British or American?
As each day drew closer to Christmas Eve, Mariah’s excitement mounted. Yes, this year was certainly different from all the rest! Now that she was fifteen, and “of age,” Mariah was permitted to attend the Christmas Eve ball, a well-known gathering in the small city of Richmond, Virginia. Although the Revolutionary war raged throughout the 13 colonies, which only earlier that year, on July 4th, 1776, had declared their independence; Richmond was still a place of lively holiday spirit. Mariah vividly remembered the day when Mama told her that she would be able to attend the ball at the town hall, Christmas Eve.
“Well Mariah,” mother smiled as they strolled down the cobblestone walk. It was the 20th of November, and fifteen-year-old Mariah and her mother were finishing up an errand in the market. “… Well Mariah, we had better get to the dressmakers shop. We need to order a dress for you to wear to the Christmas Eve ball.”
Mariah stared aghast at her, heart pounding in her chest. Since she had been thirteen, she had been longing to attend the spectacularly elegant ball. From descriptions her older sisters gave her, Mariah decided that this party was a night of excitement and magical dancing.
“Mama!” she gasped, finally able to utter a word, “But Mama… am I old enough?”
“Yes dear,” mother beamed, looking into her daughter’s brown eyes, hers sparkling with merriment, “Your father and I have decided you are now old enough to attend the ball, if you promise to behave yourself and use the conduct I and your sisters have taught you so long.”
Mariah felt a smile spread across her face, as she realized that she would be going with her sisters, Christmas Eve, to the elegant ball she had dreamed about for quite awhile now. But her heart pounded with worry as well. Up until now, despite her mother’s patient teachings, Mariah had been an adventurous young lady, who loved to spend her days outdoors, instead of being cooped up in the small, dim sitting room mama preferred. Yes, she had been taught how to embroider; crochet, cross-stitch and a number of other household skills she was to treasure for the rest of her life. But Mariah always had wanted to be on her sooty black mare, Addie, with the white star on her forehead which was hidden beneath her silky forelock. What was more, Mariah wondered if she would be able to comfortably converse with any young man; much less, dance with one.
Mother and Mariah had selected a dress, made out of fine silk, and then they began to walk for home.
Now Mariah sat in her room, gazing at the silk dress which had just been finished that day, and delivered by one of the dressmaker’s servants. It was the color of a rosy burgundy, and the color of the sash was that of fine emerald. It was pretty of course, but after trying it on, Mariah decided it was the most uncomfortable garment she had ever worn. It was now the 2nd of December, about a week since her mother had told her she could go. Now she was beginning to wonder if this ball was the most promising event of the year. Now with the day of the occasion approaching, Mariah found herself doubting if she would perform with grace and poise, and hoped that she wouldn’t ruin the anticipated evening by stumbling during a dance, or stuttering over her words. Sighing, Mariah meandered over to the window, and gazed out of it. Down in the street, there marched a parade of British soldiers, their commanding officer riding at the head, haughtily gazing straight ahead. A whole regiment of English had stationed themselves only a month before in Richmond, and now marched about the city, as if they owned it. Mariah had paid little attention to the young soldiers who often trailed along behind her and her sisters when they had walked down the street, flirtatiously staring at them. After all, Papa had strictly ordered that he would not have his daughters talking to the British. He was a sincere patriot, and his abhorrence for the English was great. Miriam and Jennifer pleaded to their father that this was unrighteous and inequitable, but father’s firm standards held strong. They however, went behind his back and often talked to the British soldiers when they were sure he wasn’t around. Mariah conversely obeyed her father’s wishes though, and kept to herself, ignoring the soldiers voluntarily. In fact, Mariah paid little attention even to the young American men in Richmond, concluding that they were no interest to her. Of course, now that she was fifteen, it was hard for her to concentrate on anything else, when she noticed some men chatting with Miriam and Jennifer. She found herself wistfully watching them comfortably talk, but then would brush the feeling away by remembering something other than her abstraction.
At dinner one evening, the talk of the dance quickly escalated into a heated argument.
“I am sure,” Jennifer smiled, looking at Mariah from her place at the table, “That we will all have a wonderful time at the Christmas Eve ball!”
