When my footsteps carried me home the house was buzzing. Apparently, my Mother had invited some neighbors to enjoy tea with her. I quickly realized that this meant they would be in need of the sugar, I had bought, as soon as possible. In a rush I scurried into the house, and pulled off the apron I had worn to town. I scooped the sugar hastily into the sugar bowl, and whipped around to face the parlor. Mother was indeed entertaining several quests, so I slipped in quietly, and set the sugar bowl beside the teapot, making sure they didn’t already have one set out. I almost disappeared from the room unnoticed, until mother caught my eye.
“Trinity, you are a fine lady and more than eligible to join us for tea.” She gestured to her companions who nodded their heads in agreement.
I paused my lips slightly parted in a
“I would love too,” I responded with a false smile. “but I have other things planned to attend to.”
I curtsied and scurried away before anyone could stop me.
I actually did not have plans for tea, so I just skipped it. Instead I sat alone in my room dreading the day when when I would be a married woman joining other married women for tea. The only person I would ever be willing to cherish that idea for was Eli, but both of us knew that we had no chance for each other I was already reserved with the farm for some rich man that my father approved of. I was 16 years old and I knew my chances were almost up. Father would not allow me to stall much longer before forcing somebody upon the unworthiness of his eldest daughter.
I stayed quietly in my room until I heard Lily’s arrival home from school. I checked my appearance in the looking glass, decided it was pleasant and came out to help with supper. I was not truly thinking about what I was doing as a rolled out dough to be made into rolls. All my thoughts were on what my mother could have been discussing with the ladies that had come to visit. I had gone through their names in my head, while waiting out tea hour in my room, and each of them had something in common, an unmarried eligible son. I glowered thinking of what they were possible planning behind my back. I slid the rolls into the oven and began to fetch the dishes. Father would be home soon, and he preferred to have his supper set on the table. I spun around the kitchen, my mind temporarily focused on other things I needed to finish. I was just setting the hot rolls on
the table as the door opened and Father stepped in from working on the farm. Lily came running over to him with a bucket of clean water to wash his hands and then stood by her chair waiting for Father to take his seat. We sat at the table, said grace, and began to eat. The silence loomed, because neither Lily nor I were called on to speak. One day my parents had told me that as an adult I was allowed to speak, but I never had. Tonight I decided to exercise this right and as I began to speak my words were greeted by looks of astonishment from my parents.
“Who were the ladies that came for tea today mother?” I asked softly trying not cause much alarm.
My mother gave me a cautious look and exchanged a glance with my father, who nodded, before answering.
“Those, dear were your possible future.” she said with a triumphant victory smile.
Getting an answer I expected I managed to keep my feelings repressed. Lily, however, stared open mouthed at me, just beginning to slightly understand the situation.
“I do not remember being asked anything concerning my future.” I said a bit too harshly and probably deserved the sharp clip from my father that I got.
“You have not seemed to take an interest in your future so we have taken one for you in an attempt to gain you a respectable family someday.” he growled clearly meaning the conversation should end.
I bit my tongue knowing more would be said later when Lily had gone to sleep.
After supper my family was congregated in the parlor. Father was reading the paper and muttering occasionally comments, Mother was teaching Lily a new cross-stitch pattern and I was reading a novel when suddenly Father decided to send Lily to bed. Lily’s head looked up from her work with a confused expression, but she did not protest, because she was a sweet and good daughter. She gave mother a kiss on the cheek, came to father, and gave him his kiss and he patted her rust colored head. Pretending to only just now begin pay attention I lifted my head from my book.
“Do you need help getting out of your dress?” I asked trying to avoid staying in the parlor with mother and father. Lily looked questionably toward Mother who slightly shook her head.
“Um... No thanks.” Lily said nervously in agreement with mother.
Lily had never been able to reach the buttons at the back of her dress, but tonight she would have to manage. I gave her a reassuring smile and she slipped away to her room.
As soon as Lily was out of ear shot Father folded up his paper and bid me to set down my novel. I swallowed hard and closed the book.
“Trinity, at supper you brought up avery important topic.”
I could see what a struggle it was for him to keep composed. I was having a difficult time myself not interrupting him or bolting from my seat and parting the room. I listened in dread as he continued.
“It is time, you thought seriously about courting. I am not going to be around forever to
keep you fed and clothed.” he raised his eyebrows emphasizing the point. “And I do not mean that blacksmith’s nephew. You are far above the likes of him.” Father finished and unfolded his newspaper.
