Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Shhh. (02/18/10)
TITLE: Quiet Rebellion
By Rachel Phelps
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Seth Palmer’s hissed whisper made his wife jump, though they were standing inches from each other in the cramped space of the pantry. Her already-shaking hand loosened on the globe of the lamp she held, clattering glass against metal as she fought to keep it in her grasp.
“Hsst!” The warning was guttural as he closed his hand over hers, silencing the offending object. “Do you want to bring the colonel in here, Dolly?”
Dolly’s face tightened into a scowl. Her voice was quiet, not soft. “You mind your tone, Seth Palmer. ‘Tisn’t you that has to smile and curtsy and wait on the brutes as if they was King George himself!”
“Yes, darling,” Seth soothed, leaning toward her cheek for a kiss.
Dolly swatted him away. “You’ve got coal dust and lard on your face, sirrah. There’ll be no kisses from me until after it’s off.”
The disgruntled set of her shoulders slumped into concern as her fingers curled around the dark cloth of his sleeve. “You’ll be careful?”
“I’ll be home to kiss you good night, and that’s a promise.”
Seth squeezed her hand and eased toward the door of the pantry. “Revere and the others will be waiting for me. I’d best be off before the lobsterbacks show themselves.”
Boston’s taverns were overrun with the troops stationed in the city. Seth skirted around those streets, scowling at the raucous sound of the soldiers’ drunken singing. The town was fraying at the edges with the strain of their presence. Houses like his own had become their personal quarters to be used at will, even if it meant waking children in the wee hours and throwing the mistress of the house into a tizzy. Perhaps after this night the lobsterbacks would think twice before treating their fellow citizens with such contempt.
A hand clutched at his left sleeve, jerking him off balance and into the shadows of an alley by the harbor. A second hand closed over his mouth. Seth swung with his right with a deep-throated growl, tensing for battle.
“Faith, man, be still!”
Seth immediately relaxed as he recognized the low-pitched voice and his mouth was freed. “If you’d identify yourself, Revere, I wouldn’t feel the need to attack.”
His eyes adjusted to the deep shadow as Paul drew him into the alley, a cautionary finger to his lips. There were men all around, many dressed as Seth in dark shirts and painted faces to imitate the savages who so terrified the redcoats. The silence only intensified the heart-pounding exhilaration of the moment. At last, they were moved to action.
“We strike a blow to tyrants this night, lads.” Revere’s voice carried throughout the group. “We know why we’ve gathered. Remember, we’re only after the tea. You’re not to destroy the rigging or anything at all but the tea crates. Understood?”
An undercurrent of discontent ran through the men, rumbling to louder protests.
Revere’s voice was sharp as he continued. “Silence! You’ll have your chance to whoop, but not until we’re prepared…”
Seth had to marvel at his friend’s ability to control so many with a single command. Those who still dissented where shushed as they waited for Revere’s instructions. The plan seemed simple enough. File onto the ships, break open the crates and dump the tea, and pray the warships surrounding them chose not to interfere. If they did so, Seth had a feeling that not even Revere’s silver tongue could help them.
“Alright, patriots, let’s show old George what we think of his tea!”
Revere’s shout was swallowed in the war whoops of the men as they surged forward.
Three hours later, Seth filed off the ship with the others, now cloaked in a silence brought on by fatigue. The moon shone down on three spotless ships in the harbor and the floating remnants of their cargo.
Paul Revere approached, holding a clean handkerchief. “I suspect Mistress Palmer won’t welcome a savage into her home. Get on with you, Seth, she’ll be waiting.”
Seth took the proffered cloth and wiped his face, inhaling the sharp essence of the tea in the salt-laden air as he headed home. The scent of victory.
A candle was in the window of their bedroom. Seth sneaked past the rooms filled with redcoats and tapped gently on his window. Dolly’s gasp was audible through the glass. He winced, putting a finger to his lips as she threw back the curtains, bedwarmer raised as a weapon.
“Dolly, I’m home for that kiss.”
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