Felicity Merriman awoke with a start: Ben is turning 18 today! Throwing the red and white checkered coverlet off, she quickly dressed and raced down the stairs in a panic, bumping into her father as she turned the corner into the dining room.

"Patience my wild girl," Felicity's father said placing his hands on her shoulders to steady her.

"Father, today is Ben's 18th birthday!" Felicity exclaimed. The pained look in her father's eyes showed that he understood, "Don't worry, my child, he has not left." And he kissed her on the cheek and headed out the front door and to his store. Felicity slid into her chair at the breakfast table.

"Happy birthday, Ben," she said.

"Hap birtay! Hap birtay!" Felicity's two-year old sister Polly sang, banging her wooden spoon against the table until Mother removed the spoon from her sticky fist, "Yes, you have my warmest birthday wishes, dear," turning her attention back to the table.

"Do you have any special birthday wishes," Felicity's six-year old brother questioned causing all around the table to cast down their eyes. Felicity glared at her brother, but if Ben noticed he said naught. He relieved himself from the table and tussled William's brown curls, "We all have wishes in times like these. I must be getting to the store; Mister Merriman shall be expecting me any minute now. I shall see you all at dinner." And with that, Ben left for the store and Rose came in to clear the breakfast plates.

Mrs. Merriman dabbed her eyes, "Girls, Miss Manderly expects gentlewomen to be timely!" Felicity and Nan rose, kissed their mother on the cheek, and gathered their things for their lessons.