Mariah said nothing, but continued to eat her food. She wasn’t sure if she agreed.
“I do hope that handsome British officer, Colonel Glenn will ask me if he will be my escort,” Miriam spoke up, and she and Jennifer broke into a volley of giggles.
Father, who had been silent as his two daughters conversed, looked up, face dark with rage, “I will not have my daughters going with those British scoundrels!” he declared, glaring at Miriam and Jennifer. They immediately fell silent.
“Why not father?” Miriam inquired, face pale with distress. Mama and Mariah were silent, as well as the four youngest; twelve-year-old Eleanor, thirteen-year-old William and five-year-old Benjamin. But Mariah’s mind was whirling when she heard Miriam talk of escorts. She needed an escort? What would she even do to get one?
“You know perfectly well what I mean! I have ordered you not to even talk to them!” Father exclaimed. “Have you doing this behind my back?” he demanded, his face was scarlet with fury.
Miriam and Jennifer were silent. Finally the nodded, “Yes sir.”
“All of you,” Father whispered, hoarse from rage, “Are not allowed to ever speak to one single British man. We are a patriot family, and will not have anything to do with those tyrannical, narrow-minded people. Am I clear?”
“Yes sir,” the three girls replied in unison.
“And you too,” Papa added, turning to the three youngest. They nodded.
Mariah stroked Addie’s soft, coal-black fur. The young, wily mare snorted, a frosty cloud flashing in the chilly morning air from Addie’s breath. Mariah smiled to herself as she began to brush out the tangles in the long black mane, which was tickled her rosy cheeks as she put her face close to the warm, soft horse. She was going out on her morning ride, like she did every day when she had the chance. It was a fine December morning—the bright sun sent golden rays of warm sunlight onto the city of Richmond. Frost blanketed the ground, turning the grass covered corral, which Mariah rode Addie in, into a field of glassy diamonds that sparkled in the topaz radiance. An icy breeze swirled the gray leaves about; across the streets and quickly over the parks of emerald blades of grass, among the skeleton trees and onto the cobblestone walk. British soldiers patrolled the hazy streets, which were still almost empty.
Mariah finished combing Addie’s mane and fur, and then saddled her up, with the stable-hand’s help. She mounted, her soft cloak billowing in the wind which found its way into the stable through the cracks of the boards. Then she trotted Addie out into the bright corral. The mare tossed its sleek mane, dark eyes flashing impetuously. Addie was a young horse, and full of energy and spirit. She enjoyed a nice run, especially when the adventurous girl was perched upon her back; Mariah’s only reins were the tough tresses of inky-black Addie bore. Today, however, it was too cold to make such a gallop, so Mariah cantered around in the pasture. She didn’t notice the young man in the scarlet uniform, who settled himself on the fence for a good view of the lively mayhem at work. Finally, Mariah urged Addie to halt in the midst of her trot, and laughingly patted her side. Then she noticed the young soldier, leaning against the corral fence, watching them with amusement. He was a tall, slender man, who looked to be about seventeen. His hair was a light brown, wavy and neatly combed, and his eyes were the color of the sky above—a piercingly deep blue. Hastily, Mariah dismounted, and began to lead Addie towards the stable, when the young soldier hurriedly followed. He even followed her inside the stable, where Mariah had already begun to unsaddle her horse.
“You are a good rider,” the soldier remarked, gazing steadily at the rattled Mariah. He leaned nonchalantly against the door frame, his amusement clear in every feature. Mariah was silent as she hung up Addie’s saddle, reins, and folded the saddle blanket. She would firmly obey her father’s orders. Besides, she had nothing to say to this British soldier. Nodding her head with only an air of cold politeness, Mariah exited the stable, leaving the young man to himself.
