Friends of Liberty
From Friends of Liberty:
Sally hardly recognized her own face in the looking glass above Kitty's dressing table. At home, there was only one small hand mirror, spotted and dim, that Felicity Gifford used to see if the part in her hair was straight. In Kitty's scroll-framed looking glass, wearing Kitty's pink flounced dress, Sally looked like a portrait of a young lady.
Sally felt a thrill. Today, she could be a different person . . .
It's 1773, and Boston is in political turmoil. As tension rises between England and the colonies, lines are drawn between the Loyalists and the Patriots. And Sally Gifford, a shoemaker's daughter, finds herself on the opposite side from her best friend Kitty Lawton, the daughter of a wealthy merchant.
Sally is torn between her cherished friendship and her loyalties to her own family and community in their fight for freedom. As the conflict continues to grow in the weeks leading up to the Boston Tea Party, Sally must decide exactly what is most important to her.
Honors for Friends of Liberty:
Winner of 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People
Bank Street College Best Children's Books 2014
Read Chapter 2 of Friends of Liberty
2. The Smell of Tar
Kitty dashed for the front door. Sally ran after her, out to the street. Kitty’s brother stumbled over the cobblestones toward them, one hand on the side of his neck.
“What happened, James?” cried Kitty. She reached out to him, but he drew back. She insisted, “Let me see!”
“Tar,” he groaned.
Now that they were close to James, Sally could smell warm tar. Sticky black blobs spattered his left sleeve and neckband. When Kitty pried his hand from his neck, the skin was an angry red with puffed, shiny blisters. “Poor James!” she wailed.
Sally winced. She was ashamed that only a few minutes ago, they’d been making fun of James.
As Kitty hustled her brother into the house, calling for Mrs. Knowlton the clock of Christ Church struck five. It was time for Sally to go home, but she followed Kitty inside. She couldn’t leave when Kitty was so worried about James.
Mrs. Knowlton, a neat, plump woman with a keen glance, met them at the door. “Dear heavens, what now?” She steered James into the library. “Take off your jacket—there. Let me see, James. Dear heavens!” The housekeeper turned to Sally. “Run to the kitchen. Fetch clean cloths and the burn ointment.”
Sally ran to the kitchen, where the maid found the cloths and Mrs. Knowlton’s herbal ointment. When she returned, the housekeeper and Kitty had James stretched out on a chaise with the neck of his shirt open.
Kitty stroked James’s hair and tried again to find out what had happened. James groaned, “Tide. . . Apprentices.”
“Leave him alone, dear. Can’t you see, it hurts his neck to talk?” Mrs. Knowlton pulled up a chair and began to spread ointment on the blisters. “Go fetch the brandy and a spoon.”
Sally followed Kitty into the dining room. “I’d better go home,” she said in a small voice.
“No, please stay!” Kitty, lifting a cut-glass decanter from the sideboard, cast her a look of distress.
So Sally stayed, and the girls watched Mrs. Knowlton dose James with a spoonful of brandy. Kitty took Sally’s hand. “Poor James!” she sighed.
Ordinarily, Sally would have been happy to stand in the Lawtons’ library, gazing around at its bookshelf-lined walls. In its way, it was as wonderful a room as the parlor. A ladder, for reaching the books near the ceiling, leaned against one wall. A globe of the world tilted on a mahogany stand, and a microscope and a prism — a three-sided bar of clear glass — rested on the side table. The other day, while Sally was waiting for Kitty, James had showed her how the prism could split a beam of white light into the colors of the rainbow.
As the housekeeper bandaged James’s neck, Sally shifted her feet. She was touched that Kitty wanted her to stay. Imagine, Kitty was comforted by having her, Sally, by her side! But every minute that Sally stayed at the Lawtons’ would make it that much harder for her to slip into the kitchen at home and take up her chores quietly.
When the hands of the clock on the carved bracket shelf reached a quarter past five, Sally squeezed Kitty’s hand. “I have to go.” She hurried out before Kitty could make another plea.
Running down the hall, Sally felt her pocket flap against her legs with a new weight. The ring! She’d meant to give it back before she went home. Well, she’d have to give it back tomorrow.
In the Giffords’ kitchen, her stepmother greeted her with a hand on one hip and Baby Lucy on the other. “What time is it, Sarah Gifford?”
