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Nabby Adams: Revolutionary
“Nabby!” I whispered hoarsely and asked for what seemed like tenth time, “What is so necessary about sneaking into your father’s study… again?” Nabby Adams has always seemed to enjoy placing me in the middle of her shenanigans. I suppose it may be because I rarely refuse. But it could also be because she finds my discomfort amusing.
“Oh, Elizabeth,” Nabby cooed in her condescending way, “You worry far too much.” And with that, she slowly and expertly opened the large wooden door that led to her dear father’s private study. She sauntered in as if what she was doing was not against her father’s wishes, while I tiptoed behind.
Nabby turned around to face me and giggled, “You know you can walk just like I do, right? There’s no need to tiptoe.” Even though I was a year Nabby’s senior, she still had a way of making me feel like a foolish child. She was wise beyond her years, and sometimes she had no qualms with putting such a characteristic on display.
“Nabby, how can you know for sure?” I pushed, “Your mother could come in at any minute. She keeps her letters in here, too.”
She giggled again, “Yes, yes, I know. But she is resting right now, and once she is done, she will tutor John,” and although she was grinning, I could tell her patience was waning. That was always the problem with being Nabby’s best friend: whatever she did, I begrudgingly did with her. The rules of friendship dictated it so. This meant that whenever she wanted to spy on the Redcoats, listen in on her father’s meetings, or, apparently, sneak into her father’s study, I was always dragged along.
“Fine,” I pouted, “What do you want to look at in here?”
Nabby had already started pawing through her father’s books, “Hmm?”
“I was wondering why we are in here,” I was still whispering. I knew that if Mrs. Adams caught me, she would punish me as if I were her own child, and that idea did not seem at all favorable.
Nabby looked up from her book, “Clues,” she stated simply, as if she had already told me.
“Clues? Clues for what?” I was twelve years old, and Nabby was eleven, which meant we were practically adults! What clues could two adult women possibly be looking for? We should be off practicing our sewing or cooking. But instead, we were sneaking around like children playing a game I didn’t even know the rules to!
Nabby sighed, finally letting her frustrations with me show, “Clues to the Revolution.”
I stared at her, pondering her sanity. After a long moment, I spoke up, “Nabby, we don’t need clues to the Revolution. We know exactly how and why it is happening,” I gave up on whispering, since Nabby wasn’t. Upon hearing my words, Nabby shut yet another book she was pawing through and set it down on the shelf. Then she turned to me, and I saw the sparkle in her eye I so desperately feared.
“Do we, Elizabeth? Do we really know the whole story?” It was her turn to whisper now. Her tone of voice reminded me of the times we stayed up late telling ghost stories so frightening we could not fall asleep. I never truly cared for those nights, honestly.
“Yes, Nabby. Your parents hide very little from you and your brothers. You know that,” I shook my head slightly, believing Nabby to be merely naïve and restless.
“No, I do not know that. I think that. I assume that. There is a difference,” she turned her back to me again, and was running her fingers lightly over the books, obviously trying to find a specific one.
“They are your parents, Nabby! What on earth do they have to hide from you?” I was growing tired of this. She didn’t understand how fortunate she is to have parents who speak openly with her as if she were an equal. Mr. and Mrs. Adams are kind, brilliant, and loving people who make sure their children are well educated and well informed. It drove me out of my mind whenever Nabby took this for granted. It’s amazing my mother even allows me to visit the Adams household as often as I do, since I know she would much prefer me to stay home and learn the tricks of the domesticity trade. But since Nabby was John Adams’ daughter, I believe my mother had a hard time not letting me visit. She knows how blessed I am to be so welcomed into their household, and she doesn’t have the heart to take that away from me.
“Oh, you just don’t understand,” Nabby pouted, letting her childishness shine through. She had moved onto another bookshelf, her fingers lightly grazing the green, blue, and red bindings, each sporting a gold-lettered title. Her brow furrowed in concentration, obviously trying to remember the title she was after. Suddenly, her face relaxed into small smile and her fingers grasped onto brown-bound law book.
“Found it!” she exclaimed, more to herself than to me. Carefully, she opened the book and started to flip the pages, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
“What exactly is it that you’ve found?” feeling bold enough to walk across the study to stand beside Nabby. At this point, if Mrs. Adams hadn’t come in for her letters yet, she wasn’t going to, and I was safe to be louder. Looking up from her book with slightly glazed eyes, Nabby seemed to have forgotten I was with her. Confusion danced around the corners of her smile, but she quickly snapped out of it.
