"Tell another story, Salmon, please?" Anne tugged gently on her older brother's pant leg, looking up at him from the ground. Soft, flowering weeds tickled her legs, but she would sit still through another story if her brother allowed. "Little Sarah is asleep, so you can tell something terrifying."
Their younger sister rested her head on Anne's leg, her eyes closed and her breath steady. "Tell me about those names Papa always talks about with you boys. Those rev-- the rev--"
"Revolutionaries," Salmon finished for her, giving her a curious look. Although he was seven years older he never seemed to mind playing with his younger siblings, especially Anne who always had her nose where it didn't belong. "You shouldn't know about those stories and you shouldn't want to hear them anyway," Salmon continued. "They're violent and not for little girls to hear."
"I'm not little," Anne protested firmly. "Sarah is, but I'm not. I'm ten now, remember?"
Salmon smiled, his features softening. "How could I have forgotten? You're a young lady now. But those stories are not meant for a lady's ear, either." He leaned forward towards his sister, his hands gripping the white fence he was sitting on. He would leave the bloodshed for talks with his brothers, but he didn't see any harm in reciting her a story about someone close to them. "But I can tell you a story about Papa and a revolutionary."
Anne's eyes widened, a terrified look spreading across her face. "They're dangerous, those people. Was Papa hurt?"
Salmon laughed. "They're not dangerous if you're on their side, which we are. And Papa never met this man, at least not to my knowledge. His name was Elijah Lovejoy."
Anne smiled at the name, instantly convinced that the man was a good person. How could someone named "love" and "joy" possibly be bad?
"Elijah Lovejoy owned a newspaper that printed anti-slavery ideas. You know about that, correct?"
Anne nodded, relived that there was something she did understand. She knew her country was in turmoil over whether or not owning people based on the color of their skin was morally correct or not. She and the rest of her siblings had been raised against slavery.
"He owned a printing press of course, to print out his papers. And three times his shop was attacked by the enemies, those pro-slavery partisans and destroyed his works and his press. Three times they seized it and threw it into the river, and three times Elijah Lovejoy rebuilt, because his, our, ideas are so important to continue and put them out into the world.
"The fourth time however, the partisans returned and Elijah hid his printing press, hoping it would be spared in the attack. And they shot at him and he fired back, like a tiny war. They tried to light the hiding spot of the press on fire but, like a noble man, Elijah stopped them once and tried again, and the rest is unsuitable for your ears, Anne."
She let out a quick breath, unaware she had been holding it. Her fists had been clenched together, leaving red nail marks on her palms.
"But I can tell you this: His printing press was taken, destroyed into bits and, again, scattered in the river."
"What does this have to do with Papa?"
"And, so moved by a sermon the eulogized Elijah's death," Salmon continued as if Anne had not said a word, "Papa stood up in front of everyone and said, 'Here before God in the presence of these witnesses, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.'"
Anne paused, about to ask what consecrate meant, but was silenced by her younger sister. Stirring softly from a quick rest, Sarah slurred her words. "It's raining."
Small drops of water sprinkled gently to the ground from grey clouds. Salmon chuckled as her jumped from the fence and picked up his youngest sister from Anne's lap. Being nearly eight and far from childhood, Anne thought Sarah would protest, but instead she snuggled drowsily against her brother's chest.
Anne followed them close behind, her face to the sky. Drops of water ran down her face as she wondered what it felt like to bind yourself to God and people alike and make such a bold promise.
"Salmon, do you think Papa will keep his promise?" Anne lowered her face and found her brother long gone, eager to return home before the rain began to pour.