The darkness lifted and a faint whisper of light broke the horizon. Dew covered the freshly cut grass, filling the air with a unique aroma, and horse hooves could be heard traveling down the narrow cobble stone streets, making their way to the market place for a day of business. Philadelphia could prove to be a loud city after day break, but at the dawn it was peaceful and serene, the soft waves of the Atlantic crashing against the hard docks calling to all those that listened. That was the important thing, listening to all the peace that nature offered.
Abigail Whitney loved to do just that, listen to the sounds of the morning. She pulled her pale blue muslin dress on and braided her dark curly hair and crept out of her bedroom. Her bare feet tread quietly on the cool hardwood floor, careful to stay away from the spots that seemed to make the whole house groan. Abby was the only member of the Whitney family that woke so early, so she was careful to be absolutely silent as she made her way downstairs. She grabbed a shaw and her book and made her final stop in the kitchen.
Melli was just pouring a hot cup of coffee as Abby entered. With two spoonfuls of sugar and a bit of cream it was every bit as good as a cup of tea. Next to the mug sat an apple cinnamon muffin, her favorite. The heat of both took the chill off the early summer morning. Abby gathered everything carefully and walked through the screen door. The cool wet grass felt good between her toes as she made her way to her favorite place. She lifted the branch and found herself in a small grove. A single swing with coarse rope and a slatted seat hung from a tall sycamore tree. Despite it's rough materials, it looked delicate amongst the other trees. Next to it sat a small white table, where Abby quickly placed her mug and muffin.
The rope felt rough as she ran her hands down it and eased herself onto the hard plank. Her feet lifted off the ground and she curled them up under her. The swing fell into a gentle rhythm and Abby opened her book. Within the first couple of sentences Abby was lost, captivated by the world created. She spent her morning silently turning the crisp pages, drinking every word of the story that took her away from the troubled times of 1774. Her mind stayed in the world created by the book as she took bites of her muffin or sips of her quickly cooling coffee, not even realizing the soft whistle accompanied by heavy footsteps that were coming toward her.
Abby's brother, Jacob Whitney, appeared in the small grove, unnoticed. He was twenty years old, the eldest of the three children. He stood tall and lean with chestnut brown hair that always seemed to fall into his bright green eyes. He was clean shaven, which showed off his chisled features, making him one of the most handsome young men in Philadelphia. He stood, hands on his hips and stared at his younger sister with a smile on his face. She was curled up on the wide seat of the swing, her back resting on the rope. Her shaw was wrapped tightly around her small shoulders, her gaze fixed on her book. She tilted her head to one side, twirling a small piece of long dark hair around her fingers.
Jacob laughed to himself as he watched her, slowly turning the pages, but never taking her eyes off of the book in front of her. He knew exactly what would get her attention and moved quietly behind the swing. With one silent motion he gave her a push. The swing lurched forward, Abby dropped her book, let out a scream and grasped for the ropes, throwing her feet out in front of her to gain her balance. She heard her brothers laughter from behind her and turned around to see him doubled over in hysterics.
"Jacob Lucas Whitney!" she squealed breathlessly.
"I'm sorry," he said through his laughter, "I couldn't resist! You didn't even hear me whistling."
"I'm sorry Abby, really." he lied, he knew quite well that he would have done it again if the opportunity were to present itself.
"It's alright, aside from my heart stopping, it really was funny. And, if I had found you on a swing, I would have done the same thing." she laughed.
"I know you would have."
"What are you doing awake this early?" she said calmly, her pulse returning to it's normal rate.
"Abby, it's after nine o'clock, Father sent me to find you because he'd like to eat his breakfast."
"I've been out here for that long? Oh I'm sorry, you could have eaten without me."
"Papa, eat without you? Please Abby, you're his favorite, he won't even drink coffee without you at the table." Jake smiled.
"Well then, I suppose we should be off. Mama will be mad if I make her wait for to much longer. Can I have a ride? I didn't wear my shoes and the grass is wet."
"Abby, you have no stockings on and no shoes, what pray tell are you worried about getting wet?"
"My feet of course!"
"Did you not get your feet wet when you walked out here earlier? I am sure the grass was as wet then as it is now."
"Yes, but there is nothing to slip on once I get here, if I go into the house with wet feet, I might die on the hard wood floor." she looked up at him innocently.
"Alright, grab your mug and your book and let's go."
