Penny’s Birthday Surprise

Penny looked up at the worn white house, with its dirty, chipped paint.  Ivy crawled up its sides.  Every window was broken, except for one, the upper right hand window.

“Grandpa, how come that house is so dirty?  Penny said.

“Because no one has lived there in a long time so it got run down,” Grandpa said.

“How come no one lives there?”

“Because of Old Maid Micknely.”

“Who’s that?”

“Old Maid McKinley was the last person to live in that house.  People say she went crazy.  My dad used to tell me stories about her from when he was a little boy.

“Oh tell me Grandpa, tell me!” Penny begged.

“Well, when my father was a little boy Old Maid Micknely and her daughter used to live in that house.  Great Grandpa became could friends with both of them and he and Old Maid McKinley’s daughter used to play together all the time.  Then, one day, Old Maid McKinley’s daughter was going to come over to Great Grandpa’s house to play, but she never showed up.  When they called Old Maid Micknely she said she hadn’t seen her since she left the house.   The police searched and searched, but the 8-year-old girl was never found.  It was then that people thought Old Maid Micknely started to go crazy.  She used to sit by that window in the upper right hand corner of the house with a candle all day and all night, rocking back and forth in her chair.  Everyone said that she was waiting for her daughter to come home.  She waited for years and years, but her daughter never came home.  Then one day someone noticed that the candle in the window had burnt out.  So they went to check on Old Maid Micknely.  That was how her body was found, upright, in the still rocking chair.  The townspeople decided to bury her in the front yard, so she could keep watching the road.  She had no family, no one to mourn her, and no will. So the bank seized the house, but no one wanted to buy the house that Old Maid Micknely died all alone in.  No one wanted their children playing over her dead body in the front yard.  So there sat the house, alone and empty for years.

One day, when I was about 16 years old me an a few buddies decided to go and explore Old Maid McKinley’s house.  When we went inside everything was exactly as Old Maid Micknely had left it, just a little dustier.  We went upstairs to the window and found Old Maid McKinley’s rocking-chair sitting by the window.  It was so strange; the chair wasn’t dusty at all, everything around it was, but not the chair. On the windowsill was a candle and a box of matches, just like Old Maid Micknely would have had. So one of my pals decided to light the candle and right when he did chair began rocking back and forth.  We could her the chair creaking against the floor as we ran down the stairs and out the door.  We never went back, but that candle burned for the rest of the week.  Great Grandpa joked that Old Maid Micknely was home because the candle was glowing, but he didn’t even know the half of it.

“Did anything ever happen after the candle went out Grandpa?”

“Only once, on your mother’s 8th birthday.”

“What happened?”

“The day your mother turned 8 years old Old Maid Micknely must have been home because a candle glowed in the upper right hand window of the house all day and all night.”

“Oh Grandpa,” Penny said, “that’s silly.  You’re just trying to scare me, because it’s my birthday too, but I’m too big to believe in ghosts.”

“Suit yourself, but that is a true story Penny.”

“Sure it is Grandpa,” said Penny doubtfully.  As they began to head for home Penny turned for one last look at Old Maid McKinley’s house and she suddenly started to believe her Grandpa’s story.  It would seem that Old Maid Micknely had come for a visit on Penny’s birthday too.

Loyalty Lies (Part V)

The next day Jane took her almost full dust-bucket and broom into the room of one of the higher ranking soldier’s staying at the Governor’s house.  Slowly, as she cleaned, she made her way over to the desk.  There sitting out for the world to see were what looked to Jane’s untrained eye to be some sort of military plans.   Jane felt a little bad for calling Ben sloppy, this was sloppy.  And now she was faced with a dilemma.  She could take the plans and give them to Ben, she could leave and tell Ben to come look up here, or she could not say anything at all.  The second option seemed the best to her.  If she told Ben to look for something up here she wasn’t exactly being a traitor, but she wasn’t exactly being a loyalist either.  Middle ground was good.  She jumped at the sound of footsteps and voices outside the door. One voice said, “I don’t know why these colonial girls are so proud.”

“Me neither, like that house maid around here.  She acts like she’s too good for us,” said another voice.

“Exactly, it’s not like she’s a lady, she has no standing.  She should feel flattered that we even know she’s alive,” said the first voice.  Without evening knowing what she was doing Jane stormed back over to the desk, grabbed the plans, slipped them in her dust bucket and ran out of the room.

Jane found Ben as quickly as she could.  Out of breath she pulled him aside.  Ben stood there very concerned as he watched a flushed Jane stick her hand into the dirty dust bucket.  Her grabbed her hand and said, “Jane, what are you doing?  What is wrong?”

