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New York (1868)
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[Two men from prior scene two years later.]

From the front hall, James Belcher called, “Father, we’ve arrived,” as he handed his topcoat to an older house man.

William Green Dickinson was sliding his shoulder from his greatcoat when Henry White Belcher, dressesd in his outer wear, proceeded down the stairs.

“No, no,” Belcher said, oddly emphatic, the wood steps creaking beneath him. “William,” Belcher continued upon his arrival in the marble hall. “I was hoping you might join me in my evening constitutional.”

Things were never simple when dealing with Henry White Belcher. “What do you have in mind?”

“It’s a habit I’ve maintained at Rock Lawn for years. Eliza and I – actually, it started with Martha – walk the grounds at dusk. In Eliza’s absence here, I must confess, I haven’t been good about my regimen and I miss it.” Belcher tapped his belt. “I daresay my pants have grown a bit tight. And to think I have this magnificent park right outside my door at my disposal.”

William Green Dickinson said, “I’m intrigued. This might be just the thing for Sarah and me while the governess is preparing the evening meal.”

“We’ll talk as we walk,” Belcher said, stepping out on to the landing, adjusting his collar. “Oh dear, I’m afraid we’ve missed the eventide.” Massaging his white-bearded chin, Belcher said, “We can still march around the periphery. You’ll still get a small taste of Olmsted and Vaux’s magic.”

“Where you lead, I will follow,” said William Green Dickinson, words he regretted as they left his mouth. His underlying plan for the evening was to ensure Henry White Belcher would pull his weight with the enterprise. His standard deference was to be abandoned.

“What have you heard of Wheeler and his campaign?” Belcher said as they crossed the wide avenue. Upon their arrival on the opposite sidewalk, Belcher dipped his shoulder to the right and they proceeded south. “He has this one in the bag, hasn’t he?”

“I haven’t heard from Bill directly, but – I think you know – Wells is managing the effort. He says he expects Bill [note: running for a House seat] to outpoll Grant in the district,” William said, referencing the Republican candidate for President who was running against Horatio Seymour, New York’s Democratic Governor. In the crisp breeze, dry leaves were cascading from unseen trees just beyond the park’s impressive perimeter stone wall.

“You men and your politics.” Belcher said, with what sounded like disregard. “You still attending those interminable reform meetings in Brooklyn?”

William knew better to engage with Henry on this topic. He heard the familiar kee-aah of a red-shouldered hawk soaring overhead.

“Well, isn’t that something?” he said. “The call of a raptor in the middle of the city.”

“What in the world are you talking about?” William didn’t look, but he imagined that Henry had the furrowed look on his brow that he got. “I was asking about your political doings in Brooklyn.”

For a man who talked about the magnifient Central Park, Henry White Belcher did a pretty good job of ignoring it.

“Yes, we meet on Thursday evenings.” Now that he had taken on a leadership position, William Green Dickinson really looked forward to the meetings of the Brooklyn Republican Reform Association. The group hadn’t helped his business prospects one iota – Brooklyn and New York were two entirely different worlds – but this is one area where he thought he was really making a difference. “I suppose I like this work just as you do your corporate boards. You help chart a course that others will implement.” At the edge of the park, William took note of an impressive traffic rotary before them, where coaches and carriages circled round like a multitude of balls on a roulette wheel.

“We’ll turn back here,” Henry White Belcher commanded, and the two men reversed their course. “There is a bit of a difference between the two, but you are right about the satisfaction I experience.”

Knowing how much time he had for the walk back to Belcher’s home and that his partner didn’t like to ‘talk business’ over a meal, William launched in to it. “We should talk about things on Warren Street,” William said, referencing H.W. Belcher’s address in Lower Manhattan. “I’ve just compiled the quarterly results …”


“They are about the same, I’m afraid. Actually, a bit more of a loss than in past quarters. The challenge is – I have gotten to the point where I am hard-pressed to suggest any other changes to turn things around. I would really benefit from more of your time and counsel.”

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