Tom looked toward his new friend’s house, and at the little girl who stood on the veranda.
He wondered why the townspeople—and that man at the camp hospital– seemed to dislike the family so. Could they really be Tories? He was quite disgusted at the thought. At home, he had been proud of making the lives of his Tory schoolmates miserable.
“Who have you got there?” Another girl, a little older, came out and stood beside her sister.
“It’s Nathanial’s brother,” Ethan told her. “Is Father home?”
“He just came.”
“We call him Nate,” said Tom, coldly.
The boy glanced back at him, as if a little surprised at his tone. Then he headed toward the barn where he dismounted, and helped Tom down. Tom reluctantly accepted his help.
A servant in fancy livery clothes came out.
“I’m sorry, Jason. He missed his footing in the bog.” Ethan looked ruefully at the dirty, muddy horse.
“Alex will take care of him, Master Ethan. Don’t worry yourself.”
“Thank you.” The boy led Tom up to the house, where the girls were still out on the veranda, watching.
They wore dresses of fancy lace and ruffles, along with white stockings, rather than the dark plain ones like the girls at home wore. Just then a familiar figure appeared at the door.
“Nate!” Tom broke into a run and clambered up the steps, passing the girls without a look. He stopped just short of embracing his brother. But nothing stopped Nate from throwing his arms around him.
“Tom! What are you doing here?”
“Mother sent me to find you. Uncle Josiah has been looking for you.”
“I’m all right, thanks to Ethan here—and his family.”
“But they’re Tories!” Tom lowered his voice, but the girls heard.
“How dare you!” The little one clenched her fists, as she would like to pummel him.
Even Nate looked a little stern. “These people have been very kind to me. They saved my life. I’m on the mend now, but where did you get that idea—”
But he was interrupted when the older girl said, “Ethan, really! You’re filthy. Why you insist on going through that swamp!”
Just then another figure appeared. The man of the house, apparently.
“Son, there you are.” The father disregarded his appearance, unlike the sisters. “How did you make out?”
“Miss Evans was very grateful for the supplies. And she’s taking care of the money.”
“Good. It would have sat around while they debated endlessly on how to use it. Or if they condescended to use it at all…what with us being….” He shook his head and turned to Nate and Tom. “And this is your brother. Welcome. The noon meal should be just about ready.”
“I’ll go wash up.” Ethan went on into the house.
The father ushered Tom into a beautiful drawing room. The girls followed, looking at him angrily—and a bit haughtily. But the father was saying, “I’ll change that dressing after dinner, Nathanial.”
“Do you think I’m ready to go to my uncle’s? I’ve taken of your hospitality long enough, I think.”
“It was a pleasure to have you. And I’m glad I could help. Perhaps after dark, if you don’t mind. I meant to send him word that you were here, but it’s been so busy. But I believe the danger of infection is past. Don’t try to get back to your duties too soon, though.”
“I promise. Tom, Dr. Haskins has been very good to me.”
“The Lord has been good, to bring you to us before it was too late—and to help you heal so quickly. It could have been so much worse. What with the chaos at the hospital that night, you might not have gotten treatment in time.”
Tom ignored the talk about God. “Why must you go after dark?”
“Oh, why, it’s just—safer. The townspeople—”
Just then Ethan appeared at the foot of the stairs. Stunned, Tom stared at his fancy blue breaches, his white linen shirt, with ruffles, his waistcoat, and polished, shiny black shoes with gold buckles.
“A—dandy!” he gasped. “You’re a—”
“Tom!” exclaimed Nate, mortified. “These are my friends! How can you be so rude?”
“I-I was just surprised—he didn’t seem to be that way—” Tom spluttered in a whisper.
“Do pardon my brother….” Nate said to Dr. Haskins.
But Ethan just laughed. “Oh, no. I’m no dandy. If you want to see a dandy—well, they go in for much brighter colors than this. And their shoes—they’re quite silly–jeweled, with the most pointed toes you ever did see. Some with heels so high they can hardly get around in them. They certainly can’t do much real work in them.”
“Ha,” chortled Tom, even as he was relieved that Ethan wasn’t angry. “I’m not sure I’m believing that.”
“Believe it,” laughed the father. “And they really are some of the laziest, good-for-nothing ‘gentlemen’ in London.”
Tom finally realized how rude he’d been. “I do ask your pardon,” he said to Ethan.
Ethan was as goodnatured as ever, but the girls weren’t. “He thinks we’re Tories just because of what I said,” the little one scowled at Tom.
“Come, let’s eat. And we’ll explain it all to you,” said their host. “That’s another reason you two should probably be on your way and stay with your uncle.”
Nate, with a fancy borrowed cane, made his way to the table with the help of Ethan. At Tom’s unspoken question, he explained, “Dr. Haskin’s stitched me up. I’d be dead in that swamp if not for them.”
“But why did you go in there?”
“I’m not sure. I was in a daze. And I heard the Red Coats coming and wanted to hide, I guess.”
Tom had another question. He gestured toward the man. “If he’s doctor—why isn’t he helping at the hospital?”
“They don’t want him. He’ll explain why. Just do mind your manners. Mother would be ashamed of you. And this is a family who takes great stock in courtesy.”
The noon meal was even better than at Uncle Josiah’s, with several kinds of meat, along with potatoes, bread and jam, and both cake and pie. During the meal, Dr. Haskins explained that his grandfather and uncle had Tory leanings, so the townspeople naturally thought that the rest of the family did, as well.
“No matter what I do or say to stop the rumors, they’ve harassed us for years. My grandfather has long sense sailed for England. He wanted no part of this “foul rebellion” against the king. And my uncle took his fortune and made off for the western provinces. Just to get away from it all and live comfortably. He has no taste for war. But my father was instrumental in the government before he died—and a good friend of your uncle’s.”