That Sunday in church, Mariah saw this man again. He was wearing his British uniform, and stood across the aisle from her with several of his fellow soldiers beside him, following along with the hymn. Mariah focused on the preacher, who, after the singing halted, mounted the steps to the lofty pulpit, where he addressed his congregation. This was a new church the Lathams’ were attending. The previous one’s minister was a Tory, so Mr. Latham promptly abandoned his participation there, and now the Latham family became part of Reverend Hayes’ parishioners. It was the oldest church in Richmond—a patriarchal place, with a high ceiling, and two stories worth of seats for the listeners. The Latham family made it habit to sit near the front, on the bottom floor, because Mrs. Latham did not particularly enjoy the elevated seats, near the ceiling. Now they stood there in church, singing along with the others, and the young British officer who Mariah met the other day, under awkward circumstances, glanced, every chance he got, at the brown headed teen with the sparkling russet eyes and impressive equestrian skills. Mariah shunned his continual gaze, and looked up at Reverend Hayes steadily, not missing a word he said. But beneath her pretty bonnet, with the bud of an artificial rose prodding out of its brim, Mariah’s face was hot. After church was dismissed, she stood and followed her family to the door, where she was met by the young soldier. He fell at her pace, and held open the heavy wooden door for her and her sisters as they exited the church. The three of them said nothing to him, except for an acknowledging glance and nod of the head. Then they followed the rest of the Lathams’ down the steps to the carriage. Mariah paused for a moment in her steps to glance over her shoulder at the blasé British man, who watched her follow her family to the waiting coach.
Back at their house, as Jennifer and Mariah hung their woolen cloaks up, Jennifer smiled, “That young British officer seemed to have an eye for you!”
Mariah tossed her brunette tresses, pretending as if she didn’t care. “You know good and well Papa would forbid any sort of communication with any British soldier.”
Jennifer jauntily ignored this remark, “Oh Mariah—yes, Papa did say we aren’t allowed to talk to them, but he has no idea on what he is doing to us! Why, those young men from England could be the sons of wealthy businessmen or even of royal blood… we could end up marrying into an elegantly rich family… talking to the English won’t hurt Papa a bit! And the way you put off that young soldier—why Mariah, I wouldn’t be surprised if he never thought one more amiable thought about you again!”
“Why should I care? Besides, I agree with Papa—I believe that the British are a nasty lot, and hardly deserve of any of our attention. And wealthy or not, it doesn’t matter. I’d be a traitor to our cause!”
“Oh really,” Jennifer smiled laughingly, “Mariah, leave that sort of thing for the men folk to handle. We needn’t worry about the present state the world is in. You should settle yourself down before the ball comes. Let’s hope someone asks you to it!”
Mariah felt her temper rising, but calmly replied, “I don’t believe that I want… much less need an escort, Jennifer. I could just attend the ball and dance with whoever I chose.”
Jennifer snickered, “Dear Mariah, I don’t believe you are fully aware of the social patterns of the Richmond society. Every girl is expected to arrive at the Christmas Eve Ball with an escort. How improper that would be to appear in such a manner… and so awkward too… I suppose you are rather nervous about talking to any young man… you being only 15 and all. Why, have you ever spoken to any man with ease at all?”
“It doesn’t matter… perhaps I’m just not interested in young men yet.”
“Well, you might not notice them, but they are noticing you.”
This was true, as it so happened. Mariah had bloomed; it seemed, almost overnight into a charming young lady, with flashing brown eyes and silky auburn hair. Many of the young men in Richmond, who had paid little attention to the quiet, yet spirited and adventurous young lady now began to notice Mariah. But, being her unobtrusive self, Mariah was completely oblivious to the way they now viewed her. One young man in particular, who was around twenty-two, graduated from the College of William and Mary, had a firm establishment in Richmond as a lawyer, and was to become a large factor in Mariah’s life. Mr. Jonathan Hadley was, as it so happened, seven years Mariah’s senior; a very genteel young gentleman and a new employee in Mr. Latham’s law firm. He was a tall man, with fair hair and hazel-blue eyes, serious when needed to be but also witty and kind. He joked with William and Benjamin; the two boys enjoyed his company, and he theirs’. The entire family regarded Mr. Hadley as a benevolent young man, polite and amiable. Sometimes he was come over to the Latham’s home, to discuss politics with Mr. Latham, and was always invited to stay for dinner, unless business of Hadley’s intervened. He had been in Richmond for quite a while, since the year before last, and had known the Mariah when she had gone from the innocent age of 14 to the sophisticated age of 15—in April of ’76. When first arriving in Richmond, and under the generosity of Mr. Latham’s hospitality, Mr. Hadley had become an acquaintance of Mariah’s, but didn’t talk to her that much because of his shy tongue—most of the time when he was at the Latham home, Hadley was involved in a serious talk about England’s tyranny, and the years of war approaching with the master of the house. But, as the months passed, Hadley had taken little by little, more and more notice of the young Latham girl.