Abby climbed onto her brother's back and they set off through the field. Jake had been giving Abby rides on his back since before she could walk. In fact, it was probably the reason it took her so long to start walking. Jake and Abby had been practically inseparable since the day Abby was born. He never left her alone and would sit beside her cradle until someone else came into the room. Even after eighteen years he didn't like to leave her alone. Abby loved having him around, they teased each other constantly but Abby always knew she was safe with him, he would never let anyone harm her, an ideal elder brother.
"Ouch! Abs!" he quickly tightened his grip on her legs to gain her attention.
"What, what did I do?"
"Your choking me!"
"Sorry...I wasn't paying attention." she said, trying to hug him in apology, which ended up only choking him again.
"You had better be careful, if I fall over, you fall over..." he said, suddenly lunging, causing her to choke him a third time.
"Jacob, you have already stopped my heart once today."
"And you have choked me three times, I believe we are even?"
"Git in here you two! Quit dawdlin...your parents are waitin and your Mama's not happy!" Melli screamed from behind the screen door.
"Yes ma'am, I'd be able to move a lot quicker if I didn't have this helpless creature on my back!" Jacob yelled, quickening his pace.
"Helpless! Please Jacob, I could have been back to the house a half an hour ago if you weren't such a slow poke."
"And if you weren't so concerned about your precious feet getting wet." he teased.
Jacob dropped her off in the kitchen and wiped his own shoes off on the mat outside. Heaven forbid he track grass clippings into the house, Melli would have his head. Her kitchen always had to be pristine, if one spoon was out of place, she knew about it. Abby and Jake walked quickly to the dining room, their mother, father and younger sister Charlotte were all sitting quietly.
Mr. Nicholas Whitney was the head of the family. Abby always thought him handsome with his dark hair highlighted with grey streaks. He had a kind face and small eyes hidden by stylish glasses. For as long as Abby could remember he had a very well trimmed beard which always tickled when she kissed him on the cheek. Her mother Mrs. Marianne Whitney was sitting on the opposite end of the table. Many said that Abby was a younger version of her mother, with the same dark brown wavy hair and beautiful green eyes. In fact, all three children had gotten her eyes. Her skin was delicate and flawless, and she had such poise, the definition of a gentlewoman. Charlotte was sixteen and was sitting nearly asleep in her usual seat. She loved her sleep and hated waking for breakfast every morning, when she was tired she didn't talk quite as much as usual, making breakfast the most quiet meal of the day. Although she too had her mothers eyes, she looked very much like Jacob. Her hair was a light brown mass of curls, which always seemed to be falling out of her perfect bun.
"Good morning Papa, Mama, Lottie." Abby smiled as she entered. "I'm sorry I'm late, I lost track of time while I was reading, I hope you haven't been waiting to long."
"There's my girl! Come here and kiss your Papa before you sit down."
Abby smiled and went to her father, kissing him on the forehead. He smelled of harsh soap and cranberries. He was always eating dried cranberries which seemed to fragrance his skin. It was no question that Abby was his favorite child, his pride and joy. When she walked into the room his face lit up. It's not that he didn't love his other two children, but he and Abby had formed a special bond.
"How are you this morning my plum?" he said quietly, he knew his wife would be angry if he paid extra attention to Abby.
"Very well Papa, and how are you?"
"Quite well, reading again this morning were you?"
"Yes..." she smirked, he knew her so very well.
" Yes, and it's quite obvious that you didn't spend any time on your hair before you rushed outside." her mother said from her end of the table in an agitated tone.
"I did Mama, it must have fallen out while I was outside."
"Or you twirled it to death." Jake added under his breath, laughing to himself.
"Well, you can fix it after your breakfast, now sit down, everyone else is ready to eat."
"Yes Mama." Abby curtsied in apology and moved quickly to her place next to her younger sister. Her father said grace and pancakes were served, one of Melli's many specialties. All that could be heard was the scraping of knives and forks against the china, as they dug into their food, Mr. Whitney cleared his throat, notifying the family that there was something of importance to be discussed.
"I have some news." he said, putting down his silverware.
"Have we declared war Father?" Jacob said quickly, forgetting about the bit of pancake on his fork.
"No my boy, not yet. And war is not as exciting as you make it seem, lets not be wishing for such a thing. No, the British have changed the Quartering Act to include residential homes."
"What does that mean Papa?" Lottie asked, patting her mouth with her napkin.
