I was thirteen that year, Henry was nineteen, Deborah seventeen, Samson fifteen, Hannah eleven, Abby nine, Thomas six, Lydia four, Milly three, and the babe, Rebekah, one. We were a brood, Father would call us his trees, individually, but together, we were his woods.
Father and my older brothers were often leaving during the evenings to go off to William Prescott's house. In the beginning we were all curious as to what they were playing at. I had tried to follow once, but Deborah caught me and dragged me back by my braid to a loathsome pile of mending. With all those siblings there is a never-ending supply of mending to be done. But, as time wore on, my siblings and I figured out what Father and our brothers were up to. We were no simpletons. We knew the price of tea and the King's unfair taxes. We knew of the on-goings in Boston and Philadelphia and the talkings of men like Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and the Adams cousins.
We no longer drank tea in our house, nor did most of our neighbors in Groton, Massachusetts. The winter of 74-75 was a brutal one, full of snow and ice, and we sure missed drinking the hot beverage at times, but we were true Americans, some of Father's ancestors had come here from England on the Mayflower. If Father told us that it was for America that we had to give up our tea, then for America we would. Plus, I preferred hot chocolate.
"Sarah!" sister Deborah called in that tone, interrupting my reading. Deborah had grown rather bossy lately, I guess that was because with Mother caring for Grandfather Woods, who was ill, and Father and the boys off at Prescott's so often, she did have rule of the forest at times. I slumped in the chair, what could she want now?, "Don't forget to feed the animals!—make sure you bundle up, 'tis freezing out there!"
Of course it is freezing out there I thought as I gathered my cloak, mittens, scarf, and hat, 'tis Groton, Massachusetts in the middle of February—I think I know how to dress myself for the weather. I let the back door slam behind me as I left. Deborah had been in a foul mood and had been bossing me about all morning. Older sisters!
"Twenty-three steps precisely from back door to barn door," I said to no one in particular as I reached the barn. Father had always told us to count the steps in between house and barn so come winter's worst weather we could find their way to and from safely. Occasionally, Father would put a rope in between the two so all you would have to do is follow the rope. Mother was always worried about us getting lost out in a storm in between house and barn. One of her friend's daughters was found frozen to death just feet from the house. The child had lost sight in a blizzard and was unable to make in back to the house.
Entered the barn, I scolded myself for having naught brought my reading with me, it was much quieter in the barn than the house and sitting among the sweet-smelling hay was almost warm. But, woe to me I had left it in the front room when I went out and would have to finish it later, probably much later for I feared Deborah would have a list of things to do and when Mother came home from Nana and Grandfather Woods' she too would most likely tell me either my stitches in a hem were too wobbly or reprimand be for not practicing patience in my chores. I tried hard and was most accomplished in the art of womandery, but I longed for adventure and would tend to hurry through boring chores in order to have more time for tasks that brought me much more amusement.
Instead of reading, I talked to the animals. The barn cat was such a love, she would walk right up to me and nuzzle my leg until I picked her up and petted her until she was contently purring in my arms. I think I stayed in the barn for at least an hour, escaping my chores. Finally, I decided to go back indoors. To my great surprise, young Samuel Prescott, Oliver Prescott's son, was approaching the house.
"Hullo Sarah! Lovely weather we've been having."
"Lovely weather for a snow beast!" I laughed. "Pray, what brings you to our stead on this chilly afternoon?"
"I was wondering if your brother Samson was home."
This puzzled me, "He is at your Uncle William's? Why are you not there with the other men?"
"I was in Boston on an errand for Uncle. I picked up something for Samson that he will be eager to have."
"Ooo tell me about Boston! Come into the house and warm yourself!—we have coffee" my face growing red from both excitement and cold, I loved Boston.
Samuel brought his horse towards the barn, "Let me put Pretty in the barn and I will tell you all about my trip. You would love Boston, Sarah. It is so much more exciting than here."
"I do love Boston! I wish Father would take us there more often."
"I'll take you someday, if you like." Samuel smiled shyly at me. His words made my heart skip a beat—was he flirting with me? Oh, he is so handsome with his big brown eyes—eyes which I could not look straight into without turning red. I lowered my eyes and smiled, "I would like that very much."
Suddenly feeling very awkward around a boy I had known my entire life; I led him inside the house and fidgeted about the kitchen before pouring his a cup of coffee, "What did you get for Samson?" I asked. Samson and Samuel were best mates. Samson was but a few months older and the two of them had quite a head for adventure and mischief. Sometimes when they were younger they would allow me to tag along on some of their misdeeds, but mother was none too happy about any of that.
He pulled a long, thin bundle from his bag and laid it out on the table and slowly untied the twine revealing a beautiful Brown Bess musket.
"Oh Samuel, it's beautiful. Samson will love it." I admired the fine craftsmanship of the gun I knew would become my brother's pride and joy. Deborah, Hannah and Thomas soon joined us in the kitchen and they too admired the beautiful musket.
"Do you think Samson will let me hunt with it sometime?" Thomas asked Deborah eagerly, his fingertips gently brushing up and down the length of the musket.
"I think Samson has greater plans than hunting with this fine musket." Samuel answered him.