Read CHAPTER XIV of Maid Sally , free online book, by Harriet A. Cheever, on ReadCentral.com.

HOME AGAIN

As the next fall came on, there were clouds and a coming tempest in the air. British soldiers in gay uniforms were seen about the roads, and Mistress Kent’s dame school did not open as usual.

The parents of young children did not like to send them out every day, even with a servant to look after them. The blacks were easily alarmed and might not prove faithful.

The tobacco was cut and stored in sheds, but when it would be shipped was uncertain. And Sir Percival Grandison was anxious because the Belle Virgeen did not come sailing back on time.

The Fairy Prince was nearing home at last, and a tall, shy maid in her teens was glad that he was on the way.

Sally would soon be fourteen, and it was doubtful if another so young a maiden in all Williamsburg, even the well-taught daughters of the rich planters, knew more or as much of that which comes through books, as did the young maid, Sally Dukeen.

She had learned as if by magic, and kept learning every day. And by paying attention to scraps of conversation that floated to her ears, and getting hold of a newspaper now and then, she knew all about the conflict or struggle that was almost on between what men had fondly called “the mother country” and the American colonies.

And now the Fairy Prince at nineteen was on his way home midst all the trouble and din. Would he fight? He was under age, but Sally had heard him speak of such manly things as “duty” and “putting down wrong and holding up the right.”

One thing she felt was certain. No one could keep him out of the trouble if he felt it his duty to stay and help his country in her hour of need.

And now there was rejoicing when the Belle Virgeen came slowly up to the quay after having to pick her way midst unfriendly vessels that would gladly have swooped down upon her, taking her cargo and capturing her crew, had they quite dared.

This time the vessel arrived in the night, so there were only family friends to greet and welcome the few passengers she had borne back to their homes.

And so many were coming and going, the roads beyond Shady Path were so full, and every one so excited that Sally, now a tall, blooming maiden, could not race about as when she was younger, nor did she wish to.

More than one British soldier stationed in the town had looked sharply into the depths of her sun-bonnet when Mistress Brace sent her on an errand to the store.

One great joy remained to her. She studied French and Latin with Parson Kendall for a teacher. But as he thought it better that her other studies should be kept up, she recited but twice a week.

And so a month had gone by, and she had not caught so much as a glimpse of her Fairy Prince.

One afternoon, early in November, she was on her way home from the parson’s, and had left the road leading to Ingleside, when Mammy Leezer’s round figure appeared in the road.

“Laws, honey!” exclaimed the old Mammy, “how you does grow! Why, bress yo’ heart, I haven’t catched a sight o’ you in an age, and here yous most a woman grown. Makes me tink ob how dat young Mars’ Lion have com’d up to be a man all to onct.

“Oh, but honey!” Mammy’s voice sank to a whisper, and she looked around as if in fear of being overheard, “dat Mars’ Lion, he bound to fight de Britishers toof and nail, but his pappy, Mars’ Perc’val, he’s for totin’ him right back to Inglan, but Mars’ Lion, he won’t be toted. He say dis yere’s his own country whar he wor born’d and here he shell stay.

“Mistis Gab’rell, she cry and try to make him promise to keep quiet, and dat Mis’ Ros’mand she act like she own him soul and body. Mars’ Perc’val, he say he’s sorry he let him come home, but lordy massy! dat chile would ‘a’ comed lett’n’ or no lett’n’.

“But you see, de fac’ is, dat boy chuck full o’ fight. I tell olé Uncle Gambo dar must be somesin in dis yere soil dat make de chillern love it and stan’ up fo’ it and fight fo’ it.”

“I’d fight for it, too, if I was a young man,” said Maid Sally.

Would you, now!” exclaimed Mammy. “Well, I reckon de day is near when all who wants to fight will have de chance. Now I must go travellin’ home. I’m goin’ to make a plum jam betty fo’ my young mars’ supper, and no knowin’ how long his olé Mammy can cook fo’ him, he so done set on fightin’.”

As Mammy rolled away, Sally said to herself:

“I wonder why she tells me these things? I never ask her questions.”

Her Fairy answered: “It is because those people are simple and confiding in one way, and in another way are sharper than you think. All the world likes sympathy, which is a kindly feeling toward others, and a willingness to listen to what is in their hearts. And Mammy sees that you pay attention to what she says, and it pleases her.”

“I must be careful,” said Maid Sally.

“You have need to be,” warned her Fairy.

The days grew more full of excitement. There were whisperings, hot speeches, and murmurings on every side.

But in the midst of the boil and trouble Sir Percival Grandison, and a few others, determined to give a ball in the Hall of Burgesses in hopes to break in upon the stormy feelings that were abroad, and perhaps bring about a more peaceful state of things.

The seat of government had been in Williamsburg until that fall of 1774. Then it was removed to Philadelphia.

There had been a splendid ball given in May, in honor of the wife and daughter of the governor, Lord Dunmore. And although the people neither liked nor respected the haughty, wilful governor, it yet was thought a proper thing to welcome with a gay gathering the ladies who had come to live at the “Governor’s Palace,” as his home was called.

Now the Hall of Burgesses was to see another brilliant affair, when people of rank and fashion would come together for a merry night, and Sir Percival secretly trusted that it might tone down the war spirit in his young son.

Maid Sally cast about in her mind, wondering if she could possibly get a peep at the splendid scene, for ah, what delight it would be to look upon it, if only for a moment!

“It will be a brave sight,” said her Fairy, “but it may stir feelings in your soul it were better should be at rest.”

“No matter for that,” said beauty-loving Sally, “I must see it if I can.”

Yet how could she bring it about? The church beadle, the dread man who went about, and, staff in hand, kept all younglings quiet in the meeting-house, the town-crier, who went up and down the roads and with a great bell in hand found a lost child or told unusual news, the constable and his two assistants, all these would be about the doors of the building so that the many coaches could drive up without confusion, and none but invited guests would dare to come too near.

Children and upper class servants might gaze on at a distance, but no hangers-on would be permitted on that side of the road.

Up came Sally’s will. Her strong, bright will.

“I mean to find some way to see it,” she said, “but not by doing anything of which to be ashamed.”

“Then set your wits to work,” said her Fairy, “for wits you will need to bring that about.”

And Maid Sally thought of a plan.