“Hush,” she hissed. “I don’t want anyone to know we’re back here.”  She found the plans and shoved them into Ben’s hand. “Here, take these.  I found them in one of the rooms.  Take them and don’t say anything, and don’t expect this from me again.”  Ben looked at the papers and then looked at Jane.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked, very impressed.

“No and I don’t want to.  I don’t want to ever talk about this again.  Just take them and hide them.”

“Alright Jane, if that’s what you want.”  Jane started to walk away, but Ben stopped her.  “I know your heart isn’t in this yet, but trust me, you did a good thing.  I’m proud of you little Janey.” Jane couldn’t help but smile.  As she stood there looking into Ben’s eyes, she thought this might be their moment.  He leaned forward and her heart just stopped.  This was it, he was going to kiss her . . . “Jane, Ben what is going on?”

It was Mrs. Bradfort from the kitchen.  So much for “their moment.”  “The Governor has asked to speak with you both.  You had better march upstairs right now,” said Mrs. Bradfort.  Ben tucked the plans away safely, and the two of them headed upstairs.

Ben and Jane entered the room, surprised to see that the governor was not alone.  He was with a soldier, the soldier whose room Jane had just finished cleaning.  “Ben, Jane,” said the Governor, “it seems we have a bit of a problem.”

“A problem, sir?” said Ben.

“Yeah, a problem,” growled the soldier.

“Calm down, Tom,” said Governor Trippingdale.  “Something has gone missing from the General’s room, something important.  A couple of his men saw you leaving his room Jane, and the general seems to think the two of you have something to do with it.”

“I was cleaning the general’s room a few moments ago, sir, if something has gone missing maybe I can help find it,” said Jane.

“Oh, I bet you could,” said the general.

“Tom,” interrupted the governor.

“Don’t ‘Tom’ me, I know they took it.  You know they took it.  They should be hanged, they’re rebels.”

“With all due respect sir, I don’t know what it is we’re supposed to have taken,” said Jane.  That did it.  The general was livid.  Governor Trippingdal tried to stop him, Ben tried to stop him, but he was a man with murder on his mind.

You filthy rebel!  Where are they?” he screamed. Then the General came close, he backed Jane up against the wall.  He slapped her once, and then again, and then again.  Until she sank to the floor breathless and weak.  For a moment the beating stopped and she looked up.  Governor Trippingdale was cowering in a corner, and Ben was on top of the General, who quickly threw him off.  Ben skidded across the floor and hit his head.  The General came over to Jane. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her to her feet.  She screamed.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, please, let me go,” cried Jane between smothered sobs.

“You liar!  What did you do with them?” screamed the General, spraying Jane with spittle as he grabbed her throat.  Jane could feel the pressure building up in her head.  Her eyes bugged out of her face.  She gasped and strained for breath, trying to speak.  As consciousness slipped from her she imagined Ben waking up, rising from the floor and coming to her rescue.   But he didn’t, he lay there on the ground, blood dripping down the side of his face.  Then Jane saw an image of her father sitting in the kitchen, wounded and broken, but glowing in the candlelight.


Thank you so much for following Jane on her journey. 

Loyalty Lies (Part IV)

Jane walked, disenchanted, to work, wondering why she had to put up with all those foul mouthed soldiers every day.  They were constantly teasing all the girls. Jane never cared much for flirting.  She didn’t even want to flirt with Ben, she certainly was not going to flirt with the soldiers. Still, work was work and she had to make ends meet.  When she walked in the door there was already a list of things she could see that needed to be done.

“Jane,” Ben called.

“Oh Ben, hello.  Is anything the matter.”

“No, no.  I just wanted to say hello and ask if it was okay with you if I walked you home after work today.”

“Yes, that would be fine.’

“Great! Your father’s invited me over to talk and I didn’t want you to think I was just going to follow you home or something,” he said with a smile.

“Oh no that’s alright,” Jane said trying to laugh.  She had no idea what on earth Pa and Ben could possibly have to talk about.  She would find out tonight, but still the thought of it haunted her all day.

Jane didn’t finish work until late in the evening.  She thought her family would all be in bed by the time she got home and assumed that Ben had changed his mind about walking home with her since it was so late already.  As she headed down the path, breathing in the fresh night air, she couldn’t help but wonder why Ben had wanted to walk her home.  And she couldn’t help but hope, just a little bit.  “Jane! Jane!” she heard a voice behind her.  Turning, she saw it was Ben running down the path after her. “Jane, why didn’t you wait for me?” he asked.

