The Mistress of Tall Acre

By: Laura Frantz



Stifling a yawn, she returned to the monotony of her sewing. She nodded off, nearly piercing her finger, then shot upright at the sound of shattering glass.

Standing, she sent the doll tumbling from her lap, her stool overturning, her eyes on the flames licking at the plank floor a few paces to her right. A leather water bucket was by the door, so she doused the fire, her woolen skirts and shoes splattered in the process. She was barely aware of Glynnis in a nightdress standing in the doorway behind her.

“What on earth?” Her housekeeper’s cry was indignant as she surveyed a far parlor window, a sudden wind whooshing in uninvited.

Bending down, Sophie touched the pitch-covered paper that had been afire moments before. Beneath it was a heavy jagged rock, capable of breaking the best British crown glass. A soggy note was attached, penned by a heavy hand.

Yer Tory house will be burnt to Hades.

She started for the window, gleaming shards crunching underfoot, but Glynnis’s equally sharp hiss kept her away.

“Don’t be inviting more trouble, mind you.” Taking her by the arm, Glynnis led her into the foyer, both of them shaking. “I’ll fetch Henry to board it up.”

Sophie sent her gaze to the front and back entry of Three Chimneys. “Are the doors locked?” But what did it matter when the parlor now lay open?

“Tighter than a drum. You go on up to bed, and I’ll join you. ’Twill be just like when the Lobsterbacks invaded and we were quarantined in your room.”

“But the war’s been won,” Sophie murmured. “All hostilities should cease.”

“Mayhap in time.” Glynnis patted her hand. “You should have stayed away from Roan today. Likely there’s some who took offense at the sight of a Menzies.”

“I only meant to earn coin enough for some sugar for the tea party.” Sophie turned back at the foot of the staircase. “I forgot Lily Cate’s doll—”

Glynnis almost scoffed. “D’ye truly think the child’s father, a high and mighty American general, will let his daughter darken your door? Or darken it himself?”

“I do.” She refused to let go of the hope, however small. The general had had a special fondness for Curtis, hadn’t he? Her brother had been an avowed Patriot, no matter their father’s rabid Tory sentiments.

Returning to the parlor with Glynnis’s bulky form between her and the shattered glass, Sophie bent and picked up the doll and her scattered sewing, trying to stave off that old, insidious fear that had begun with the Revolution.

There had been other rocks, other damage. Ugly words and jeers. Why had she thought that the peace treaty General Washington had signed would restore peace to her own tattered world?

The war might be won for America, but it still raged on in Roan, Virginia.





3





Glynnis stood in the bedchamber doorway the next afternoon, looking nearly as disbelieving as when Sophie had told her the war was won. “He’s come.”

Sophie turned back to her dressing table, a cameo and ribbon in hand, and bit her lip to keep from saying, “I know.”

She’d heard the clip of hooves and rustle of leaves through her open casement window. Spied the sleek black stallion tied to the hitching post below. Felt that peculiar tightness in her chest and the dampness of her palms the general always wrought, whether in newsprint or in person. Now here he was on her very door, the hero of Brandywine and Germantown and Monmouth and who knew what else.

Heroics be hanged.

’Twas her own reputation she was worried about. Would he shun her as they did in Roan? Turning back to the looking glass, Sophie fiddled with the cameo about her throat.

“Do I look presentable?” she asked, startling slightly when Glynnis came closer and pulled viciously at a stray thread on her skirt.

“You’re in your best gown, though ’tis hardly in fashion. Your shoes look fit for the dung heap. And your hair is in need of covering. Other than that, you’ll do.” Turning, Glynnis plucked some pins from the dressing table and secured a lace cap atop Sophie’s hastily upswept hair. “Mercy, but you’re pale as dust. But since this isn’t a social call, it hardly matters.”

Sophie tried not to frown at the mirror, finding her reflection far from pleasing. “Where is the general? Not in Father’s study, I hope.”

“Ha! I’ve better sense than that. No need to remind him of your father’s Tory sins. I put him in the front parlor as the rear parlor window is boarded up.”

Mumbling thanks, Sophie started down the curving staircase, feeling like she’d swallowed a swarm of butterflies.

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