Sally hung her head. She knew she was in trouble when her stepmother called her by her full given name, “Sarah.” “It’s after five o’clock, ma’am, but the reason —”
“The church clock just struck a quarter past.” As Felicity Gifford talked, she tried to keep Lucy’s grubby little fingers from tugging at her bodice. “You see, I know exactly what time it is, even without a fine chiming clock in my parlor. Did Mr. Lawton forget to wind his clock?”
“No, ma’am.” Sally started to explain about James getting burned with tar.
But Mrs. Gifford cut her off again. “Serves him right, idling around the harbor with other good-for-nothing boys. In any case, what business was it of yours?”
Sally put her hand over her pocket, feeling the ring through her skirt. It was her business, because James was Kitty’s brother, and she and Kitty were sisters at heart now. But she only answered, “No business, ma’am.”
“And what was your business at five o’clock?”
“To set the table for supper, and mind the baby, and cut the bread . . .” Sally glanced sideways at the kitchen table, already set with a spoon at each place and a platter of bread in the middle. “I’m sorry, ma’am.” She held out her arms for Baby Lucy.
Lucy began to whine, but Sally swiftly lifted the baby into her high chair at the table, belted her in with a dish towel, and set a row of bread crumbs in front of her. Lucy tried to keep on whining as she picked up the first crumb and put it in her mouth, and Sally laughed at her. “No more fussing!” The baby smiled, showing her six teeth, and popped another crumb into her mouth.
Felicity Gifford had turned back to the stone fireplace, which took up one wall of the kitchen. She muttered into the chowder pot, “I suppose it was too much to expect, that the younger sister would be as industrious and obedient as the older.”
Sally pretended not to hear, but she made a face at Lucy behind her stepmother’s back. Mrs. Gifford seemed to think Sally’s older sister, Hannah, was the perfect daughter. At Hannah’s wedding last year, when Hannah left the family for Tom Greene’s farm in Concord, Felicity Gifford had shed tears.
The door from the shop opened, and William Gifford appeared. He was a short man, but wiry, with a pleasant boyish look. His thinning brown hair was pulled back and tied at the nape of his neck. Behind him was Sally’s five-year-old half brother, Josiah. The boy wore a leather shoemaker’s apron like his father’s, only one quarter the size.
Hanging his apron on a peg, Mr. Gifford asked, “Is Ethan not home?”
Sally shook her head. Smarting from her stepmother’s scolding, she hadn’t wondered why Ethan wasn’t home yet. Ethan Downs, her fourteen-year-old cousin, was always hungry. In the two years he’d lived with them as Mr. Gifford’s apprentice, he’d never been late for a meal.
“No,” Felicity answered her husband. “Did you not let him go to the Liberty Tree?”
“Mmph.” Mr. Gifford bent over the washstand in the corner, splashing his face. As he toweled his hands and face he added, “Aye, I let him leave the shop early to go to the rally at the Liberty Tree. But he knows what time we eat supper.”
“We eat supper at half past five,” Josiah piped up. He climbed on a stool to take his turn at the washstand. “That’s when the small hand of the King’s Chapel clock points to the five and the great hand points to the six.”
This brought a smile to William Gifford’s face. “You learned something new today, did you, little man?” Pulling out his chair at the head of the table, he leaned toward Baby Lucy and chucked her under the chin, making her squirm and giggle. Meanwhile, Felicity ladled chowder into bowls, and Sally set a bowl at each place.
Mr. Gifford’s smile faded as he looked at Ethan’s empty chair. “If the lad misses grace, he’ll miss his supper, too.” Sally felt sorry for Ethan, but at the same time she was glad she wasn’t the only one to come home late.
Just as they all bowed their heads for the blessing, the latch clattered. The door burst open, and Ethan slid into his place across from Sally with a muttered apology.
Mr. Gifford went ahead and said the blessing, but then he turned a stern face on his nephew. “You apprentices seem to be getting the wrong idea about liberty. ‘Liberty’ means we in the colonies have the same rights as other Englishmen. ‘Liberty’ does not mean that lads of fourteen years may do whatever they like. Tomorrow you will make up the time you took off from your work.”
“Yes, sir,” said Ethan. His tone was respectful, but he seemed to be thinking about something else.
Felicity Gifford put in, “Some girls are getting wrong ideas about ‘liberty,’ too.”
