti-American-imperialist,” said Harry. “Right, Benji?”

“Since my mother will be running it, can there be any other kind?” Ben turned to Gina. “But this has nothing to do with me.”

“What does my grandfather,” Harry interrupted, “or my father for that matter, have to do with me?”

“Oh, come on! It’s a direct relation.” Ben rubbed his hands together.

“And your mother is not?”