“It was so late, I thought you’d have changed you mind.”

“No, I need to speak with your father, tonight.”

“Oh, about what?” Jane asked trying to ignore the fact that her heart just skipped a beat.

“I ran into him in the village the other day, while running errands.  He and I got to talking about some of the political things that are going on.  Your father suggested we sit down one evening soon and have a chat, we thought you might like to be there too.”  Jane’s heart sank to the ground, she only hoped her face didn’t go with it.

“It’s so late.  Does this political meeting of the minds really have to be tonight?  I’m tired, I’m sure you’re tired, and my Pa is probably already asleep,” said a disappointed and now exasperated Jane.

“It has to be tonight.”

“Well if Pa is asleep I won’t wake him for you.”

“Then I’ll wake him myself.”  Jane and Ben were both tired and agitated.  This was the first time Jane had ever seen Ben so serious and the first time Ben had seen Jane so irritated. The walk was quiet. Neither of them spoke again until Jane’s house was insight.

“There’s a light in the window, at this hour,” said a confused Jane.

“It looks like I won’t have to wake your Pa up after-all,” said Ben with a smile. “I’m sorry I yelled Jane.”

“Let’s go inside.” Jane smiled.

The small candle glowing on the wooden made the empty room seem warm and cozy.  There at the table sat Jane’s father, not at all surprised to see Ben.

“Pa why are you still up?  What on earth is so important that the two of you need to be up talking at this ungodly hour?” asked Jane.

“Jane, I’ve been waiting for you.  There’s something important we all need to discuss,” her father replied.

“So I’m told.  Well, what is it?”

“Jane,” Ben stepped in.  “Jane you and I have both been working at the Governor’s house now for several months.”

“Thanks for the news,” said Jane somewhat snippily.  She wasn’t proud of herself, but she was tired.

“Come on Jane, listen.  This is important,” said Pa.  “Go ahead Ben keep talking.”

“Jane, we’ve seen soldiers come and go.  We’ve heard them talk.  In the beginning they would discuss their military plans freely around anyone and everyone, but now they’re more discreet around me.  They caught on to the fact that I was listening.”

“Well, it’s very rude to eavesdrop,” said Jane.

“Yes, but Jane the plans that the soldiers are making, the information they have, it could be vital to the patriot cause.”

“Well, then you should have been more careful.”

“Yes, he sould have,” said Pa vindictively.

“Yes, I should have,” said Ben.  “But it’s too late to go back now.  That’s why we need you Jane.”

“Me, for what?”

“You’re plan B.”

“How flattering.’

“Come on Jane. The soldiers seem to trust you.  They don’t watch what they say around you at all.”

“So now you want me to spy on them for you is that it?  This is ridiculous, you were sloppy, you messed up and now you want me to save you.  To risk my job, to risk my life for your cause!” Jane was livid.

“For his cause,” interrupted Pa loudly , “this is our cause, this is all ours’s cause.  You’ve seen what the British have done to us.  How can you go into the governors house every day and see how he lives, and come home to this cabin at night after all the work we put in and not make this your cause Jane?”

“The governor gave me a job Pa.  That job saved our family, and I’m supposed to hate him for it?”

“Jane they’re thieves.  They’re stealing not just our money, but our freedom,” said Ben. “Think of how hard it was on your family when your Pa got hurt.  It wouldn’t have been that bad if taxes weren’t so heavy. Jane just think of the soldiers.  I’ve seen them when you’re working flirting with you, teasing you.” Ben was blushing. “They don’t respect you, and they don’t respect the rights of the colonies.  No one’s asking you to give your life, all we’re asking for is a little information.”

“Even if I could get you the information you wanted, what difference would it make?  It’s not like you can just walk right up and give it to George Washington.”

“Don’t worry about that Jane,” said Ben, “You get the information to me, I’ll get it to him.”

“I don’t know about all of this.  I need to think about it.”

“Don’t think to long Jane,” said Pa, “The time to act is now.”

“Why don’t you sleep on it Jane?  I’ll see you at work tomorrow, okay?” said Ben.

“Okay, goodnight Ben.”  When Ben had left Jane sat at the table across from her father.  Neither of them said a word.  He stared at the candlelight and Jane stared at him.  As she looked at the broken man across from her she wondered what it was that made him believe so much in this cause that he would be willing to sacrifice the little he had left in life for it.  She had never seen him look so vulnerable and she knew she would carry that image of her father in the candlelight with her for the rest of her life.