Sally kept her eyes on her chowder and said nothing. But she thought it was unfair for her stepmother to bring up Sally’s tardiness to Father. Mrs. Gifford had already scolded her for coming home late.
Mr. Gifford only gave another “Mmph” and began spooning up his chowder. He didn’t really want to hear every little thing Sally did wrong. Of course, if he knew that his daughter had given Kitty his dead wife’s brooch, and taken a costly gold ring in return…
Sally’s stomach fluttered, as if she’d stepped into a hole without looking. She wished it were tomorrow already, so that she could return the ring. Kitty must be having second thoughts, too, even though she was bolder than Sally.
But their families need never find out, Sally assured herself, if the girls gave back the tokens at the first chance. Meanwhile, she ought to be as daring as Kitty.
Dipping bread into her butter-flecked chowder, Sally cast Ethan a sympathetic glance. He answered her with the slightest crinkling of his eyes, not enough of a smile to annoy his uncle.
After William Gifford had finished his second bowlful, he sat back in his chair and sighed. “Was there a good crowd at the Liberty Tree?” he asked Ethan.
“Yes, sir.” Ethan looked relieved that his uncle was no longer angry with him. “They said it was hundreds! Some of us apprentices climbed up in the tree so we could see.”
“I suppose Ebenezer Mackintosh was in charge of events,” Mr. Gifford went on. Mr. Mackintosh, also a shoemaker, was a leader in the Sons of Liberty. He didn’t do fine work like William Gifford, and his shop was in Boston’s South End, a less expensive district than the neighborhood near the Common.
“Mr. Mackintosh was there — I saw him telling Harry Cole something — but he didn’t speak to the crowd. Colonel Hancock spoke, and then Mr. Adams.” Ethan pronounced the last name reverently.
“Mr. Samuel Adams,” said Mr. Gifford, not so reverently. “That man reminds me of a sheep dog. He nips and he barks, and he won’t rest until he has all of Boston trotting in his direction.”
Sally’s father voted with the Whig party, and he was friendly, at least, to the men in the Sons of Liberty, a secret branch of the Whigs. The Sons of Liberty met at the Bunch of Grapes tavern, where Mr. Gifford went for his after-supper pint of ale. Sally often heard her father humming the Liberty Song as he cut and stitched shoe leather.
However, William Gifford didn’t make a show of his Whig loyalties in front of well-to-do Tory customers like Mr. Lawton. And he wouldn’t leave his workshop for a Liberty rally.
“I thought I heard musket fire from down at the Liberty Tree,” Mrs. Gifford put in. She blew on a spoonful of chowder to cool it, then held it to Baby Lucy’s mouth.
“No, ma’am — that was only firecrackers,” said Ethan. “Colonel Hancock’s men were giving them out.” John Hancock was the richest merchant in Boston, as well as the head of the Boston militia.
As Ethan reached toward Sally for another slice of bread, she noticed black spots on his homespun shirtsleeve. “You came too close to the firecrackers,” she remarked. But even as she spoke, she caught a whiff of a distinctive smell. Not gunpowder — tar.
“Do I see tar on your sleeve?” asked Mrs. Gifford, frowning at Ethan’s shirt. She gave a tired sigh. “Tar won’t come out in the wash. And only Monday I scrubbed and bleached that shirt.”
Casting a sideways glance at his sleeve, Ethan looked troubled, then carefully blank. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “I’m sorry, ma’am.” He stopped talking and wiped the inside of his chowder bowl with the bread.
Sally was troubled, too. Why did Ethan look uneasy? Not because he had to wear a dirty shirt — she was sure of that. Maybe he’d left the Liberty rally and gone down to the harbor, where sailors melted copper boilers of tar to caulk their boats.
Kitty’s brother, James Lawton, had gone down to the harbor this afternoon, and he’d come home with an ugly burn from hot tar. “Apprentices,” he’d said. Had some apprentices ganged up on James because he was a Tory boy, the son of a rich man who hobnobbed with the hated customs commissioners and Governor Hutchinson? It seemed very likely.
Sally knew that these days Ethan hung around a gang led by Harry Cole, a butcher’s apprentice. She wouldn’t be surprised if it had been Harry’s boys who’d burned James badly enough to raise blisters. But if Ethan had been one of them … The idea made Sally feel sick.