She finds Lizzie still asleep, and not alone, in the nursery, but holds her tongue until John, sat in the rocking chair, looks up to find her in the doorway. It’s only when she approaches that she notices the sketchbook in his lap. “I did not know I married a portraitist.”
“I usually prefer to draw from nature,” he says very quietly. “But now and then I’ve done portraits. Lafayette asked, once during the war, said he did not wish his wife to forget his face –”
She thinks of the faded charcoal sketch of Alexander Eliza keeps lovingly stowed away. Eliza had never mentioned who drew it; perhaps Alexander had never told her? “Do you expect to forget Lizzie’s?” she asks instead. Has he perhaps received some new charge –
“No,” he says very calmly, eyes still fixed on their sleeping daughter. “But she will grow and change. She changes every day, it sometimes seems.”
“It does seem like it,” she agrees, relaxing again.
“And it is easier to draw her in repose than awake.” Lizzie does not like to be still.
“What will you do with the drawing when you’ve completed it?”
“Would you like to have it?” He does not lift his eyes from his sketchbook now.
She comes up behind him, leaning over close enough to look, but careful not to touch the rocking chair so as not to disturb his work. There’s something very much alive to it. He’s good. “I would, unless you intended it for yourself.”
“I can always draw another.”
When he turns his head to look up at her, she notices a smudge of charcoal on his cheekbone.
“I’ve no doubt I will; Lizzie is a good subject, and I want to try her in Nuremberg crayons.”
She instinctively swipes a thumb across the smudge to get it off, with limited success.
He shifts towards her, eyes puzzled.
“You have some –” She gestures ineffectually.
“Oh. Thank you,” he says with a slight smile, before turning his head back to Lizzie.
“Don’t forget Vaughan will be by in the morning,” she reminds him. One of the British commissioners. It can be dismissed purely as a social call, as Dr. Vaughan’s wife Sarah is the daughter of one of Henry Laurens’s business partners. She’s tried to make overtures to Mrs. Vaughan on the strength of that connection, in light of the other American commissioners’ realization that Franklin’s French friends will only get them so far, but Mrs. Vaughan has not been particularly receptive.
“I haven’t,” he promises. “I won’t be much longer.”
Also, my first full piece made with tablet.