The final part to come next week

Loyalty Lies (Part III)

Jane awoke to the sound of a rooster’s crow and began readying herself for work. She later found herself wandering the grounds of the Governor’s house, looking for the servant’s entrance, but she did not wander long.  Soon she heard a familiar, strong, benevolent voice that sent shivers down her spine.

“Well hello there ‘Little Janey’,” said Ben, the Butler, who was wandering around outside for some unknown reason.  The thought that Ben had been waiting for Jane crept into her mind, but it was one of those thoughts that could not be acknowledged.  Jane took it and locked it away in her inner most heart of hopes and dreams.

“Oh, please don’t call me that, it’s just Jane.”

“I had a hunch you weren’t fond of that name,” laughed Ben.  “Well, Miss Jane, you’re here to work, so you’d better get to it.  Mrs. Bradfort is in the kitchen with a list of chores a mile long.”

“Point me in the right direction and I’ll hop-to.”  Ben smiled and then showed Jane into the house.  It was a large house, but as the day went on Ben and the other staff helped her find her way.  Jane felt she was doing well and walking home that night she was pleased with the hard day’s work she had put in.

 

While things at the Governor’s house were going smoothly for Jane, the life of the Governor was not so smooth. Tempers were flaring in the colonies.  The colonists were very unhappy about the new tax implemented by the Tea Act.  Parliament imposed the Stamp Act and the Tea Act, all without giving the representatives from the colonies a voice in their government.  Boston had had some sort of uprising where the patriots dumped all the imported tea into the harbor.  Jane had read that they were under some sort of military watch.  Anyways, the people in the colonies were all taking a day this week to set aside and pray for the people of Boston who apparently weren’t getting any imports.   If things didn’t change soon Jane feared the patriots would act on their desire to raise an army to free themselves from English control.  Everyday Jane went to work and listened to the Governor’s and his friends rant about the accursed rebels.  Then she came home and heard her father speak of the oppressive English.  This tended to make life uneasy for Jane, who was still hiding her work from her father.

 

One-day Jane came home late from work. The Governor had some important guests staying at his house so Jane had extra work to do.  She was completely exhausted.

“Jane, where have you been?!” came the voice of Jane’s father as she opened the door.

“I had some extra deliveries today, didn’t Mama tell you?”

“No Jane, she didn’t tell me.  She didn’t tell me because she has been out all evening . . . making deliveries.  Now why don’t you tell me where you have been.”

“I was out, in the village.”

“That’s plan enough! What were you doing out there is what I’d like to know.  Leaving your mother here all day to work and care for your siblings.”

“I, I, I was working.”

“Working? Working where?”

“Pa, I got a job about a month ago.  I told Mama so she knew where I was, but we decided not to tell you.”

“Why on earth would you and your mother make a decision like that?”

“Because my job is as a maid in the Governor’s house.  It’s nothing to worry about Pa.  I cook for him, I clean for him, when he has guests I help care for them to.  He’s pays well and we need the money.  I’m sorry I lied, but Mama and I knew you wouldn’t approve and I just wanted to help.”

“Why wouldn’t I approve of a young women earning a living to help her family?’

“Well, because you hate the Governor, don’t you?”

“I’m not his biggest supporter that’s true, but you didn’t take the job out of loyalty to him, you took it out of loyalty to your family and that means something Jane.  Now tell me, why were you so late tonight?”

“The Governor has some guests at his house and I had to help out. “

“What kind of guests?”

“Well some of them are soldiers, some politicians, I don’t really know much about it.”

“Soldiers and politicians in the Governor’s house where my daughter works,” Jane’s father said more to himself than to Jane. “This could be useful.”

“What?” asked a confused and concerned Jane.

“Huh? Oh, nothing, nothing.  You know me always thinking out loud.  It’s nothing important.  Thank you for finally telling me about your job and for taking such good care of your family.”

“I’ll always take care of you Pa.”

“Good night Jane.”


To Be Continued (there will probably be two, maybe three more parts to this story)

Loyalty Lies (Part 2)

Jane sat at home with butterflies in her stomach as she listened to her father talk politics.  She was excited about her new job, but nervous to tell her parents.  She wasn’t sure how her father would react to the fact that she would be working in the Governor’s house, everyday.  He had developed a growing interest in the patriot cause since he had little else to keep his interest during recovery.  And as money was tight he had an ever growing resentment towards the taxes imposed by mother England.  Jane contemplated all this and hoped her father would not be angry about her new job.  She decided since nothing was concrete, she would just keep the news to herself while she worked for the next week.  Jane jumped at the sound of her father’s voice. “I’m sorry pa, I didn’t hear what you said,” said Jane.