Several evenings later, after the Sunday just related, Mr. Hadley came for a visit. Mariah was outside in the pasture when he arrived, tending to Addie, brushing the horse lovingly with each gentle stroke. Eleanor meandered out to where her older sister was, smiling teasingly, “Mr. Hadley has come for a visit,” she reported to Mariah. Obviously, the affable young girl had an idea of Mr. Hadley’s attraction to her sister.
“Tell Mama I’ll be in, in a moment,” Mariah responded, as she led Addie back to her cozy stall.
Eleanor hastened off back to the brick house, and Mariah followed soon after, enjoying the cold wintery evening. The ground was frosty and full of starry sparkles; the morning dew still frozen to the grass, and crackled beneath Mariah’s feet as she opened the corral gate and strolled to her back door. Just then the young British soldier walked by, with a confident stride, plumed military hat perched upon his light hair, and blue eyes flickering with indulgence. Mariah paused in her steps, glancing down at him rather shyly, before turning to go into the warm house.
“Evening miss,” the soldier had seen Mariah, and lifted his hat politely in her direction.
Mariah curtsied vaguely and attempted to go inside. But he spoke again.
“How are you this day Miss?”
Mariah merely nodded her head in a gesture of “yes.”
“Can’t you speak?” the soldier inquired, rather chagrined by her silence. He was now standing directly in front of Mariah, looking into her blazing eyes.
“I must go,” Mariah finally exclaimed, turning to the door.
The soldier looked after her in annoyance, wondering why she said so little. So quiet and unspeaking. There must be something keeping her. He certainly liked her, and wanted to get to know her better. He would try finding out a way.
Mariah hung her coat up, and then proceeded on into the sitting room, where her parents, Mr. Hadley, and the rest of the family gathered.
Mr. Hadley quickly stood, and bowed politely, as was the custom of colonial society when any young lady entered the room. His face was almost the color of scarlet, as he stood and then returned to his seat, after Mariah had sat down on the settee.
“As we were saying, Mr. Hadley,” Father continued, oblivious to the glances the young man constantly cast his young daughter, “I completely agree with Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry that we must stand up to this British tyranny. Something must be done about that King George, making new laws with all the oppressive ideas which enter his brainless mind!”
“I-I wouldn’t say the King of England is really brainless, sir,” Mr. Hadley spoke up, respectfully, looking at Mariah quickly, “I must agree, however, that we break away from King George’s monarchy. War is certainly inevitable, however. Now that we have the articles of Confederation, drafted by the men at the continental convention, we at least have a bond that will keep the colonies together during the war.”
“Yes, something that will hold us together is definitely needed. But one thing that bothers me is the size and advantage of the British army, as well as their navy! Why, their navy is the most powerful in the world… and compared to our few ships, it is overwhelming,” Mr. Latham shook his head to emphasize his anxiety.
“Our army may be weak, but we have liberty behind us,” Mr. Hadley replied confidently, “With George Washington named as commander in chief, I am sure we have a chance of triumph.”
“We shall see,” Mr. Latham sighed, shaking his head. Just then the maid came in, and announced that dinner was ready. Mr. Hadley stood and hurried along, close by Mariah as they made their way for the dining hall.
After dinner, the family returned to the sitting room, and Mariah sat near the hearth to sketch, another one of her pastimes. Mr. Hadley sat down beside her.
“You are quite good at art, Miss Latham,” he remarked shyly.
“Thank you,” Mariah replied, looking up at him with bright eyes.
There was a silence. Finally, Mr. Hadley spoke, stammering with nervousness, “Your sisters tell me that there is to be a ball this Christmas Eve… at the town hall. Are you going Miss Latham?”
Just then Benjamin hurried up, and tugged vigorously on Hadley’s sleeve, crying out, “Mr. Hadley, come and see the kittens Matty, our cat had!”