"It means that the Jones have three British soldiers living in Anna's room as of yesterday afternoon."
"What?! Oh poor Anna!" Abby said quickly, thinking of her friend.
"They won't come here will they?" Lottie asked.
"I don't know sugar, I hope not."
"Even if they do, we won't let them stay, don't worry Lottie." Jacob said, shoving an oversized bite into his mouth.
"Jacob, if they come to our door with quartering papers they will be welcomed into our home."
"But Father! We are patriots, how can we house the enemy!" he said angrily.
"Because it is the law. I am a patriot, and believe that England has been wrong in many of it's dealings with us, but I will not break the law, even if it means housing the very men that have come to enforce the laws I disagree with."
"Fine, let them come, but I will show them no kindness." Lottie said confidently,proud of herself for discovering the perfect answer.
"There will be none of that. The British think we are barbarians, and we are going to prove them wrong. You are to treat them as you would any other human being, with kindness and respect." he said sternly. "I believe that your mother and I have raised three very well behaved, well mannered children, and I will expect to see such upbringing exhibited no matter who steps foot in this house.
"Yes Papa." Lottie answered, focusing her eyes on the syrup on her plate.
"They won't come here right Nicholas? Mrs. Whitney smiled.
"I don't know my dear. We have a lovely home, and stables, I am hoping they pass us by, but it is not as if we live in a cottage. We have been blessed with a lot, let us just hope they don't realize it."
The family sat quietly, the sound of dishes once again taking over the dining room. No one really knew what to say after such a prospect was presented, everything else seemed frivolous. Melli cleared the dishes, and Abby and Lottie set about their school work while Jacob went to help Father in the fields. Right before lunch, Jacob went to find his sisters he found them both hunched over their workbooks, quill pens scratching fiercely on the harsh parchment.
"Well don't you two look busy."
"Indeed, quite busy." Abby answered without looking up from her work.
"Ah, so I suppose there would be no time for a break?"
"What kind of break?" Lottie turned her head quickly and stared at her brother in anticipation.
"I believe Pepper Cinnamon and Nutmeg could use some exercise..." he said raising an eyebrow.
Lottie jumped up from her chair, "I haven't ridden Meg in nearly a week! Let me go get my boots on." Before Jacob or Abby could answer she was out of the room and they could hear her feet bounding up the back steps.
"You'd better get moving, once those boots are on, she is going to want to leave."
Abby smiled and lifted her skirts an inch to reveal her own riding boots. "I'd been planning on taking Pepper out all morning. I was rushing through my work so I could take a longer ride."
"I should have known."
"Yes, yes you should have." she laughed. "But I'd much rather go with you and Lottie."
"Mama excused us from lunch and Melli packed us a basket so we can stay out longer."
"Perfect! Then we can go to the look out hill?"
"I wouldn't go anywhere else, people are quite funny to watch this time of year."
Lottie stomped downstairs and practically pulled her brother and sister from the parlor. They gathered their basket from Melli and headed out to the stables. All three of them loved to ride and were always looking for ways to take out their horses. The strong odor hit them as they walked into the stable, the heat made it almost unbearable. Abby quickly untied Pepper and walked him outside so she could breathe some fresh air.
Pepper was a beautiful black horse with streaks of silver showing through his dark mane. Abby loved Pepper, her Father had surprised her with him when she was twelve years old. Pepper seemed happy to see her and followed her easily as she lead him out of the stable. Abby took a turn around Pepper, running her hand along his strong flanks. When she was convinced he looked perfect, she mounted, giving him a hug when she was in her saddle comfortably. Abby always took the longest to get settled, she always had to spend a little extra time saying hello to Pepper. Luckily he was faster than Nutmeg and Cinnamon and always managed to catch up.
Pepper's hooves hit the grass harshly as he ran toward the other two horses and Abby wrapped her hands in his soft mane. She sat comfortably and smiled as the cool wind brushed past her face, pulling her hair out of it's neat bun causing it to fly wildly behind her. The three siblings rode steadily to their favorite spot. People in town could be very amusing to watch from a distance. They made little dialogues about what different people were saying as they walked in and out of stores. Every once in a while they would even get lucky enough to see a couple sneaking an illegal kiss on a side street which made them all laugh. Abby couldn't help but wonder who they were, but the distance didn't afford the ability to recognize anyone.
