One night in early November 1779, he dreamed a terrifying
He saw a skiff dancing across Charleston Harbor, running before an
offshore breeze that raised what mariners called white horses on
the water. Lydia sat in the skiff's bow, laughing and enjoying
herself; her hair flew in the wind like a yellow banner.
He couldn't see the face of the man at the tiller, only his back.
But he was not the man, of that he was sure. Though he was
athletic, a superb horseman, he'd never learned to swim or sail.
His mother called it passing strange, since his father, a wharf
owner, made his living from the commerce of the creeks and rivers
Unseen bells began to peal-the eight church bells of St. Michael's
parish, cast by Messrs. Lester and Pack, London, where he lay
dreaming. The bells didn't ring the sequence of notes that called
the faithful to Sunday worship. They rang another familiar call,
the call to calamity: a fire, an impending hurricane. Great
When he woke in his room on the third floor above Fountain Court,
the meaning of the dream came clear. He'd been absent from America
a year and a half. The desirable young woman he wanted to marry
could be slipping away from him.
Edward Bell, twenty-one, was at that time studying at the Middle
Temple. He had resisted his father's wish to send him there,
saying, "I have no ambition to practice law in South
"Nor do most of the young men from Charleston who enroll at the
Inns of Court, but it will be useful. It broadens you, like a grand
tour. It makes you a keener student of business contracts. It
prepares you to be a leader of society-to hold office if you
"Why not send Adrian? He's firstborn."
"I don't mean to speak unkindly of your brother, but to be
truthful, he hasn't the head for it. Adrian's a shrewd young man.
Shrewd is not the same as smart."
"But we're in the middle of a war with England."
"Where do you think we learned that we have a right to rebel
against the injustices of the king's ministers? From English
constitutional law, taught at the Middle Temple. Who stood up to
the king in Parliament and defended our right to rebel? Edmund
Burke, of the Middle Temple."
"Is this a scheme to keep me out of the militia?"
"Do you want to join the militia, Edward?"
"Not particularly. I'm not an ardent patriot like you."
"You're more of one than your brother. Worry about the militia at
such time as the British return to Carolina. It may never happen.
They've left us alone three years now." In '76, Col. William
Moultrie and his brave men had repulsed an invasion attempt at the
palmetto log fort on nearby Sullivan's Island, the fort now bearing
Moultrie's name. After that humiliation Gen. Henry Clinton and Adm.
Sir Peter Parker sailed away and Great Britain concentrated on
fighting in the North.
Edward ran out of objections. Soon thereafter he departed for
London and the Inns of Court.