The sun spread gradually across the Boston waterfront. I sat on Long Wharf, watching as Boston quickly came to life. First the dockhands arrived, ready to start their days' work of loading and unloading the cargo of the Boston ships. Then came the merchants, to check in with their captains, and await the arrival of their trade ships. Mayhap a boy would approach one of them, the proud bearer of a message from some important person in Boston. As I watched the usual hustle and bustle, I strolled up the wharf unnoticed by the multitude of merchants, dockhands, and street rats, as my Mama would call them. Those street rats, like me, were here to watch the work, and perhaps carry a message for a merchant.
As much as I wished to be the bearer of one of those messages, I knew I could not. I stayed separated from everyone on the wharf, careful not to be seen. For while my clothes were perfectly ordinary for the average street rat, my ragged breeches and hat, the face which it hid was far too clean to be of the lower classes, the hands too delicate to be those of an ordinary messenger boy, or even of a boy at all.
Mama would kill me if she found I'd gone out this day, and kill me 5 times over if she found the manner in which I had gone out. I could see it on the front page of the Boston Observer "Abigail Atkins, daughter of well-known mason, was killed this day, after returning home in her eldest brother's old clothing." I wondered what Charles would say to that? That I had been wearing his clothing, the ones he had worn years ago, before he left.
Charles, my mysterious brother; the one no one spoke of, whose room was always locked, the key having been lost long ago-or so they thought. That key, which was now in my possession, and which I used daily to enter my petty sanctuary. My sanctuary from the fury of my mother, the whinings of my sister, and the Tory activities of my father and brothers.
Charles, who left 10 years ago, at the age of 15, two years older than I was then. I didn't blame him for leaving. Those same things, which had driven me to sneak out of the house that day, dressed as a young boy, must have caused my brother to leave for good.
"Here boy! Deliver this to Mr. Revere for me." Having wandered away from Long Wharf, I now found myself face to face with a man, who was asking me to deliver a message to Paul Revere himself! He was a man of some elegance, wearing well-tailored clothing, but not terribly fancy. The simplicity of his suit showed he was not a merchant, but the order of his dress suggested he was not an artisan either.
He started to hand me the message, and suddenly stopped, his eyes fixed on my delicate fingers, and flawless skin, as I quickly tried to hide my hand from his gaze. "What's your name, boy?" he asked, his blue eyes piercing my body like tiny knives. I was overcome with fear. I had not expected to address anyone this day, and had thought of no alias to give him.
"Jeremiah Hathorne, sir." I replied, taking the name of my friend Susan's brother. Please let him be satisfied I thought. Please don't let him know of anyone by this name. To my great relief, he did not question my response.
"Take this directly to Mr. Revere, and do not let anyone but him see it. Tell him that he owes Charles Atkins 8 shillings, to be paid as soon as possible." I heard no more of what he told me. I ran as fast as I could, away from my mysterious brother, who everything I knew of was in his books. I should have known before he was a Patriot, but I had been too intrigued with him to put two and two together. No wonder he was never spoken of! They were so upset when they found where his heart lay in this "petty dispute over a little taxation". But he was not a Patriot when he left I thought so why did he leave in the first place?
As I ran, I could hear my brother calling me, telling me that I had forgotten the letter, and the spoken message was not all I was to deliver to Mr. Revere. I didn't listen, much as I would have loved to deliver such a thing to the well-known silversmith. I ran faster than I'd ever known I could run, through countless alleyways and side streets, none of which I had even known existed.
"Here now! Watch where you're goin, why doncha!" In my frenzy, I had run into another of my kind, and had knocked him into the mud. His clothes were torn and tattered, but he had a look of pride about him, as do all of us Bostonians. That look of determination, which drove so many of the Patriots, and which many thought Boston had more than its share of. His hair was a dirty blond, a combination of coloring and street grime, and he was very tall and lanky.
He had been bending down to pick up his hat, and when he looked up his eyes suddenly widened, and I realized that my own hat had fallen off, and my radiant brown curly hair was now fully visible, falling softly upon my shoulders. "No wonder you're runnin," he said quietly "It en't safe for you ta be out, especially with times as they are. Was one of them lobsterbacks tryin ta lay a hand on you?" I tried to run, but he was blocking my way.
"My mother would kill me if she knew I went out this day. Please let me go. I must get home before she notices I'm gone." I looked at him, my eyes pleading, hoping he was more decent than the British soldiers of whom he spoke, who plagued the streets night and day, making them as unsafe as he said.
"If you'll tell me who your mother is, could I walk you home?" he asked. God help me! I thought he's decent, alright, but I know Mama would think otherwise.
"She'd never allow it. She's Tory, for one, and for another, well…she wouldn't approve of you at all." I said, gesturing at his clothing.
"You're one of them ladies of breedin, then?" his eyes had already been so wide I thought they would rip open, but they now widened even more. "She doesn't have ta know," he said. "I'm Chris Snieder" he looked at me with his haggard brown eyes, and a look of understanding passed between us. He held out his grimy hand, as I gave him my delicate one.
"I'm Abby," I said.