"Sometimes Melli's picnic lunches are better than the ones on the table." Lottie said as she unpacked the basket. "And I get to eat dessert first." she picked up a brownie and took a huge bite of it.
"Yea, but leave some for us would you?" Jake laughed.
"Don't worry your sandwich will still be here."
"And my brownie had better still be there too. Don't touch my brownie, or there will be consequences."
"Oh you wouldn't do anything to your precious little sister." Lottie pouted.
"Trust me Lottie, I would completely forget about you being little, and totally disregard our relationship as brother and sister for my brownie."
"Please Jake, you would do no such thing, I don't believe you could ever pull a hair out of either one of our heads." Abby smiled, joining her sisters argument.
With that Jake jumped from the ground and reached for both of his sisters. They let out a scream and rolled away from his grasp. The three spent some time chasing each other around the top of look out hill and did not even hear the sound of hooves approaching. With her hair entirely messed Abby turned to see Daniel Linton approaching. She stopped running immediately and tried her best to smooth her wild locks. Danny and Abby had been courting for almost two years and had known each other for most of their lives. He had grown in the past two years, and now stood just a bit taller than Abby. His build was defined, and definitely showed evidence of working in his fathers field day after day. He had dark, raven black hair, with eyes to match. His skin was tanned and he smiled broadly at the sight of Abby, despite her untamed appearance.
"Danny! Whatever are you doing here?" she continued to smooth her hair and dress as she walked toward him.
"I called on you at home, but found only your parents having a private lunch. When they said you'd taken Pepper, I knew exactly where to find you." he dismounted and took Abby's hand in his. "And these are for you." he pulled freshly picked wild flowers from his satchel.
"Oh Danny, I love them, how very thoughtful." she said looking up at him, revealing a small smile.
"I was wondering if you would mind very much if I stole Abby away." Danny asked Jacob who had walked over to join them.
"We haven't eaten our lunch yet, why don't you join us before you two go off alone. I'm sure Melli packed a couple of extra sandwiches, and I'm sure Lottie would be willing to share her brownie." Jake smiled.
"Will not! Sorry Danny, my sister loves you, not me."
"You may have half of my brownie." Abby laughed, amused by Charlottes comment.
Lunch was pleasant, Danny got along very well with Jacob and they spent most of the meal talking about the newest developments in the colonies. Both were extraordinarily patriotic and it could be quite amusing to watch them get emotional about the issues of the day. After finishing lunch Abby and Danny took their horses down to the waterfront which was crowded with children, trying to escape from the summers heat.
Danny couldn't help but stare at Abby as she smiled brightly from atop her seat. She looked beautiful at this time of day, and seemed to be in a wonderful mood. Her slightly disheveled hair bounced with every step Pepper took, and caught the light differently with each movement. And when she turned to look at him, he found himself breathless each time. Her bright green eyes twinkled at him as she exposed her perfect teeth in a shy smile. She was the very picture of beauty to him. Danny had been in love with Abby ever since he first got up the courage to ask her to dance at a town dance. She had looked beautiful that night too, despite being only 12, her beauty only grew as she became a young woman.
"How are you today my dear, you seem to be in very high spirits despite the dread fo the news we've all just heard."
"Yes, I am in fact. I suppose it's all the children's laughter. If they can be happy, then I most certainly can be too. I also can not think that the world is all bad for I experience so much good. I have my family, and Pepper, and, I have you."
"Indeed you do have me, you shall always have me."
"Just as I like it." she smiled playfully.
As dusk began to set in Danny decided he had better get Abby home. He never wanted to irritate Mrs. Whitney, who at the moment, seemed to adore him more than her own daughter. He was invited to stay for dinner, but had already promised his own mother that he would be home. The Whitney's enjoyed their evening together and even enticed mother to play a game of cards, a frivolity she never endeavored. Abby was exhausted from her long day and begged to be excused early from the parlor.
She walked slowly upstairs to her bedroom which was perfectly in order, thanks to Melli. With her lit candle she undressed and put on her lightest night gown and brushed her knotted hair. She slid under her sheet and opened her book to where she had left off earlier that morning. Her exhaustion took over quickly and she did not get to far in her reading. What had captured her attention so completely in the morning could not force her eyes open after such a long day. The book laid open on her chest and her candle continued to flicker as she drifted off into a sweet sleep. Abby fell asleep in a similar manner almost every night but always woke with her candle out and her book laid neatly on her table.