June 27, 1776
The lanterns burned bright on the second story of the Graff House as the sun melted into the western horizon.
Loaded with a tray of tea and shortbread, young Jasper Hemings entered the parlor to see his master pacing, relentlessly circling the table upon which sat his portable mahogany writing desk, tilted slightly upward and littered with sheets of parchment.
"Excuse me, Mr. Jefferson, sir. I thought I'd bring you some tea. You've barely eaten this past week, sir."
The thirty-three-year-old pacing the room stopped and looked up. He hadn't even noticed his servant enter the room. "Thank you, Jasper. That's very thoughtful of you. Please set it down on the side table."
As Jasper put the tray down, Thomas Jefferson seized a piece of parchment, already half-filled with words. Frantically he wrote something--like a man desperate to pour his thoughts down before they fled from his mind--before scratching out the entire line and throwing his quill down in frustration.
"Damn it!" he cursed.
Jasper looked at his master, concerned. "Sir, is everything all right?"
"It won't be if I don't finish this damned draft by tomorrow. I've already promised the committee that we'd have something ready to present to Congress, but it's missing something, something vital, something strong. I need to give the people something to remember, something that will make this nation stand proud and united. But by God, I cannot find the words."
"I wish there was something I could do to help, sir."
"There is," Jefferson nodded urgently. "I've written and re-written this document so many times I'm on my last piece of parchment. I've already used up every sheet in the house, but I'll need more before this night is out. Mrs. Gilmore will have some. She lives at the other end of Market Street. Take a horse, and fetch me as much as she can spare, quickly."
"Yes, sir," Jasper beamed. "Right away, sir."
His heart raced as he ran from the parlor, thrilled not only by the thought of helping his master--but also by the thought of the young man he would see in the stables.