His name is Eli, I thought giving Father a cruel look from behind the pages of my book. I was trying to continue reading as usual, but my mind kept drifting. I closed the pages and went off to sulk in my room.
I hated people planning out my life for me, but then I also knew deep down in some hidden recess that my father was right. I was to good for Eli but I was willing to sink to his level if that is what it took. I knew that the next morning the sons of the ‘tea’ ladies would be flocked to the door to behold my beauty and ask me to the barn dance that was on the coming Saturday. If I was not a lady I would have spat at the thought, but I am a lady so I kept my saliva in my mouth and dosed off to dream land instead.
As suspected I awoke to the sound of knocking at the door. Father left early every morning to survey his fields, so I surmised that Mother told the neighbors to send their sons to ask his permission early. I contemplated making my appearance and thus forcing everyone away, but decided against it. I might as well let them come, it was going to happen eventually. I heard Lily’s soft steps tiptoeing cautiously downstairs. She regretted meeting these men just as much as I did. I heard Lily disappear to school and wished I could follow her, but I was too old for school and many of my school friends were already married to what my father addressed as suitable men.
I finally picked up the sound of father’s footsteps. He was walking toward the coat rack and putting on his hat. I resolved that that meant everyone had gone. I pushed back my blankets and stretched like a witch’s cat. I undressed from my night gown and put on a mediocre dress that would not draw attention to me from all my suitors. My nimble fingers finished off the buttons and I swept down the stairs in a rather good mood considering what I would have to face later today, when all my ‘friends’ finished their work.
Downstairs was only my mother washing out the weeks’ clothes in the washing bin just outside the back door. I thought of volunteering but did not, knowing that once my mother got me started she would not let me stop. Today I was proud to say though that I did have plans. I was going to ride to far side of town and play the pianoforte to entertain my small cousins.
My cousins were five and six years old, Matthias and Hannah. I loved to visit them whenever I was in a foul mood because their wonderful spirits cheered me up considerably. As I was putting on my bonnet and finding my basket, a short definite rapping was heard on the door. I glanced out the window and saw the judge’s son. I sighed and went to answer it, my small cousins would have to wait a while for me to entertain them.
“Hello, sir” I said opening the door. My short curtsey was greeted with a very low and extraordinary bow.
“Hello m’lady” he said grinning.
I could tell he was waiting for me to offer my hand, but I held it to my basket not being easily
He paused looking a bit befuddled, but quickly regained himself.
“I spoke to your father this morning.” he presented the fact as if I cared and did not already know. When I didn’t respond he paused again before continuing.
“Would you like to come for a ride in my new buggy? We could go out to the meadow and maybe have a picnic?” He asked.
My immediate response was to decline but I could not bring myself to be so cruel. The judges’ son was terrible looking and if I did go with him it would please my father. I did not have a picnic packed but I did not doubt that his mother had sent one with him. I took a quick moment to evaluate the situation and then agreed. I was almost happy to oblige him when I saw what a great grin spread across his face just by my saying yes. I excused myself for a minute and turned back indoors and set down my basket. I quickly tripped up the stair and found my gloves. I shortly regretted my choice of dress, but then remembered the Eli never cared about what I wore, so I figured I would give the judges’ son his chance to not care either. I ever so gracefully and ladylike slid down the stairs and out in to the buggy. To my very little surprise there was a picnic basket backed and sitting by my feet when he helped me in.
The judges’ son was no great talker so I began the conversation.
“I’m so sorry but I cannot recall your name.” I tried to sound actually sorry.
“Jonathan Wells. I was named for my grandfather.” he said proudly.”
I rolled my eyes to the side at the lack of charm and scavenged my brain for something else to say.
“Fascinating. I replied still pondering. “Does your horse have a name?” I asked deciding it was personal enough but not enough to make me seem interested in him.
“Yes, ma’am. Her name is Belles just like the ones we ring a Christmas. I traded her from a southern man for some old manuscripts I had copied.”
A manuscript copier I actually found interesting though I tried not to show it.
“Copying manuscripts? are you considering joining the clergy.” I asked.
“Yes ma’am. I have actually just finished my schooling. I will be ordained sometime next month.”
No wonder my father was interested. If he was finished with schooling, he probably already had a parish waiting for him somewhere.
