1768: And The Rain Came Down

Ben Mocnik, writer

The sun shouldn’t be shining on days like today, Lucas thought. How could the sky be so clear, the sun so bright, the birds singing loudly? Why were they not mourning? Mother just died. Does no one care? Lucas’ elder brothers, James, 16, and Alexander, 14, hung their heads. Tears splattered the dirt around the three adolescents. As the wrapped body was lowered into the crude grave that had been dug, Lucas began to cough.St. Croix, in the Caribbean, was a cruel mistress indeed.


Three months after his mother’s funeral, Lucas Hamilton still couldn’t come to grips with her passing. She had been the boys’ mainstay throughout their tumultuous life. Their father’s vacation from Alexander, James, and Lucas’ lives could have been disastrous (Chernow). It was their mother who managed to keep them fed and provided all the education she could, for a destitute divorcée, to allow them the opportunity for a better life. Not only that, his cough would not go away.

With their mother gone, the boys were taken under the wing of their thirty-two-year-old cousin, Peter Lyton. Already a widower, Lyton had stumbled through a series of botched dealings, putting him in deep financial trouble (Chernow). Just when normalcy began to return to the lives of  the three teens, tragedy struck.


“What is it? What happened?” A crowd had gathered by the time Lucas ran up to 23 Company Street, his home for the past three months. His brothers’ faces were ghostly white.

“It’s Peter. He killed himself. It was fate,” stated Alexander flatly.

“Hush. Have some respect. He’s barely dead 12 hours and you are ready to besmirch his name,” reprimanded James.

“Why? He didn’t even leave us anything in his will. Us. His own family. He even included that halfbreed bastard son he had from that slave,” he retorted, eyes flashing.

While his brothers argued, Lucas entered the shop and walked upstairs. The stench of blood fell on him like a fog, filling his nostrils. He entered his elder cousin’s room, searching for answers.

“They took his body away for the burial.”

Lucas turned as Alexander spoke. Alexander pointed at the bed, soaked in blood. Lucas waited, silently, for more explanation.

“It looks like he shot himself in the heart. Some are saying he used a knife.”

“Hush, Alex. He’s just a boy,” scolded James, entering the room.

“And what are we, James? Are we old men, wizened by age? We have seen much tragedy, yes, but we are young yet. Not twenty, even. Do not forget that as you walk with your head high, attempting to convince bystanders who aren’t watching that you are a man.”


This outburst was a foreshadowing of the following months. Alex claimed it was due to his increased stress.  He had begun working as a clerk at Beekman and Cruger, a mercantile shipping company. Lucas, however, disagreed.

“Don’t tell me what to do! You aren’t my father!”Another day. More shouting. This is getting out of hand, Lucas thought wearily.


“Did you hear? It’s coming to San Juan,” whispered James excitedly.

“What is?” Alex queried.

“They’re calling it a circus. A wealthy Englishman created a show. His name is Philip Astley . They have acrobats and fire breathers and even tamed lions! I wish we could see it.”

“Don’t be such a child, James. We have no money. Get your head out of the clouds. Don’t waste your time thinking childish thoughts,” chided Alex.

“Fine. Since you’re so grown-up, you have no need for me. I’ll go!”


            “What was that?” Lucas asked, racing down the stairs.

“James. He left.”

Four months had passed since Peter’s suicide. Tensions between Lucas’ brothers had risen. Each day, another outburst. James, an apprentice carpenter, came home every day, weary from the hard labor of chopping and hauling lumber for woodwork. This irked him, causing him to lash out at his younger brothers, both working relatively safe jobs indoors.

Alex worked tirelessly as a merchant clerk. He took stock of inventory, handled finances and much of the daily workings of the company. He would wake before the sun rose and get to work, going to the docks, taking stock of incoming shipments. Lucas marveled at his brother’s intelligence. He had front row seats as he watched Alexander memorize astronomically large lists of goods and payments each morning before heading out to the docks. Lucas served as his brother’s assistant and often had the privilege of accompanying him on his inventorial trips to the shipyards. However, even as life began to gain a semblance of normalcy and regularity, life decided to prove again how in St. Croix, beauty and tragedy went hand in hand.


Crash. The thunder rumbling like canon fire startled Lucas from his daydreaming. He had recently begun a new book he had found in the bottom of a crate that had washed to shore, Robinson Crusoe. The adventure of the rich man who was stranded aboard a deserted island allowed Lucas an escape from his own island paradise.

“Hurry along, Lucas. We mustn’t be late. Today’s cargo is very important.” Alexander’s voice jerked Lucas from his revelries. His brother stood farther down the lane, waiting for Lucas, who had stopped, deep in thought. As he ran to catch up to his brother, he saw Alex look suspiciously at the sky.

“There will surely be a storm. We had better hurry.”

Lucas looked at his brother as they hurried down to the port. While only 15, Alex possessed a self-assured grace, an attribute rare in one born of such lowly standing.  His complete confidence in his own skill led to clashes with his elders, but he nearly always won out, due to his intellectual superiority. Despite his grandiloquence and arrogance, he possessed a wit and charm that, once feelings were rankled, allowed him to smooth over confrontational situations. Alex’s silver tongue, however, would not be able to smooth over the storm that was to come crashing through the boys’ lives.