“I was asking what you were doing tomorrow,” replied Pa.

“Oh, I have some errands to run.  I’ll be gone for most of the day.”  Jane had not thought about how she would account for her time during the week.  Maybe it would be best to tell her mother what she was doing.  If she was going to keep this a secret she was going to need back up.

Jane let her hands soak up the warmth of the water as she cleaned the dishes.  Her mother was washing clothes next to her.  In order to earn a little extra money Jane and her mother had taken on some extra laundry form the people in town.  It helped, but it was not enough and Jane and her mother both knew that.

“Mama,” said Jane

“Yes, dear?”

“I, uh, wanted to tell you something.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, I went looking for a job today.  I thought we could use the money.”  Jane’s mother paused from her work and looked at her daughter with soft eyes.

“That’s very responsible of you Jane,” Mama replied with pride.  “You’re right we could use a little extra income around here,” as she returned to her washing.

Jane and her mother washed quietly side by side for a while, both ignoring the obvious question.  “Mom,” Jane finally decided to break the silence, “how do we tell Pa that I’m working for the governor?”

“Well Jane, I think, we don’t.”

“What?”

“For right now we just don’t tell your father.  Your father, he’s a proud man, he’s a proud patriot.  He is already feeling weak right now, finding put that you are working for the governor and giving the money to us would only hurt him. So for now we’ll just keep it between us.  If he asks what you’re doing each day, we’ll just tell him that you’re are delivering laundry.”

“I’ve never really lied to Pa before, not like this, but if you think it’s best then I guess that’s what I’ll do.”

“I do Jane, I do think this is best, for now.”


To Be Continued . . .

Loyalty Lies (Part 1)

Jane took a deep, nervous breath.  She looked at the vast majesty around her.  The scent of beautiful flowers wafted up as she walked the path leading to the large white house with its painted shutters.  Jane remembered walking past the iron gate as a child, wondering what it would be like to be the only child of a governor, rather than the eldest of five wheelwright’s children. Governor’s children lived in luxury, wheelwright’s children begged for jobs as the governor’s maid.  Slowly Jane took hold of the warm brass knocker, bringing it down upon the door.  Her stomach churned violently within her, as she heard the crescendo of footsteps in the hall.  The door opened softly, and there he stood, Ben, the young, strong, handsome butler.  Jane tried not to meet his eyes as she spoke.

“I came to see Governor Trippingdale about a job,” said Jane quickly.

“Jane, how nice to see you, it’s been awhile.  Please, won’t you step inside, I’ll see if the Governor has a moment to speak with you,” replied the always friendly Ben.  Jane stepped into the doorway of the large house.  She thought about how much work it must require to keep up such a house, and became very hopeful.

“Little Janey, how nice of you to come by,” called a blustering voice from around the corner.  Jane looked.  From down the hallway came Governor Trippingdale.  He was a fat, happy sort of fellow, with a round face and sparkling eyes, always happy to see everybody.

“Hello Governor, it’s been a long time.  How have you and your family been?” Jane asked in her sweetest, friendliest manner, keeping her eyes to the floor to show respect.  She really had never known the Governor that well.  His wife had taught Sunday school for a year, and Jane was in her class a long time ago.  Other than that, Jane and her mother delivered clothes they laundered for the Trippingdale’s, but those visits were always brief and to the point.

“Oh, I look around me and see our thriving New York colony and am pleased.  How are things out in your neck of the woods?” replied the Governor.

“Well to be truthful, things are tight and I have found myself in need of a job.  You see, my father was in an accident about two days ago.  He broke his arm, and isn’t going to be able to do much work for a few weeks. I hoped you might be needing some help around here.  I’m good with all kinds of different things.  I can do house-keeping, gardening, or if you need some help with the children I can do that too.”

“Well Janey, I think your visit has come at a purely providential time.  You see, one of my maids had a family emergency and took a boat back to jolly old England about two weeks ago.  I’ve been hoping someone would come along to fill the position, and you might be just the girl. You’ll be sure to mind your business and do your job now, won’t you?”

“Oh, yes sir.”

“Well good, you start tomorrow.  You’ll get two shillings for a good days work.  If things go well we’ll hire you on indefinitely.  How does that sound?”

“Oh, that’s wonderful, thank you so much.  I’ll be here bright and early tomorrow morning.”


To Be continued . . .