Mr. Hadley smiled and stood, then let the little Benjamin take him along to the kitchen, where the litter of fluffy kitties awaited. Mariah watched him go curiously, wondering what he had been attempting to say.
The next day Mariah was taking a walk in the cold afternoon air, all warm and cozy in her woolen coat, many petticoats, and mittens. A small bit of snow had fall then evening before, and now she was enjoying the crystal world pleasantly, when she encountered the British soldier on the walk.
“Ma’am,” he lifted his hat politely, bowing as well.
Mariah nodded and began to walk around him when he stopped her, catching her hand.
“Why don’t you speak?” he exclaimed, gazing at her curiously. “Is there something keeping you from talking—to me?”
“I-I just can’t.”
“Tell me why not,” the young soldier begged, “There must be a reason!”
Mariah avoided his eyes, and finally blurted out, “Because you’re British!”
“I am forbidden to speak to any of you… because my family believes in the patriot cause! So if you please… I must go!”
She turned back to her house, but he quickly caught up to her, and walked at her same pace, “Ma’am, if you would please just give me your name, I would be much obliged…”
“I would rather not sir.”
“Are you going to the ball, given by the governor?”
“I-I don’t know,” Mariah hastily replied.
“Well, if so, I will be there…” seeing Mariah’s attempts to leave him, the soldier made a last try, “Perhaps you could accompany me there… perhaps your family will consent.”
“My father will certainly not… we are patriots, and will have nothing to do with you British… he will not tolerate my going with you.”
Mariah rushed into the house and slammed the door behind her.
The day before the famous occasion, the Christmas Eve Ball, arrived, and with it, high hopes of the next day. Both Miriam and Jennifer had young men, (not British soldiers) who would be accompanying them. Mariah, however, had no one. Late afternoon, she sat on her bed, gazing at the silk dress on the bed. Still crisp and pretty, it lay there, ready to be worn and be looked at as the beauty of tomorrow evening. She slipped outdoors and strolled along the icy walk. Tomorrow was the night that she had been waiting for a long time, but today, it hardly seemed as fruitful as it had when her sisters had first told her about it. When she had first heard about it, Mariah had thought that this ball would mark the beginning of her years as a lady, no longer a girl. To Mariah, it seemed as if tomorrow would mark the end of those wonderful carefree days. As she walked, the British soldier approached.
“Ma’am,” he removed his uniform cap and bowed handsomely, blue eyes twinkling merrily with spirit and liveliness. Mariah felt her cheeks grow rosily warm, and stood there, just about too shy and too enthralled to move. Just then Mr. Hadley emerged from the bookstore across the street. Mariah heard the door clang bell clang, and turned her head, to see the tall young American staring at her and the soldier. His face grew crimson with chagrin, and then white, when he laid eyes on the British soldier leaning coolly against the brick wall of the picket fence, gazing steadily at Mariah. Mariah didn’t know what to say. How should she explain to the fanatical young patriot, who disliked with a quiet ardency, although his calm disposition concealed these sentiments quite well, that she had merely run into this British man? Mr. Hadley approached them slowly, gray eyes were as cold as ice, and blazed indignantly. He politely addressed Mariah however; “Ms. Latham,” he bowed, looking questioningly at the young girl. He was aware of Mr. Latham’s resolution to not allow any of his children to talk to the British. Now he wished to evoke Mariah of her father’s decision and be rid of the British soldier who stood nearby, his blue eyes scanning Hadley warily.
“Hello sir,” he finally said, smiling a bit sardonically. Mr. Hadley lingered there for a moment, then turned abruptly, after giving a quick bow to Mariah, and hurried away.
“And who is that curious fellow?” the soldier inquired, looking questioningly at the blushing young Mariah.
“That… that’s Mr. Hadley,” Mariah quickly responded. She turned and hurried down the path after the lawyer. “I—I’m sorry sir, but I must go!” she called over her shoulder. Soon she caught up to Mr. Hadley, who was walking stiffly down the lane, clutching his books with a look in his eyes that made Mariah want to turn and run. He shot a look of disapproval in her direction.