“Do you have a parish assigned yet?” I asked, begging for a no but guessing it would be a yes, and it would also just happen to have a sizable income. Tricky father of mine would make sure of that.
“Yes, and it is not to far from here. I already even have a pay decided on.”
I determined to take the conversation away from money, trying to show that I did not want to know how much some one else earned, and that those earnings would never be shared with me.
“Lucky for you. Not many other young men like yourself could say they have
accomplished the same things. I wish you most
luck in the future.” I ended the conversation realizing we were almost to the meadow.
“No, ma’am not many could.” he agreed, with a halt call to Belles. In a movement meant to be a charming flourish he jumped from his seat and skipped to the other side of the buggy to help me out.
I stretched out my gloved hand to him, he took it with pleasure and helped me down from the buggy.
From that point on to our picnic, I fail to be able to say I was impressed by him. The rest of the part of day I spent with him was met with senseless conversation and many imposing words of a future on his part.
After he dropped me off at my home I still had a decent 3 hours before I would have to begin helping with supper. I disputed for several seconds the possibility of visiting Eli before the meal- I chose to go. I hastily changed into a more flattering dress that would catch Eli’s eye if anything did, and began the round about walk to the Blacksmith shop and home. My trod was peculiarly quick and I reached the shop and house in a short ten minutes.
This time I walked around to the side of the shop and knocked directly on the house door. I heard lighter footsteps that were Eli’s smaller feet and not his uncle’s large one. I cheered up a bit knowing that he was walking and waited patiently for him to come to the door. He opened it and I could instantly tell he was in a foul mood. He let out a fake groan when he saw me, but I noticed how he opened the door wider to invite me in. As per usual my clothing did not affect him in the
slightest. He only looked at my eyes like always. I looked at his own dark creamy eyes and smiled. “Glad to see you moving about.” I said
meaning it fully. “Wish I could say the same for you” he
replied smiling now. I stepped inside catching the wonderful
smell of him when he has not been in contact with rum dealers for several day. It was the sweet smell of hay and honey. I was very pleased to discover it without its tangy rum scent behind it.
“Sorry there is not any tea.” He said shutting the door and following slowly behind me. “No one has been to the general store get some recently.”
“I already had my tea with Jonathan Wells.” I said nonchalantly.
It was a little lie, we hadn’t actually had tea but we had eaten together. I was glad to see Eli flinch inward, knowing the only reason I would have been with Jonathan was if we were courting. He pretended not to care but I could tell he was sore about it.
“The judge’s boy?” he asked smirking.
“He is very polite, only ever calling me ma’am and m’lady. Unlike some men his age.” I said shooting a devilish stare at Eli with laughing eyes above it.
“I’m sorry m’lady. I was not aware you enjoyed proper naming.” he teased.
I gave him a disgusted look. “Not coming from your foul bloody mouth.”
I laughed sinking down into the same chair that I had argued from the day before.
“Feeling better?” I asked becoming
sympathetic to Eli’s pained face as he lowered himself on the bench
I knew that he wasn’t someone that showed pain easily. I also knew he would not show pain in front of a lady, he also would not show pain that he knew was deserved. He must have been really sore and beat up to release that kind of wince.
I looked into his eyes and saw his plea for help. I bit my lip feeling for him probably more than he felt for himself.
“You poor thing.” I murmured compassionately. “Whatever shall we do with you.”
“Cannot really get much worse.” he said jokingly, but I could read his expression behind the words, he only had hope left to keep him from getting worse.
“Are you scared?” I asked leaning in, elbows on my knees.
“Sometimes. It is because I know what a powerful force the Brits can be. I feel like it is all up to me to stop them, and no one else has enough courage to help me. They are all frozen waiting for me to come by with my torch and melt them out of their ice blocks. I am just scared sometimes that I will run out of oil before I can get to everyone. Yes, Trinity I am scared, and I have no one but you to comfort me.” He looked up eyes shining toward my face.
I felt a tear slid from the corner of my eye down my cheek. I was so angry with myself. I was scared too. Except my fear was the kind with out courage. Not the kind that Eli had, the kind that allowed him to give himself up to a whip and be beaten and torn apart by people he used to call friends. In that moment I wished so much to have
courage to some day stand with Eli and have the same kind of fearful courage he had. Sadly today was not my day. I stood and curtsied toward Eli. His eyes were lost in his thoughts and he barely gave me a glance.
“I am sorry.” I whispered “I am sorry I am not brave like you.”
I let myself out of the house.