Lucas glanced nervously at the sky as he wheezed to catch his breath. Alex was right. His breathing became troubled whenever there were shifts in the atmosphere and the sky hung heavy with rain. However, something felt different. Lucas could not quite put his finger on it, but there was a palpable tension in the air. It felt as if there was electricity buzzing in the wind. Throughout the day the boys spent at the docks, taking stock of and entering the merchandise into inventory, the sky had grown more and more overcast, drawing several wary glances. Lucas thought nothing of it until he heard his brother shout.

“Hurricane! There’s a hurricane!” Alexander said as he rushed over to Lucas. “Look. There it is. It’s just at the horizon,” he said, pointing out to sea. “Everyone inside! Hurry,” Alex yelled frantically. “Forget about that! Your life is more important than a silly book.” Lucas turned, having successfully snatched his book from the crook of a tree branch, before sprinting after his brother, who was dashing up the main paved road.

“Inside! Everyone! Get inside!”

“Silence, boy. We have braced many a hurricane here in my years. This’ll be no different,” an older man grouched at Alex. Alexander paid him no heed. Instead, he continued up the cobbled stone road towards their dwelling, all the while yelling his warning. Then rain started.


The storm lasted for three days. Just when it appeared near the end, the wind picked up again and battered the island for another 24 hours. Huge trees were torn from their roots. Furniture was thrown up to two miles. Many of the buildings sustained the damage, and numerous houses were turned into splinters that became volatile projectiles. Not even the safety of the indoors was enough to protect from the hurricane’s violence.

The morning after the storm, Alexander and Lucas ventured outside to view the scale of the damage. Neither of the boys were prepared for what they witnessed. Devastation was everywhere. Houses were smashed to pieces as though they were made of kindling. A brick portion of the mayor’s mansion had been torn off from the house and was wedged into a nearby hillside. While his jaw was still on the floor in shock, the stench hit Lucas’ nose. And then he saw them. Bodies. People who had not heeded Alexander’s words of warning. Bodies lay strewn on the street. In some places, the body was washed away, leaving only a limb or section of torso wedged beneath a crumbling wall or lodged in a tree. As they walked along the street, Lucas gagged, choking back a sob. Impaled by a sliver of wood, he saw the same man who had scorned Alex’s prophetic prediction.


In the weeks following the storm, Lucas assumed the position of head clerk for what remained of Beekman and Cruger. Alexander rarely left his room. He sat at his desk, writing, pouring his soul into his work. Lucas was puzzled by his brother’s sudden self-seclusion. Despite this, he put himself diligently to work. Slowly but surely, he would help Beekman and Cruger recover. However, he knew he might not see the fruition of his labor. Ever since his mother’s passing, he had felt his health failing, slowly. Despite his youth, he lacked energy and was exhausted by simple things, such walking up stairs or unloading the cargo. He knew he was dying.


“Lucas! Lucas!” Alex’s voice broke his slumber. He opened his eyes as his brother ran into his bedroom.

“They did it! They published my story!” Despite his weakness, Lucas cracked a smile at his brother’s animation. Usually reserved, when he got excited, Alexander’s face lit up with emotion.

“That’s wonderful, Alex. What did Mr. Knox say?”

“He was beaming. He said he was proud of me.”

“Oh that lifts my spi-,” Lucas began, only to be cut off by a coughing fit. Alexander’s brow furrowed with worry. Lucas’ condition had only worsened over the past months as he worked himself to exhaustion while Alexander wrote furiously.

“I am sorry I interrupted your sleep. I’ll let you rest.”

“No no, its fine. Don’t….” whispered Lucas, falling back into a deep sleep before he could finish the sentence.

“Sleep well. Rest. Get healthy again,” Alexander said quietly. He kissed his brother’s forehead and silently slipped out of the room.


“Lucas. You’ll never believe what happened,” Alexander choked out, tears in his eyes. His brother was dying. They both knew it.

“The people on the island scraped together some money. They raised just enough to send me to King’s College, in the colonies. Mr. Knox was the one who spread my essays to everyone. He says I have real potential.”

“That’s fantastic, Alex,” Lucas croaked weakly. “You’ll become famous, like you always dreamed. You’ll be an amazing man one day, I know you will. Be great for me. Make a world where people like us won’t have to suffer anymore. Make the world a better place.”

Indeed, he did.






Works Cited

Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Press. 2004. New York.


On This Day. Historical Events in 1768. http://www.onthisday.com/events/date/1768. Accessed               March 28, 2017.

History Channel. This Day In History. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-modern-               circus-is-staged. Accessed April 1, 2017.

Biography. Alexander Hamilton. http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-hamilton-                                       9326481. Accessed April 12, 2017.

US History. Alexander Hamilton. http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/hamilton.html.                              Accessed April 12, 2017.