“Please forgive me for meddling in other affairs, but I must remind you that your father is firmly set against the British soldiers, and will not tolerate anything like this,” he sternly told Mariah, who turned away her head to hide tears of embarrassment.
“Mr. Hadley, I didn’t mean to start talking to the soldier,” Mariah finally spoke, her eyes blazing with earnest truth, “Just please do not tell my father about it! He would be furious, especially for something which was not committed on my behalf.”
“I believe you miss, and it would not be my business to tell him.”
They walked farther, but only in stony silence that made Mariah writhe with discomfort. Mr. Hadley shot Mariah another look, but this time, his expression had softened into a fond glance of consideration. Finally Hadley spoke, with a good deal of discomfort, “Ms. Latham—that young soldier… do you see him often?”
Mariah let loose a small laugh, “Why do you ask such a thing?”
Mr. Hadley looked rather flustered, when he paused at Mariah’s front step.
“Ah…” he murmured, “Ms. Latham, I believe you never answered my question after your attendance at tomorrow evening’s ball?”
Mariah blushed, and stepped onto the front porch of her large house, “I am going.”
“With no one?”
“I don’t know.”
“Will you come with me?”
There was a pause. “Yes.”
Mariah stood before her mirror, garbed in the floor length gown which looked like the attire of a heavenly angel, flying with the silk of the clouds as her dress, and Saturn’s rings as her garland. Mariah herself was wearing a wreath of holly flower; the crimson berries sparkled in the evening candlelight, which came from both outside and her bedside table. Mr. Hadley would be arriving any moment now, in his carriage. Mariah was rather unsure of herself as she settled herself down to wait for the maid to come in, and summon her to the downstairs where Hadley, Mama and Papa would be waiting. It was a dreadful thing to think of, the thought of them three waiting at the foot of the stairs, gazing intently up into the shadowy upstairs to catch a glimpse of the nervous fifteen-year-old. Mariah stood, smoothing her gown, when she heard the footsteps on the stair, and then the door opened. Mariah held her breath. It was only Will. “Mariah! Come quick! Mama sent for you.”
Mariah stood and followed her younger brother down the stairs into the sitting room, where her mother waited.
“Dear,” Mrs. Latham said, starting across the room, face pale with excitement and distress. “Poor Mr. Hadley has fallen ill… his servant has sent word to me that he caught a chill yesterday… I’m afraid he won’t be able to take you tonight. You’ll have to go with your father and me. Don’t worry dear. Hadley will be fine…”
“But…” Mariah spluttered, unable to say anything else. She sank down onto the settee, and gazed at the flickering candle drearily.
“Don’t worry Mariah,” her mother reached over to pat her hand.
Mariah followed her mother and father, and her two sisters and their escorts into the huge ballroom. Mariah’s cloak was taken by a servant, and now her silky dress was flowing beautifully as she stepped up closer to her mother and father, and peered over their shoulders to get a better look at the dancers. Her heart beat faster when she saw the graceful twirls and steps the dancers took, so skilled were they, and so experienced. Mariah was sure that she’d mess up during the dance, and was relieved that when the next dance began, no one approached her to ask if they might dance with her. The evening was cool, and outside, the frosty moonlight illuminated the boisterous city of Richmond, which was brimming with the spirit of Christmas. Even the fact that the British had inhabited the city, didn’t smother the cheer of the people of Richmond. Mariah sat down nearby, and gazed over her shoulder at the milky white world of Christmas Eve, at the starry sky, and at the shiny moon glistening with a crystalline coat. She sat near an open window, which stretched almost from ceiling to floor, and was level with the ground outside. Just then the young British soldier appeared from the darkness, and leaned against the window sill, his blue eyes sparkling with merriment.
“Miss,” he smiled. Then, looking around her, he inquired, “And where is that Mr. Hadley?”
Mariah shot an apprehensive glance in the direction of her parents, “Ah… he couldn’t come tonight.”
“Couldn’t come? How unfortunate!” The soldier sighed, to emphasize his sympathies (sarcastically.) “Perhaps…” he settled himself down on the sill, and looked with twinkling eyes at Mariah, “Perhaps you could dance with me this evening.”