“One time, when I was spying on my father just a few months ago, I saw him read this letter,” she said, obviously expecting I would know what this meant. When it was clear I was waiting for more of an explanation, she continued, “I can tell when he is not happy with news he receives. First, his lips get very tight and very small, as though he is trying not to cry out from pain. Then, his face gets red, and he sighs loudly.”
“So, this is what he looked like while he was reading this letter?” I pointed to the neatly folded piece of parchment on the page.
“But Nabby, a lot of things make your father mad. Why is this anger any different?” I asked, obviously still not understanding Nabby’s palpable enthusiasm.
“The fact that this letter is here, instead of in the drawer of his desk. If it’s here, that probably means Mother hasn’t seen it, yet,” she paused for dramatic effect, then continued, “And maybe she never will!” Although she was apparently very happy about her findings, I was still confused.
“This means your father is hiding something from the rest of your family. You think it’s something important. Something about the Revolution, correct?”
“Correct,” Nabby nodded.
“Why do you think it has something to do with the Revolution? Maybe someone wrote something rude, or maybe he asked a favor, and someone declined?” I tried to reason with my excitable friend.
“Be serious, Elizabeth!” Nabby cried, “What has consumed my parents, especially my father, for the past few years?”
I sighed, “The Revolution.”
“Right. The Revolution. I know that has to be what this letter is about, and it’s something he’s been keeping from us. You said it yourself before: my parents never keep anything from me. The only reasoning is it is a secret regarding what is happening in Congress,” she said this with such finality, that I knew I couldn’t sway her otherwise. Once Nabby has an idea in her head, anyone else would be hard-pressed to change it.
“Fine, Nabby. If you’re so sure, why did you wait so long to come and find it? You said you saw this happen months ago,” I asked.
“I needed to give him time. How foolish would I feel if I snuck in to steal it, and the next day he told us about what it said? No, that would have just been too embarrassing. Instead, I gave him a few months to explain. But he never did, hence why we are here, dear friend,” and with that she plucked the letter out of the book, and slid it into the front pocket of her dress. I stared wide-eyed at her dress, not comprehending the fact that Nabby was stealing from her own father.
Apparently, I was doing a poor job of covering my horror, for Nabby said soothingly, “Elizabeth, please don’t worry. I will place this back exactly where I saw it once I’m through reading it. I even remember the page number: two-thirty-seven,” she reached up to rub my back softly in an attempt to calm me. Perhaps I was creating a problem out of nothing. Perhaps my respect and admiration for Mr. Adams was clouding my judgment. After all, Nabby was a good daughter, and even though she was rather mischievous, she loved both of her parents very much, and when she wasn’t sneaking around or playing tricks, she was studious and hard working. I just had to trust her.
I nodded, “I trust you.” I tried to work up a believable smile, and even though I’m sure Nabby didn’t believe it for a second, she accepted my effort and smiled back. Suddenly, Nabby’s smile dropped as her eye caught the sunlight streaming through the window.
“It must be nearly four!” she gasped, grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the door. I knew what the problem was: four o’clock is when Nabby is tutored, and if Mrs. Adams started looking for her daughter, then we could end up in more trouble than I bargained for. We were nearly out when we heard Mrs. Adams call for Nabby.
“Oh, no!” Nabby whispered, and then looked to me, “Quickly!” She swiftly re-opened the study door, and pushed us both out as quietly as she could. My heart was pounding in my ears, and I’m sure my face was betraying my desperate attempt at a calm façade. I glanced over to Nabby, but she was the picture of calm.
“Yes, Mother! Elizabeth and I are in the foyer!” she called out, and then whispered to me, “Catch your breath, or she’ll be suspicious.” I did as I was told, and steadied my breathing, just in time for Mrs. Adams to round the corner and see us.
“There you are, Nabby. And Elizabeth, so nice to see you!” She leaned down to hug me, and I prayed that she couldn’t detect my heartbeat through our dresses.
“Good day, Mrs. Adams,” I pulled back from the embrace and curtseyed.
“Well, Nabby, it is time for school. Elizabeth, would you like to come back for dinner once Nabby has finished her work?” Her gaze was so inviting, that I wish I could have said yes. However, my mother had specifically said that if I wanted to visit Nabby today, I had to be home for dinner.
“Thank you for the invitation, Ma’am, but I must be home for dinner. Perhaps I will visit tomorrow,” I bowed my head, and turned towards the door, when I felt a hand latch onto my arm.
“You go on to the next room, Mother, I will meet you. I have something to ask of Elizabeth before she leaves,” I heard Nabby say. My back was still to Mrs. Adams, but I assumed she nodded in agreement and left the room, because then Nabby said softly, “I won’t open it until you come back. Don’t worry.” With that, she released me and walked into the adjacent room, leaving me to wonder what I had gotten myself into.