Tom didn’t understand. “Then why would they think that?”
Ethan answered that. “This is a town that won’t put up with the slightest inkling of Tory leanings. We don’t go into town too much.”
His father continued. “It’s just too dangerous with the mob mentality that sometimes goes along with this kind of thing. They’d be better to put their patriotism to some good use.”
Tom felt a little uncomfortable, remembering his harmless escapades at home –at least he’d thought they were harmless.
Ethan spoke up again. “They don’t even want Father helping in the hospital, so he has his practice in the next town over, and helps a great deal with the poor and homeless who can’t pay.”
Dr. Haskins waved a hand dismissively at his son’s praise. “It’s just safer to work over there. These days anything can start a riot. And I certainly don’t want my son or servants beat up—or worse.”
Nate nodded. “Uncle Josiah says they have no qualms about violence. He’s disgusted. They’d tar and feather someone, and run them out of town for less reason than this.”
Tom snorted. He’d heard of such things.
Nate turned on him, suddenly. “You think that’s amusing!”
Tom shrank back. What had happened to his brother, anyway? He was so serious these days. Is that what war did to you? He’d always rather wanted to see the sight—it was said to be very funny.
“Do you?” Nate persisted. “Do you understand what it even means?”
Tom shrugged uncomfortably. He was rather glad the girls had left the table rather than see his brother berate him. Nate drew closer with disdain in his look. “Think about it. Hot tar.”
Tom swallowed hard. He glanced at his new friend…and the doctor. Surely people wouldn’t do something like that to them. “I’m…sorry….”
The doctor said gently, “there are many things that people take time to understand. That’s why it’s good to think through issues before just listening to the crowd—whatever crowd that is. There’s good and bad on all sides, I’m afraid. And things are much more complicated than they seem.” He turned to Nate. “And now, why don’t we change that bandage, and see how the wound is doing.”
Ethan rose from the table, excusing himself. He looked at Tom, “how about we go see the horses. Alex will give you a riding lesson.”
Embarrassed by it all, Tom said quietly, “all right. Thank you.”
On the way to the barn, he said, “I really do ask your pardon. I didn’t realize.” He felt he should go even further. He told Ethan some of the things he’d been involved in at home. “It really was all in good fun. Some of the soldiers were so nasty. And the boys from Tory families were very proud of themselves….” His voice dwindled off.
Ethan gave him an understanding smile. “My father’s right, though. When a crowd gets going-even with just boys our age, bad things can happen. He says it’s more important to do things God’s way and make sure our decisions are for right reasons. Alex…meet Tom. He’s Nathanial’s brother. Where’s Ginger. Can we let him get up on Ginger for a while, and learn how to guide her?”
As Alex went to get one of the horses that was grazing in the meadow and saddle her, Ethan continued. “I’ve been very angry at times at the way our family is treated—all because of Grandfather. And I can’t really blame him…most of the country were loyal subjects of King George not that many years ago. Nobody thought this was going to happen.”
Tom realized that he had a point.
“But as for the people harassing us, Father says God wants us to treat them as we want to be treated—not as we are treated. They were once our friends and neighbors. ”
“But why! It’s so unfair.” Tom suddenly found himself on the other side of the issue. “Why must you be nice to them?”
Ethan smiled. “Because it’s God’s way.” He led Tom over to the horse. “Start getting acquainted with her. You can pet her…go ahead.”
He continued the discussion. “Of course Mother and my sisters don’t really help the situation. My mother was very much a society lady, looking down on these ‘poor back woodsmen’. She was from a very important family in England. My sisters rather learned it from her. They want the best clothes and the best of everything, and are rather cocky, in case you didn’t notice. They have no concept of what this war is really about.”
“I’m sorry. Your mother died? So did my father.”
Ethan nodded. “She was very ill for a long time. Father could do nothing to help her. Ah, here comes Alex comes with the saddle.. That’s it, talk to her and let her know you want to be friends.”
“Why what’s this?” The stablemaster looked off toward the woods that skirted the road.
A horse was galloping toward them with someone who looked very familiar on his back.
The horse and rider came on, and Simon reined the horse in sharply. “You must go! There’s trouble in town! Real trouble!”
“What is it?” asked Ethan and Alex at the same time.
“Lies about your father. They don’t like that he’s been doing business in Bridgeton and carrying on his practice there. They want you gone!”
Alex broke in angrily! “What is wrong with these people? Can’t they let a family live in peace on their own land?”
“Who are they,” asked Ethan more calmly.
“The usual. Go! They’re serious this time. They say they’re coming at dusk to burn you out!”
“But why!” Tom himself was outraged. “Could you get a message to Uncle? He’s in the government. Surely he can do something!”
Simon shook his head. “He’s taken the packet halfway to Philadelphia. He’s to pass it on to someone else to go the rest of the way. He rode out at noon. He won’t be back until late tonight.”
“Well, you could at least come to our house, couldn’t you?” Tom didn’t even realize he was making plans for his uncle’s household.
“I think it’s better to get further away. Besides how would they all get into town without someone seeing?” exclaimed Simon.
“Let’s get up to the house and talk to Father. One thing’s for sure, you and Nate must get to safety. You have no part in this feud. But they won’t care. You’ll be caught up in it. Alex, at the least, I’d say get the horses and carriage ready. And a wagon for our baggage.
You and the other servants must escape with us. Let them know.”
“Yes, Master Ethan.”
“And thank you, Simon.”
Simon turned his horse. “I’ll bring more news if can.”
Tom hurried up to the house with his new friend, determined to do anything he could to help….
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett