This is a rehash of "The Blackstall Curve" - a different approach if you will (because Timeless, the new TV show basically stole my ENTIRE idea, heh)
The Blackstall Curve will stay as is for now (with the dates as proof that it came before the series!).
Please read and review!
"Another." Peter burst through the front door and into the parlor.
"Another?" Prudence responded, but did not look up from her needlework.
She was better than her sister at pretending the needlework was interesting. Needlework was all they seemed to do in recent months. The latest ships had delivered the last few skeins of blue, green, and yellow. Prudence undid a faulty French knot as she wondered when—or if—the next ship would ever come.
"Another?" Caroline entered the room, her brow knitted in reaction to the severity of her father's tone.
"Another shop closed." He declared.
Prudence still didn't look up from her hoop. She pulled a stitch so that it was taut.
Caroline sighed and flopped down onto the settee without any semblance of decorum. Her father scowled at her; Callie was always sighing at inconvenient times.
"The damned French know they're on their way," Peter huffed himself and fell into the wing-backed chair closest to the hearth. "The Dutch, too. Over a hundred years of no enforcement and now, finally, they're fearful of entering the Bay."
Peter studied the flickering blue ember in the fireplace and pondered his financial state. He absently fingered the note in his waistcoat pocket. With another huff, he took it out and threw it onto the log across from him; it ignited immediately. He only half wished he hadn't thrown it. By the time his half wish had vanished, the paper had already turned to ash.
"So they're coming." Callie looked out the window at the rolling grey clouds. The weather seemed a harbinger of things to come. The heavy handed symbolism was not lost on her.
"They are coming." Peter removed his glasses and pinched the top of his nose. He replaced his glasses and arose laboriously. Peter walked toward the back of the house, with the thought of only his ledger, as it sat innocently on his desk, but something stopped him. He turned and sat back down in his chair.
The clouds continued to darken that morning. The rain started just after noon. The Montagues sat by their fire and pretended to busy themselves in order to drown out the drumming of the wind on the roof. Esther poked her head in from the kitchen. She wiped her hands on her apron.
"Mr. Montague, sir," she said, "a leak sir. By the kitchen fire."
Peter shrugged, "a pot under it, then. Only a fool would climb on the roof now."
Esther nodded and disappeared.
"Congress is gone." Peter blurted to his daughters.
His abruptness did not alarm them but the content of his words did.
"Gone?!" Prudence had trouble shielding her panic; it wasn't every day that the British invaded Philadelphia. She had heard the New York stories.
"To Lancaster." It was Callie's turn to remain even, "I heard from Lydia when I was down at the wharf yesterday. Only a few Quakers left in town—and us."
"I have stores in the cellar," Peter's voice only wavered slightly, "Perhaps I will have a means to trade with them."
He glanced at his daughters. His business would be completely shut down with the coming occupation. He knew there were very few bargaining chips he had. Peter looked around the room. Their house was a large brick structure, situated on the prime corner of 4th Street and Race. Feelings of house envy would silently rise in passersby: the house seemed impeccable with its three stories, picket fence, and tidy garden. But inside, Peter and his family lived frugally. Perhaps it was his business mind, or Protestant thrift, or maybe just plain foresight that told him to do so.
The Montagues owned fine china, several brass items, and even mahogany furniture. Yet none of it was ornate or ostentatious. They did employ one servant, Esther, but his daughters never knew the luxury of having chamber maids even though the Shippens had several for theirs. Callie had pouted about it, always having a friendly rivalry with Peggy Shippen. She was quick to show gratitude, however, when her father spoiled her with the newest bolts of pink silk from Paris.
Their house was large and hulking on its corner and had several bedrooms on its upper floors. Peter thought of the empty rooms, the empty beds. He also thought of the cords of wood he would need to survive the winter, not to mention food.
He looked at his daughters. They were young, attractive, and sheltered. They were also intelligent and sharp (for the most part). He took a deep breath (and momentarily considered holding it) before he spoke.
"I've tried to remain neutral in this conflict," he started, "but I cannot. You know that I side with the Congress in its efforts, and that I am for independence. I know that this change coming to us and to our city will have a profound effect on our wellbeing. The Quakers' task is easy: to stay out of everything completely and stumble through this as best as they can.
"Our task is harder: to retain our secret ties to the Continental cause but also to survive this time. It is my thought that we should accept the inevitable quartering of troops."
Prudence immediately pushed her head back down into her embroidery. This particular skein of blue didn't seem as bright as the others; the color of the sampler would be inconsistent. She tugged at a snarled thread.
"Henrietta mentioned something like that," Caroline muttered as she leafed through the book she wasn't reading, "and then told me a horrible story of—"
"I know the risks that come with this choice." Peter interrupted her quickly, "I am planning on speaking with Shippen in a quarter of an hour at the Old London about the matter of directing only officers of good standing to our house in exchange for some trading favors when the ships come back in."
"But, Father, your business-" Prudence protested.
"Only a sacrifice of pride and having to endure Shippen's gloating for a few months," Peter waved his hand gently at his daughter, "This war—its outcome is not clear. We have to tread wisely."
Caroline's eyebrow curved up into her temple in response to her father's words; it made her green eyes look particularly severe. Her brow had made a habit of doing this because her father expressed this particular belief often. Perhaps being surrounded by neutral Quakers had had an influence on him. She knew of other merchants, namely John Hancock, the Continental Congress president, who had been fierce in their beliefs. She wished her father were the same, but instead she saw him as a coward.
Her eyebrow stayed perched as he continued:
"You, as my daughters," he rose and draped his woolen cloak around his shoulders, "will be the merry hostesses to the officers."
Caroline groaned, but it was not loud enough for her father to hear it.
"And in doing so," he placed his hat on his head and made for the door, "we will survive this winter."
"Father," Prudence surveyed the tumbling branches out the window, "the storm is growing stronger—are you certain you'll make it to the Old London?"
"Only if I run." Peter swung open the door and a gust of wind engulfed the house as he sprinted down the front steps.
Prudence raced to the foyer and, being pelted with warm, stinging raindrops, slammed the door shut. She returned to the parlor with a look of frenzy haunting her face. She smoothed her lace cap at the crown of her head and took her place by the fire. She cleared her throat almost inaudibly.
Perhaps Caroline would wait to tell her sister about the strange man with the stolen pistol she had encountered by the river.