Mariah’s eyes widened, and shook her head, “I—I can’t sir. My father is firmly set against my talking to you!”
The soldier was quiet when a group of young men passed, eyeing him and Mariah curiously. Mariah flushed. “Sir,” she whispered, glancing urgently at her father, whose back was still turned, fortunately. “I mustn’t speak to you anymore! My father is very strict about it…”
“Well, how about a dance, but we just won’t talk to each other? You didn’t say your father has forbidden you from dancing with a British soldier!”
“I—I don’t know…”
“Come along… I don’t believe I ever got your name.”
“Mariah Latham,” Mariah hastily replied.
He took her hand and hurried her out the window onto the grassy floor outside. This green would serve the part of a dance floor. Both Mariah and the soldier were silent, as they began to dance. Mariah was a bit rusty at first, stumbling over her dress, but then she became better and better. They were right by the window, and suddenly Mariah heard her father asking for her.
“Where is that girl?” he was saying to her mother.
“She must be dancing,” mother replied. They both appeared through the open window, but didn’t turn around to see their daughter out there in the darkness with the young soldier, whose dance had come to a slow halt. Mariah’s heart pounded with apprehensive fear, and quickly, she scrambled back in through the window. The young British soldier followed, and leaned himself up against the sill. Father turned around, casting a cold look in the young soldier’s direction.
“Mariah; wherever have you been?” he demanded.
“Just dancing father.”
Mr. Latham cast a suspicious look at the soldier, who innocently began to polish his sword, which was encased in a fine leather hilt at his waist, connected to his belt.
“Mr. Hadley has come. Obviously he is feeling much better. He’s right over there talking to your mother,” father informed Mariah, giving her a knowing smile.
Mariah flushed, casting a sideways look at the British man who still was casually rubbing his sword with his handkerchief.
Mr. Hadley had turned, and had caught sight of Mariah, standing near the same British soldier he had seen the day before. Chagrinned, he hesitated before striding over to the young lady.
“Good evening, Ms. Latham,” he bowed, and then straightened, glancing back and forth at the soldier and Mariah.
“Good evening, Mr. Hadley, sir,” Mariah uncomfortably said, feeling the tension in the air.
“Mr. Hadley,” the soldier came forward boldly, and shook hands with the American lawyer, “It’s good to see that you could come this evening. Ms. Latham seemed to be getting a bit desperate for a partner.”
“Oh,” was all that Hadley could say. His face was the color of crimson, as he eyed the soldier warily. “I don’t believe…” he finally spoke, to avoid talk of dancing, “That I ever got your name.”
“George Grant is my name,” the soldier responded, grinning pleasantly. Then looking at Mariah, he spoke of the subject, that Mr. Hadley wished to evade, “Ms. Latham, would you consent to a dance with me?”
Mariah didn’t know what to say, and she was silent for several moments.
Mr. Hadley cleared his throat, “Mr. Grant, with all due respects, but I believe that her father is firmly set against her dancing with you.”
“Oh really?” Soldier Grant mordantly laughed, “I actually just had the opportunity of having a dance with Ms. Latham. I understand we are unable to speak to one another, but her father did not make it clear that we weren’t allowed to dance with each other.”
Mr. Hadley’s face became flustered with chagrin and vexation. “Miss Latham, may I have this dance? I believe that your father has prohibited any speech to a British soldier.”
Mariah didn’t know what to say. It was clear that these two men were now pitted against each other quite fervently.
“So now it is prejudices against the British, isn’t it?” Mr. Grant exclaimed, “Well colonist, we shall let Ms. Latham decide who she will dance with.”
“I am not a colonist,” Mr. Hadley snapped, face dark with rage, “I am an American.”
“Well, Mr. ‘American’ Hadley,” the soldier coolly retorted, taking Mariah’s hand in his, “Mariah and I shall excuse ourselves from your presence, if you don’t mind.”
“I certainly do,” Mr. Hadley exclaimed, “I asked Ms. Latham to accompany me to the ball. I do believe I should rightfully have this dance.”
Grant turned to Mariah, and solemnly inquired, “Well Ms. Latham, I do believe you have a choice to make. What will it be? British or American?”